Growing to reach the light

Last year while visiting my sister and brother-in-law we got into a discussion about faith. My mother and father were also there and I think I kind of surprised everyone when I mentioned that I was struggling with regards to my faith. You see, in my family, faith is very important. In fact, it is essential and is the foundation of all else we stand on. They seemed somewhat relieved, however, when I explained that what I’m struggling with is what it really means to have faith so I can have it more fully.  There are lots of things I have been learning about faith, but right now I will share two discoveries. One is from a simile and the other from a word.

In Hebrews 11:1 it says that faith is “a hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” I have learned that faith is the “principle of action,” meaning that everything we do is based on the belief that we will get certain results. This motivates us to do what we do. Hebrews continues with a lot of examples of people who had faith and what they were able to accomplish because of this faith.  It appears that with faith, miraculous things can be accomplished if we have ‘faith as a grain of mustard seed.” (see Luke 17:6 and Matthew 17:20).  Seeds hold the embryonic plant, which is the life source for the future, but what characteristic does a mustard seed have that qualifies it to be used to represent faith and the kingdom of heaven?  According to the Old Dominion University Bible Plant resource (http://www.odu.edu/~lmusselm/plant/bible/allbibleplantslist.php), the mustard plant isn’t the tiniest of all seeds, but is a small seed in the garden which germinates very easily and rapidly, grows very quickly, and becomes one of the tallest herbs (up to 8 feet). Other references also tell how the plant and seeds are used for oil, medicinal purposes, and in cooking.  So this simile helps me know that faith is not a difficult thing to grow and is extremely beneficial and important but also fragile in the sense that it is an annual and has to continually be worked, in contrast to perennials which take longer to grow but once established pretty much take care of themselves.

The other area of discovery is in the word itself. In Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for faith has reference to “trustworthiness, confidence, conviction, reliance on Christ for salvation, assurance, belief, fidelity.” (see http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=greeklexicon&isindex=faith). I wasn’t sure what fidelity meant so I looked it up in the Webster’s Dictionary. It listed “1) faithfulness, loyalty 2) truthfulness, accuracy 3) the degree to which an electronic system accurately reproduces at its output the essential characteristics of its input signal.” I found this last definition (even with my very limited understanding of electronic systems) very interesting and enlightening because of the picture it drew. My thoughts: I came to earth with a particular mission to perform with talents and opportunities that are uniquely mine but with frailties and imperfections that are also uniquely mine. As I work through this earthly experience, my end goal is to have the essential characteristics needed to become all I have the potential of becoming. With fidelity (being loyal and committed to something true) I know at the end I will have the essential characteristics needed because I will have tapped into the power of the only one who has the power to cleanse and repair – even Jesus Christ, the creator and Savior of us all.

Now I just need to take care of this seed until it is ready to harvest.

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Gifts from God

All of our children, daughter-in-laws and son-in-law, and grandchildren gathered for a family reunion earlier this month. There is nothing in this world that I enjoy quite as much as associating with these amazing individuals. Each new member adds something to our family that makes it feel more and more complete, filling a void that only they can fill.  One of the great blessings of being a parent is being intimately acquainted with and being taught by these individuals. I continue to enjoy this with my children and now I am experiencing this with my grandchildren. Little Lilian and Eveyln delighted all of us with their energy and excitement throughout our reunion, entertaining us with performances of ballet and tumbling, games of chase and walks to the park and their squeals of delight which still echo in our house. It is amazing what a two and three year old can come up with, the joy they bring and the insights that are gained because of them. My daughter-in-law, Meredith, recounted a conversation she had with Lilian regarding an item I had.  A few days prior to their arrival I had been given a gift basket from a special friend which included a paperweight that had the word peace on it. Lilian asked her mom what this said and when Meredith told her that it said “peace,” Lilian responded with, “then it must be a gift from Heavenly Father.” Yes, peace is a gift from God and so are children and grandchildren.

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Dancing with the wind

I am the adviser to a group of young women at my church. Besides doing activities with them, I also teach lessons on Sunday. Today I will be teaching a lesson on “Recognizing Our Individual Worth.”  In this lesson is a story about Shelley Mann. She was the 1960 Olympic Gold medal winner for the breaststroke. The amazing thing about this accomplishment was that she had polio as a child. I am always inspired by the stories of those who have overcome great obstacles to achieve greatness because of how they turned their handicaps into their strengths. It is easy to become discouraged because of not having it as easy as what it appears others have in certain areas, but in reality it is the struggle that creates the strength.  (If you want to see this entire lesson, click here). This is also apparent in trees. Trees get blown around a bit by the wind, but it is the movement of the wind that causes the tree to create the strength needed to stand on its own (read about this need here). Rather than complain about the challenges, I am trying to be grateful for the lessons learned and the strength gained. I want to be like the trees and dance with the wind, becoming stronger in the process.

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Living well today while preparing for the future

If you are like me, you are trying to keep a lot of balls in the air. One of the balls you may or may not have added to your mix is your plan for retirement. There are a lot of options out there and it may be hard for you to know what to do with the money you are making. Or possibly you are struggling to just get things going and using any extra money for investments or setting money aside for retirement just doesn’t fit in.  Or you love your work so much that you don’t plan to ever retire because you plan to keep doing what you’re doing until the day you die. The honest truth is, however, that by letting your money work for you with investments not only helps you prepare for the future, but it also helps you improve your ability to live well today. One of the proven assets for creating wealth and residual income is real estate, but the word ‘real estate’ has become such a naughty word to so many people that when I bring it up they act like they want to wash my mouth out with soap. I understand some of these sentiments since I have been hurt as a land developer, but I turned my lemons into lemonade when I found a strategy that worked and is still working, even in this economy. The strategy I have found that makes the most sense and is helping the most people is called “The Strait Path to Real Estate Wealth” as presented by Kris Krohn and REIC (Real Estate Investment Companies). The great thing about REIC is that you don’t have to know all about real estate to own real estate.  That is because you are leveraging your time by letting them do most of the work. So stop right now and take an honest look at what you’re doing and see if your hard work is going to keep paying you back. If you are like me, I like to buy things when they are on sale, driving clear across town to save a few dollars. Well, real estate is on sale right now. The great thing is you have someone else who is willing to drive across town for you (and fly across the United States even) and pick up the great deal for you and let you keep 100% of what you make. How’s that for a great deal? For just 20 min. of your time you can get an overview of what they are doing. Just go to reicLC.com and click on the 18 min. video, then take two minutes and request the game plan. There is no fee or commitment for doing this and the benefit is you will know what your possibilities are. After all your hard work, you deserve to live well today and be prepared for the future. I am excited about what I am doing with REIC, finally having a hope for the future that I haven’t had for a long time.

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The 3 C’s

Growing up I learned about the 3 C’s. They are: Don’t Complain, Don’t Criticize, and Don’t Compare. I have tried really hard to not do these three things in my life, but it seems the harder I try, the more I do them. This morning while thinking about this problem, I had a thought that I am going to experiment with. First – the thought. The mind may have a difficult time understanding “don’t” and so just drops that part. If this is true, then whenever I tell myself these 3 C’s, it drops the “don’t” and that is why I find myself complaining, criticizing, and comparing.  Or maybe my mind is trying to obey but misses the “don’t” part and just focuses on the action part of the command. I have decided to experiment to see if this is true, so this morning I looked through my dictionary and wrote down a lot of positive C words. It was hard to narrow it down to just three, but I wanted to choose three that felt the most empowering to me. I ended up putting two together so I kind of have four words, but they went together well. Also, one of the other words covered several other words I was thinking of so I thought that was the best word too. So, my new 3 C’s are: I am a Conscious Creator (meaning I am awake and alert and aware how everything I think about and do is creating something in my life – either positive or negative), I am a Christian (meaning I believe in Jesus Christ and want to be like Him), and I have the power of Choice (meaning if I am not happy with something, I can choose to change – even if it is just my attitude). I really believe that what I think about I become, so it makes sense to me that if I keep these three C’s in my mind I will become these things – even if I am not there yet. And I hope that a side benefit of the three positive C’s is that I won’t feel the need to complain, criticize or compare anymore. I’ll let you know if it works.

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Accounting

I have been spending a lot of time trying to set up Quickbooks on my computer for our business and ended up checking out the book Quickbooks for Dummies by Stephen L. Nelson, from the library. It has been over a year since I had a college accounting course and I needed some help with some accounting points such as double entries.  I have been doing what the book calls “the fiddle-faddle” method of accounting but the only way I will keep things accurate and be able to do my financial statements is by making double entries. There are two main financial statements: the Income Statement (Profit and Loss) which keeps track of what comes in and what goes out and if there is profit in the end and the Balance Sheet which shows how my assets equal my liabilities and owner’s equity. Going through this process of setting up the books, I have been thinking a lot about money. In fact, money and budgeting have been on my mind a lot while listening to audiobooks such as Becoming my own Bank, Science of getting Rich, etc. One of the things that I have come to believe is that money is one of the few things in life we have complete control over. This is an empowering thought for me but some may balk at the idea. How could we have control when we are so out of control? My response is to take back the control! We give our control and power away to others by our choices. I gave my control away to fear of numbers but I have overcome that fear and now I can’t get enough of trying to figure out the budget, learn accounting, understand and work out our finances, etc. etc. Who else but ourselves decides we need something? What constitutes our living expenses? We do! We are in control and have to make an accounting for ourselves. I grew up knowing I shouldn’t be in debt but I didn’t grow up making friends with the idea of money. But money is just an idea and necessary commodity which I want and need in order to fully live and express myself. It should be one of the best friends that I have, helping me get to all the places I want to go! The first step I have learned I need to take is to figure out where I’m at right now. This has been taking me a while to figure out, but now I know where I’m at. The second step is to be grateful for where I’m at. This is a bit harder, especially if things look kind of ugly. But it is really empowering to be grateful and is essential in order to move forward. There are lots of things to be grateful for – even if things are ugly – such as time to fix things. I’m also grateful that there is something in life that I can have complete control over. I don’t have to give the control to anyone else! I take responsibility for my own actions and am willing to make an accounting for myself! I may have obligations that I have put myself under, but I can change my attitude about money. I know you can do this too if you haven’t already done it, because if I can do this, I believe anyone can!

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A loving father

Often we receive gifts simply because someone loves us and knows what we need. One such gift that I received was having VerNon Arch Bingham as my father.  I, along with hundreds of people all around the world, have been enriched because of his faith, wisdom, service, knowledge, stories, poetry and music; but the thing that has blessed my life the most is his love. It has kept me close to him and also close to my Heavenly Father, making it easy for me to believe in a loving God. Because of this love I have always wanted to please my father, keeping me from doing things that I knew would disappoint him, or coming back to him for advice when I make mistakes. I remember one time when I was in high school planning to do something (can’t remember what it was) but when in my mind I saw my father’s disappointed face I changed my plans because I couldn’t bear the thought of making him disappointed in me. I appreciate how he would ask me what I thought about different subjects, making me feel that my opinions were valued. (I think his desire was to mostly gain understanding of what I was thinking.) I had the added blessing of being the youngest in the family and observe interactions with older siblings. I remember one day as he was heading out the door to a meeting when my older brother gave some indication that there was a problem that needed to be addressed. My father came back into the house and put his briefcase down on the table. My brother commented, “I thought you had to go to a meeting.” Where my father answered, “It was just canceled.” After a few minutes, he was able to leave, but the lesson I learned was that his children were most important to him. I loved listening to his stories which he would usually tell as we were riding in the car. We would beg for him to tell us about his little “Tut Tut’s” and war adventures. I also never tire from hearing my father play the harmonica, making beautiful music come out of his mouth because it is in his head. A great blessing today is that my father is still alive. He will be 88 years old this year and continues to amaze me with his desire to learn and progress. He is fluent in Spanish and continues to teach himself French  (doing a phrase every day), write poetry and stories. He loves to travel, finding places he wants to visit and people he wants to meet, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with whomever will listen. He has been good and gracious to me my entire life, a gift I greatly treasure. I love you dad.

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