Playing God

By Linda Tancs

Playing God is a phrase often used to describe those acting as if they have unlimited power in a situation. The term is used in debates ranging in topics from euthanasia to cloning. In everyday life, we play God when we try to take our problems into our own hands and solve them rather than lean on God’s wisdom (James 1:5). Maybe you’ve entrusted Plan A to God but you’ve devised your own Plan B, just in case. Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis, once wrote, “Fear is playing God by trying to control the future.”

Are you attempting to control your future? In what way might you be playing God?

True Victory

By Linda Tancs

People claim victory in many ways. In the sports industry, it’s winning the game. In business, it’s that promotion, maybe even acceleration to the C-suite. Some even claim victory when they dispose of memorabilia from a bad marriage. Clearly, “victory” means different things to different people. But there’s only one true victory for the believer, the one earned through grace by His stripes (Isaiah 53:5). Thanks to the work done for us at the cross, we are winners in the game of everlasting life.

What Kind of Tree Are You?

By Linda Tancs

Journalist Barbara Walters once asked actress Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be. Hepburn likened herself to an oak tree. Not a bad choice. After all, the oak tree is a symbol of power and strength. And the Bible says that we should be like a tree firmly planted (Psalm 1:3).

Like an oak, a firmly planted tree is stable. So what does stability look like? For starters, it’s properly managing the past, present and future. Leave the past behind (Philippians 3:13). Be confident in God’s promise to provide in your current circumstances (Malachi 3:10). Remain hopeful for the future (Hebrews 6:19; Jeremiah 29:11).

So, what kind of tree are you?

The Greatest Gift

By Linda Tancs

Maybe you have been in a situation when, after receiving an extravagant gift, you found yourself saying, “Oh, I can’t possibly accept this.” Our walk with Jesus is a lot like that. Sometimes it’s just too awesome to comprehend that He would surrender His own life to pay for our sins and assure us of everlasting life (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). In fact, a study several years ago found that those who left the faith did so not because God’s Word was too hard to believe but because it was too good to believe. His extraordinary gifts of love and salvation were just too much.

We live in a society of reciprocity. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. An eye for an eye. And so on. Isn’t it comforting to know that in this life there’s a gift we can simply accept—with gratitude—without the pressure, or need, to repay?

Yield and Reap

By Linda Tancs

Yielding is sometimes a negative form of surrender, like when you let someone else’s opinion of your ability dictate your actions or dreams. Other times we get aggravated at yielding, like at a traffic sign that’s delaying where you need to go or when rules of order require you to give the floor to another speaker. But, from a spiritual perspective, yielding is a sign of strength, an ability to trust God.

Think of the great freedom arising from yielding up the kind of self-pity that accompanies a variety of circumstances: past rejection, a friend’s betrayal, lost opportunity. Yet it isn’t easy to yield because we’re taught to stand our ground. Of course, sometimes intractability is a good thing, like resisting peer pressure to engage in unhealthy, unethical or illegal acts. But other times we hold on when we should be letting go. It’s about who’s right and who’s wrong rather than moving forward. We get comfortable with the pain.

John’s Gospel tells the story of a crippled man at the pool in Bethesda who held on to his position at the pool’s edge for 38 years. He couldn’t bring himself (literally and figuratively) to experience the curative powers of that water. And then Jesus came along and simply told him to “get up.” And he did (John 5:1-9). His trust in God overcame his self-pity.

American activist Dorothea Dix once said, “Our minds may now be likened to a garden, which will, if neglected, yield only weeds and thistles; but, if cultivated, will produce the most beautiful flowers, and the most delicious fruits.” In God’s economy, He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). So yield and reap; don’t weep.

Cast Your Anchor

By Linda Tancs

“Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in old age than a knowledge of Holy Scripture? In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting bliss of the angels.”— St. Boniface

A vessel is secured in place by casting anchor. How anchored are you? Are you like a tree firmly planted (Psalm 1:3) notwithstanding conditions around you or do you define yourself as “a victim of circumstance”?

The Bible uses an anchor metaphor to describe the confident assurance we gain as Christians. As Hebrews 6:19 puts it, hope anchors the soul. Many people claim to be hopeful, but only an unfailing hope will guard and protect your soul during turbulent times.

What’s the best way to acquire this kind of hope? According to Zechariah 9:12, it’s by becoming a prisoner of hope, a hope so compelling that you can’t escape it. That kind of hope is filled with a confident expectation that God is always working in your best interest and that you’ll see the result in due time.

Don’t run aground over worldly concerns and the storms of life. Be grounded in hope and you’ll rise above your circumstances rather than be dictated by them.

Never Say Never

By Linda Tancs

Whenever I hear someone express a negative belief about being able to accomplish something, I’m often reminded of one of my favorite quotes attributed to the philosopher Goethe:  “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” Negative beliefs often surround the subject of going back to school at a later age. Consider a 50-year-old who says: “I can’t go back to school now. I’ll be 54 when I graduate.” Well, you will be 54 (or whatever age it is) in any event. Growing older doesn’t take any talent or ability but it’s all the sweeter if you find opportunity in change. This point was aptly illustrated in a newspaper story about an older woman who elected to rise above some very challenging circumstances and attend a community college. She became homeless after losing her job, lost all her possessions when she couldn’t pay the storage facility, surrendered her children to relatives for their daily care and lost three loved ones to health issues within a single year. She remarked that if she could persevere through school as a homeless person, then anyone with a home could do it, too.

So what causes a person to visit Neverland and take up residence there? Oftentimes, something in the past holds the future captive—a negative life event that leaves one hopeless or depressed and unable to move forward. Conversely, prior success many install fear in a person that the best of times are already behind. In either event, Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that as we think, so we are. So forget the past (Isaiah 43:18), and look to God to lead you in the present (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Never say never; it’s as simple as that.

Living the Life You’ve Imagined

By Linda Tancs

Are you living the life you’ve imagined? If not, why? Is it lack of courage—or encouragement? First Thessalonians 5:11 exhorts us to encourage each other and build each other up. Let’s face it, though; it’s easy to play it safe. But as the expression goes: no guts, no glory. Take a look at the excuses you use to keep from realizing your dreams. I’m too old (or young)I don’t like riskMy family would never approve. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough influence. It’s all been done before. I’m not that talented. What excuses do you make? We all have hopes and aspirations. The next time you contemplate yours, be very conscious of the excuses that creep into your thoughts. Chances are, you haven’t given them much thought or even accepted them as excuses because they’ve become so much a part of your daily thought process. Or you may have “inherited” one or more of your favorite excuses from a potentially well-intentioned friend or family member. However, excuses derive their power from you—and only you. God’s Word gives you the power to banish them. As Ephesians 4:23 says, renew your attitude.

Renewal requires you to challenge your excuses. Sure, many folks will say, “It’s not an excuse; it’s actually a fact.” Take, for example, I’m too old. How can you be sure of the truth of this statement? Like a detective, seek the evidence that bears it out. In other words, be sure to separate facts from feelings. Do your homework. How many others with aspirations like yours accomplished their goals at the same age—or even older? In New Jersey, a 96-year-old woman obtained her high school diploma. Look for stories on your topic on the internet, in business journals, blogs, social networks and so on. Only after you’ve exhausted your fact-finding mission and found no evidence to refute your excuse should you even think about accepting it as a cold, hard fact. If that’s the case, then consider whether your statement is really more a reflection of your own lack of desire to accomplish something. Are you striving towards your own dream or trying to achieve something for someone else?

There’s no need to waste time with excuses based on someone else’s agenda or your own actual (rather than conjured) limitations. In all other cases, continue to think big and look for inspiration. Remove the word can’t from your vocabulary (Philippians 4:13). As the writer Frank Scully once remarked, “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”

Waiting for Success

By Linda Tancs

Jonathan Winters, the comedian and author, once said: “I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.”

This approach is the antidote to “paralysis by analysis.” So many times I hear people say, “Failure is not an option.” This thinking is usually what leads to paralysis by analysis: analysis of all things, great and small, that could possibly go wrong with an idea, a goal, a business venture—life. What if I don’t get any business? What if don’t get any repeat business? What if I lose the lease? What if I lose my shirt? And the list goes on and on.

Fear is the driver of this kind of analysis. Until the power of fear is broken, we remain a slave to it (Romans 8:15). Fear counteracts faith, and that is why it is such a powerful tool in the arsenal of the enemy. But 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. What we do have is a soul (our mind, will and emotions) that hosts fear when it comes. Our best response is to deploy Psalm 118:6 (NLT): “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Waiting for success is as futile as waiting for a rainbow after every storm. As Nike’s slogan so effectively puts it, “Just do it.” What do you want? In the business universe, four concerns are generally paramount: develop clients, build revenue, build a reputation, become a leader. Which concern, if any, resonates with you? What do you need to do to get what you want? If you’re stuck, then imagine yourself a year from now having all that it is that you want. How did you get there? Work backwards. What are the goals that you met? Who did you meet with along the way? Who played a role in your success? Write it down. Build a timeline. Construct a vision board. What else can you do? God won’t drive a parked car. With His guidance, you have all the answers. Now, get busy. You needn’t wait for success. You can go ahead without it.

The Power of Yes

By Linda Tancs

“Don’t rain on my parade.” How many times have you thought, or muttered, that phrase (or know someone who has) when confronted with a naysaying friend, colleague, family member or significant other? The effect of naysayers on the psyche is particularly acute for entrepreneurs, many of whom leave behind the relative security of a well-paying job for the chance to experience something new. Is it a smooth transition? In many cases, no. What makes it even harder, though, are those dreaded words—“You can’t do that!”—uttered from well-intentioned family or friends determined to save you from economic ruin. Have you ever wondered why the same people who tell their children that they can do or be anything when they’ve grown up throw a wrench in someone’s works when their dream changes mid-career? In circumstances like this remember that you can do all things through Christ who is your strength (Philippians 4:13).

The Bible reminds us not to be judgmental nor to put obstacles in someone’s way (Romans 14:13). So the next time a friend, family member, significant other or even stranger confides in you a dream about trading in that management job for a microphone at a comedy club, remember the power of ‘yes, you can.’