It’s Lonely at the Top

By Linda Tancs

Stories abound about bears and other animals stuck in trees. We watch news reports with rapt attention as rescuers go about the job of extraction. Clearly, the poor animal didn’t realize what it was in for when it started the climb.

You could say the same about humans. In the climb for success (however one defines it), it often becomes apparent what’s meant by the expression “it’s lonely at the top.” That’s typically because in getting there one has adopted the saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Instead of lifting others up during our march for the brass ring, we take them down. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious unless it’s selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3-4). In other words, the Bible exhorts us to please (and be pleasing to) God, not man (Galatians 1:10). To honor God and to honor the quest for power, success, honor, wealth and fame are mutually exclusive endeavors. You cannot serve both (Matthew 6:24). Jesus reminds us to seek first the Kingdom, and then our needs will be met (Matthew 6:33). To be first in the Kingdom is to be a servant (Matthew 20:26-28). So be good to those you meet on your journey because, as another expression teaches, you’ll meet the same people on the way down as you met on your way up.

Have a Good Laugh

By Linda Tancs

A good comedy routine will remind you that laughter is the best medicine, just like the Bible says (Proverbs 17:22). Indeed, medical science shows that laughter boosts the body’s immune system, reduces stress, reduces the risk of heart attack and even acts as a natural tranquilizer. Of course, many life events do not inspire much laughter and, as Solomon reminds us, there is a time to cry as well as to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5). In other words, don’t let bad or sorrowful feelings linger. The Lord promises beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3) and a mouth full of laughter (Job 8:21). If that doesn’t make you smile, then nothing will.

It’s the Little Things

By Linda Tancs

Do you look to God only for the “big” things in life—a life companion, a job, good health? What about all the little things? Do you pray for a good “hair day?” For patience in traffic? For a good parking spot at the mall? God isn’t only interested in the “big picture.” He cares about the million little things that comprise your daily life. God loves little things, like lilies (Matthew 6:28-29), birds (Matthew 6:26) and children (Matthew 19:14). He’s the Master over small matters as well as bigger ones.

God encourages us to rejoice over small things (Zechariah 4:10). Don’t despise them or act like they don’t matter to God. God presides over everything, and for that you should be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Walk, Don’t Run

By Linda Tancs

In Lewis Carroll’s famous tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the White Rabbit utters, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Are you in a hurry? Do you hurry to work, hurry to finish lunch, hurry to mow the lawn, hurry to finish the project? Hurrying has been shown to make one  more error prone. It also causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol release. No wonder there’s no mention of Jesus rushing in any of the gospels.

The Bible stresses waiting, patience and walking with the Lord (Psalm 27:14; Psalm 130:5). Admittedly, waiting in a hurried world is a tough task. But the advantages are many, like wisdom, perspective and guidance (Isaiah 40:31). That’s especially useful when circumstances are challenging, in the “fires” of life. Of course, there are times when abusive or dangerous situations dictate that you make haste. But for all those other times, as fire drills remind us,‘walk, don’t run to the nearest exit.’

An Act of Faith

By Linda Tancs

An oft-used expression is “it is what it is.” Many folks use it as a coping tool, a way to soothe over sorrow about the way things are at the moment. But God calls things which are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). He wants you to have the courage to do the same. Maybe your list of opposites looks like this:

Unforgiven. Forgiven.

Broken. Unbroken.

Discontent. Content.

Listless. Joyful.

Anxious. Calm.

Timid. Courageous.

Unmotivated. Motivated.

Go ahead, make your list. What needs turning around? Start acting “as if” today.

A Brain, a Heart and Courage

By Linda Tancs

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets up with three characters, each seeking a different attribute. The scarecrow wants a brain. The tin man wants a heart. And the lion wants courage. That’s a pretty good summation of what we need to persevere through life: wisdom, love and courage.

The Bible exhorts us to gain wisdom (see, e.g., James 1:5; Proverbs 3:13-18). How do you do that? By reading the Bible, the source of all God’s knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is a gift from God, the means to discern the truth in all things. We’re told to love wisdom, and wisdom will protect us (Proverbs 4:6-7). Above all, though, we are commanded to love God (Deuteronomy 10:12) and extend that love to our neighbors (Luke 10:27). It’s fair to say that the pursuit of wisdom and love takes courage. It’s so much easier to hide one’s head in the sand, avoiding truth and neglecting the work to build strong relationships. Yet we’re reminded to be strong and of good courage (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s because fear, insecurity and anxiety undermine the courage we need to foster effective personal and professional relationships. But you’re an overcomer! Stand firm and apply the power formula of wisdom, love and courage to persevere through life’s tasks and struggles.

Lessons from Wildlife

By Linda Tancs

The Bible is full of anecdotes concerning animals. Some of the best known examples are Jonah and the whale and Noah and his ark. It’s no secret that God loves animals. In Psalm 50, He reminds us that He knows and owns every animal in the field. That includes Sparky, Fido, Fluffy, you name it. We’re stewards of every animal on the earth and accountable to God for our treatment of them (Proverbs 12:10). Besides stewardship, animals teach us many lessons. For instance, God directs us to look to the ant for the principle of diligence and perseverance (Proverbs 6:6). He also tells us to be surefooted like deer (Habakkuk 3:19), gentle like doves (Matthew 10:16), confident as an eagle (Isaiah 40:31) and courageous like a lion (Proverbs 30:29-30). And maybe the ultimate lesson comes from sheep, the emblem of discipleship (John 10:4), because they need to be led.

As the poet William Wordsworth put it, let nature be your teacher.

More Than a Conqueror

By Linda Tancs

There’s no shortage of famous conquerors in world history, like Napoleon—renowned for his strategy and command of the battlefields of war (until Waterloo, that is). For most of us, there’s a different battle brewing. It’s in the mind, where nagging thoughts often plague and condemn us that we’re not where we need to be, not up to the task, not able to navigate life successfully, and so on. When the mind wages war we need to remember that we’re more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). What does it mean to be “more than a conqueror?” It means that, unlike Napoleon, there is no battle and, therefore, no need to conquer. We’ve already won. Through Christ, we are ready for anything and equal to anything that comes up in life (Philippians 4:13). Victory is assured; you needn’t worry about meeting your Waterloo.

The Challenge of Love

By Linda Tancs

Is there anyone in your family who is difficult to love, who pushes all the wrong buttons? Maybe it feels like you’re surrounded by fiery beasts or tongues like sharp swords, as David described in Psalm 57:4. Perhaps your nemesis is a child, parent, spouse, sibling or extended family member, or even many of the above. You might be tempted to think ‘well, I don’t have to love anyone who won’t love me back or treats me unfairly.’ Don’t give in and fail to accept the challenge of love. Love is, after all, the foundation of our existence and evidence of our oneness with God. There is no commandment greater than love, as Paul reminded the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13) and John told his readers (1 John 4:16). Likewise, Jesus exhorted his followers that everything hinges on love of God and love of others (Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; John 13:34-35).

We should give thanks for the difficult people in our lives because they teach us how much work we may still need to do in the love walk. Those who are easiest to love actually teach us very little. So put on an “attitude of gratitude” the next time you feel tormented, and work on walking it out.

Finding Beauty in Imperfection

By Linda Tancs

Are you a perfectionist? Or do you suffer with a spouse, friend, family member, colleague or boss who is one? Psychologists define perfectionism as the need to be or appear perfect. It might sound ideal to strive for perfection. In fact, I recall one of my college professors calling it a “virtue.” But decades of studies reveal that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems. That doesn’t sound very ideal, or virtuous, does it? Yet we live in a world that embraces perfection, as evidenced in everything from grade inflation in schools to airbrushing perceived imperfections out of photos.

On a spiritual level, perfectionism underscores a self-reliant effort to be flawless that undermines the power of God. The Pharisees are prime examples of biblical perfectionists, bound by legalism, pride and judgment. Psalm 18 reminds us that only God is perfect (Psalm 18:30). He seeks to do a good work in us, to perfect us in holiness through Grace (Philippians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 7:1). In God’s eyes, perfection arises from an inner beauty, not outward adornments (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Perfect your faith, not your IQ score, selfies or triceps.