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Welcome to the fourth and final day of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” So far, we have learned about God’s free and freeing love, eliminated worry, and disconnected from the things that take away all of our time (See the other three days by clicking here!). Now we are going to tackle our third and final distraction–you are what you eat!
Distraction #3: You are what you eat!
Don’t worry, this isn’t health 101 where I judge you for your vice in the kitchen. Quite honestly, I don’t do as well as I should when it comes to eating right–whether we’re referring to physical food or mental food.
While I was meditating on this topic, I John 2:15-16 NLT became the focal point of my devotion. It says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
So what is the Bible telling us? Does this mean we cannot enjoy the pleasures of this world? Of course we can! In fact, God desires that we laugh, eat, and enjoy life! So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is telling us to avoid becoming enamored with the physical pleasures of this world. In other words, we should pursue our purpose in God and the upbuilding of His kingdom. Though enticing, pursuing physical pleasures distracts us from achieving what God wants us to achieve and drives a wedge between our relationship with Him.
My moment of self-reflection
In my moment of self-reflection, I realized while I am distracted by my continuous craving for/pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world (like great food, accolades, keeping up with the Joneses, and being the “first to know”) I could be praying in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion–staying alert and being persistent in my prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). While I am constantly seeking to obtain my oral fixation, I could be doing what Jesus instructs us to do in Mark 9:29 when He healed the boy that was possessed. That is fast, pray, and meditate on Christ. While I am constantly feasting on the negativity of the media, I could be “Fixing [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
What we eat, becomes who we are.
The “old folks” used to say, “you are what you eat.” In other words, choosing to enjoy healthy physical and mental food increases energy and brain function, and it improves your overall mood.
But what happens when you feast on negativity? It leads to the following in the spiritual realm:
Indigestion: We reject wise advice and biblical teachings and turn to “strange doctrines” for hope and guidance.
Heartburn: Our hearts are burning with anger, rage, and hatred for others instead of burning with compassion for the poor, widowed, and sick.
Diarrhea of the mouth: Instead of being silent and patient, we are quick to vent our anger/frustration and our disdain for others but slow to talk to God.
I Corinthians 6:12 NLT does an excellent job of summarizing this last point by saying “You say, I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” We must choose to avoid becoming a slave to our appetites! Let’s pledge to make sound choices with the physical and spiritual food that we enjoy.
I am confident that if we apply the basic principles that we have discussed the last few days and avoid these distractions, we will begin to live more healthy and whole lives, build better relationships, and most importantly, draw closer to God. I am excited and proud that we serve a God that can be described like this: “there’s no shadow He won’t light up, no mountain He won’t climb up coming after me. There’s no wall He won’t kick down, no lie He won’t tear down coming after me!” I said all of that to say, with all of our daily distractions, our loving Father is still there, waiting on us to reconnect with Him. So my question to you is, will you defeat these distractions and reconnect with God?
Father, we honor you, we praise you, and we thank you for your Word. Thank you for being a great God! Now Father we pray that over the next few days, weeks, and months we become less distracted with our daily lives, and more focused on you. And ultimately Father, we pray that everyone reading these words can feel your unfailing, unwavering, and never ending love. We magnify your Holy and Righteous name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Welcome to day three of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how to defeat worry! Today, we will introduce our second distraction–the need to disconnect.
Distraction #2: Need to Disconnect
Now that we are free from condemnation and we have kicked worry to the curb, let’s talk about another distraction that becomes more complicated everyday. A lot of us are distracted by the need to disconnect.
So I had to do some self-reflection to prepare for this one, and I ask you to join me. Take out your phone, tablet, or whatever device you use, and list out all the applications that take time from your day. My list went like this: Instagram, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, XBox Live, Zoom, Marco Polo, GroupMe, LinkedIn, news app, weather bug app, and Gmail. Wow!
That was alarming to me because there are still only 24 hours in a day (and I spend about 16 of them either sleeping or working)! With that in mind, I felt a little better because my research told me that I am not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American checks their phone 96 times a day or once every ten minutes. To compound this issue, social distancing and quarantines have given us an even more insatiable desire to remain connected and socialize.
It is very apparent how this distraction has caused distance, because, as I said before, there are still 24 hours in a day!
So how do we disconnect so that we can focus on God? Well, I will start by saying, we talk/socialize too much and oftentimes, it is done in the wrong way.
The right to speak is important; saying things at the right time in the right manner is even more important. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
So how do we defeat this distraction?
Watch your words. Words matter because words mean things. Proverbs 15:1 NLT “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Say less. Connect less. Be Wise. (Proverbs 17:27 NLT) “A truly wise person uses few words…”
Words are like dollar bills. They should be spent wisely because we cannot take them back. Yep, that means even on social media…especially on social media! I am not saying we should not socialize/connect, but when done in excess, it drives a wedge between us and God. Simply put, we just don’t have time for God.
Don’t look like a fool. Mark Twain said it best, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Because we are so connected, we often find ourselves caught in constant debate (most times publicly). Which leads me to the last tip to fight this distraction:
Three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone
Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
Take inventory.How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God?
Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
What kind of Conversations are you having?Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter?
Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1?
Think about these things and challenge yourself to disconnect from the rush, rat race, and rigmarole of life. Disconnect from distractions so you can reconnect and build a healthy relationship with God.
Father, thank you for your grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. We realize that busyness, drama, and life circumstances constantly pull us away from you, and for that, we apologize. Father, give us the strength, wisdom, and wherewithal to disconnect from the many daily distractions we encounter so we can connect to you. Thank you for continuing to love us! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Welcome to day two of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how God’s love causes us to be free! Today, we will introduce our first distraction–worry.
Distraction #1: Worry!
“Will my family get sick? Am I doing all I can? What will we eat? What do others think about me?…” If we are honest, some of our minds continuously reverberate with these kinds of questions daily! The second our feet touch the cold or carpeted floor in our bedrooms, our minds begin to race. Usually this race persists until we finally return to bed at the end of the day. The unfortunate truth is our minds naturally dwell on difficulty and troubles which distract us from the important things in life like developing our relationship with God, family, and friends! So let’s take down our first distraction–worry.
When I began meditating on this topic, three scriptures immediately came to mind. First was Matthew 6:27 NLT that asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Then, Proverbs 12:25 NLT reminded me that “worry weighs a person down.” Lastly, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 NLT “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
The Word is abundantly clear about worry, and we all know that increased worry causes increased anxiety which causes increased mental and physical health concerns…So why do we worry? Why don’t we simply adopt Timon and Pumbaa’s slogan and lifestyle? You know, Hakuna Matata!
Well, I will start by sharing how I [falsely] justified my worry:
A little worry combined with fear is my instinctual way of emotionally preparing for the worst outcome. I am like a gazelle on a Safari! My worry and fear keeps me from being consumed by the lion (life). Right? WRONG. Along with the increased physical and mental health risks, worry was increasing my paranoia. Simply put, my physical presence was not a “gift” to my heavenly Father, family, friends, and work colleagues because I was so busy worrying about being consumed by life that I was not building healthy relationships and enjoying life!
My worry allowed me to thoroughly analyze a situation to develop a well-rounded solution. Solid logic right? WRONG. Worry primarily focuses on the “difficulties and troubles” (negatives) associated with a situation; thus, my perception and analysis is skewed to focus solely on the negative outcomes.
Those are my [busted] myths associated with my worry. Take some time to examine your own myths… then bust them!
Now that the jig is up and we have eliminated our excuses to worry, let’s answer the million dollar question: “How do we combat worry?”
The million dollar answer is that we must fully understand and appreciate this fact: You are what you THINK!
A fairly recent study following tens of thousands of people found that those who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death, including: heart disease, stroke, cancer (including breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers), infection, and respiratory diseases.
Sounds like a pretty clear answer to Matthew 6:27!
The study concluded that several proven benefits of thinking positively include:
Better quality of life
Higher energy levels
Better psychological and physical health
Faster recovery from injury or illness
Lower rates of depression
Better stress management and coping skills
Longer life span
I’ll take the benefits please!
Now that we understand the importance of positive thinking, how do we put it into practice?
1. Make a concerted effort to focus on positive things.
This is a tough one for us because sometimes you just want to sulk. In my personal life, I found a way to justify sulking. I felt that I deserved to be frustrated and disappointed! “Coincidentally” my Pastor emailed me to remind me that though the overall circumstance may appear to be negative, I can choose to dwell on the negative aspects of the circumstance or fix my thoughts on the positives. Yep, it is a choice!
Try this! Write down three positive things about your current circumstance! Even if the list starts with “I am breathing,” celebrate the fact that you are still alive with an opportunity to make it through this circumstance with an amazing story to tell!
2. Practice gratitude.
Practicing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, increase your self-esteem and the self-esteem of those around you, and foster resilience amongst you and your inner-circle. Every day, find no less than three things to thank God for (and thank Him) and find no less than three things to thank others for (and thank them). When offered an opportunity to complain and criticize, thank! When you think of the positives, thank for the positives.
3. Now that you have recognized and shown gratitude for the positives, create and maintain a gratitude log.
Label it, “People and Things I am grateful for.” I know. I know. It sounds corny, but it works! Maintain your log in a place you visit often, and keep focusing on that growing list.
4. Open yourself up to humor.
Laugh a little! I heard someone once say, “if you’re happy and you know it, tell your face.” We cannot allow life to beat us down so much that we walk around like a bulldog eating lemonheads (just picture that for a second–maybe that was your laugh for today). Take out time to enjoy the pleasures of life. God has always intended for us to enjoy the pleasures of life. I mean, think about how beautiful the Garden of Eden was! We were designed to be happy. So take a second, look in a mirror (or prepare for a selfie with your electronic device), and make the biggest smile you can! Now let the brightness of that smile, your positive thoughts, and your attitude of gratitude melt the negativity away!
5. Check your inner-circle!
You are who you hang with. In the country, the old folks would say “if you hang with stray dogs, you may catch fleas!” Spend time with Positive Paulas versus Debbie Downers. Think back to my story about my Pastor. Had he begun to sulk with me and feed my negative thoughts and emotions, I may not have survived that circumstance. Remember this, Debbie Downers wallow in defeat, while Positive Paulas bask in triumph!
6. Start off on a positive note by practicing positive self-talk!
Instead of beginning with worry, begin with a prayer, devotion, meditation, and affirmation or declaration that you will have a positive day. Then carry that declaration with you throughout the day. As you walk into a situation that appears negative, say to yourself (or aloud if you’d like) I will see the positive in this! Still have that mirror or selfie handy? Let’s try this right now! Smile, say something positive about yourself, and make the declaration that, “I will see the positive in every situation!”
I believe that these steps will not only eliminate worry, but these steps will also foster a more healthy relationship with God and everyone you come in contact with!
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see another day and meditate on your Word. You are truly our source of happiness and strength. We pray for your forgiveness for failing to see your beauty in every circumstance, and we ask you to help us to fix our thoughts on you! In Jesus’ name. Amen
I wrote this devotion early last year, and now I want to share it with you! Be blessed! There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace.
What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father.
There is hope! Join us in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!
Be Free from Condemnation!
We are currently living in unprecedented times! We have wildfires, a pandemic, social unrest, and the list goes on and on. During these times we may feel a bit distant from Christ—I know I have felt that way plenty of times. In fact, there were times that I felt I really wandered away from Christ! Is that you right now? Do you feel like you are too far gone to pray? Are you so overwhelmed with your guilt and shame that you cannot feel the love of God? Are you having a hard time connecting through God’s Word because of mistakes you have made? I understand; I have been there.
The last time I was in that moment—sulking in embarrassment and guilt—God freed me through His Word by reminding me of His grace, love, and compassion. So I have a quick opening message for you even if you are feeling distant right now—our heavenly Father loves you unconditionally,and He still wants a relationship with you!
Before we can learn to defeat distractions, we must be free from our own condemnation (very strong disapproval; punishment) and truly understand and embrace God’s love for us. Let’s talk about God’s love for a bit.
God’s love is free(ing):
Ephesians 2:8 AMP tells us, “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God.”
I absolutely lovefree stuff! I know most people call me cheap, but don’t judge me. For example, one day while I was in college, I ordered food at a drive-thru restaurant. I was very excited to get my go-to college student value meal. When I approached the window to pay, the young lady said, “Your meal has already been paid for.” I would’ve done a flip in excitement if I were skilled enough to do so without injuring myself. “Wow!” I thought, “Why would a stranger give me a free gift?”
When I reminisce on that day, I realize how happy that free meal made me (I saved about $3), but when I think about the free gift that Christ gave us (He saved my life) exuberant joy begins to overwhelm me. You know what’s amazing? Christ gave us this free gift because He loves us and this undeserved gift frees us from the oppression (control) and judgment associated with sin. Now that’s a double-double to get excited about! So don’t beat yourself up when you mess up. Ask God for forgiveness, brush yourself off, and be free!
God’s love is unexplainable:
John 10:11-18 reminds us that our heavenly Father has given us an unexplainable (and seemingly illogical) love. Imagine this, you are sitting in an open field watching sheep. The weather is beautiful, and you are basking in the sun while enjoying an ice-cold cup of lemonade. Out of nowhere, a wolf comes to take one of the one hundred sheep you are watching! I know what you are thinking, “well, 99% isn’t bad!” I mean really, who wants to fight a wolf for that one sheep? The Good Shepherd does.
He is always willing to lay down his life for us and will even leave the ninety-nine to save the one [wandering] sheep (Matthew 18:12)! My human mind cannot comprehend that kind of love, but I am extremely grateful that Christ is willing to sacrifice for you and me!
God’s love is unconditional:
Now this aspect of God’s love is truly amazing! We humans tend to have a limit when dealing with others. “You better not cross my [proverbial] line or it is over…dead…finito. You will henceforth and forever be excommunicated from my life!” Yep, God is definitely not like us, and here comes the amazing part: in God’s eyes nothing can separate us from His love!
Paul asks in Romans 8:35 NLT, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Then he answers in verse 39, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read it again! No matter where you are from or what you have done, nothing can separate you from the love of God!
Walk confidently today as you embrace God’s amazing grace and love! Never again condemn yourself for your mistakes—instead embrace the free, unexplainable, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the free, unconditional love that you have given us. Though we can never truly comprehend it, we know that your love and grace is what allows us to be free from the crushing oppression of sin. Father, please forgive me for the things I have done that were not pleasing to you, and help me to overcome the temptations that arise today. Father, thank you for removing the guilt, shame, and condemnation from my life and preparing me to grow closer to you. Amen.
Hi guys! I am Joshua Ogunyemi aka Josh O. Not only is Olaolu my little brother, but I illustrated the Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow and Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine. Today, I want to post a few words of wisdom I shared on June 13, 2021 that explains how our faith in God and our power to heal has started us on a journey to victory! Feel free to watch the video, read the blog, or both! Please note: I made some slight edits to the written version to ensure it flows well. Enjoy!
Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal
Introduction: Keep smiling!
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, smile!”
Now, why did I start with that song? Well, I thought it was important for y’all to see your brother smiling even while in this struggle.
We still have our faith. We still have our hope. We’re still standing, trusting, and believing in God’s Word. I can think of so many times we had to rely on a smile, a laugh, and the joy of the Lord which has always been our strength. That strength that kept us going. It empowers us every day and gives us the strength to bounce back and keep going (NO MATTER WHAT)! So, I thought it was important for you to see us smile.
Smile every day. Smile like you mean it! You may have had a tough week and for some, it’s a struggle just trying to get a smile through. Whatever you do, just smile. Remember that “the JOY of the Lord IS [your] STRENGTH.” We had to hold on to our smile through all the highs and lows on our journey to victory!
Our gifts were made for this moment…YOU were made for this moment!
If you are a parent, guardian, caregiver, family member, or anyone else connected to someone challenged with a developmental disability or “special need,” it is important for you to appreciate, honor, love, cherish, and labor with them. Why? Because it brings out the best in you. It helps you tap in and begin to transform situations that you previously couldn’t transform. It enables you to impact situations in your life that you previously couldn’t control.
It’s through our many challenges that we “stir up the gift that is in [us].” And what is this gift that is in us? Well, I’d like to submit to you that that gift is the POWER to HEAL. I want to encourage you— anyone who may come in contact with someone who requires special needs. YOU have the power to heal. YOU are anointed for this.
When God blesses you to come into contact with a person overcoming physical and mental challenges, make no mistake about it, YOU were chosen for the assignment. YOU were hand-picked for the mission. Not only that, YOU are equipped for the mission. YOU are built for this, and God trusts YOU. He made YOU the executor of his estate.
What does that mean? It means He trusts you to be informed and make sound decisions regarding your family member and their health and safety. It means He trusts you to make the right move and get the job done.
The doctor who witnessed it all.
I’m so proud that earlier this year, we were able to visit one of the doctors who previously gravely said, “She’s a very sick baby…” He saw her after she was born at 23 weeks at one pound and three ounces. She had survived the passing of her identical twin sister and had suffered a Stage 4 hemorrhage–the worst form of bleeding from the brain. At that time, her body was too fragile to undergo the life-saving surgery that would keep her alive, so the surgical staff had to use a needle to withdraw fluid from her brain to reduce the pressure and swelling. More than one of those doctors encouraged us to terminate care.
They wanted us to terminate care, but we remained hopeful.
I’m so proud that we chose to stand in faith and believe God. I love it when my wife tells this story, because it’s by far the most gangster thing I’ve ever said. The messed up part is I really don’t even remember it! The doctors came to us and said, “we’ve pretty much done all we can do… It’s essentially our efforts keeping her alive [and] it’s probably best if you let her go.” My wife recalls that I responded, “Y’all do what y’all do, and we’ll do what we do, which is to pray and stand on God’s Word.” That wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the evidence here with us today. This proves that standing on God’s Word WORKS!
Faith in Action
God trusts you to get the job done. When you acknowledge Him, He will give you direction. He trusts you and has anointed you to heal. It’s our responsibility as the able-body folks to not leave our loved ones in the conditions we found them in. It’s our responsibility to heal them.
Many of us are familiar with the biblical story about a rich ruler who divided up talents among his workers and left town for a while. When he came back, the two he gave multiple talents to gave him back more than what he had given them. But, there was one who gave him back the same talent that he had been given. The Master was displeased with the servant who did nothing to multiply his talent. Why? Because God wants us to take our situations–the gift that He’s given us–and give him back more! So again, let’s use our power to heal!
God works through us!
Now don’t get it twisted. It’s the power of God that heals bodies, makes the lame walk, makes the blind see, and mends the broken hearts. He cures sickness and disease and sets the captive free, but it is by our hands that he causes these miracles to be. It’s by our hands that he manifests these miraculous signs and wonders. The Bible says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). So it’s by our hands that manifestation happens.
Jesus said, “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do… anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:11-13 NLT)
So yes, it is God who does the work, but it’s by our hands that he manifests. By doing so, God gets the glory.
In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas travel town to town speaking God’s word. When they came to a particular town, they encountered a man “with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:8-9 NLT) So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:10 NLT)
What am I saying? We have that same power to heal.
Remember the doctor I told you about?
Yep, one of the few who thought that turning down the assignment was even an option. We visited him earlier this year–seven years later. He was amazed by Kennedy’s cognitive ability and her speech. He had some questions! This doctor remembered her brain scans all too well. It looked like she didn’t have a chance! He remembered the conversation we had. You know, the one where he encouraged us to terminate care.
That same doctor now said that based upon what he saw, Kennedy shouldn’t be this far along. She shouldn’t be doing the things that she’s doing. As a matter of fact, they thought she wouldn’t make it. They expected her to be severely retarded and unable to walk or talk. He originally told us that she’d be a vegetable collecting SSI and we’d need a lifetime of medicine, machines, oxygen, and around-the-clock care.
Kennedy’s [our] journey to victory!
Instead, after six months of being in the NICU, she came home with no equipment, oxygen, medicine, etc. It was almost like she just came home and said, “that was it?” Today, Kennedy is on the A/B Honor Roll, promoting to the third grade, and can even count to ten in Spanish! She sleeps comfortably in her own room–in her own bed–and she is a prayer warrior. Kennedy quotes scriptures and recites positive affirmations every day. She will also get you together, whether you ask for it or not.
I will end with this: the doctor told us that he believes Kennedy would have had all the previously mentioned side effects had she been in any other hands. Why is this important? Because I believe our journey to healing begins when we realize our power to heal and transform any situation!
Please continue to pray for me and my family, and I will do the same for you and yours.
About Josh O., the author of “Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal”
“Josh O.” is a devoted husband, dad, mentor, author, and entrepreneur. He is proof that faith, courage, and determination will outlast even the toughest challenges. His story has inspired many, exemplifying spiritual and mental toughness, defying every challenge he’s had to face.
Despite losing a child, extended periods of unemployment, failures, financial problems, the everyday pressures of marriage and fatherhood, and raising a child with special needs, he has become a champion of challenging situations and encourages others to do the same.
Josh’s book “tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” is a must read! Josh shows you how to turn your hard times Into THRIVING times with just 9 Key habits.
“IMAGINE YOU HAD A BLUEPRINT– A guide to help you during hard times. YOU can come out ON TOP! You just need the tools to help get you there.” -Josh O
I’m celebrating my wife’s birthday this entire week! Why? Because she deserves that and more.
I plan to discuss our origin story a little bit more on our ten-year anniversary later this year, but I believe this is an appropriate time to pause and publicly let Brea know how much I appreciate her support, love, and sacrifices! It’s been amazing to grow with her over the last ~11 years (that’s how long we’ve been an official couple).
Thank you for your sacrifices! (Even on your birthday)
In that short period, we have moved eight times across several different states to support my career. Though tearful because she has had to leave behind some great friends, she has continued to support and encourage me along the way. On top of all that, when I decided to finally pursue my dream of becoming an author, she did not skip a beat with her support!
Every single one of my adult accomplishments are because of Brea. Whether it’s keeping the children quiet so I can podcast or write, keeping the house running smoothly while I’m away, listening to my countless ideas, or any other daily thing she does, it has made me a better man.
This is YOUR week!
I could go on and on but I’ll summarize by saying, happy birthday my love! Cheers to many, many, maaaaaaany more years! 🥂
On the go? Learn about your purpose on the go with the below audio version!
So there you are; you just implemented an amazing idea! You finally conquered that initial mountain of “what ifs” and persevered through the shadowy valley of self-doubt and second guessing. Even so, you find yourself thinking, “where do I go from here?” You climbed to a new height only to be met by a second wave of doubt. You begin to question yourself, your purpose, and sometimes, your God. Haven’t we all been there? I know I have. I finally pushed past the nervousness of “what will people think” to be met head on by what seems to be another mountain! If that’s you, let me first start off with a quick encouraging word:
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessings if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
This topic reminds me of a slightly younger Olaolu in 2010-2011. Although several of my mentors were U.S. Army veterans, I decided to join the United States Marine Corps! I literally had no clue what that meant. In fact, I often tell people that the only two Marines I knew before I joined were Major Payne and Gunny Ermey! After I met my recruiter, I watched a couple more movies like “Jarhead” so I can learn and understand the jargon. Clearly, I had no idea what I was actually signing up for or why I was signing up, but I felt the urge to serve specifically in the Marine Corps.
Although I was already an adult (at least legally) and in college, I knew my first obstacle would be to convince my parents and siblings that this was a great idea for me. The military was considered a “last resort” for many in my hometown. That is probably because it really was the “last resort” for several veterans in my area as a judge was willing to place them in prison as an alternative. This was going to be a tough sale.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21 ESV
The Sales Pitch
“Alright Olaolu, just go to them and tell them, ‘I’m joining the Marine Corps. I’m not asking for your opinion or approval. It’s happening.” I was psyching myself up knowing I wouldn’t take that tone with my parents in a million years. “Just tell them you’re grown and this is what’s best for your life,” I continued.
Of course when the day arrived, my tone was completely unaggressive. I explained to both of my parents that I felt called to serve in this way and reassured them that I would finish college. I was already a Sophomore preparing to head into my Junior year of college, so I felt I could easily afford to take a semester off to attend boot camp and still graduate within four years. Surprisingly, this was pretty uneventful. My parents listened to my idea and calmly asked a few questions to which I responded with very generic answers I previously found on the internet. I later found out they were just putting on a front, but that’s a story for another day. I overcame obstacle number one: convincing my parents this was actually a good idea.
My plan failed, but God’s plan prevailed.
Fast forward a few months, my secretive and ridiculous plan to become an infantryman, serve in combat, train recruits as a drill instructor, graduate college, and commission as an officer within 4 years all came to a screeching halt; something was wrong with my package which prevented me from going to boot camp week after week. Soon, I received a call from an Officer Selection Officer who eventually convinced me to go directly to Officer Candidates School (OCS) through the Platoon Leaders Course-combined program.
After constant preparation like training in some old Army boots one of my mentors let me borrow, cleaning up my diet, and waking up before 5 A.M., I felt I was ready!
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
Ready for anything!
When I arrived at OCS, I knew I was not the strongest or the fastest, but boy was I confident. I ran a fairly average initial physical fitness test but came in well under the maximum twenty-four minute three mile time. As a person who absolutely abhorred any running beyond the 400 meter dash, I felt like I could conquer the world. There as even a cameraman snapping a picture as I sprinted towards the finish line. I later found out they posted that picture on the OCS website. I found out in a letter from my dad who was congratulating me on finishing ahead of my peers. Little did he know, I was actually “leading” the back third. Regardless, nobody could tell me I wasn’t the greatest runner of all time.
I took this same confidence to one of the first physical training events. The platoon commander led us on a familiarization run where he would show us the trails we’d be training on–a perfect opportunity to show off my impeccable, newly found running skills.
The run started off at a brisk pace, but not too fast or unbearable. After about ten minutes, I started to think, “man you are really prepared! This can’t be what all those people were whining about on YouTube.” Soon after, we started to encounter a few hills–nothing extreme but enough to fire up the quadriceps, calf muscles, and glutes. Then we approached what appeared to be a mountain. Uh oh, I didn’t see that coming. The platoon commander paused at the bottom and said, “this is Da Nang Hill. Let’s go.”
Da Nang Hill
We started a slower pace up this “hill.” I put my head down to watch only the feet of the person in front of me. If they slowed down, I would run around them. Pretty soon I found myself looking at my platoon commander’s heels. I kept pushing; although, I was winded and my legs were on fire. “Don’t look weak in front of these folks. This is what you trained for,” I thought. After running for what felt like forever, I felt it was time to look up to check progress. I immediately got excited after a quick glance. “We’re almost there! Keep pushing yourself!” I whispered to myself. At least I think it was a whisper.
“A few more steps, and we are at the t…” My thoughts were interrupted. I learned my first lesson about running mountainous trails–or “hilly trails” as these new psychos called it–false peaks are real! The trail turned and continued to elevate at what I thought was the summit! I felt like someone hopped out of the brush and smacked me in the chest with a fifty pound sandbag. Then I noticed the platoon commander’s heels were getting further and further away from me. A few seconds later, a couple more heels pass by. Then a couple more. That’s when it hit me, “you’re walking!”
My embarrassment engulfed me. I couldn’t believe that I broke my one rule: don’t walk. I wanted to start running again, but my legs were sending a clear message back to my brain that sounded like, “pssh. Yeah right!” When we made it to the top, I was once again leading the back third. This time, I learned the name of the motley crew I was leading–the stragglers. I was embarrassed, physically tired, and deflated. Although I had made it to the top of Da Nang Hill, I was in an emotional valley.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
As I reflect on that story, I realize there are so many parallels to life. We prepare, affirm ourselves, set boundaries, and chase after our eternal purpose only to be met by what appears to be a repetitive cycle of rolling hills and false peaks. Regardless of what we have accomplished and our acceptance that God has great plans for our future, we find ourselves discouraged and doubtful of our worth and purpose.
First of all, it’s ok to feel doubt. There are numerous examples of great leaders in the Bible who felt doubt–from Moses to Ruth to the Son of God himself. Each of those moments were profound, and you can easily find countless sermons about their most prolific moments of doubt. However, each of those biblical leaders had one thing in common; they realized that God exists in the past, present, and future outside of our natural timeline…and so should we.
The Eternal Perspective
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV
I admit, this sounds a bit Star Trek-ish or like something you’d hear from the infamous villain Thanos. This is where our natural understanding falls short and our faith begins. This is why we accept many scientific discoveries as theories instead of fact. Even one of the most notorious scientists ever–Albert Einstein–believed the universe is infinite and that there is an indefinitely superior God. Where we differ is in our belief that the infinite (past, present, and future) God created each of us and placed an eternal purpose in our hearts.
I believe the more we grow our relationship with God, the more we grow beyond our natural limitations so we can see the world from His point of view. I was able to overcome my Da Nang Hill experience–and several other emotional valleys–by realizing that though the setbacks hurt in the moment, they had very little to do with my immediate purpose which was to graduate OCS and they gave credence to my eternal purpose which is to inspire others to overcome their own emotional valleys and pursue their purpose.
As I was writing this, I received a call from a young lady who was distraught. She was conflicted about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and after her religious exemption request and subsequent appeal were both denied, she was faced with being separated from the military. She was having her own proverbial Da Nang Hill experience–she felt she was being punished for standing up for what she believed to be right. What’s worse is she would have to face her colleagues who watched her “lose” her fight.
For privacy, I will not discuss any more of her details, but I will share the advice I gave her. I started by reaffirming that I believe we follow orders unless they are unethical, immoral, or illegal, something she already knew. But then, I shared my personal belief and explained how I make decisions:
I pray to ensure my decision is in line with my personal relationship with and belief in God.
I examine how this decision–no matter how small–aligns with my eternal purpose and reason for being on this earth.
I replay numbers 1 and 2 in my mind when facing people who mock or disagree with my decision. I realize that a vast majority of the people we encounter are an extremely small part of our lives. We will never see some people again. So I choose to remain focused on the things that matter and the people who help push me towards my purpose.
In the end, I love to leave people like this young lady with one of my favorite scriptures:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Stay focused my friends! You will make it through your “Da Nang Hill” experience and come out more refined than before as you live out your God-given purpose.
Anyone else ever find themselves constantly battling a barrage of reoccurring toxic thoughts? If you are anything like me, it sometimes feels like you are losing that battle. What’s worse? Our thought patterns (i.e. our habit of thinking in a particular way, using particular assumptions) drive our actions. So we find ourselves in what appears to be an infinite toxic loop: our toxic thoughts create toxic assumptions which inform toxic actions. It’s time to breakout of that loop with these three steps:
Step 1: Create New Habits.
As in any other part of our lives, habits are formed by repetition. For example, this morning, my wife asked me, “why are you going to the gym so early if you are not required to go to work until a little later?” To which the only logical explanation I had was, “it’s a habit.” It is so much of a habit that I wake up at the same time (or earlier) even without an alarm, and if I try to lie there in the mornings, my mind will start racing and my body will start aching. So I just get up. The same is true when bedtime comes; I can easily fall asleep mid-sentence/mid-thought! (Ask my frat brothers who would have me out all night partying during college 😅.) Take a second to think about a habit like this you’ve formed over the years. When did you start? Can you even remember? My mom tells me that I’ve been waking up and falling asleep early since I was a young child. As it was when I was a child, that sleep pattern or sleep habit is fueled by an anticipation of what tomorrow holds.
This same logic applies to our thought patterns or mental habits. Whether we remember when the habits started or not, there is one thing that fuels these habits: our assumptions. In a previous post, I discussed my admiration for how our powerful brain gives us the ability to control our emotional responses. More specifically, I highlighted the cerebral cortex which, according to https://www.simplypsychology.org, the cerebral cortex “is the outer surface of the brain, [and it] is associated with higher level processes such as consciousness, thought, emotion, reasoning, language, and memory.” Many neuroscientists believe that our cerebral cortex “saves energy” by operating off of assumptions, and these assumptions are developed by our past experiences.
Author’s note: Most people stop here because they conclude since they cannot change the past and the past develops assumptions and assumptions fuel mental habits, then their mental habits cannot be changed. That is a very logical conclusion… Buuuuuut keep reading.
We can create new experiences! Here are a few tips to get you started:
Watch different movies and documentaries. I am personally a huge fan of action & adventure and comedies; however, National Geographic and The History Channel are also two of my personal favorites.
Take a vacation or travel to a place you have never been (even if it’s only a couple of towns over).
Try new food. I love food, so any post I get to mention food is a plus for me! Again, broaden your horizons!
Listen to a variety of music. We all have our favorite genre, but remember, we are creating new experiences. Listen to different genres and international versions of your favorite genre.
Take an interest in writing. Write about what you see. Write about your fantasies. Create a journal to record your thoughts and emotions or a food log (my least favorite lol) to track what you eat. Write a book if you’d like (I did it and so can you)!
All of these tips will work towards creating new experiences and ultimately developing new healthy mental habits.
Step 2: Indulge in Fresh Thoughts and Ideas.
Now that we have established a way to break our old habits through new experiences, we have to start programming our mind to think differently. In my studies of the Holy Bible, I found an excellent passage that universally applies to thought: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” -Philippians 4:8 NLT.
Let’s break this down to how it applies to life.
True: Let’s start by focusing on reality vs our perception of reality. One of the first cliches that comes to mind is, “perception is reality.” Wrong! Our perception is the lens through which we view life. (Sometimes our perception can be more like blinders than lenses). Similar to our assumptions, perceptions are based upon our experiences. Therefore, by creating new experiences, we are increasing our ability to see and understand reality through a clearer lens.
Honorable & Right: Despite what we may see on the news, I am a firm believer that mankind is inherently honorable (ethically and morally good). This thought inspires me to show goodwill and serve others, so I encourage others to think the same.
Pure: I love how Oxford Languages defines pure: “without any extraneous and unnecessary elements.” Sometimes our minds get so bogged down with negative things we consume on a daily basis. My recommendation is to be aware of the world around you, but don’t become consumed with the negative aspects of the world around you. My challenge for you is for every negative you read or witness, consume and meditate on at least two inspiring or positive things for balance.
Lovely & Admirable: Have you ever just stopped to take in the beauty of nature? I am a guy who loves warm weather; in fact, I have been frostbitten before, so cold weather and I are not best friends. Even so, I absolutely love a sunny day after fresh snowfall. Although the temperature may not be as warm as I’d prefer, I cannot help but walk outside, take in deep breaths of the cold, crisp, and seemingly filtered air, and smile as I see the sun glisten off of the sparkling snow. This is just one example of the peaceful places I have learned to admire and enjoy. What lovely things can you think of? Where do you go to find peace?
Excellent & Worthy of Praise: Think about the things you are grateful for. Even our worst situation is better than someone else’s best. If nothing else, you are alive and able to read this post. No matter how seemingly small or insignificant, celebrate every single win. You deserve to celebrate yourself, your accomplishments, and your life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Step 3: Command your thoughts!
If you have ever seen the movie “Cast Away,” you may remember the main character, Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks), floating on a makeshift vessel. This vessel had no steering wheel, sail, or any way to control or steer. Chuck was at the mercy of the sea–carrying him whichever direction it pleased. Is anybody willing to admit our thoughts are just like this? 🙋🏾♂️ Mine are! Sometimes my thoughts take me to a place of bliss, enjoyment, and peace; but more often than I’d like to admit, my thoughts take me back to the infinite loop I mentioned before if I let them. Sometimes following these negative thoughts seems adventurous and addictive, but I assure you they lead to a never ending cycle of toxic actions and behaviors. Therein lies my final piece of advice:
Command your thoughts!
Identify and write down your reoccurring negative thoughts. This is pretty simple: we cannot and will not get rid of what we cannot identify.
Identify your triggers. What is causing your negative thoughts? Is it TV? Is it the people around you? Is it social media? Take some time away (at least 30 days) from your triggers to see if that helps you improve.
Replace your thoughts with the thoughts we mentioned in Step 2: Fresh thoughts and ideas.
If you are anything like me, you read blogs like this with skepticism. Well allow me to encourage you; I use these steps in my daily affairs, and I have seen a huge change in my mental health and overall enjoyment of life! Start applying these steps to command your thoughts today!
Happy Saturday my friends! I hope you had an amazing week thus far and your weekend is even greater! My weekend? Let’s just say it has had a unique start. I underwent an appendectomy!
No matter how big or small, I always try to find a lesson in each of life’s circumstances. So what could I have possibly learned from an appendectomy? Well, the first thing I learned is that seeing a medical professional early on can make a huge difference. This was the first time in my life that I did not attempt to “tough it out.” The medical professionals were able to fix the issue in the early stages (before the infection in my appendix worsened and rupturing became a threat). But there was a larger life lesson.
The life lesson: We must quickly address life’s hurts and pains.
Let’s backtrack for a second: I woke up this past Thursday feeling normal. I went through my morning routine and showed up at the gym at 6 am for my one hour Yoga session. Such a relaxing start to the day ☺️. As the morning progressed, I began to feel a small pain/discomfort in my stomach. I initially thought it was nothing more than gas (sorry if that is TMI 😬), but I wasn’t so sure anymore by the time I arrived at work. It was getting worse throughout the day, but I was reluctant to express this feeling to my peers. After all, they probably already assumed it was COVID, so I did not want to cause alarm. There was no hiding it, because I am always jovial; striving to be the one to bring brightness to the room. Contrarily, I was quiet, withdrawn, and exhausted. One of my colleagues even said, “Are you ok?…You look like you are really hurting.”
Luckily, I was responsible for picking my son up from school that day, so I had an excuse to leave early. When I made it home, I laid on the couch and slept. I tossed. I turned. I tried lying upside down. I took Tums… Anything to relieve what I thought was simply “trapped gas.” That evening, I told my wife the words that let her know I was actually in pain, “I am going to the doctor in the morning to see what is wrong.” She knows I HATE hospitals, so she knew it must have been serious.
I arrived at the hospital Friday morning, still playing the tough guy role. I imagined they would hand me something to quickly relieve the pressure in my stomach and allow me to go home. At this point, I just wanted to “rule out appendicitis.” I mean seriously, my phone was on 40%, and I left my charger in my vehicle; I just knew this visit would be short! I was wrong.
After reviewing the Computed tomography (CT) scan, the surgical team came into the room to confirm I had appendicitis (a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus, causing pain. Source: Mayo Clinic). Thankfully, I sought help early enough to avoid a rupture. The surgical team presented me with two options:
1. Take antibiotics to “hopefully” reduce the inflammation.
2. Remove the appendix to eliminate the chance of reinfection.
I chose the latter, and the rest is history.
Why did I share that entire story?
I was able to identify several parallels between my life and my recent experience.
1. Pain is an indication of something more serious. Sometimes we become so accustomed to emotional hurt and pain that we ignore it. We consider ourselves “lone wolves.” We “tough it out” because we do not want to look weak. We mask our pain. We pretend we are ok. We attempt to become numb to the pain. We ignore it in hopes that it will go away. The downside is it does not go away; it just intensifies. Then, we find ourselves attempting to treat the symptoms with things that may cause the pain to temporarily subside only to find that the pain only increases–requiring more temporary treatment measures. We focus more on covering/treating the pain than identifying the root cause.
2. Though they can see straight through our ruse, we attempt to hide our pain from others. I knew I needed to bounce back after the first time my colleague asked, “are you ok?” So I ran to the store and grabbed tums and ginger ale. After about 30 minutes I said, “I feel much better after my Tums, ginger ale, and [lightly salted] veggie chips!” I said it in such a way that I even started to believe it. I told an occasional joke or two to throw him off. Meanwhile, the pain was worsening, and he wasn’t fooled. How often do we do this? Instead of admitting we are in pain and seeking help (or allowing others to help), we attempt to hide it. “I’ll be ok.” “I was built for this!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body, right?” Those are just a few of my go-to quotes. What are yours? Regardless, no one is falling for it anyway, so why not just get the help we need?
Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.
3. I got the help I needed. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I challenged myself to do something different this time. I decided I would get help instead of self-medicating. I am so glad I did. The surgical team informed me that my case was worse than they originally assessed via CT scan. Meaning, had I not gotten it taken care of, I risked rupturing my appendix (potentially fatal). We should normalize seeking professional help. Attempting to self-medicate our problems tend to make things worse. I learned this from previous injuries, and I am encouraging you to do the same. Do not try to do this on your own. Stop trying to hide or mask the pain and get the help you need to remove the root cause. Which moves to my last point:
4. You must address the root cause. When the surgical team presented me with options, I felt the answer was obvious. To me, Option A was: The surgical team would immediately treat the symptoms in hopes that the problem would not resurface. Option B was: The surgical team would remove the root cause which will immediately hurt more but has a greater chance of preventing future pain (reinfection). I chose the latter because that option addressed the root cause–my infected appendix. Simply reducing inflammation would have led to temporary relief. Chances are I would have returned to the hospital with the same pain in the future. So yes, I exposed myself to risks and pain associated with surgical removal, but in the long term, I do not have to worry about my appendix becoming reinfected… Because it is gone. Addressing the root of the pain was the right answer for me, and I believe it is the right answer for all of us. Healing and recovery may hurt and take time, but I will confidently endure knowing I made the best long-term decision for my health.
I know facing hurt and pain is a challenge for all of us. It can be scary and make feel vulnerable and weak. However, we must address the root cause of our pains if we want to live a healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Today is your day. This is your sign. Allow me to be your friend today who is pointing you towards seeking help. We can do this together. I believe in you!
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