Driving Around With a Flat Tire

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“A bad attitude is like a flat tire; you can’t go anywhere until you change it.” —Unknown

I was browsing through my photo gallery some days ago when I stumbled upon this interesting quote and I just couldn’t agree more with it. Indeed, having a bad attitude (and doing nothing about it) is just as dangerous as driving around with a flat tire. My friend Eli would have called it a Trojan horse, outwardly adorned in white linen but there is a gothic apparel underneath it. Push the analogy of the flat tire a little further and we’ll realize that the gravity of the situation at hand is much more devastating than what we actually perceive.

Experts say that when you get a flat tire while driving, the most advisable move to make is to gradually bring your vehicle to a stop and pull it off the road. Don’t continue to drive around with the flat tire because 1. You can easily destroy your vehicle and 2. Your vehicle can lose balance, skid off the road and cause a major accident. Already, a vehicle plying the road is regarded as a potential hazard to the driver (the individual), the occupants of the car (family ties and other closely associated partners) and pedestrians, other vehicles and objects around (other people not necessarily related to the individual). How much more a car with a flat tire! Honestly speaking, if our negative attitudes can be likened to that of a car with a flat tire, then we can’t be indifferent about them. Apart from the fact that we injure ourselves in the process, please pause for a moment to think about the harm we do to others within our proximity. I’m giving you more time to think about something that you did today, yesterday or even some weeks/months ago (and you still haven’t made any efforts to work on it). Have you declared yourself a loser in life because of that test you failed in college? Did you reject that offer because you felt you didn’t match up to the standard (Low self-esteem)? Are you saying your life is in shambles because you grew up in a poor home? Do you still think your friend is looking down on you not because you have any proof of it but you just feel like it (Insecurity)? Do you get defensive whenever someone tries to correct your mistakes? Are you over-exaggerating your failures? I have jumped to conclusion on many occasions and every time I did that, I hurt myself and the person(s) involved. My excuse may have sounded good but once I expressed that negative attitude of ‘over-generalization’, I caused an injury. Our negative attitudes may be similar or different but whatever the case, none of us is ever far from it. However, the fact that we aren’t perfect and that we can’t completely eradicate bad attitudes from our lives doesn’t mean we should accept them and say such is life. Such is life? I’m sorry but making no effort to pull your flat-tired vehicle off the road is complete selfishness. No better word can aptly express that. You get that same effect when you decide to remain adamant about changing your attitude. You’re an accident waiting to happen. You have to get yourself out of the way because when you go down, you may drag innocent lives along with you and that wouldn’t be a pleasant sight to behold.

What do we do now? What’s the way forward? Well, the GOOD NEWS IS…

Flat tires are changeable. Just as flat tires are changeable, bad attitudes are changeable too! There may be competent roadside assistance agencies (experienced people with a positive attitude) ready to help you fix your problem but the onus still lies on YOU. Primarily, You (the individual) must be fully persuaded that your problem can be solved. I’ve heard people say countless times, ‘as for me that’s how I am…I can’t change…I AM ME so LET ME BE’. We already know why it’s unacceptable to be unconcerned about our bad attitudes (please refer to paragraph 2). To add to it, once you keep professing negative statements over your life, you can never fix your problem. Words are powerful. Words have creative powers. Speaking along a particular pattern (a negative one in this context) will shape your actions accordingly and your actions will certainly begin to poison your character. That’s not good. Instead of pronouncing negativity over your life, rise up and speak positively. One of my positive confessions as a Christian when it comes to such matters is ‘With God, all things are possible.’[1] I take that major step to breaking bad attitudes and making good ones. What positive confession will you make to commence your quest?

Flat tires are preventable. A flat tire may not be completely preventable as some circumstances may be beyond our control. However, we can reduce a greater percentage of the occurrence to the barest minimum by avoiding places—rough roads with potholes, broken bottles, nails and other sharp-pointed objects—susceptible to tire punctures. In the same way, avoid places, people or things that have the tendency to trigger the negativities within and around you. If it means avoiding a certain company of friends, please do it. If it means avoiding a particular spot in your neighborhood, please do it. If it means avoiding a particular collection of books or music or TV programs or movies or any other audio-visual stimulant, please do it. Better to accept a positive change than to remain obstinate. For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. [2]

Attitudes don’t break and form by themselves. It’s not spontaneous. It takes a willful, deliberate effort to work towards making good ones or breaking bad ones. It’s very important to work on our attitudes because it determines how we react to people, places or things. As we know, nature hates vacuum. Air will always fill a vacuum. For that matter, be conscious about replacing a bad attitude with a good one. If you don’t, that space might be rented by a very stubborn tenant and evacuation will become a lot of work than before. Lastly, remember that change doesn’t occur overnight. We are human beings. Growth and development is an on-going process in our lives. Patience. Determination. Anticipation. Balance. Accountability. Persistence. You cannot do away with these major prerequisites if you are willing to effect a change in your life. So I won’t only say ‘With God, all things are possible’ and expect to see some magic happen in my life, I must take corresponding actions based on my confession to start the adventurous journey. Are you currently driving around with a flat tire? What are you waiting for? Pull over—slooooooooowly please—and let’s get to work!

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The Rabbit Chase

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“Catch the Rabbit!”

A vibrant young man once decided to learn about the secret behind another man’s successful journey in life. He wanted to know what really kept this ‘oldie’ going on in what he did because apparently, other people who had initially joined a similar pursuit had began to slowly fall away one after the other. As kind as the elderly man was, he narrated his story to enlighten the young one about the force behind his endurance throughout the years. According to the man, his dog spotted a rabbit one sunny day while he was resting. Immediately, his dog leaped and ran after the rabbit in hopes of catching it. His dog kept barking throughout the chase and this inadvertently sent invites to other dogs and of course, they joined the race to ‘catch the rabbit’. Instead of a one-on-one chase, it became a many-to-one affair this time around. The pursuit continued for a while until it reached a point where his dog remained as the only survivor still chasing after the rabbit. The other dogs that had joined in gave up along the way. “In that story, young man, is the answer to your question.”, he concluded. The young man later learnt that the man’s dog continued to take after the rabbit because it SAW what it was chasing after; the others didn’t.

Seen the Rabbit?

Do you take the pains to inquire about the success behind another man’s pursuit? If not, cultivate that habit now. It’s actually a good practice to find out that which really drives a person to keep on keeping on in what they do despite the potential challenges they encounter on the way. I personally believe most of us rush into things without even investigating to know what it is we’re venturing into in the first place. Just because you’ve seen your parents or friends or role models do it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow blindly too. Like the dog, you must SEE what you’re chasing after.

Have you ever made a decision without taking the time to examine your actions? Take career development for example, most of us are still dreading the very day we will  launch ourselves into a particular profession. In Africa (especially Ghana), most of us want to become either doctors, nurses, lawyers or bankers just because we feel a lot of people move in that same direction in terms of selecting a career path (the reasons may vary of course). The reasons vary from ‘I want to follow in [fill in the blank space] footsteps’ to ‘it generates more money’ and so many other reasons. Others can’t really do much about it because the problem is beyond their control. Perhaps, their ‘beloved’ parents decide to issue an ultimatum of “you either go into ‘this’ or that’s the door!” I for one had the opportunity to know who I wanted to become in future at an early stage. Because of that, I had no struggle in choosing the course I wanted to pursue in the university. I knew and could SEE what I was chasing after so despite the challenges that came my way both in class and during practical sessions, I still managed to endure the whole process. I saw the ‘rabbit’ I was chasing therefore not only did I know its size, color and other descriptive details but I also knew the implications associated with chasing that dream from the very start. I wasn’t following blindly. NB: Emphasis is on ‘blindly’.

For some of us, we are in a messy relationship because that of our best friends whetted our appetite some time ago stirring up some wild hunger within us to also test the waters. Let’s be honest here. If some of us were to be asked the reason for entering into a particular relationship, the observed reaction will portray someone fumbling in his pocket for his keys. I could go on and on to cite more instances but the question is basic: how many times have we come out successful with such poor decisions? We can’t be like the other dogs that joined the chase after being attracted by the barks of the first dog. All they heard was the other dog’s ‘invite’ and they joined WITHOUT knowing what they were chasing after. What happens is after some time, you lose the desire to press on because you realize you don’t even know why you went out there in the first place. This is the same reason the other dogs backed out of the chase. Frustration sets in at a point and you get tired of chasing the ‘air’. In effect, you are highly likely to get disappointed in what you’re doing and guess what? You withdraw from the race and you may have wasted time and energy—plus money because ‘time is money’. Such a loss may never be recovered.

The long and short of my message is be well informed about what you want to pursue before you join any race. Don’t follow blindly. Be it academics, a business career, relationship or even spirituality, be sure to ‘SEE THE RABBIT YOU’RE CHASING’. Don’t run because everyone is running; run because you’ve seen what you’re supposed to be running after. That way, when fatigue, discouragement or other negative impacts threaten to set in, the mere sight of what you’re chasing after (the dream itself) will be your greatest motivator to deter you from giving up. There may be times the rabbit might run faster and out of your sight. When that happens, follow the rabbit’s trails on the ground. If you can’t locate the trails, ask the people around (those who possess great knowledge on how to catch the type of ‘rabbit’ you’re chasing) for its whereabouts. Whatever you do, don’t stop. After all, how long can the rabbit keep running? It’s only a matter of time till it comes to a halt. Until then, keep chasing the rabbit IN SIGHT and DON’T LOSE SIGHT!

The Great Physician’s Report: ‘Anorexic or Obese in the Spirit’?

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Excessive weight gain or weight loss has never been a healthy cause to champion in life. The frustration that comes with knowing that you’ve gained/lost extra pounds—your ‘cosmetic makeup’— isn’t the major concern. The real danger is you stand the risk of developing health-related diseases that have the propensity to cause long-term health complications later in life—disability and death. This is why it stands as one of the world’s major public health concern because of its rising incidence and high death rate among individuals worldwide. Moreover, it may interest Christians to know that not only does the physical human body experience these conditions, the spirit man is also highly susceptible to them—and it’s also life-threatening! Kindly join me as we read the Great Physician’s report on this sensitive subject.

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What does it mean to be ‘anorexic or obese in the spirit’? An ‘anorexic spirit’ is one that has undergone deliberate starvation of God’s Word resulting in a ‘spiritual weight loss’. An ‘obese spirit’ on the other hand piles up lots of ‘spiritual calories’ and fails to burn them, leading to weight gain. The interesting thing is both do not necessarily plan to lose or gain ‘spiritual weight’ in an unhealthy way but their choice of action unfortunately leads them to unhealthy outcomes.

 CAUSES

How does it come about? Let’s start with the ‘anorexic Christian’. The problem here isn’t laziness. Rather, it stems from mere misconception about studying God’s Word.

Misconception #1: Following biblical instructions is pure legalism. Such people perceive the reading and studying of God’s Word as adhering to some strict rules of ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ in order to be in right standing with God. It feels like ‘checking the box’ as one will say.

Misconception #2: You don’t have to know so much of the Bible to be effective in your output. The ideology states that once a person trusts the Holy Spirit to the letter, he (she) doesn’t necessarily have to be head over heels about studying the Bible into details as the Spirit can equally equip him (her) to fight daily battles, not forgetting the promise that ‘He will teach you all things and remind you of everything…’.

And because of that, the passion to consume the Word of God—the food for the soul and spirit—is lost. End result: Excessive weight loss.

The ‘obese christian’ delights in spending time to read and study God’s Word into detail. As if that isn’t enough, he (she) consumes numerous Christian tapes and sermons from other preachers in addition to reading Christian articles, blog-posts, novels and other Christian-related write-ups. In other words, there’s a lot of packing and packing and packing and…yeah, lots of packing BUT ZERO PROCESSING. And this marks the dawn of excessive weight gain—more ‘spiritual calories’ are taken in than the spirit man burns, and the excess is stored as ‘spiritual fat’. End result: Excessive weight gain.

 TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

Lifestyle Modification. The solution to these conditions rests upon life-long behavioral changes.

Diet. Watch what and how you eat. Not everything you come across on the internet or the bookshop is safe for ‘consumption’. Just as you make time to visit the ‘customer review’ section to check the integrity of a product when making an order online, develop that same habit to test the integrity of every Christian material you come across because some are meant to build you up while others will show no mercy in tearing you apart.

How do you eat at home? You make every effort to eat properly, to eat a balanced diet that meets your body’s requirement for healthy growth and development. In a balanced diet, you find the body-builders, the energy-boosters and the immune boosters. In the same way, don’t be too one-sided with your Bible study. Learn to explore other areas of God’s Word. Build a solid foundation (body-builders) by reading the Historical Books of both the Old and New Testaments to learn the story of Israel and Jesus Christ (and the Church) respectively. Boost your spiritual energy with revelations and encouragement from the Prophetical Books of the Bible. Make an appointment with the Poetical Books. These are ‘high-fiber diets’ (rich in wisdom) required to loosen up your ‘spiritual bowels’ so that your spirit man can empty any junk that isn’t profitable from its system. Don’t skip the Epistles, visit them too. While they carefully instruct you on Christian doctrine, they also offer protection by teaching you how to fight against similar attacks that hit the Early Church (immune boosters). And as you do that, spend ample time to research more into your findings by using reliable Bible tools, not forgetting the power of prayer and meditation. This way you’re less likely to develop stunted growth in any area of your life.

Exercise. Make every effort to live out what you learn from the scriptures. Don’t just stockpile biblical teachings into your spirit. The weightlifter doesn’t build muscles by watching them self-inflate miraculously. No. He puts his knowledge about bodybuilding into practice. He works out tirelessly (despite the many failures that may come his/her way) until the desired outcome is seen. The same applies to the Christian. Once you receive the Word, step out of your comfort zone and live it out. Better to always try and even fail at something than to fail to try because belief without corresponding actions is dead. Someone once said that ‘those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.’ A similar lesson to take home; if you have no time to build up your spirit man now, prepare then to find time to deal with the avalanche of trouble that is ready to come your way soon.

Develop the right mindset. Concerning Misconception #1, living according to God’s Word isn’t a legalistic practice UNLESS your motive behind your actions are ‘I have to do this and that in order to make the man upstairs happy and probably get to heaven’. That’s a wrong mindset. Your total obedience to God’s Word—an act of the will to align our lives with His commands—must be driven by a genuine love to live an honorable life that is so much pleasing to the One who gave His life as a ransom for you. Once you set your motive right, you come to know and understand that you delight to study God’s Word because of an inexplicable love that has captured your soul.

Concerning Misconception #2, one example for illustration. You hear people say that one doesn’t have to be so knowledgeable in the scriptures when going out to evangelize as it’s the Holy Spirit who does the conviction and not us. That is very true. The work of a Christian is not to do the conviction because no man draws ANY soul to Christ; it is the work of the Spirit of God to draw men unto Himself. But don’t forget that we are the ones called to go out and announce this good news. Yes, we are not alone because we have the Holy Spirit to direct our paths so we act in line with God’s word to be efficient and effective. But how can we effectively reach out to someone if we don’t even know how to blend into the culture of our surroundings as per what the Bible teaches? How can we be useful out there, if we are ignorant of how the apostles went about soul winning? How can we even tell when and when not to visit a particular vicinity to spread the good news? The Bible was documented for a purpose: to teach us what is right, what is not right, how to get right and how to stay right. The only way to become complete and efficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for the tasks God has for us is if we make a conscious effort to study what the Bible teaches. This is the reason why we can’t lazy about by clasping our hands together and offering prayers wrapped around the mindset that the Holy Spirit is going out there to do our work for us while we sit in our small corners looking out for the miracle of people trooping into the church in their numbers. Be reminded that you also have the responsibility to study to know how to approach your hearers. As for the Holy Spirit, the ‘paraclete’ (Greek word which is translated as ‘Comforter’ which means ‘One called alongside to help’), He was not sent to come do our job for us. He was sent to come HELP us carry out OUR responsibility. All He does is to lead, guide and push us gently. We are expected to yield to all these promptings, step out there and proclaim the glad tidings. Develop a wrong mindset concerning this or any other portion of scripture in the Bible and the whole purpose of what it desires to communicate becomes defeated.

The ‘anorexic christian’ shouldn’t be the only one advised to develop a right mindset. The ‘obese christian’ must pay heed to this caution too. And once you begin to feed on God’s Word, remember to eat a balanced diet and don’t forget to work out your ‘spiritual calories’.

 Physician’s remarks: Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God — the free life! —even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. (James 1:22-25 MSG)