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Knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement from a Christian perspective is my goal. I post a weekly commentary, which could be about world events or the events of my week. Other days I might share stories, recipes, homemaking tips, book reviews, political talk, biblical truth, or other blogs and websites I like. This blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A DISCIPLINED MIND

When my friends and I get together we often talk about our minds and how forgetful we've become or how difficult it is to concentrate. We blame it on our age and the fact that menopause is right around the corner. But I know there's more to it than that. Speaking for myself, the problem is an undisciplined mind. It's something I'm working to improve.

I've spent years allowing my mind to wander. It's why I sometimes struggle to read. It's why I can't always concentrate when I'm listening to a speaker. I believe a lot of women struggle with this problem because a disciplined mind isn't something we're born with. It has to be built through teaching ourselves to focus on what we're doing when we're doing it.

A few weeks ago I was deep in thought while driving. As I approached a shaded area of the road I had to brake hard when suddenly a bulldozer appeared directly in front of me. When I was allowed to pass around it, I rolled down my window and told the work man that they should have some kind of warning posted because I couldn't see the bulldozer in the shade. He gave me a smirky grin and said, "Well there's a sign back there, Did someone steal it?"

I'm still not sure if I really missed that sign or if perhaps the wind had knocked it over but either way it's not the only example I could give. An undisciplined mind can put you in all kinds of embarrassing situations. And the inability to concentrate causes you to miss what people say. That's what bothers me most. I hate missing someone's thoughts. I hate not being in the moment because my mind is somewhere else.

The bible is filled with all kinds of wisdom and sure enough there's something in it about a disciplined mind: "Give your mind to what you are doing." Those important words are found in Ecclesiastes 5:1 I cannot allow my mind to go wherever it wants whenever it wants. I need to discipline my mind so that I pay attention, hear, and understand what's going on around me. And I shouldn't dwell on thoughts that aren't good for me.

When I catch myself thinking about the past or when my mind wanders during a conversation I have to redirect it. Sometimes it means apologizing to the person I'm speaking to and asking her to repeat what she said, but at least I'm dealing with the problem. With consistent practice I can improve my thought life. Of course I ask God to help me because He doesn't want me to have an undisciplined mind that thinks about things I shouldn't be thinking. He doesn't want me to miss pieces of conversations because that's missing life.

People underestimate the importance of controlling our thought lives. We spend a lot of time each day allowing our minds to absorb or ignore people, places, and things. And the things we ignore are the things we miss and sometimes can never get back. Our minds are what control our life experiences. A messy, undisciplined mind leads a messy, undisciplined life; that's why we need to give our minds to what we hear and what we do while it's happening. To live in the moment means having our minds with us not wandering.




Sunday, June 22, 2008

LITTLE THINGS THAT SHOW WE CARE




I've had it on my mind this week to write about the little things people do to express care and concern for one another. And as often happens when I have an idea, I picked up a book today that is about that exact thing--creating an attitude of concern for others. The book is titled, "Things Happen When Women Care." I haven't read it yet, but it looks like a book I'll enjoy.

We all want to feel special, loved, and cared for. I don't know anyone that doesn't enjoy that feeling, including me. So to write about it, I only need to ask myself what makes me feel that someone cares. I'm guessing the answers are probably the same for everyone, but the order of importance might vary.

For instance, some people might easily overlook a promise that's not kept, but for me, following through with what you say you're going to do is just common courtesy. Of course, forgetfulness is forgivable, but when someone makes a habit of telling me they're going to do something and then not doing it, I feel they don't care enough to put action behind their words.

Another thing that makes me feel cared for is having someone reach out and ask how I'm doing. I don't mean the casual, "How are you?" that you get from someone as they walk by, I mean a phone call or a letter, something more personal. E-mails are better than no contact, but it's nice to hear a human voice and there's something really special about cards and letters that e-mail can't match. I'm trying to get better at reaching out to others. I don't call my family enough and I'm not good at remembering birthdays. I should call my friends more often just to chat. We don't realize how powerful a caring voice is, how much it can brighten a person's day.

One thing I am pretty good at is sending Thank You cards. Words of appreciation is something we all like to hear. I could probably send several Thank You cards a week if I were really good at keeping track of deserving recipients. Sometimes just saying it is enough. We never get tired of hearing words of praise, compliments or thanksgiving. It makes us feel appreciated.

Something else that makes me feel appreciated is a warm welcome. I've often walked into a place of business and felt invisible. Especially if it's a small business, people should be greeted when they enter. I remember a certain business that I frequented almost every day and not once was I ever greeted with a smile or a "Hello." This was a business that catered to children so I was there because of my son. But I couldn't help but form an opinion of unfriendliness in that atmosphere. Some people don't realize how much a warm greeting means to most people. If given a choice between two similar businesses and one has a friendlier atmosphere, guess which one I'm drawn to? The same one you'll be drawn to.

That's why people with a gift of hospitality are always surrounded by others and invited to so many events. People are drawn to them because they are so good at making people feel special and welcome. Those people have learned the importance of small acts of kindness and concern for others.

A friend of mine recently observed a man walking in front of his girlfriend. He made no effort to keep pace with her but walked ahead of her as if he wasn't even with her. She predicted the relationship wouldn't last. Women love those little things that men do to make them feel cared for-- you know the open doors, the pulling out chairs when they sit, and just being attentive to their needs. I still get a tingle when my husband opens a car door for me. Smart men know this about women and they make the effort.

Little things make a difference. Those who make that extra effort to make people feel special are often rewarded for it. They might have a more profitable business, a more exciting social life, more friends, or a girlfriend who's more likely to stick around.

So if we have so much to gain, why don't we do those little things more often? Every day brings opportunities to make someone feel special and cared for. Let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line. Hold a door open for someone. We call them "little things" because they don't require a whole lot of effort, but to the person on the receiving end of our thoughtfulness, those little things are big things.




Sunday, June 15, 2008

SOMETHING FOR YOUR SPIRIT

What a beautiful day! I hope families took advantage of this perfect summer weather and enjoyed Father's Day together. My husband's side of the family planned a picnic at R.B. Winter State Park also known as Halfway Dam. I said that I had never been there, but as I walked around the park I had flashbacks of being there when I was a child. My family did a lot of camping and some of my fondest memories are of traveling with my siblings and parents to different campsites across Pennsylvania and other states.

At first we thought we were going to Knobel's Grove for the day, but along the way we discovered there had been a misunderstanding between my husband and his mom. He heard her say, "we're leaving early to get a picnic table by the pool at Knobel's Grove." But she claims she said, "a picnic table by the lake at Halfway Dam." They laughed and teased each other along the way about who caused the misunderstanding: his mom for saying the wrong thing or my husband for hearing the wrong thing. I sided with my mother in law. Listening isn't one of my husband's strong points.

My daughter seemed disappointed at first. "If there are no rides, then what's there?" she wanted to know. Within an hour of being there we decided it was better than any amusement park. I'd forgotten how much I love state parks, especially one like this with a beach lake. Sitting in the warm sand was like being at the shore. I looked out across the lake and marveled at the puffs of cloud floating across clear sky. The surrounding forest of trees were so deep green against the blue above. A cool breeze blew in from the lake which made sitting in the sun the perfect place to be. I watched the children play in the sand close to the water and remembered how much I once loved digging in wet sand.

My mom has old movies of my sister and I playing on a beach along a lake in Canada. We had rented a cabin there. I think it was near Quebec. I must have been about eight years old, and I recall my mom catching me on film walking up to my sister with a fist full of sand and throwing it up into her face as she was bent over. This didn't faze her. She just kept digging with her shovel. I guess she was used to such taunting from her little sister.

There's something about camping and sitting under tall pine trees or near a lake that is so relaxing. Today I was reminded why my parents loved that lifestyle so much. In the late sixties and early seventies it seemed that we lived in our camper more than we lived at home. The only thing missing today was the campfire toward evening, roasting marshmallows and making mountain pies. I can still see that bright kerosene lantern sitting on the picnic table and smell the scent of bug spray and burning logs. Some of my greatest childhood memories were formed while camping. It makes me feel like my daughter is being deprived of that.

She never drove for miles in the back of a van with three siblings and an eight-track of John Denver playing over and over. Okay well maybe the John Denver music isn't her favorite. Taylor Swift would be more like it. She hasn't experienced the fun of finding ways to entertain herself for hundreds of miles with games like license plate bingo. She hasn't had the joy of making friends with the kids camping next door, hanging out with them at the pool, walking around the campground, riding bikes, collecting bugs and making forts and bridges until that dreaded day when it was time to go home. I wish I had kept a journal of all my camping experiences. What a treasure that would be.

Being in the woods does something for your spirit even as an adult. My dad must have known that when he bought that little "Scottie" camper we hauled around from Canada to Florida and places in between. After visiting that state park today, I feel like my spirits have been lifted, which is something I must have needed. Last week it was so hot I didn't bother writing my weekly journal. Or maybe I was just uninspired. Maybe I needed a change of scenery.

I'm grateful for those moments in life when I'm pulled away from my daily routine and reminded that there's still much beauty in God's world. He provides places of refuge for us, and when we don't have the sense to go there ourselves, he sends invitations through other people. Sometimes it's a wedding invitation. Sometimes it's an unexpected request to attend an event. And sometimes it's a gathering of family at a beach lake park on a perfect summer day. Don't turn down those invitations. Because you'll hear about it later and wish you would have gone.




Sunday, June 1, 2008

THE PRINCIPLE OF SACRIFICE



As I sat down to read today, two profound truths practically jumped off the pages of a book I'm reading, Angels At Your Service. The first: "The blessings of God will forever escape you if you murmur and complain." The second: "Your purpose in life isn't to meet your own needs. Your purpose is to be a tool in the hand of God to meet somebody else's need."

These truths hit home with me because I've been doing a lot of grouching about the hassles of life. I recently sent an e-mail to my sister complaining about being stuck inside all week and doing nothing but serving people and cleaning messes. My daughter has a bad case of poison and I've been drawing baths, applying ointments, and bringing her whatever she needs to be comfortable, mostly mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.

"I want someone to serve me." I said in the e-mail. Well it only took a day for God to set me straight. My resources of time, ability, and money are not to be squandered on my own agenda the book claims. They are to be used as a resource to meet someone else's need. When I sacrifice myself for the needs of others, only then will God move someone to meet my needs.

In other words, I must do two things before I can expect to receive any blessings: I must stop murmuring and complaining, and I must develop a servant's attitude and find joy in serving others. Even a prayer that is rooted in selfishness will never be answered. We must always be conscious of other people's needs.

The best example of this truth is the book of Job, who complains about his miserable circumstances for an entire 40 chapters. Then when Job prays for his friends, he receives an answer to his own prayers. First he stopped complaining and then he focused on the needs of others, and in that instant God delivered him and gave him twice the prosperity he had before.

What would your workplace be like if everyone took on a servant's attitude? What would your family be like if every member had a heart to meet not their own needs but the needs of other family members? Even leaders, managers, and supervisors are to be servants to their workers. Although some of them missed that memo, it seems. But the greatest leaders are those who are willing to sacrifice.

No project, business, or family can succeed without sacrifice. To accomplish anything, someone must be willing to give. As a mother, if all I think about is what I can get for myself, how will my family flourish? Everything that's accomplished comes from the sacrifice of a willing servant.

Some days it seems that all we do as women is serve, give, and sacrifice, but there are rewards to this that we don't always realize: we receive answers to our own prayers when we're willing to serve. God sees that we serve with a joyful heart and no complaints and he then moves others to fulfill our own wants and needs.

The entire scope of life runs on the principle of sacrifice. And only those who are willing to give without complaining receive the blessings God wants to give them. Until that truth sinks in and becomes a permanent part of my thinking, I'll continue to wander around in the wilderness, frustrated and deprived of life's joy and peace.