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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, May 31, 2010

THAT DON'T IMPRESS ME MUCH

I was watching Joyce Meyer tonight. She said, "Character is what you do when no one is watching." It got me thinking about the time and effort we put into doing things simply because people are watching us. For example, I don't particularly like washing my car. But when I do, I feel better about driving it. And maybe it's not just for myself, but how I look to others. A dirty car says something about you. So I got to thinking: If I lived on an island all by myself, would I bother to wash my vehicle? How many things do I do for the sake of looking good to others?

There's never been a time when people were more conscious of how they look to others. Just go shopping with a pre-teen and you'll see how important it is to have the right clothes and the right look. My daughter and I disagree about this all the time. I want her to be less tuned into the ways of the world and stop putting so much pressure on herself (and her parents) to have clothes with a certain name on them. If she lived on an island by herself, would she give two hoots about the name Hollister? No she wouldn't.

Perhaps we could all use a few weeks alone on that proverbial island. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how our character would change when we discover that suddenly no one is watching? What would we do differently?

The first thing we'd be relieved of is the desire to impress people with our image, achievements or financial status. If we suddenly had to live like Tom Hanks in Castaway and our only friend was a volleyball named Wilson, we'd have no reason to flaunt those things. We'd no longer care how we looked to the world. There might be a great freedom in that.

Keeping up appearances takes a lot of energy. What's the payoff for our efforts? I was also watching The Bachelorette tonight, which I'm almost ashamed to say because the way those men were acting made me feel I was watching something undeserving of my time. Whatever happened to that show? Anyway as I was saying, Ali, the bachelorette, seems to be a woman who's not impressed by image or status. She's looking for someone with a good heart. For that I love her and I wish her well. I almost cheered when she failed to give a rose to Mr. Dark Shadows. He gave me the creeps.

When I think of the guys I've known and dated, I wonder why I wasted my time on half of them. Some of them were so into the world and impressing people. I couldn't see it then because I was too immature, too naive maybe. I can only thank God that I didn't end up with any of them because I don't think they've changed. I ran into an old boyfriend recently and he was the same guy I remembered. He ran off his list of "let's impress her" things he's into, and I pretended to be interested. Then he made sure that I saw him drive off in his hot car. I yawned as he passed by, checked my watch, then popped in a stick of gum.

Tell me you're the CEO of a successful corporation and that don't impress me much. But do something thoughtful and kind and I'll be so impressed I'll probably talk about you for months. Character is what we do when no one is watching. But the reality is that someone is always watching and someday we'll be rewarded for our character.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

MAYBE YOU NEED SOME SLOW SIMPLE SILENCE

There are sixty million women in America who are so overstressed and over scheduled that it affects their physical health. This lifestyle of hurried busyness affects everyone in a woman's family, especially her children. In the midst of the modern woman's hectic life, her children are tossed around while desperately trying to steady themselves. Inside they are screaming,"Mom! you're moving too fast."

The message of our culture is that our value comes from what we do and how busy we are. Because we listen to this nonsense, we take on much more than we should. We don't know how to say No. Because we seek approval from people instead of from God we hate to disappoint others and we often say yes to validate our own importance.
We need to stop wearing ourselves out being people pleasers and start making decisions based on what God is calling us to do.

Our value is not in what we do, our value is in who we are...God's children. But because we live in a culture focused on doing, we get caught up in the craziness of the world's hectic pace. There's a clear connection between rushing and stress. We need to stop being so hurried. When we hurry, we lose touch with God and all He wants to give us. We also lose touch with the people in our lives.

Time spent with God and time spent with our children may not be seen as productive time. If we can get some work done instead of doing those things, we think we've made the right choice. But what price are we paying for our busyness?  The price we pay is a life void of joy and peace. God created us to need time with Him. We need that calming and loving presence. When we neglect what the soul needs, we will look desperately for something else to fill the emptiness. I find that the days when I overeat are the same days that I spend the least time with God.

What are you most focused on? What takes up most of your time and energy? When you finally do have some down time, what do you think about? What do you treasure most in this life? God invites us to store up our treasures in Heaven. The only thing in this life that will last into eternity is relationships. Relationships with God and others should be our treasures. Unfortunately many people give possesions a higher priority than people.

One of the keys to simplifying our lives is to weed out all the stuff we don't need.
Just as there's a clear connection between rushing and stress, there's also a clear connection between simplicity and contentment. The more stuff we have, the more debt we have and the more time we spend maintaining our stuff. That's precious time away from God and family. Debt keeps us from focusing on God. Debt makes us a slave to our things. It causes us to work longer hours, and the mental anguish that it brings is hardly worth the stuff debt buys.

Rather than focusing on buying stuff and achieving things, our focus should be on God. When we make following God a priority in our lives, everything else falls into place. We can actually invite God to help us make decisions. By running every decision through the sieve of God's will, we achieve simplicity. By scheduling some free time into our weekly schedules, we have more patience. Being impatient causes great heartache for ourselves and our families.

God holds the secret to successful living and true success is based on who we are not what we do. When we know how to slow down, how to simplify our lives, and how to build relationships with Him and others, we become who we need to be to live lives of peace, joy and contentment. If the joy and peace are missing, perhaps you need to slow down, simplify, and get silent with God.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

THE SENSE TO LOOK DEEPER

I remember a verse that goes something like this, "Only the person involved can know her own pain; no one else can really share it." That verse and a few recent experiences have inspired me to write about the way we form opinions of others without knowing the full details of their lives. If only we could see the total picture, we might be more compassionate. If we could see the reasons behind the things people do and say, we might be more forgiving.

So much misunderstanding goes on when we communicate. And it's that misunderstanding which causes bad feelings and broken relationships. It amazes me how easily people can misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I was at a party last summer talking to a woman about what I might get into next. We got on the subject of selling and I told her about a woman who tried to recruit me as a salesperson. Within minutes the woman became defensive and told me that she has great respect for that person. "It takes a lot of discipline to do what she does," she said as if I were attacking the woman's character.

She assumed that I was criticizing the gal who tried to recruit me. But what she didn't realize was that I had helped that person get started in her business and we were on friendly terms. The point I was trying to make was that I can't sell to save my life. Looking back, I wish I would have told her how mistaken she was, but I walked away without telling her she misunderstood.

Once I sent a note to my daughter's teacher when she didn't want to take part in a spelling bee. The teacher didn't take it well from what my daughter told me.  But what the teacher didn't see was the exhausted mother (me) who wrote the note and the things that led up to it. From what I understood, the spelling bee was mandatory.  I wrote the note as a desperate attempt to quiet my daughter's fears, but I don't think it was received as that.

Jumping to conclusions is one way we get ourselves into trouble. Sometimes we hear something totally different than what the person meant. I've learned to give myself a cooling-off period whenever someone says something offensive. Too many times I've made a fool of myself by assuming something that just wasn't so. And then when I got the whole story, I felt like an idiot and had to apologize for my hasty judgment.

Another thing we do is fail to see the baggage that people carry around. Sometimes people do and say things because of past experiences. We don't realize that the reason someone is so sensitive about her weight is because of a fat stage she went through and the teasing she endured because of it. We don't realize that the reason someone seems so controlling and bossy is because she desperately wants children. Her motherly instincts are in overdrive and she has nothing to nurture but other people's lives. So she comes across as bossy and arrogant but she's really hurting inside.

Hurting people hurt people. It's from our own brokenness that we hurt others. And if we could just see beyond the offense and look a little deeper, we might discover that the hurt we're experiencing is actually the fallout from someone else's pain. We really should give people the benefit of the doubt more often. We really should be more forgiving, more understanding, and slower to assume the worst.  We can't see the hidden reasons why people do what they do. We don't know what's behind their hurtful words. But we can pray for our eyes to be opened to their pain. If we can understand the reason for their actions, we'll be more likely to extend grace. The world needs more grace.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITION

"People don't know what to do when the wheels fall off your life." I like that quote from The Longing, my latest reading treasure. The book is about finding your identity in Christ not in your accomplishments, your looks or anything else. In chapter six, Joey O'Connor makes a great point about brokenness and why it is an essential part of being a Christian: "Brokenness brings us to the end of ourselves. It is the very thing that brings us to our knees. It is the very thing we need to lead us to the wholeness found in Christ."

We need to give ourselves permission to be broken. That's hard to do in a society of winners who never want to appear weak, vulnerable, worried, anxious or overwhelmed. "We wear a thin veil of superficiality and shallowness," says the author. "We hide because we're afraid that if we truly open the lid of our hearts to show another person all of our fears and grief and pain, they'd say, "Yuck!"

I admire people who can be honest with their feelings without fear of appearing weak or vulnerable. There's nothing more endearing to me than a friend who openly shares her doubts, fears and pain. This is what life's about and it shouldn't make us uncomfortable. "We must accept our brokenness to find our wholeness in Christ," says O'Connor.

To find a friend who's honest is rare. Even rarer is finding a friend who allows you to be honest, especially when you're honestly hurting. Life isn't always about being strong and capable. Sometimes it gets messy and we should let ourselves be a mess without guilt. The idea that people, especially Christians, should always be strong and never struggle is wrong. The Bible is filled with stories of godly men and women who suffered greatly. "And through their suffering, God created something beautiful," claims O'Connor.

We all have seasons in our lives when we don't have it all together and we don't have all the answers. "Brokenness is part of the human condition," says the author. Then why do hurting people make us so uneasy? And why do we try so hard to hide our own brokenness? We're just not good at comforting people. We say the most ridiculous things to them. "There are other fish in the sea," is what we say to the heartbroken. "It's God's will," is what we say to the grieving. We'd be better off to say nothing.

People don't know what to do when the wheels fall off your life. But "Jesus, your broken savior understands your brokenness like no one else." Cling to Him. He promises to make something beautiful out of your brokenness.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TRUST WILL SET YOU FREE

Have you ever come across just the right book at a time when you really needed its wisdom? This happens to me all the time. I believe that God brings certain books into our lives at just the right time. It's one of the many ways that he communicates with us. Sometimes it's a magazine article or a lesson on TV. But the exact thing that I'm struggling with will suddenly appear in the form of a book, an article, a TV program or some other teaching tool.

The book I'm reading now is one that I bought a year ago. I finally picked it up this week and started reading. It's so good that I can't put it down. The book is titled, In God We Trust: But Only as a Last Resort. Trusting God should be the easiest aspect of Christian living. Yet we sometimes, perhaps often, have a hard time with it the book says. This is something I can relate to. I'm beginning to realize that the anxiety I've been feeling for the past three years has been caused by a lack of trust.

"Day after day, you and I tell God by our actions that we don't trust Him, even though He has proven Himself to us over and over again." Like many people, I have put my trust in something other than God. My constant worry and manipulation of situations proves my lack of trust. Only lately have I been able to relax. God brought this book to me to tell me what I've been doing wrong: "Don't put your trust in your friends, your bank account, your wisdom, or anything else. Put your trust in me."

"God says to us, If I can create an unlimited universe, if I can bring into existence the laws of nature, if I can hold the stars in space, if I can stop the sun from moving closer and burning up the earth or moving farther away and freezing the earth, if I can do all these things, then can't you trust Me?"

Oswald Chambers wrote, "All worry and anxiety come from the fact that we have calculated without God." When we try to work out solutions to our problems through our own wisdom and strength, we set ourselves up for sleepless nights, eating disorders, and days without joy the book points out. I'm learning that fear and faith cannot coexist and that faithlessness offends God. "Have you ever asked the Lord to forgive your sin of fear and unbelief?" the book asks.

We put our trust in so many things. We think that having money will give us peace. We put trust in our appearance and think that if we look good we will be content. We are more concerned about looking physically good than we are about people seeing the spirit of Christ in us. We buy designer clothes mostly to impress others. We depend on big incomes and big titles for our self-worth. Beauty, money, success, cars and houses are the things we seek more than God. Our materialism is destroying our trust in God.

One thing I've learned is that it's exhausting not to trust God. When we can't relax and really trust that God is who He says He is, and if we can't depend on Him for our welfare and our protection, we have no peace. Our minds become exhausted and we feel tormented. It's not the way God meant for us to live.

There's a simple formula that can set us free: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." In other words, all the things we fear, all the things we worry about and have anxiety about will be taken care of if we put God first. That is such a simple answer, yet so many of us don't live that way. We have no faith. We just can't let go of the control. We think we know better. We think we can make things happen better than God can. So we ignore God and do it our own way.

Well I don't need to be hit over the head twice. I'm heeding the message and learning the lesson. Daniel Owens wrote a great book and by divine appointment it found its way into my hands at the exact time I needed it, when I was finally ready to listen. God communicates with us every day through the Holy Bible, through circumstance, and sometimes through the wise words of others. Our struggles are often the result of our refusal to listen and our refusal to trust God.