Sunday, August 31, 2008

And now for a word from Our Father ...


You know that I've been watching you as you go about your daily business. I hear your morning prayers asking me for help, and I hear your evening prayers thanking me for seeing you through another day, and giving your burdens over to me. I've been there the whole time in between, answering your prayers.

I knew that you needed companionship. I gave you a best friend for a season. Even though you have grown apart I used the relationship and the things you shared to influence a major decision on your job today.

You pray for my blessing on your meals, and pray that I keep you healthy. It's no coincidence that you haven't used any sick days this year.

Each morning you thank me for the beautiful day, but I see you spend your time inside, hardly looking at my Creativity du jour. The sky, the trees, the air temperature, the cloud formations -- I did this for you.

I hear your prayers for Aunt Fannie, asking me to heal her. I really do hear. But, child, my will for Aunt Fannie is to heal her hardened heart, more so than healing her body. Look closely -- you will see a change in her spirit.

Last night you gave me your burden of youth who compromise because parents don't seem to be involved. This morning you asked me to use you for my purposes today, and I answered you. Remember the woman who cut in front of you at the grocery store, and you held your tongue? I allowed her to do that. I chose your line to cut in front of. Why? Why would I do that to you, you ask? Because the moment wasn't about you. It wasn't even about her. It was about her son. You see, if she waited for you to go ahead of her, she would have arrived home from work too late to prevent her son from compromising his values and having sex with his girlfriend -- and becoming teenage father.

I answer all of your prayers. You just don't see it because you are looking for different answers. In some cases you even lose interest in your prayer because you've gone on to other desires to ask me for. I'm not slow to answer. I answer according to my timeline, not yours.

Will you do something today? Right now? Take a few minutes to celebrate. It doesn't have to be on large scale like a birthday party or anything like that (although I give you birthdays too). Celebrate the many ways I answer your prayers. Smile a beaming smile. Sing a happy song of praise. Tell someone that I love them. Tell someone who is sad that I can make things OK. Take a deep breath of fresh air. Savor your food (yes, even the burnt food). Show kindness to someone. Rejoice! Be glad Take delight in what I have done for you.

I say it again, Rejoice!

I'll be rejoicing right along with you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Making Big Decisions

I have a nephew who just completed his first week of college. Just thinking of that takes me back to when I was his age, with the world and its endless opportunities before me. What did I want to do with my life? Would I go to school, or go directly to the job market? Would I get married and have a family? What town would I live in, and in what kind of house?

These are all big decisions that just about everyone has faced at one time or another. For some, the decisions seem to be based on circumstances. Some are made in haste or on impulse. Then there’s the flip of a coin, or the “rock-paper-scissors” method. But the most sensible decisions are the ones that have deliberate thought behind them.

So how does somebody make a deliberately thought-out decision?

To begin with, it is helpful to have a solid grasp of your personal values. These values will be a useful filter in making major decisions. Take the time to identify what you value in life – the things that are important to you that are non-negotiable (family, financial security, peace of mind, honesty, integrity, and the like). Any major decision in life should be compatible with these values. For example, let's suppose you are facing a decision as to whether or not to take a job promotion with more money and responsibility, longer hours, and a longer commute. And let's suppose that you value investing time with your family. Since the new position is not compatible with your non-negotiable value of family time, then taking the job might not be the best decision for you at this time.

Know your options, and write a list of pro's and con's for each one. Make a chart listing your options, and then listing the good and bad things about each option. You may even give each item a “plus” or “minus” value, and whichever column has the higher value would go into the decision process.

It is always highly recommended to consult with trusted friends who have your best interest at heart. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). However, when you do ask for their input, go with an open mind. You are asking their opinion as part of the decision process, and not their permission or approval of what you have already decided. Take their feedback, and use it in the “pro's and con's” chart.

Get the facts from reliable sources for each of your options. Again, you are looking for information, not permission. More data for the “pro's and con's” chart.

Take time to pray about your decision. God may have a viable option in His plan that you don't see on your own. Find a quiet place where you can do this. Take time to read the Bible. Sometimes when facing a big decision, the verses that draw your attention will be the ones that can lead you to making the right decision.

Watch for circumstances in your life that seem to open or close doors for you. If you are looking to purchase a sporty little two-seat convertible for yourself and your wife announces that you're going to be a new daddy, then the practical four-door sedan might be the better choice, no matter how much fun the two-seater might be.

Wait. Once you have made your choice, give it what I call the “three-day rule.” (It's said that for major purchases, wait one day for every hundred dollars to be spent, up to six months.) . After that, if it's no longer an issue don't worry about it. The change you wanted to make isn't all that important to you. If it is still an issue, then take another look at your pro's and con's, and consider the counsel of those you've talked to.

When you feel comfortable (or perhaps scared beyond your wit's end) that you have made the right choice, then take action to make your decision a reality. Commit your ways to the Lord and He will make your path straight (Proverbs 3:5).

Is this method the best way to make decisions? Is it foolproof, or guaranteed? No. Nothing in life is. You still may misinterpret something along the way and later think you could have done better. Don't be afraid of failure. Often times mistakes and failures are part of the process.

When we trust in God and commit our ways to Him, He will continue to show us where we went wrong, and where we need to go next, and will then work it out for good. Our plans may not turn out the way we originally envisioned them, but with God's hand in completing them they will turn out for His glory.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Just" Imagination

One of my favorite films in recent years is “Finding Neverland,” which tells the story behind the story of Peter Pan. Early in the movie is a scene in which playwright J. M. Barrie is walking with his large dog in the park and has just met the four boys and their mother. The oldest boy asks what Barrie does for a living, and he answers by saying, playfully: "Well, currently, I make my living entertaining princes and their courts with my trained bear, Porthos. If you command your brother Peter to join us, I am willing to give you just such a performance." (Peter has not been playing with his brothers because he is still unable to process their father's death.)

The other boys agree. Barrie sets himself up with his dog in front of the seated family. He faces his dog and says: "I want you to pay particular attention to the teeth. Some unscrupulous trainers will show you a bear whose teeth have all been pulled, while other cowards will force the brute into a muzzle. Only the true master would attempt these tricks without either measure of safety."

Five-year-old Peter is not in the mood to play. Leaning toward his mother, he defiantly says: "Why did you bring me over here for? This is absurd. It's just a dog."

Barrie, who was walking back to Porthos, suddenly turns around. "Just a dog?" he asks. "Just? Porthos dreams of being a bear, and you want to dash those dreams by saying he's 'just a dog'? What a horrible, candle-snuffing word. That's like saying, 'He can't climb that mountain; he's just a man.' Or, 'That's not a diamond; it's just a rock.'" Before turning back to the dog, Barrie gives the boy an appraising look and mutters, "Just."

Peter retorts, skeptically: "Fine then. Turn him into a bear, if you can."

Unfazed, Barrie replies: "With those eyes, my bonny lad, I'm afraid you'd never see it."

The first time I saw the movie, I cried at that scene.

Why would a scene about a dog imagined to be a dancing bear make me cry? Because like young Peter, I had lost the wonder of being young. I was at a place in my life where I had taken on many adult responsibilities. I had allowed my grown-up challenges and relationships crowd out my sense of adventure. My ability to see the unseen was limited to the outcome of what I could only see before me, and many times I found myself visualizing disastrous results.

I had forgotten what it was like to think as a child thinks, to be brave enough to imagine that I could interact in a world where Pirates and Indians were more than baseball teams, and a young hero named Peter Pan could defend me from all threats, foreign and domestic.

And I wondered, who put a limit on our imaginations? At what age are we to someone dash our dreams, or use a “candle-snuffing word”? Who gives anyone the right to do that to us? And what gives us the right to do that to others?

God used His imagination in creation of the world. For example, look at Italy, shaped like a boot about to kick a football. Or at the way God created the giraffe. No other animal walking the earth today looks anything like it (at least not that I’m aware of). And when God created man in His image, He also gave man creative ability, what we call “imagination.”

We can see how the use of imagination honors God all around us, in the words of the Psalms, the response of music and artwork, even in the way we play. Gifts that are used responsibly bring honor to the giver. “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) To snuff out someone’s imagination and dreams is to snuff out the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Love your nieghbor

What does it mean to "love your neighbor as yourself”?

The statement implies a comparison. We love our neighbor the same way or to the same degree that we love ourselves.

What does it mean to love ourselves?

If we truly love ourselves, we would do what is in our best interest, all the time. We’d eat the right foods, get enough exercise to maintain optimal health, get the proper amount of rest. Our careers would have us doing what we love to do even if the pay isn’t that great. We’d be wise in how we handle our money. Our friendships would be healthy for us, and we would know when to say “no.” We wouldn’t hold grudges, and we wouldn’t play favorites. Our driving habits would make allowances for other drivers to make mistakes without our becoming upset with them, and we would take our time and enjoy the scenery.

If we truly love ourselves, we would recognize that we can’t do it all on our own. We’d ask for help from others, and ask for help from God. We’d allow the One who has known us since the beginning of time to continue to work in our lives. And we’d be lavish in our thanksgiving and praise to God for all He does for us.

If we truly love ourselves, we would know how to love others. We would do for them what is in their best interest. We’d encourage them to maintain optimal health, and not complain when their careers are something they love to do, even though it might not pay as well as we would like. We would respect their choice to refuse us, and not be concerned if they held a grudge or were tempted to play favorites. And we’d realize that the mistake the other driver made was because they were likely enjoying the scenery.

We’d tell others that it’s ok that they can’t do it all by themselves, and offer help when we see they need it. We would allow them to allow God to change them, and join them in lavishing God with thanksgiving and praise.

But since we fall short in loving ourselves, we fall short in loving our neighbor. God is the only one who can perfectly love us. Let us follow Jesus, God’s perfect example of perfect love, so that we can love ourselves more, and in turn love our neighbors better.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

God for a Day

About a month or so ago, I asked the question “If I were God for a day/week/whatever, what changes would I make in my life (the life of Heyyoulady)?” I did not post my answer at that time because I didn’t want to influence anyone else’s answer by what I said. In all honesty, I had forgotten that I still had not posted my answer until I ran across this entry when I was looking for something else. (Thanks to chrislogan, ajforward007, quiet_strength, justthisonce_2 and legendairy for sharing your answers.)

So, if I were God for a day, what changes would I make in the life of Heyyoulady?

When this question first came to mind, my initial thought was that God has already changed so much in my life.
I know that I’m still not fully the person that God intends for me to be.

Since no one can know the mind of God but the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and I have the Spirit of God dwelling within me, then, by inference, I can know an inkling of the mind of God. But then again, God says to us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." I have no idea if this change is what God would truly want to make.

But since I have (for the purpose of this post) taken on the role of God, here is what my answer would be:

Boldness. I would give Heyyoulady more boldness to speak up when she sees things wrong. More boldness to freely give praise to others for when they do well. To share her dreams, expectations, her trials and triumphs to others. To speak what’s on her heart, with assertiveness and authority, and not be so concerned about how others receive it. She will speak the truth with love, tempered with gentleness.

OK, I’m done being God.

Many people want to be bold spokespersons for God, sharing the Gospel and leading others to Christ. That’s what many people think of when “boldness” is spoken of. The boldness that I'm talking about is in just every day relating with people. Recognizing people for the little things they do. Giving encouragement where it’s needed. Giving correction where people are straying. Sharing my own stories of how I’ve known and experienced God’s love with others, and encouraging other people to share theirs.

This kind of change is something I cannot do on my own. In fact, from my limited human viewpoint, it is changing a part of how God “wired” me. In most situations, I am not necessarily the one to speak first to people. I am more of someone who observes and listens to what is being said. When I am asked to respond to a question, if I don’t give an off-the-cuff, trying to be funny answer, I may take a few moments to put the right words together. In group situations, those few extra seconds are sometimes taken by the bubbly, more expressive types, and what I intended to say is lost.

All that I have to offer to God for Him to work with is my flaws, my shortcomings, my missed opportunities, my pride, my brokenness, my sinfulness. But isn’t that what God wants us to surrender to Him in the first place?

"If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new is come!" But God does not want me (or anyone else for that matter) to be a new creation while still holding on to old ways. Before I can be that new creation I must confess my sins before God and receive His total forgiveness, and, once I am in right standing with the Creator again allow, Him to "re-wire" me to be the changed person that He wills for me to be.