Do everything without complaining or arguing...Philippians 2:14
I heard a great story the other day that seems to fit perfectly with the times! There are some orders of monks who live very austere lives. There was a time when they observed strict rules of silence. In one monastery a monk was allowed to say only two words every five years, and those would be spoken to the abbot. After his first five years of silence, one monk said, “Food cold.” At the end of five more years he said, “Bed hard.” finally after his fifteenth year in the monastery, he said, “I quit.” “I’m not surprised”, said the abbot. “All you’ve done is complain since you got here.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that complaining is contagious. The other thing I’ve noticed about complaining is that it can cloud a persons perspective almost to the point of seeing nothing but those things that are “wrong” with the world. I don’t recall the Gospel telling us to go forth and COMPLAIN but sometimes we get stuck in complain mode and don’t know how to move forward. The other side of complaining is peace and joyful contentment. It’s not perfection or total satisfaction but rather a clear view of “God’s got this”, I’m not the boss of the world and I’m only going to be judged on how I live my own life, I don’t have to save or judge the world. Here are a few thing that might help get us over to the other side of complaining to that place that will allow us to live a life pleasing to the Father.
*Pray for peace in your heart, your home and in your world.
*Flip the switch. When you start thinking those complaining thoughts, catch yourself and flip the thought around. You can look at a rosebush and see the thorns or the rose buds.
*Vent with a friend who can offer perspective. There are always two ways to look at things and sometimes we just need to spit things out in a good conversation with someone who will challenge us to look at the stinky stuff through different eyes.
*For every complaint you lodge…match it with two things you’re grateful for.
*Stop the judging! We see a word on the page…God sees the whole novel and we have no idea what happened in the last chapter. To judge and complain cripples our capacity to show mercy.
*Act and think mercifully!
*If you know what needs to change, then be the change you wish to see.
*Do the things that make you happy.
*If social media and TV are fueling your complaining, turn things off. FOMO (fear of missing out) has us chasing our tails trying to decide which side is right, wrong, good, bad, winning or loosing.
*What will change the world…peace and mercy or complaining and fussing?
When the boys were little, they had a baseball coach who would always tell the them that at a game there were so many things going on at once it was hard to know what to pay attention to. He would yell to the boys, “Eyes on me boys, eyes on me!” When they followed that simple rule, he could lead and guide and coach them. He could help them through tricky situations and lead them to success. I imagine the Father looking down on each of us saying that same thing, “Eyes on me kids, eyes on me!”
A Seed To Plant: Choose a couple things from the list and make a commitment to a week free of complaining.
Blessings on your day!
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Last week our word of the week was courage. When I asked the middle lovelies to tell me what courageous things they’d done, I got some; I rode a roller coaster; I rode with my sister when she was just learning to drive and I ate the brown meat at my aunt’s house. They were great but I was trying to get them to something bigger and then…the Holy Spirit saved the lesson when one boy said, “I think it was courageous when I went upstairs on my own and told my Dad I had lied to him and blamed my brother for something I’d done wrong.” BINGO! That's exactly the kind of courage the week was about. It takes a lot of courage to seek and speak the truth.
It’s report card week so in order to complete that task so that I don’t loose my job…I thought I’d just zip out a short little post with some truths we might need to chew on this week.
**The world fills us so full, we're not hungry for God.
**Temptation is an invitation to leave the truth and enter deception.
**We're trusting Him for eternity but not for earth.
**If we’re jealous; we’re not grateful.
**Complaining is the greatest form of selfishness.
Now, lets pray for the courage to do something great with these truths.
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, carefully ponder those five sentences and ask God to show you how they fit in your life.
Blessings on your day!
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
Who remembers the game, Red Rover? It was the ultimate game in choosing sides. You wanted to pick the team that was strong and could serve as a powerful force to keep the other team from crossing through. It was a game that was hard for the little guy to win. Sometimes someone would squeak by as a surprise; sometimes the big guys would just plow through and knock you over and sometimes folks got an unwanted flip onto their backside. I don't think there is a play ground in America that still lets kids play, but these last few days have made me feel a little like I’ve been trapped in the middle of a nation-wide game of Red Rover.
One of the beautiful signs of a merciful person is their ability to show mercy and kindness to everyone; especially those whose ideas may differ from their own. Christ called us to love everyone; the folks who would love us back but most especially those who didn’t love us in return. Those aren’t new rules or new ideas but it seems like we could all use a little reminder. If a hundred people were offered two choices it’s ridiculous to imagine they would all choose the same thing. God made us each unique and perfectly designed in His Image, so why do we insist on making everyone else believe, think and feel what we do? As we get less and less cautious about our speech and actions we become a more hurtful society with each passing day. Folks aren’t speaking with kindness and compassion and the art of crafting a lovely, persuasive, intelligent, honorable debate has been tackled by nasty tweets, posts and emails filled with half-truth, hatefulness and inflated boldness. I think folks hide behind a screen and type anything that pops into their heads without fear of consequence because they don’t see the faces of those who read their messages. What has happened to “Truth Spoken in Love”? That’s kind of a big thing if we want there to be “Peace on Earth”. Were we just singing the song or did we really mean it?
I won’t pretend to be so simple minded as to think one silly post on a tiny blip on the screen blog will amount to national change but I do have a thought. We are drawing so many “lines in the sand” it’s hard to know where to step. Everything is analyzed and scrutinized and like that Red Rover game, the team that wins is the one who assembles the most brute force and blocks the others from passage. It’s all about who’s against what or whom! If our focus is locked on crisis mode all we see are the problems and faults. Good could whop us over the head and we wouldn’t even see it. The flip side is to pay attention to the possible outcomes, solutions and compromises. Another way to say it is we need to shift ourselves around and think more about what we’re FOR and not what we’re AGAINST. It’s bigger than positive thinking. If I know what I’m for, I can see those things in people and situations. If I’m focused on what I’m against that’s like a wet, heavy blanket because all I’m looking for is the negative. Constantly looking out for the things we’re against leads to attitudes that make us miserable, sarcastic, cynical and judgmental. I think we’ve had enough of that, don’t you?
So, the question of the day; what are you for? Once you make that list, start looking for those things and I’ll bet you find them. Imagine the feeling you’ll have when you discover something good about a person or situation. It will make it easier to understand, speak with love, judge with tenderness and show mercy. A search for the good and the noble is always a positive adventure and don’t forget if God is for us, and He’s the most important thing we’re “for” life will be so much more joyful and peaceful. In case you’re a bit weary from all the “static”, this message should be good news.
A Seed To Plant: Make your list of “I’m For’s” and ask God to guide you toward them.
Blessings on your day!
…Make straight the way of the Lord... John 1:23
Several summers ago I was asked to speak at a convention in Canada. I was excited and I made sure I had the proper paperwork required to cross the border. As the trip drew closer, I began to get a wee bit anxious because I had never crossed the bridge into Canada alone and driving to the heart of Detroit to get to the bridge was not an adventure I was looking forward to. I left home that June morning with my coffee, my GPS and a bunch of prayers! As I was following the GPS through downtown Detroit I realized there was a lot of construction going on both in the city and on the entry to the bridge. The GPS had me turning left and right and circling through neighborhoods I would have never chosen to visit! I was getting frustrated because I could see the giant bridge but just couldn’t find my way there. Finally I saw a huge orange sign attached to a tall chain link fence that said, “ALL BRIDGE TRAFFIC: Ignore GPS directions and follow orange sign instructions.” Hallelujah, my path was made straight! I heaved a huge sigh of relief…so big a sigh in fact; I didn’t notice I pulled into the Customs lane for French speakers only! God has such a sense of humor! Luckily it was 6 in the morning so there was no traffic back up and the lovely little French speaking Customs agent also spoke English. PHEW!
I realize often that my walk with Christ is very much like that trip to Canada. I know heaven is where I want to go, but sometimes my journey towards that destination can get a little twisted and off course. The world likes to give us directions. Society and media are full of formulas, products and gadgets designed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise. Just like my GPS, directions and diagrams just spew out for every ear to hear but that doesn’t always mean it’s going to point us in the right direction.
I loved the giant orange sign I saw that June morning. It made things crystal clear! Sometimes we ask for a sign…an assurance…some direction for our path and we stumble around looking for something like that big orange sign and we throw a hissy fit when we can’t see it. Well, maybe we’re not looking in the right place. I would be willing to bet each of you reading this has the perfect instruction sign…it’s called the Bible! If you’re looking for the straight path, pull out the ultimate “direction manual” and spend some time studying His word, I guarantee you’ll find information even more helpful than that orange sign in Detroit! I don’t’ think He cares if our path is straight…He just cares that we’re moving in His direction.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few quiet minutes to just sit with Scripture. Ask God to open your mind and your heart as you read over familiar passages or simply crack it open and read where your eyes rest. See what he draws you to and then let those words wash over you like a warm rain and ask Him to use them to set you on the path that leads to Him.
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of overall posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else life. I’ll make a confession; I have never posted a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place, but in the first chapter of John's Gospel, he teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
There was a little first grade boy who decided one day that he no longer liked the name his parents gave him, so he picked a new name. It began the day he started writing his name on all his papers with the capital letters ‘ZB’. As his teacher sat down that afternoon to correct the day’s work, she was a bit puzzled but it didn’t take long to figure out who the mystery student was. First thing the next morning she called ‘ZB’ up to her desk and asked if he might be willing to explain. He very politely told her that his parents had made a mistake and given him the wrong name so he decided to fix it himself and just start writing the name he had chosen. She said sweetly to this completely serious little guy, “Sweetheart, you can’t just change your name. That has to be done by an official person.” He shook his head and said, “Oh, I get it. So, can I go talk to the principal right now to change my name or should I wait till recess?” Holding back her laughter, she sent him down to visit the principal right away. The principal welcomed the visit and began by asking the little guy, “So, how did you come up with this new name?” The little boy said, “Well that’s easy! I just picked a cool name that would tell everybody what I’m good at.” The principal looked at the letters ‘ZB’ and said, “I’m not sure I understand.” With all the pride one smile could hold, the little boy stood up and said, “I’m a fast runner so my new name is Zooming Bullet! I just write ‘ZB’ because all those other letters take too long to write and I like to be fast.” The principal sent him on his way promising to make a phone call to his mother to discuss it. ‘ ZB’ raced back to class very content and the principal just sat at his desk and laughed harder than he had in weeks as he pondered what he might call himself if he could choose a new name.
From the moment we are knit in our mother’s womb, we are named by the God who created us. I am a firm believer that there is divine influence as Christian parents name their children. There is usually a strong story to our names whether we are knowingly named after a Saint or given a treasured family name, there is usually a reason. Do you know who you are named after and why? When Dave and I were picking names for our children we picked the middle names first. Each of them bears the name of a powerful Saint and a family member who we hoped would provide a strong example of faithfulness and goodness and in all three cases were heavenly saints themselves. Kevin, our oldest has the middle name James. James is the name of my father’s cousin who was killed in WWII. I shiver every time I read the telegram from the US Navy informing the family of the bomb attack on his ship. James is also the name of my mother’s brother who died of Leukemia at the age of 16 and finally, it was the name given to my older brother who has attributes too many to type! His name has a history of strong, brave, faith-filled men. Jason, our second son has the middle name Richard. Richard was the name of Dave’s brother who left this earth far too early but who lived each day with a huge spirit! Shannon, our daughter is named after my mother, Barbara. Her legacy could take up a whole blog itself!
I truly believe God knew them by name before they were born! It is absolutely amazing how our children resemble the characteristics of the people they were named after. Kevin looks like and shares so many of the same interests and mannerisms of my older brother sometimes it gives me the chills. When Jason was little he was the proud owner of a huge stubborn temper…the same temper and stubborn streak that used to cause his Uncle Richard to hold his breath and pass out. In both cases that temper mellowed into a strong confidence. As for Miss Shannon I have begun to discover that she is all of her grandmother’s greatest attributes bundled into one lovely person! Is it a coincidence, I don’t think so! If God loved us enough to create us so wonderfully and perfectly he wouldn’t leave our name to chance…He had a hand in that too.
We are His and He knows our name! He knows who we are and we will never be lost! I often wonder what my name says about me and I wonder what God thinks about the life I’m living under the name He gave me
A Seed to Plant: Find out the story of your name if you don’t know it. Take some time to think about your name and the memories and impressions you and your name will leave with others when you are absent.
Blessings on your day!
They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.Psalm 34:5
For many readers Christmas 2016 is a wrap! The decorations are tucked away, the furniture that was wiggled around to make room for the tree is all back in place and most of the new clothes, toys and things have already been worn, played with and maybe even lost a little of their luster. So what do we have to show for it?
If we focus on the “stuff” of Christmas, it’s hard to see any traces of it left at all but if we shift our eyes and heart to the gifts that really matter, we are left full to overflowing! The miracles remain and sadly they aren’t even completely unwrapped. The wonder still possess it’s power but we’ve rushed past without unraveling it all. The simple genius of the whole plan is still virtually untapped. We tend to see our Christmas gifts in a narrow, maybe even selfish way. We look at them and evaluate how well they pleased or surprised us. Will they make me look nice; will they make my life easier; will they benefit me in some way. Are they the right color, size, make and model I wanted or do they leave something to be desired?
The truth is, the real gift is always a perfect fit but it gets lost in the shiny stuff; the worldly stuff. The real gift may not bring us instant gratification and may not be to our direct specifications. The real gift may even appear to be so simple it couldn’t possibly be of great value. In order to make the real gift everything we needed it to be, God sent his Son in an incredibly simple, humble, non-threatening fashion so as not to frighten, intimate or threaten us. God could have ripped open the sky or sent his Son amidst thunder and lightning or accompanied by legions of soldiers, trumpeters and fanfare. But he didn’t!
I for one, can be a complete knucklehead most of the time when it comes to recognizing and appreciating all God is doing. The story repeats itself again and again throughout history; the lowly are visited by a heavenly dignitary. Noah, Moses, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds and us! Same story, we are lowly, regular folks just fumbling our way through life trying to figure out how to get to heaven and BAM! God meets us right where we are and offers to love us, shows us his mercy and asks us simply to love him in return and spread his merciful love to others. Over and over we talk ourselves out of recognizing the invitations, promptings and confirmations of the Father. They don’t look or sound like we pictured it, so it must not be God…as if we know better how HE should be. God was all about the lowly and the humble. Isn’t it funny that he favors the lowly and humble and most of us here on earth are scrambling to be powerful and noticed…humm! Maybe that has a little something to do with why we can pack Christmas up and forget about the amazing gift we all received. Heck, I’ve received that gift more than 50 Christmases in a row and I still don’t fully appreciate it.
As we near the end of the Christmas season early this week, I’m trying to wrap my heart around the gift. I spent some time looking at Christmas cards and images, especially the ones with Mary and Jesus and I realized they all have something simple and beautiful in common. It’s the gaze…the gaze of Mary looking at her Son. Her eyes are locked and loving and your heart can just feel the tenderness in her eyes. Again I was struck with how simple God makes things for us…it’s all in the gaze. I came across this little prayer the other day and it struck me as just the thing to help me keep looking at my very best Christmas gift with wonder, and gratefulness all year. It made me realize that the gift grows in value when it’s shared and the way to share it is as simple as a gaze. “Father, you have favored me with your gaze of tenderness. Send me to share this gaze with anyone who needs to be lifted up.” Gazing; how simple is that! Just like the king in a manger…seems so simple we might be likely to overlook it; but let’s not!
A Seed To Plant: If this prayer hits your heart like it did mine, copy it down and start gazing!
Blessings on your day!
Such is the generation of those who seek him…Psalm 24:6
I remember watching a cartoon when I was little that showed a queen lying on a lounge chair while one servant fed her grapes and another fanned her with a gigantic feather fan. I was amazed that someone could have life so easy. I think I would have been happy to have someone pick up my dirty socks and do my math homework at first but the longer I pondered that scene in my mind the more I felt overworked and underprivileged. Why was she so lucky I remembered thinking. I eventually reported the whole matter to my mom and the conversation was met with hilarious laughter on her part. Her closing words were “Sweetie, anything worth having is worth working for and if someone does everything for you the only thing you have left to do is complain.” Those words made no sense to me at all until I actually learned what it meant to work hard for something.
I remembered that whole scenario as I read a prayer the other day. The words that washed it all back over me were these, “May we always seek You with diligent love and find you in daily service and sincere faith.” We all want to grow in our relationship with Christ but sometimes it doesn’t go much farther than wanting. I’m guilty of being that queen on the couch expecting God to come to me and give me faith. I want him to feed me and entertain me and care for me all while I perch myself comfortably on my hind parts. The words of this prayer mixed with the words of my smart momma and I had to stop and look at my walk with Jesus.
If you look carefully at the words of that tiny prayer you can see it’s full of verbs. It calls us to action and says we need to seek to love to find and to serve. I don’t suppose I can do all that sitting on the lounge chair eating grapes. This power packed sentence also offers a pretty simple action plan for the day. I can spend time seeking him in the face of others and when I find him there I can offer my love in the form of a kind word or a helpful deed. I can spend time each day seeking him in Scripture and he will speak to me through his word. The prayer clearly states daily so weekly or monthly just isn’t gonna cut it! It says that I’ll find him as I serve and I’ll find him when I believe in him. If I remember to have faith in him I’ll find him. It’s not like a game of hide and seek where he stashes himself in impossible places, he’s right there if I believe and trust. Seriously, the God who created the Universe, parted the Red Sea, brought forth water from a rock and sent his son as a beautiful baby boy can absolutely handle a sick loved one, a lost phone, a long to do list or anything else we’ve got going on. The word sincere reminds me that I can't just "say" I believe, I actually have to "live" like I believe which means knowing and not just hoping.
It’s a brand new year; the perfect time to look at our discipleship and decide if we need to act a little less like the queen in the cartoon. God doesn’t care how many pounds we loose, how many times we work out or how organized we keep our closets in 2017, he just wants us to love him more and make more room in our heart for him so he can put his perfect plan in action.
A Seed To Plant: Write down that short prayer and put it somewhere you’ll see it often. Let it be a guiding sentence as you begin this new year.
Blessings on your day!
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