Learning to be content

Written by: Vivian Wilson 

If I had known them what I know now, (How many times have I said that in my life?), then——-

Would life be perfect? Would I be perfect? Would I make all the right choices?  Would I be free from worry, from fear, from heartache and difficulties? Would I even be the person that I am today?
The answer to all of these questions is, “ABSOLUTELY NO!”
So, why do I even make that dumb statement in the first place? Is it because I don’t like to make mistakes, I don’t like to feel sad, or lonely, or rejected, or inadequate, or anything else that isn’t good? Or maybe if I know all the answers I would have better control of my life.  I would always do the “right” thing, be in the “right” place, say the “right” thing. Or maybe it’s all of the above.
It sounds like what I really want to do is take over God’s place doesn’t it? Do I think that I can do a better job with me than He can?
It is discontentment that causes me to make the false claim that, “If i knew then, what I know now—–” When I am discontent, what I am really saying is, “God, your plan isn’t so good; I know a better way. You don’t understand how difficult this situation is for me or how it makes me feel.”
Paul wrote about being content in Phil.4:11-13.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
The secret to being content is to live in union with the exalted Christ who is the source of my strength.
Life doesn’t randomly happen to me. There are no accidents in God’s plan for me.  (Jer.29:11-13)  However, I do have a free will to make choices and I learn from both the good and bad choices I make. But God is bigger than my choices, and can turn even the bad ones for my good. (Rom.8:28). I wouldn’t be who I am today, I wouldn’t have the growing relationship with God that I have if not for the lessons learned from life experiences.
Paul “learned” to be content. It took life experiences to teach him.
So the question is, “Do I really want to be content in the place that God has lovingly put me in for the time required for Him to do His work? It is my choice to be content or not. His plan will prevail.
Pr.19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”
We have only to look at Eve to see what happens when we want more than what
God lovingly and graciously provides.
If I want to learn to be content, I must surrender my will to God’s will moment by moment.  I must live in the present, not living in the regrets of the past because  “I didn’t know then what I know now.” And even knowing stuff now won’t guarantee that I won’t make a bad decision. By choosing God’s will, I am in step with him, walking in his strength, no matter what the circumstances, learning to be content.
What I know now is this: I can choose to be content, trusting God’s plan for me, what ever that looks like, knowing that He is with me giving me the strength and grace that I need to live the life that He has planned especially for me. And by choosing contentment I experience the love, joy, and peace that comes from being in the very presence of God.
PRAISE GOD!
Vivian

What is a bonbon anyway?

Written by: Amy Dalke

Last week, I had two weekday lunches with friends and met another for coffee on a random afternoon. I also had a meeting in the smack-dab middle of the day at a friend’s kitchen table.

Big deal, right?

Considering that I have met a friend for lunch approximately six times in the last four years…yes…it was kind of a big deal.

I am officially on a work hiatus. (Which I wish meant that I was an actress, just taking a break while my show is on hiatus. But it doesn’t, because I am not.) (As if anyone thought this in the first place.)

It does mean that my life has taken a one hundred and eighty degree turn in the last two weeks. This change is the result of a lengthy, prayerful, it’s-taking-forever-hurry-up-I’m-losing-patience process, but the reality has now been set into full swing.

My days have been…peculiar, and startlingly different.

For instance, I spent last week researching things like, “How to Get Published”; reading blogs titled, “Top Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Know”; and I spent lots of time simply trying to adjust to all this

S P A C E

on my daily calendar.

Much to Larry’s chagrin, he has yet to be greeted with a home-cooked meal at the end of his day’s work. Forgive me, I have not advanced that far on the list of “Things a Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Should Do“.

But don’t hold your breath, Husband. I am certain we are FAR from this:

housewife

Although I did make a batch of cookies and watched a movie on Lifetime on Saturday afternoon.

Larry’s anxiety level spiked when he walked into the bedroom, and I explained that my new way to multitask is watching television and playing Candy Crush at the same time.

He quickly set his radar to scope out bonbons, and determined that at the first sighting of which, this dream world of mine will be over.

It’s been all fun, games, and homemade cookies so far, but the culture shock is prevalent. A week ago Sunday night, I didn’t know what to do with myself. The Sunday Afternoon Stress did not have an object of affection. There were no client emails to answer, or follow-up calls to plan for the next day. I went to Luke’s baseball practice, because the suffocating workaholism was not breathing down my neck. Before you refer me to your sister’s therapist, I am quite aware that the tendency to overwork is merely a symptom of some inner issue. (Believe me. If there is anyone who knows ISSUES, it’s yours truly. I have a drawer full of them. Plus, I have my own therapist…but thanks.)

Speaking of issues, this transition has brought me face to face with the question:

“Who am I…really?”

In a previous post, I talked about how my career has long been a mirror of worth. It does not take a philosopher to realize that without the title and responsibilities of a business leader, my soul is forced to dig deep for real answers.

Performance, Accomplishments, and Success are deeply worn notches on the self-made measuring stick of my worth. I know intellectually that these things will not (cannot) save me, yet I still pursue them as though my life depends on achievement.

By the grace of God, I am slowly learning (again) that no title, no position, and no amount of income defines me.

My worth, your worth, is not determined by what we do.

This is a difficult truth to swallow when our culture and society measures our value by the roles we play, the size of our bank accounts, and the things we accumulate to prove we’ve made it. 

But God.

God’s value system is turned upside down from the worldview. He runs on a current that flows in the opposite direction of our world’s belief system.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 (ESV) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

It’s only by grace that my life…or your life…is worth a darn thing. As human beings born into a corrupt world, we can never measure up to the great value God placed on our lives. We cannot work hard enough to earn salvation, or perform well enough to earn grace.

The gospel says I don’t have to strive to define my worth through my own accomplishments.

The gospel says I could not, even if I tried.

The gospel says that my life is measured only by the saving love of Christ.

Period.

It would be profoundly misleading to say this remarkable truth is so deeply rooted in my mind, that my daily life (thoughts, feelings, actions) automatically falls in line.

(If God were to consult me, I would opine that life would be much easier if He blinked us into completeness, at the moment of our salvation. Then, we could skip the character/faith building trials, and the painful transformation process.)

Since it does not work that way, this learning…this renewal process is gut wrenching.

The Truth of who I am…and where my value comes from…is not yet fully locked into the patchwork of my soul. My head believes…and my soul is working on it.

But...

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you [and me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV

I expect some battles in my head in these upcoming days. I will struggle with questions about my worth, but those times will prompt me to look more deeply into the mirror of His Word.

Whatever you do, whether you work outside or inside the house…whether you trade stocks, or recipes, or none of these — your value is not defined by your own awesomeness.

The gospel says that your life is measured only by the saving love of Christ. 

Period.

Amy

p.s. This hiatus does not qualify me for PTA. There. I said it. And I’m not sorry.

Exercising Discipline

Written by: Rhonda Sue

For the sake of Horatio………I got a fitness trainer. Her name is April. She’s tiny, perky, sweet, vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic. All the traits one supposes they’ll find in a good trainer.  Oh, and I found out this week that she’s a Christian………which doubles as code for “Jesus is watching….keep your core tight.”

Yep, April’s great alright.  That is, she would be………..except that………

SHE’S TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!!!

I swear to you right now….it hurts to type.  I couldn’t blog about anything else even if I wanted to.  I cannot think past the pain in my left bicep.  I have to use my right hand to put my left arm in it’s sleeve.  My body is actually assisting itself.  I think she broke me.

Which shames me to no end.

If you thought this was going to be a blog on fitness tips……..forget it.  I got nothing for you.  Except to say that the effort is really helping Horatio and my blood pressure.  We’ve been at this for three weeks now and I’ve already been able to cut my meds twice.  For this, I thank God alone.

For the pain……..I blame April.

In truth, I suppose that’s really unfair.  April didn’t hold a gun to my head while I made my meal selections.  Neither did she demand that I sit on the couch and monitor my TV all day.  In fact, April was no where around when I let thoughts of denial flow through my head about the seriousness of not caring for my health better.

Would that she had of been………I might not be so bad off today.

I think I’m beginning to understand (at a heart level) what I’ve been hearing a favorite author of mine say for years:

“We will all have pain in this life.  The pain of discipline which lasts for a time and leads to greatness……..or the pain of regret which last forever and is its own reward.”  Joyce Meyer

We hate this mirror don’t we?  It can seem so hard to bear.  We shy away from giving it too much head space.  Sadly, it’s that fear that keeps us trapped, frustrated and vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.

But hating this mirror has in fact led me despising the full length mirror in my bathroom as well.

I think God says it best:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by itHebrews 12:11 ESV

and…

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28 ESV

The Holy Spirit pushes me forward.  I’m on the right track. It won’t happen as fast as the drive-thru’s I’ve visited to get me here.  But it will happen.  I’m in it for the long haul.

So pray for me on this journey, will you?  Better yet, join me………….. I’ll introduce you to April………

Now, please excuse me while I go ice my arm.

Rhonda Sue

My Rock

Written by: Vivian Wilson

Several years ago, my brother gave me a rock.

What? Your brother never gave you a rock?

My rock is gray and weighs 3.2 pounds. It’s not a pet or anything; I haven’t named it, but it is special.  What could be so special about a dumb rock, you ask? Well, obviously, because my little brother gave it to me. But, also, because the word “remember” is carved onto its surface.

Remember means “to think of again, to bring back to mind by an effort, recall“.
The word, “remember” is used 168 times in the Bible (NASB).
That is more than “forgive” (61), “grace” (131), or “pray” (109).  This tells me that God thinks it is good to remember.
There are times when our memory is stimulated by our senses.  We see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something, and it may bring back memories which can be good or bad. Other times, our memory is engaged by our will. We choose to remember something. This, too, can be good or bad.
Scripture talks about choosing to remember, or sometimes God puts it this way, “do not forget”.
God commands his children to “Remember the wonders he has done.”  (1Chr.16:12)  and “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws, and his decrees that I am giving you this day.”  (Deut. 8:11)
By definition, remembering involves the past. There are things about my past that I would like to forget. Those are the very things that God has used to teach me and to shape me into the person that I am today. They no longer have power, God has used them for good.
I remember them now as wonders in my life because as scripture teaches,  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of them who love him, and who have been called, according to his purpose.”  (Rom.8:28)
For the present and the future, I will remember what scripture has taught me by the power of the Holy Spirit. In John.14:26, we read, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
I do not want to go through life like a zombie.
I want to live with purpose, engaging my mind, remembering who I am and Whose I am.
And because of  Whose I am, I want to remember with gratitude what He has done for me and all the ways He has blessed me. I have three “perfect” children and their three “perfect” spouses and seven “perfect” grandchildren. He has blessed me with a wonderful family, many friends,  and a wonderful community of brothers and sisters in my church body.
I want to remember what I have learned about loving God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and body.  I want to remember God’s promises to me, that he loves me, that he will never leave me, that he hears me, that he will give me grace, and wisdom, and protection, and that he will provide for me, just to name a few.
All of this is true because of  “THE ROCK”—–JESUS
Begin this day with me by remembering God’s mighty deeds, the wonders he has done in your life, and by giving thanks.
In gratitude for what He has done, is doing, and will do,
Vivian

Are we there yet?

Written by: Ms. O

Lately I have made a few road trips…and if you know me at all…you know how taxing that is. Besides putting needles in my eyes….force feeding cooked vegetables to me…or being in the same area code with a live cockroach….riding in a car ranks high on my list of “strongly dislike”.  My daughter and I have traveled to Midland…in a car (yes, that is huge)….and then two weeks later, we went over swamp and bumpy road to Baton Rouge.

It never fails…

part way into the trip…

it hits me…again…

how much I hate driving…in a car.

While growing up, I never understood the reason my father left before dawn to take our annual summer vacation. We lived in Delaware…and would travel to upstate New York close to the Canadian border. Living in Texas now and traveling for HOURS…and getting nowhere near the border…it may not sound really, really far…but it boiled down to an eight-hour drive. (That translates to infinity to car ride haters.) My dad would get us up, and we would be out the door by 4:30 AM…and we would promptly go back to sleep in the car. By the time we woke up, our first question would always be, “…how many more hours?” We would only ask this question once if we valued any scrap of morale in the car. I realized, after I had my own kids on road trips, that he did it to avoid as many inquiries as possible.

I often lament at what was lost by looking strictly forward and not around.

It is a toss up which is worse….being the driver…or the passenger. At least when you are in control of the vehicle, you have some sort of “job” to do that claims your time. On the flip side though, you miss out on the passing scenery around you because the road is your targeted path, and you aren’t focused on how many historical markers you pass or sunrises/sunsets that are surrounding you. Sitting in the passenger seat is akin to being held captive in the most boring class of your life….for hours on end…with your eyes on the clock…waiting…and waiting…for time to pass.

This all relates to life….in my loose interpretive ways of viewing things. When we are born, we are set upon a path…our lives…and they are meant to be lived. As a Christian, my eyes are trained on Heaven…the ultimate fruition of Kingdom living from now into infinity. Like much dreaded car rides, though, if my focus causes me to miss God along the way….how sad an existence this will be.

First off, God should not my co-pilot…He would like to be my main driver. He knows the road…He is privy to the dips and bends…and He is prepared to drive with me.

As His passenger, what He asks is to trust Him…stop asking Him,

“Are we there yet?”

“How many more hours/days/weeks/etc.?”

…. and live in this moment….with Him.

My dad used to take us for Sunday drives…not just to get from point A to point B, but to enjoy the countryside. When I look across the “car” to Christ…I see that same desire….Him reminding me…to look around, “…I made this for you”…stop griping or longing for what is ahead and realize He is in the here and now also.

So folks…as I buckle in for yet another trip…oy vay… I am purposely taking off the blinders…and taking in the journey….in panoramic view finder mode. He is not One to pry my plans out of my hands, but instead, He is waiting for me to trust Him to lead the way.

Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.’ 

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ 

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” 

Job 42: 1-3

You’ve got this covered Lord…and you are asking me to trust You…to not only take over driving, but also to enjoy the ride….so let’s You and I go for a ride…top down…music pumping loud…I’m not even gonna look to see if Your hands are on the wheel…You’ve got this covered…like always.

Ms. O

Will your kids be rich or poor when you die?

Written by:  Amy Dalke

I often remind myself about my eulogy.

Mostly because money matters to me…but I can’t take it with me when I die.

If you think that sounds too superficial for a Jesus blog…well, it probably is. (But rest assured, I’m not saying anything he doesn’t already know…so we’re good.)

This eulogy discussion is decidedly strange, given that I am not yet dead. Yet now that I think about it, if I were dead,  I would no longer feel the need to wonder what everyone was saying about me at the funeral. I am a control freak, though, so I want to make sure to give my eulogizer some good material to work with.

Not really. (What I mean is, I am a control freak, but that’s not the point of the story today.)

Thinking about my eulogy helps me to focus on the things in life that matter most. If I ask myself what story I want this life of mine to tell, then the extraneous nonsense of the next 24 hours suddenly takes a backseat. The incidental annoyances don’t matter so much.

The day to day becomes more intentional, and time is used on purpose.

The stress and striving and struggling of the daily routine seem terribly unnecessary when I view life from the end, looking backwards.

Because when I consider the legacy I want to leave, it doesn’t involve money, property/possessions, or societal status. It doesn’t read like a warning label “Kids, let this be a lesson that you should (or should not)_________.”

Rather, I hope to pass on a legacy of faith…

…a faith that dares to believe, even when worldly logic screams otherwise.

….a faith that can settle into the darkest moments of a trial – and know without a doubt that this Hard Place will serve to make them stronger and wiser.

…a faith that believes God is able and willing to perform whatever he said that he could and would…

…a faith that looks fear right between the eyes, and then does that scary thing anyway…

I want the future generations in my family to inherit a love for the holy scripture*, and a desire to store up God’s word in their hearts and in their minds.

None of this will automatically happen.

To pass down such an estate, my life must be purposefully lived in that direction…on a daily basis. I can’t just include these intentions in a will, to be handed out by my attorney at a probate hearing.

My dad and I recently had a conversation about death and funerals and inheritance. I swear we aren’t creepy like the Addams Family [cue the theme music], or anything like that. Dad is a retired pastor, and he’s been working for a funeral home for the past year. So, this is basically what we discuss when we talk about his work. (On second thought, maybe that is a little weird.)

Nonetheless, he and I got into a discussion about how the size of one’s bank account doesn’t make a difference at all once they’ve passed on from this earth. It doesn’t matter one lick if you have spent your entire life trying to “get ahead” (or far, far ahead, for that matter). Your net worth won’t be meaningful to your score at the end of the game. (Your score won’t affect anything either, by the way.) Awards are not handed out for the size of the financial inheritance your family will (or will not) receive once you’re gone.

The investments that do matter (the eternal kind) are the ones we deposit into the lives of those we love. They come in the form of memories shared, time spent, values taught, traditions made, affirmations spoken, kindness practiced.

I’ll be honest. (Since you hope I am all the time, right?)…I do buy into the eternal investment thing…but it’s so much easier for me to focus on keeping score with the neighbors.

Which is why I often remind myself about my eulogy…

…so that hopefully (prayerfully), I will invest my life in what I value most, so that our children and their children and the generations to come…will reap the benefits of an inheritance that lasts.

(Because really….I don’t want my child or grandchild to grow up and be a spoiled rich kid with a lame reality show or something like that.)

Amy

*I almost hesitated to include this line, since I thought it might draw attention to my Memory Verse Post Failure. Yes…about that. I did overlook it this month, and I am sincerely sorry. But I am a tad OCD about such things like getting off balance on the calendar, so please…if you don’t mind, could we have a do-over in March? Thanks.

Can’t Buy Me Love

Written by: Rhonda Sue Page

So have you picked your Valentine yet?  Have you bought their gift(s) too?

Hop to it people………..these things need to be locked down by now.  You last minute Lauras/Larrys drive me nuts.   Oh, and BTW ……….flowers from Kroger’s don’t cut it boys!  We girls see the “sell by” date still on the wrapper……along with the price tag………and it kills it….JUST KILLS IT!

No, it shouldn’t matter…..but it seems to.

See, the problem is……….They’ve gone and made an actual DAY for the expression of love……….and life doesn’t play along.

Whether you are girl or a guy, you just want to be thought of/planned for/paid attention to.  What you don’t want is to be the last box checked on a list of “to-do’s”, at the end of a long day, on the way home from work.

But until they get those Amazon drones up and running……….this remains a problem for the majority of busy, well-meaning people who really love those they are in relationship with but lack time to prove it.

This year I got out in front of it though.  I got my Valentine something he’ll love.  I even spent extra to get it here on time.

When *SURPRISE!* – He calls to tell me he’s hopping on a plane tonight and won’t be here for Valentine’s Day.

Sigh*  It just proves my point.  All this has less to do with actual love than it does with expectation.

It’s not his fault.  He’s been called away a lot lately and he really does try to manage his schedule well.  Me managing my expectations is another thing entirely.

We started a new bible study in our mid-week children’s class.  It was on love in all it’s various forms.  AGAPE being a God-type love, PHILEO being a mutual sharing and friendship love, and EROS, the romantic kind (5th grade boys call this the “smoochy-smoochy stuff”…………just wanted you to be in-the-know on that).

It occurred to me as we worked our way to through 1 Corinthians 13 – The Love Chapter……that maybe these distinctions aren’t helping so much as hurting us.  At the end of the day, is there really any other kind of love than God’s?

I believe these distinctions were meant to guide us to the healthy boundaries of love………Each one having different levels of intimacy.  Different emotions will be tied to these various relationships, but it’s important to remember that emotion is not required to show love.  Sex is not required to show love.  Sadly, this is not how most people perceive it. We’ve long since tied our feelings to our actions or the lack thereof.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask that 15 year old girl, who’s grown up on Disney princesses and Victoria’s Secret fashion shows what she thinks love looks like.  Or worse…..how she thinks she has to look to be loved.

We try to make these distinctions I think in part to stay in line with what’s appropriate……especially as Christians trying to live by God’s word.  But we confuse love so often with emotions and feelings – that we never  get around to requiring ourselves to see it as God defines it.

 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].  It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].           

1Corinthians 13:4-7

I know…….that’s a lot to take in.  It may even seem a bit intimidating given that we fall short on a daily basis.  But keep in mind that God has set the standard and defined it in order to help us……..not discourage us.

Remember that we are to use The Word as a mirror to help us grow and let us know when we are on the right track.

When I view my relationships through this lens…….any of my relationships……then and only then am I beginning to understand that to truly LOVE has less to do with me (how I look or feel or what I think I need to be happy) than it has to do with the other person.  (A “What can I do to make your day better?” attitude)

This is in stark contrast to a world that reassures us daily that it’s “ALL ABOUT YOU” and how we feel and what we should expect.

If we are to fight this mentality as Christians…….it will have to be “on purpose”.  This attitude won’t just fall us.  And honestly, showing love isn’t a one-day event…we all know that.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse, your child, your best friend or your annoying neighbor…….truly loving them is a “grace” thing we walk out every moment of our lives.  We are really loved by God so that we have real love to give.

Bottom line:  Buying a new iPad Air for your Valentine only says “I love you” when you can hand it over a day early, expecting nothing in return……then turn to God to fill the void and help you deal with the disappointment so that resentment doesn’t build.

Love lets people off the hook.

God met me in that place and helped me do just that.  Normally I’d have drowned my self-pity in a velvet-covered heart shaped box bought half-price at some sad CVS.  Thank God He’s teaching me that trusting Him has much better consequences……….and won’t go to my hips.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

~RS