Happy Contentment-ing Day!

handsNew flooring, an updated master bath, and fresh carpet in the bedrooms.  These are a few of the things listed on our “Goal” sheet which is hanging on my refrigerator as I write this.  These aren’t “needs”, they are “wants”.  There is a difference.  As I watch TV shows where families are house hunting, I get so frustrated when I see couples exclaim that they “need” solid surface counter tops, hardwood floors throughout, and to be in close proximity to the golf course.  No. You. Do.  Not.  These things are not necessary to your survival and therefore, they are “wants”.

I’m sharing some of our personal goals with you because I want you to see that it’s ok to want more.  It’s ok to have vision, to broaden your thinking, to strive for something better.  We just have to be careful that the sacrifices made in order to achieve those goals don’t pull us away from what is most important.

Whether our goals are work related, a desire for more material possessions, or for personal growth, I think we can all agree that in order to achieve what we’re going after, we will have to give up some things to get there.  Sometimes that means giving up something good for something that is better.  Other times, it can draw our attention off of what really matters in order to have this thing we so badly desire.

 

“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.”

Philippians 4:12 NIV

When this passage of scripture was written, it was written by a man that is believed to be in prison as he writes.  He shares that he has been well fed in his lifetime, but also hungry.  He has lived having plenty, and lived wanting more.  He was human.  We can all relate.

Even though our circumstances can change, sometimes by our own doing, sometimes the doing is out of our control, God calls us to be content.

CONTENT

adjective con·tent \kən-ˈtent\

 pleased and satisfied : not needing more

(Merriam Webster)

The man who wrote that scripture said that he has learned the secret of being content.  That tells me that he wasn’t born just knowing how to do this, it took a little time.  maybe a lot of time.  Who knows.  But, he was willing to learn it and I’m betting that once he did, his stress level went down and he had an easier time of not comparing his life to others.

Do you want your stress level to go down?  Do you want to get your eyes off of what other people have that you do not?

Let’s learn this.  Put it into practice.  Train our brains.  Adopt this attitude.

We will be content in all circumstances.

PERSPECTIVE

noun per·spec·tive \pər-ˈspek-tiv\

the ability to understand what is important and what isn’t <I know you’re disappointed, but keep your perspective.

(Merriam Webster)

This.

This word is so critical to learning contentment.

If you find yourself having trouble being thankful this season, start with the basics and work your way up.  Are you breathing?  Do you have food to eat today?  If you’re missing a loved one, do you have wonderful memories to reflect on?  If you’re alone today, will you be catching up with friends or family in a day or so?

Would I like to whip out the check book and start making our list of goals a reality?  Sure!  But what’s more important at this stage in my life isn’t to have more stuff, shinier floors, or an updated bath…it is to spend time with people.  Both the ones I already love and new ones that are coming into my life.  Those upgrades will wait.  I’d rather spend my energies and money flying up the East coast to visit my son, spending a couple of days with my daughter on a girls get away, or taking a friend to Starbuck’s (actually I’m a Dunkin Donuts gal, but you get my drift!).

The key to being content is to remember that this life isn’t all about us.    It’s about relationships.  It’s about people.  It’s about learning.  It’s about having an attitude of gratitude, at all times, in all circumstances.  It’s changing lanes when we get nudged over.  It’s dusting ourselves off when we fall.  It’s about learning from the past but not living in it.  It’s about letting God work out his plans through us.

Should we shoot for those goals?  Absolutely!  But be flexible.  If all that we gained while working for those was a life lesson…embrace it, let it be enough.

We are in control of our thoughts.  When those feelings of woe is me or I wish I had or I wish I could come along, let’s use them as a trigger to be thankful in that moment.  Let’s lay down our thoughts of what we think we need or what we think is important and remind ourselves to breath and be content with what we do have.

It’s a choice.

Let’s choose it.

Your Story Matters

Fortune of past experiences

I thought this fortune was going to be a great catalyst to talk about work place conversation.  I was going to talk about how I love to hear other people’s’ stories.  How encouraged I get when someone shares a part of their life with me.  Giving me an opportunity to identify with them, to laugh, celebrate or even cry with them.

After the events in Paris this weekend, I predict that work place conversations will take a more serious turn this week.

But my thoughts are still applicable.

Let me encourage you, myself included, on how to handle what may come your way this week.  Questions are lingering, frustrations are building.  People are scared.  If our words can be used to bring others, even ourselves, some sense of calm, shouldn’t we use them for that purpose?

The fortune I drew out of my cookie last week says “Your past experiences will give you great insight at work this week”.  Could this not be more true for those whose faith is in God?  God wants to use our stories, our lives, to draw others closer to him.  Although we may feel inadequate to help others make any sense about the events this weekend, that truth does not change.  The small, seemingly insignificant glimpses into our lives, can still point others to our anchor.  To the anchor.

Reflecting on past experiences can do three things…

1. It will remind us that our lives carry a wealth of knowledge.  We have facts to draw on.  Our own personal stories of survival.  Stories of our needs being met supernaturally.  Stories of fear and dread that turned into life lessons and peace unexplainable.  After the attacks on 9/11, people rallied together.  We can draw from our own experiences during that time.  Recall the solidarity and determination we had then to push through and protect one another.  To console and encourage those around us.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1b NIV

2.  Past experiences help us to alleviate fear.  Have you ever had a cavity filled?  The first time was nerve-racking, causing increased heart rate and sweaty palms.  You find out a year later, you have a new cavity that needs filling.  No problem!  You’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt!  You know what’s coming.  You’ve lived it.  Your attitude is different from before.  More relaxed, less panicked.  The same is true when you go on your second date, go to work on the second day at a new job, and when you have to send your son off to his second military deployment.  Fear is chased out when you can draw on the past.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27 NIV

3.  Reflecting on our past experiences can bring confidence…especially when history seems to be repeating itself.  We have all lived through trying times.  Both individually and as a country.  We survived.  We came out stronger.  Hindsight brings lessons learned of courage.  It teaches us what we can and cannot control on our own.  It casts light on what’s important and what just is not.

Take comfort.  We cannot answer every question that may come our way, but we can share with others what we know.  What we have personally experienced.  The valleys we have walked through.  The fears we have faced.  The triumphs had.  We can tell others where our strength lies.  Where we place our confidence.  Why we don’t live in a constant state of fear.  Why others don’t have to.

This week…as we walk into this “new normal”…pray.  First for yourself, then for those in your sphere of influence.

“Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

Ephesians 6:18 MSG

Be authentic.  Be you.  If you’re scared, admit it.  If you’re frustrated, confess.  But, our words are light.  After laying out our fleshly concerns, let’s make sure that we are throwing this light to the place of knowledge, fearlessness and confidence.

Our past, personal events and circumstances have something in common with what is taking place around the globe right now.  There is one over all.

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
    keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Proverbs 15:3 NIV

He knew.

He knows.

Regarding the future, he is in the know.


Friends new and old, thank you for reading and sharing these posts!  I have been so encouraged by your texts and personal comments.  Most of you head over here to read when you see I’ve posted a new title on fb or Instagram.  Some of you have expressed that you don’t always know when I’m posting because fb isn’t always reliable (go figure). Somewhere on this page is a “follow” button.  If you will click that and enter your email, you will begin receiving these as soon as they’re posted.  Problem solved.

Repairing Relationships…Life Lessons From a Contractor

My husband works in the construction industry.  He is often called to homes where the passing of time and weather have caused damage to the woodwork.  “Can you repair the rotten wood?” homeowners will ask.

Truth is, rotten wood cannot be repaired.  It is too damaged.  Discolored.  Soft.  It no longer serves it’s purpose and if not addressed fairly quickly, can allow damage to be done to what is behind it.

Relationships can be like this.  They can become worn down and stressed if not maintained properly.  Sometimes they are broken.  Outwardly they are hanging only by a thread.  Any rain or wind passing through can cause stress and strain.  Cracks in the exterior can lead to infestations of bad or wrong attitudes.

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all been hurt by someone.

We’ve all hurt someone else.

Even if unintentional.

Even if we refuse to recognize it.

“…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:23-24 NIV

Leaving an offering for God is a form of worship.  It sounds like to me that the Lord doesn’t want our worship until we have reconciled with those we’ve offended.  That’s pretty important, would you agree?

Are you already thinking of someone who holds a grudge against you?  Someone who has an issue with you?  This isn’t about who is right and who is wrong.

**RECONCILIATION-[rek-uh n-sil-ee-ey-shuh n]an act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce.

We should pray…first for ourselves, then for our offender.  Asking the Lord to remove our pride and to replace it with humility.  Asking him to help us to see the other person through his eyes.

We need to pull out our tool boxes and take out what’s needed for repairs.  Kindness, goodness, and a smile are a great starting point.  Self-control and the mindset of being “quick to listen and slow to speak”…yeah…let’s take that one out too.  It will come in handy.  Let’s leave our defensiveness in the box, we won’t be needing that.  Our desire to be “right”, let’s leave that in there too.

We must take the first step.  Reach out.  NO TEXTING!!  Call them up.  Hand write a well thought out, well prayed over letter.  Schedule a Starbuck’s date.  Buy their coffee.

When we’ve messed things up with God, he doesn’t turn his back on us.  He reaches out.  Reconciliation can be used to draw us closer to God, but to also open a window for the other person to see him more clearly.  It’s not just about us…it’s about HIM.

Rotten wood

Sometimes an “I’m really, really sorry” is just what the doctor ordered.  Sometimes it’s not.  Peeling back those layers will expose some things that might stink and look pretty nasty.  There may be pain involved in removing the rot.  In removing the hurt.  But once the heart of the problem is addressed, the Son is able to shine on the issue.  On the hearts of those involved.  The Son is warm, it refreshes, pulls out the stink.  Has healing powers.

I’m speaking to myself here.  To be honest, I’ve done this whole thing wrong over the years more times than I’d like to admit.  But, I am without excuse.  And I know from experience, that doing it right, God’s way, brings much more peace than doing it my way.  I just sleep better. This is part of the freedom we have when we walk in faith.

Let’s step out of our fears and take the first step.  Swallow our pride and seek restoration in our relationships.  Agree to disagree if we must, but bring harmony back where it needs to be.  Where there is amiability, God has more freedom to work in our hearts as well as our offenders’.

” Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.”

     Matthew 5:9 NIV

This is a hard thing.

He will give us strength.

Thank him for that along the way.

Build A Fire and They Will Come

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

I’ve read this scripture many times over the years.  It’s pretty popular.  In my mind, I always pictured someone…me…holding a flashlight.  Then, my brain would envision those guys at airports who use light in their hands to guide the enormous planes to safety.  Small, yet powerful, beams of light pointing the way.

That’s not my picture anymore.

Now I see fire!

Fire has the power to do things that flashlights just can’t.  If my good deeds have the power to point people to Christ, I’d say that’s pretty powerful.

Fire brings warmth…we can be inviting and welcoming

Fire is full of colors…our good deeds won’t all look the same, different passions=diverse interests=endless possibilities

Fire can be used to direct…good deeds can point people in the right direction, lingering effects of our actions can ripple out into eternity

Fire has an unmistakable sound…our actions and voice are unique to who we are, no one else has our gifts, our interests or our stories

Fire draws out what has been in the darkness…we can peek others’ curiosity, get people moving

Fire melts away dross…our good deeds can help others peel away the layers that have them bound up and stuck

Let’s be warm and inviting.  Let’s actively share God’s goodness with others.  Make a little noise.  Cause others to take note and be curious.  Give direction to those who have stumbled off the path that has been set out for them.

I love how The Message translation of the bible speaks Matthew 5 verses 14-16…

 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

You are here to bring out the God colors in the world.  To be generous.  To open up to others.

Your actions have the power to prompt people to open up to God.  Your good deeds can be used to cause others to glorify God.  He wants to use your life to point others to him.

Do.

Good

Deeds.

Do them.

He has put you on a light stand.  Given you a place to stretch, flicker, crackle and shine.  Not for ourselves, but for him.

How will others know how we have peace in times of loss if we don’t build a fire and invite them to come and hear our stories?  How will they know what kept us going while raising strong-willed teenagers…or what’s the secret to a long, happy marriage?

I have found that people are hungry to hear our stories.  Not just the good stuff we post on social media, but the real life challenges and triumphs we all share.  For those of us who have placed our hope and faith in God, we must lay ourselves open.  We are called to brag openly on him through word and deed.

While preparing to write this post, I kept singing this song…

This Little Light of Mine

 

We all know it.  It’s simple.  It’s a call to a lifestyle of being the light in an otherwise dark world.

Let’s throw some wood on our fires.  Stoke the ashes.  Create some sparks.

Let’s open our homes.  Give to those in need.  Be proactive. Make a difference.  In so doing, others will be more open to God.  We will cause others to look to him.  We will cause others to look for him.  And friends, we will be blessed.


Friends new and old, thank you for reading and sharing these posts!  I have been so encouraged by your texts and personal comments.  Most of you head over here to read when you see I’ve posted a new title on fb or Instagram.  Some of you have expressed that you don’t always know when I’m posting because fb isn’t always reliable (go figure).  In the bottom right corner of this page is a “follow” button.  If you will click that and enter your email, you will begin receiving these as soon as they’re posted.  Problem solved.

This blog is a place for me to shine a light.  I hope that you are throwing a little gas on your own fires today.  I’d love to hear how you are reaching out to others and would be honored to pray for you in your endeavors, we’re in this together!  God bless!