Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Do We Do Now?

Yesterday's post seemed to strike a chord with quite a few of you.  I'm thankful I'm not alone.

I mentioned yesterday I would address today some ways we could possibly begin to reclaim our way back on the right path.  The path of  responsibility, self-respect, forgiveness, love, patience, self-control, peace, joy, kindness, abundance.

So many thoughts race around my brain whenever I begin to unpack this.  I've read so many books (and blogs); remember, I love to read.  While most of them approach this topic from myriad perspectives, the majority of them have some element of gratitude in common.

Keeping a journal.

Focus on what you have, not what you don't.

Be thankful.

Be thankful in all circumstances.  (That's a doozy.  Still working on that one.)

Appreciate the things and people in your life.

What all these remind me to do is shift my focus.  Away from me.  Back to others.  Back to God.

This doesn't mean I never consider myself or my own needs.  It doesn't mean I simply sit back and allow others' decisions to dictate and control my life.  And it doesn't mean my needs aren't important.

They are.  But so are everyone else's.  Why?  Because God created them.  God loves them just as much as He loves me; just as much as He loves you.  Jesus came, died, and rose again for me.  Jesus came, died, and rose again for you.  Jesus came, died, and rose again for them.

So, in practical, everyday, down-and-dirty do we do this?  What do we do now?

I've told my daughter many times that if everything seems to not be going your way and everyone is getting on your nerves, there's a strong possibility that the problem is with you.  And when we are presented with this, our best course of action is to take a step back.

Keep a journal.  Think of at least 5 things that you are thankful for today.  Write them down.  Read over them throughout the day.  During especially difficult times in the past, I've even written them on an index card and kept it with me.

Do this every day.  Slowly, your heart and focus will shift.  If you're anything like me, you'll forget one day.  Or life will actually be ok, and you won't feel the need to take a few minutes and intentionally shift your focus.  Maybe two days will go by.  Maybe a week.  Maybe even a month.

The beauty of all this is that no matter how long it is between moments of putting pen to paper, God's mercies are new every day.  Every day is a chance to start over.  Clean slate. Fresh start.  Blank page.

And if you're thankful for nothing else, be thankful for that.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

~Lamentations 3:22-23 (The Message)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Where Did We Go Wrong?

It seems we've gotten ourselves turned upside down and inside out.

When did it become acceptable for elementary students to have a school-sponsored dance?  They're children.  Young children.  Why would someone even think this would be a good idea?  What's the purpose?

My nine-year-old daughter desperately wants to wear high heels, simply because her foot is almost as big as mine.   She thinks just because she can, she should.

Somewhere along the way we have given in to the thinking that just because something is permissible, it is also profitable.  We couldn't be farther from the truth.

1 Corinthians 10:23 Amplified Bible (AMP)
23 All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].

Somewhere along the way the reason why we did or did not became irrelevant.  We've lost our traditions and meaningful rites of passage.  Why?  Is it because we don't fully understand them?  If we don't understand them ourselves, it becomes difficult to explain to others.  If we can't explain to others, there ceases to become legitimate reasons why something isn't profitable.  Our main concern shifts to only if it is permissible.

We have strayed so far from the path that leads to strength of character and a solid foundation.   We've become so self-absorbed and so consumed with self-gratification.  We've missed the mark and we, and our children, pay the price.

Because we want a "easier" life for our children, we pay them an allowance for daily hygiene, making their bed, keeping their rooms neat; things that were expected of us simply because we lived in a home with others.  Self-respect is no longer being taught in our homes, much less in our schools.  We've lowered our expectations of ourselves and others while increasing our privileges (and theirs) because somehow we feel entitled to them. Because "everyone else can/has/does", we should, too. 

Hold on just a minute.  If we're Christians, Christ commands and expects more from us.

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Life is instant.  Life is fast. We live in a world where our smartphones are the first place we turn to for answers.  Why?  Because it's fast, it's fun, it's easy.  My children want their electronic games/smartphones if we will be in the car longer than 5 minutes.  Heaven help us.

Easy.  Why is it that we want an "easy" life?  Why an "easier" life for our children?  When life is easy, we're not learning; we're not growing; we're not becoming better people.  When life is easy, we slip away from depending on God.  And friends, we all desperately need God.  We become blinded to that need when life is easy.  Why would we intentionally put that on our children?  

Why not a "better" life?  A life full of grace and forgiveness and love and self-control. A life of honest, hard work.  A life of privileges earned, not expected.

I saw a friend's post on facebook yesterday that recalled a conversation overhead while waiting in line to vote.  A "girl" (because honestly she was no lady with comments like this) said "Ugh!  I can't even feel my hands!"  In front of her was an elderly lady in a wheelchair who responded with, "Dear, I cannot even feel my legs."*

Please don't misunderstand me.  I'm in no way suggesting that we intentionally make our lives and the lives of our children more difficult to the point of intense suffering.  My point is that what we see as suffering, is in reality, nothing more than inconveniences.  We whine and complain, behaving like three-year-olds. We need to grow up.

Life is hard.  Really hard.  But for the majority of us, it's also ridiculously easy.  We live in so much extravagance and privilege that, at times, it's sickening.

This is not the legacy I want to leave my children.  

I want them to know the satisfaction that comes only from working hard and doing a job well and thoroughly.  
I want them to know the exhaustion, and exhilaration, of working with their hands all day and collapsing into bed at night.
I want them to know the joy of seeking answers and experiences and truly living life; messy, up-to-their-elbows, struggling, persevering.
I want them to know the joy of sacrificing for someone or something they believe in.   
I want them to know the love that comes from putting others first.
I want them to know the peace that passes understanding that only comes when you trust Christ in the midst of this messy and sometimes painful life.
I want them to know the freedom that comes only from true forgiveness.  Forgiveness that comes only as a result of someone hurting you deeply. 

We are a heavily-medicated nation.  We live in an incredibly stressful time.  We also sit around more than ever.  We have become lazy.  Instead of working through our stresses by doing manual labor, we take pills.  Instead of working together, we "connect" with people in cyberspace.  Instead of  family being our cornerstone and living in true community, we live in planned neighborhoods where we're lucky if we know the neighbors on either side of us.  We have become such a transient and disconnected society.  We've lost our roots.  We've lost our footing.  We search for a strong foundation and find nothing but masqueraders offering little more than a temporary fix.  

I want my children to know the peace, security, self-worth that comes only from a deep, abiding relationship with the God who created them, who loves them more than I can even begin to imagine, who sacrificed His own Son so that we can know Him unlike any other.  I want their lives to be marked by the work of the Holy Spirit active and alive in them.  I want them to have an abundant life, not an easy one.

I want it, too.

John 10:10
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 

More tomorrow on how I think we can get this back.  Hope you'll join me.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

 *HT to Angela Sox.  :)