Good Intentions

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Have you heard the phrase “Good intentions are like rocking in a rocking chair – you think you’re doing something but you’re accomplishing nothing”? If we mobilize our good intentions however, then we can see some actual results. It’s like the difference between the movement of a rocking chair and a car.

How many times have you been strong in your well-doing only to feel like you have sabotaged it all by failing in some way? You’ve gotten up from the rocking chair and bolstered every ounce of bravery in order to take up your cause and put your good intentions out there, then wham! You feel like you’ve been smacked down because you blew it. Now all the good has been wiped out and erased with one swift stroke of thoughtlessness.

A girl we’ll call Betty, was excited to make a difference by making it her cause and her goal to be especially kind to the people in the service industry that she came in contact with. It wasn’t just a goal, but an effort and a real sacrifice to be ultra-complimentary, focused on courtesy and smiles, letting others go in front, and not complain – ever. She was sure that every waitress, grocery clerk, and post-office worker was going to be blessed by her kindness and truly see Jesus in her. Because the community was small and choices limited, it was generally the same people she came in contact with over and over again. Then one day her response in the grocery store was, “The line is back there.” “I put the groceries on the belt the way I want them bagged. If I wanted my bleach in with my hamburger, I would have put it up that way.” Then at the fast food drive-through, after repeating her order 3 times through the squawk box only to be given the wrong order anyway, she tells the 16-year-old in the window, “It’s not rocket science.” Suddenly, all the dozens if not hundreds of times she stayed true to the cause to be kind was ruined. Wiped out.

There are so many encouraging things I could tell you about feeling like you’ve blown it. There are many quotes and Scriptures to tell you that it’s just not the case. I can tell you that love will cover a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8); or that the blood of Jesus blots out sin (James 5:20). Maybe something pithy like “failure is an opportunity to begin again” will help ease the guilt.

However, we still feel judged by those involved when we blow it. Our enemies seem to have the upper hand now, because our cause seems to be left in ruins. But this is where I read that good intentions, being carried out in action, will not go to waste and because of them, we will succeed!

My enemies turn back;
They stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
Sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
Psalm 9:3-4

When our good intentions are carried out with drawing others to Jesus as the goal (if not a great by-product) and we’re operating with the Spirit of the Lord inside of us, then our enemies will turn away because they perish in the presence of the Lord. If He is in you, then they are in His presence. Your enemies are those who will try to condemn you and tell you that you’ve blown it beyond repair. The lies that say your good intentions were a waste.

God will uphold our right and cause. Even if your cause is simply to show kindness to your community. Only God is a righteous judge.

So let’s get off the rocking chair, take up our cause – whatever it might be – and put our good intentions into action. Let’s not be afraid of not doing it right or blowing it because done with a right heart, God will uphold us.

Me. Myself. And I.

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When I think of selfishness, I think the most common form is an unbalanced attitude that has been promoted by the idea of self-care. Taking care of ones needs and simply paying attention to how we function best isn’t a bad thing. If you know you need times of solitude, or are one who knows you need a lot of socialization, sleep, exercise, independence, or partnership, etc.; those are personality traits that make each person unique, enabling them to live to be the best they can be, when practiced in balance. That isn’t selfishness, that’s just smart, self awareness.

Although, it never ceases to amaze me the level of selfishness people have achieved. Just do a quick internet search of the word selfish. Especially if you look it up in images, you will see every quote and philosophy of why selfishness is such a wonderful thing. I’m sure there are many of life’s experiences and circumstances that cause people to become selfish. Maybe it is past hurts that have caused them to build walls so they won’t be victimized again. Or it could be a false belief that having it all and being number one is what success looks like. The biggest lie is that we have to care for ourself first, above everything else. For whatever reason made them that way, I know two things: It is hurtful to those who love them; and nothing about selfishness is even close to being Christ-like.

Those who love selfish people are never put first in their lives. At some point, everyone who is in relationship puts the other first – except selfish people. Every interaction, whether it is as small as a text message or as large as marriage, will always be at the convenience and only in the best interest of the selfish person. One of my extended family once had their outgoing voicemail message say, “I’m probably here but I don’t feel like picking of the phone. Leave a message and I’ll call you back if I feel like it.” That’s a pretty funny message to be sending to a telemarketer, but this family member really meant it for everyone and it’s actually how they felt. Now that is selfish. (Or they’re just a jerk.) It was hurtful to people who called and really wanted to talk with them. Selfish people do things that could be detrimental to their own well-being, just because they want to. Never mind that it causes worry and concern for those that love them. At the very worst, they risk their own lives through selfish behavior of NOT taking care of themselves, or other life-controlling behaviors or actions, without considering the effects it will have on those who love them.

Selfishness is contrary to everything Jesus stood for. There isn’t any place I know of in the New Testament where Christ followers are told to be selfish and put themselves above all else. As it applies to relationships with others, and people who love, the most obvious scripture is in I Corinthians 13:3-4; the love chapter.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

I can’t find anywhere that the Bible tells us to do what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, and everyone else can go kick rocks! The very basis of Christianity is selflessness. It doesn’t get much more selfless than to die for the sins of every person. John 3:16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die, so that anyone who believes in him would have life forever!” God is the only one who is worthy to consider only He, Himself, and His. Even though he could, he didn’t.

Allow Room for Change

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When I was a child, I used to believe in everlasting consequences. I had an unbalanced concept of cause and effect, believing that the results of every action lasted forever. I am so happy to say that I was so very wrong! The thing is, it often occurs to me that many of us still believe that behaviors of the past will be part of us forever. If we don’t believe it of ourselves, we too often believe it for other people – at least we behave as if it’s true for them but not us.

How many times have we begun a statement about another person with “they always…” or “they’ll never change”? What we knew about a person’s behavior, attitudes, or actions in the past, should not keep them chained to the present without evidence that there’s been no change. After all, isn’t that the basis of our faith as Christians, to believe that Jesus came to save us from our sins and renew our hearts, giving us a new life in Him? There is so much in the Bible about the change that has taken place in people by the power and miracles of Jesus, so why would we doubt that it’s still happening today?

We must be careful about holding people to habits and attitudes that were once part of their life because it doesn’t allow for the growth and change that we claim to believe in! Many times the person we once knew (even if it is ourselves) has worked very hard to make changes. Maybe the change is a natural progression as they have grown in faith, maturity, or a personal awareness that improvements needed to happen. Regardless of how and when positive change happens, we absolutely need to allow room for change. When we don’t, we teeter dangerously close to judging people based on old information. It’s a very fine line that could cross into an attitude of unforgiveness, bitterness, gossip and even slander.

I know I have changed over the years, and I hate it when people treat me as if they know what my actions and attitudes will be, based on what they knew about me many years ago. I wish they’d allow room for the changes in me, and if I’m wishing that for myself then I know I need to allow it for others.

What are you wearing?

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In a popular tv advertisement, a lady asks a man on the other end of the telephone, “What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?” It’s her attempt to verify that the person her husband was talking to on the phone was really an insurance agent and not another woman. It might be one of those things that you have to hear for yourself to find the humor in it but trust me, it’s a funny commercial.
(Side note: the best insurance commercial ever was the one where Sheryl is getting a Sheeshier she-shed! but I digress.) There’s another commercial where a couple is on a first date and the man takes off his coat and reveals a stretched out-of-shape T-shirt and his date, searching for the right words finally says, “You look….. comfortable.”

Women especially will ask each other, “What are you wearing?” when they are discussing an event they will both be attending. They also have a tendency to take a look at their husbands who are getting ready to go somewhere and ask them, “Are you wearing THAT?!”

Apparently, it’s pretty important to us and to those around us, what we wear. How we are clothed is important for the occasion; business attire, casual, black-tie or sporty. It kind of serves as an at-a-glance that sums up who we are projecting to be at that moment. Maybe the occasion calls for us to appear glamorous, professional, hard-working, or comfortable. Even everyday clothing holds a certain level of importance to some people who are conscious of how they are perceived or if they feel particularly judged if they are not at their very best in all situations.

What we wear is also dictated very much by where we live. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so almost year-round I will have on some sort of sweater, sweatshirt or coat that has a hood because it is very likely to rain. More so however, it is pretty important to Jesus what we’re wearing. I can tell you that it’s not the latest and greatest fashion or adorned in jewelry! He wants us to put on what will reflect Him. No matter what country or region we live in, if we’re living in the Spirit of the Lord – following Him and walking in His guidance, then the clothes that people should see on us is different from any hoodie, dress, or Khakis pants (as Jake from State Farm was wearing).

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   Isaiah 61:10

I guess the challenge is to ask ourselves, “What are you wearing?”

My House Has A Crack

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My house has a crack. Just over the doorframe, creeping to the ceiling. I see it every time I come down the stairs. I asked how this happened and the answer was, “collateral damage.”
Collateral damage is defined as damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. Nothing was slammed against that wall and we had no major earthquake.  But something else, probably underneath, at the foundation had shifted, causing the crack above door.
Oftentimes I find myself being the collateral damage; a by-product of other people’s cracked foundations.  When criticized, neglected or have been rude to, I have to remember that I am not their intended target.  Something that is amiss in their foundation is creating damage all around them. 
Like the crack in my wall, no amount of putty and paint is going to fix the source of the problem. Even though the collateral damage is well hidden, repairing the foundation is the only true fix. 
Psalm 147:3 promises God can fix these broken parts. As He heals our hearts, He will show us that the cracks weren’t the source of the problem. By taking our eyes off the cracks and opening our hearts to God, the more God’s grace will repair our damaged foundation.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Another Clip of the Apron Strings

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Trying to tie my apron strings behind my back, blindly, with arms twisted and fingers working as nimbly as possible, I find that if I tie it very loosely it’s easier but that only works if the apron strings are really long. It stays in place without being too tight, and it keeps me safe from whatever mess I might get into.

While I was raising children, it’s a good thing my apron strings started out long because they got a regular trimming. As my children grew, I clipped my apron strings according to how far they’d have to stretch and how tightly a grip they needed to hang on to me. As they grew more independent, it became less of need for them to hold on to me, and more of a comfort for me to have them there at my heels. Eventually, I had to clip them so short that neither of us could benefit from the ribbons that kept us within an arms reach . Even though I still wear the apron, the string are barely long enough to tie; just enough to hold my printed, fabric armor in place. It’s the protection I wear when I’m facing the heat and sloppiness of creating something wonderful. 

Simply navigating through life throws children into messy and sometimes heated situations. My hope is that my cut short apron strings that help keep my protecting armor on, will somehow protect them, too. And I hope they always know that the comfort of my apron and that it has just enough length of the strings left to tie my children to my heart forever.

Be Picky About Who You Entertain

I want to talk about entertaining. My giftings are definitely not the kind that can capture the attention of others with music, stories or hilarious jokes. When people speak of me, I’m pretty sure entertaining isn’t one of the words they use to describe my personality. 

However, I am pretty darn good at entertaining guests by preparing the most desirable atmosphere and setting possible. I always do my best to make sure my home is clean and presentable. I want them to be confident that I’ve prepared for them with cleaning, shopping for amenities, cooking to their tastes and planning activities they might enjoy. I want my guests to feel welcome, right at home, and happy to be here.

Unfortunately, my gift for entertaining extends to my thought life. I struggle with entertaining thoughts and imaginations that are of no benefit to me or anyone else. It’s those thoughts that have fear at their basic root; the ones that start out with “what if…?” Then they begin to snowball and grow into huge imaginations of all the worst possible scenarios. It’s what people today call “in your own head.” And I have come to understand that it’s because I am entertaining them, it’s that thing I am so good at. It’s a gift!  I’m making them feel welcome, feeding them and making them comfortable and right at home in my own mind. 

Sometimes these thoughts are legitimate things to be concerned with, but even those are not supposed to be consuming us or occupying our mind.  There are many scriptures that teach us a better way. John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled; Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, I am with you; Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; Philippians 4:6 Be anxious about nothing. The list goes on and on. It tells us that even legitimate worries shouldn’t consume us. 

That is s a lot of what NOT to do, and much easier said than done! But then what do I do? Because if I could just stop it because I wanted to, I would have conquered this a long time ago. Well, continue to read in Philippians 4:8 it says Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things. 

In other words, go ahead and entertain! Just make sure you have the right guests invited into your head.

Don’t Give Up

When people say “don’t give up,” they’re usually trying to encourage someone who is working toward a goal. Maybe they are trying to reach their best time running, or highest score in a sport, or reach a desired weight. There is usually an attainable goal in mind that can be accomplished with perseverance.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to not give up on those intangible, ongoing challenges that are day to day living. It’s a very broad stroke to just say “don’t give up” on life. The alternative is pretty drastic! Everyday life is a challenge all by itself as we navigate relationships, homes, family, money, feelings, thoughts, and quite frankly, all our personal baggage. And that’s without adding any specific, personal goals to the load.

Seriously, don’t give up. Just keep pressing on, plugging along, putting one step in front of the other, and before you know it one of those things you wanted to give up on has found its’ resolution. Then the load is a little lighter and now it’s a little easier to tackle the next challenge that life is throwing at you. As simplistic and naive as it sounds, it was an effective enough of a solution that God even tells us to Don’t Give Up.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Yes, I can!

I struggle with the concept of self-care. It’s not that I don’t believe we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because it’s critical to our well being. Our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health depends on taking care of ourselves. Long before there was the pop-psychology term we know as self-care, people always encouraged each other to “take care of yourself.” It’s a basic need for a balanced healthy life.

It’s when self-care blurs the line over into selfishness that concerns me. I was recently reading a series of answers to the question, what will be your word for the new year? The one-word responses ranged from Productive, Focused, and Giving to fun words like Caffeinated, or Clothed. (I’m assuming someone’s goal was to get out of their PJ’s.) I was a little disappointed at how many people chose the word NO as their mantra for 2020.

I once worked for Radisson Hotels and their slogan was Yes, I Can! There was no such word as no, only many different ways to make it happen. There’s so much to be gained with saying Yes! In it’s selflessness, you will find joy and satisfaction. In your relationships, when you don’t feel like another coffee date or leaving the house in the evening, your yes to an invitation can mean the world to another person. As the saying goes, in being a blessing to someone else, you were the one who received.  When your supervisor asks you to take on a project, say yes. You can work out the when and how later but just agreeing to it can be a boost of confidence. When that family is need of a meal-train, but you can barely get dinner made on time for yourself, say yes. (Again with the blessing others.)

Yes is also a wonderful word for taking care of yourself. Say yes to treating yourself to a massage, a whole Saturday on the couch, that art class or dance-workout class, or reading that novel – even if it’s just a few pages a day. Saying yes to the things that improve your life will do you much more good than becoming selfish and practiced at saying no.

I Didn’t Sign Up for This

How many times have we made the claim that “I didn’t sign up for this”? For me, it seems that when I’ve made a commitment to something it eventually transitions into being something more, something different, maybe more difficult or more of a challenge than I anticipated. The problem is in the expectation, not in the outcome.

The truth is, I actually did sign up for this. (Whatever “this” is.) Expectation versus reality is most evident in marriage. We are pie-eyed and full of dreams for the future on that magical day. The bride and groom are so full of love that they sign up for the whole deal: for better, for worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health. It all sounds so noble until that worse is far more worse than our expectation – it might be addiction, a mid-stream career change, or a new calling. The poorer may be the loss of a job, unplanned debt, even bankruptcy. And sickness isn’t always a terminal illness. It could be chronic pain, a mental illness, or an accident that resulted in a complete physical change. But yes, we did sign up for this.

The great news is that we also signed up for better, richer, and health. The times when life is good, satisfying, free of financial worries, and enough energy, time and health to have great fun!

I’ve found myself saying “I didn’t sign up for this” in a work environment. When my peaceful, quiet office turns in to mayhem of freight, or when twenty five people all decide that I’m the person with the answers to their questions all at once! But yes, I signed up for this. It was in the interview process when I said I was flexible, that I wanted to be in a position to serve, and when I prayed that I would get the job that was where God’s best plan for me would be.

When I base my commitment on an expectation that is only an idea in my mind, then I can be sure it will turn out differently than I thought it would. I can’t anticipate every possible scenario for every situation in order to make a decision whether to commit to it or not, so I move forward with the understanding that whatever comes, that yes, I did sign up for this.

 

 

You’re gonna miss this.

When I was a new mom I was quite convinced that if one more well-meaning, mature woman told me to “Enjoy your children, they grow up so fast”, I might just slap them. Of course it turned out to be the absolute truth but it’s not the kind of advice you can just receive and put into action.  Not understanding what the future will look like is part of the process of living.  So much is only understood in 20/20 hindsight.

Children growing up too fast is only part of life that you’re gonna miss someday. For some reason, this week I’ve been especially missing my parents. They’ve both passed years ago; dad has been gone 21 years and mom gone almost 16 years. How old does one have to be to quit craving a long-distance phone call with their mom and a big bear hug from their dad? I don’t have any guilt or regrets about our relationship because we were very connected and close. Sure, I would have spent even more time with them for my own sake if I knew how much I was gonna miss it.

Maybe it’s the era of Social Media, but reconnecting with friends of my youth actually adds to wishing for the past. Reminiscing together is fun for a minute but then it starts to gnaw at my heart in a longing way for those days gone by; the easy, care-free days of no responsibility with all my life ahead of me. I would have skipped the wasted time wishing I were older if I had known how much I was gonna miss it.

The lesson I’m learning is that it’s okay to visit the past but I can’t set up camp there. I have to find the new normal, the purpose, and the joy in today because it no longer takes well-meaning people to tell me that I’m gonna miss this.

Run In Your Own Lane

Run In Your Own Lane. It’s an inspirational, team-building, catch-phrase that is overused but probably because it is so true. Sometimes our lane doesn’t look as much like a track and field type lane but instead, a single path that is full of obstacles. But many of life’s races are just like a relay. We only need to run when it’s our turn and the baton is handed off to us. Then we begin to run our part. All the runners on our team behind us will cheer for us and urge us along because without you and me, they don’t win either. Each person’s leg of the race is critical to finishing the course. One person can’t run the entire race on their own and that is why each runner’s strengths are essential to continue the forward motion.

It impedes the overall progress when people are in the wrong lane or running when it isn’t their turn. These are the people we need on our team to run a good race.

Visionaries; They have a great vision for purpose, the end goal, and the are inspirational to the whole team. Detailed People; they are going to set the map, plan the rest stations, get all the equipment in place. Worker Bees; They are the long-distance, in-it-for-the-long-haul runners. Without them nobody would be there to hear the vision or follow the map. (Just don’t ask them to lead the way.)

So let’s not get in each others lane or try to take the baton when it’s not our leg of the race or we are going to royally jam things up! Run in your own lane in your appointed time.