How Do We Navigate The World From A Christian Perspective?

 

venice-italy-outdoor-scenic-161980.jpegSmooth sailing…that’s what we all would like, isn’t it? Navigating through the issues that this world presents is anything but smooth sailing. We are constantly bombarded with information and news about problems in all parts of the world. How do we sort it all out? How do we make sense of the things we need to? Can we find the time to contemplate the really important matters that face us? And what about the issues behind the issues? I don’t have all the answers, but I would like to share my thoughts on some of the subjects we all deal with. And I would love your input, too. Come join me as we learn to navigate the world from a Christian perspective.

 

 

Lost

Several years ago, my husband wanted to go out in the woods and use his compass to find a lake. We didn’t take a lot of provisions with us or a flashlight because we were just going to hike in and out during the daytime. We also did not tell anyone where we were going. So off we went. Instead of taking the road to the lake, we parked the car a few miles from the lake and my husband looked on his map and took a compass heading. We followed that heading through the woods until we reached the lake. It took a few hours to get in but all in all, it was a successful venture. 

We decided to follow the road back to the car and began to walk. What we didn’t know was that the road forked a little bit north of us, and that the road we were on was not the one we thought it was. After a while, we realized that the road was not taking us back to the car. We talked about what we should do since it was going to be dark in about an hour. We decided to backtrack to the place we left from at the lake. We would then follow the compass heading through the woods back to the car.

person holding compass

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Pexels.com

By the time we got to the lake, it was getting dark. Remember, my husband did not have a flashlight with him. In order to get out, he had me walk fifteen or twenty feet ahead of him, he would take a compass heading and have me move until I was in line with it. He would then come and stand where I was and then I would walk another fifteen or twenty feet. We did that for the next few hours. I would walk ahead, he would take the heading. I would move until I was on that heading, he would walk up to where I was standing and we would do it all over again. Over and over we did those same repetitious steps. 

The moon rose higher and illuminated the woods. I felt better about it, but knew we were “lost” and so I kept repeating Bible verses to myself, holding onto whatever I could until we got out of the woods. My husband wasn’t worried at all because he trusted the compass and knew that if we followed it, eventually we would come out of the woods by the car.

Finally, the woods cleared and we saw the road. We came out of the woods within about fifteen feet of the car. To say I was greatly relieved is an understatement. But I did learn something that day; I can trust the compass, and even if I don’t know where I am. The compass will always point me in the right direction. 

That experience was a great life lesson for me, both practically and spiritually. We, as finite humans, will sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel we are lost in the woods. We cannot see our way out of it and it feels dark. We need to remember that our sense of direction will lie to us, our emotions will lie to us, but our compass will never lie to us. If we will keep our eyes on the Lord (the compass) and check with the map (the Word) we will be able to walk in the right direction and eventually we will get out of the situation we are in. We must learn not to rely on what we think is happening around us and try to find our own way out of whatever situation we are in. The book of Proverbs has a few great verses that explains this principle:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3: 5-6.

For me…lesson learned…trust the Compass!

 

Penelope

A few months ago, Ann, one of my good friends passed away. I had known her for decades and she had been very close to me and my family. She lived in another state and I had called her a few months before and was made aware that her health was failing. When she passed, I was sad but accepted it and was not very emotional about it. My son and another friend called to ask me how I was doing with the news. I said, “I think I’m fine.”

low angle photo of linear leaf plant
Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

 

In the meantime, my husband and I bought a Ravenna Palm and placed it in a beautiful pot. We put it in the corner of the living room and it looked perfect there. I love my plants and I named the plant Penelope. A few days later, I was having trouble with my allergies. I looked up palm plants and it stated that most palms are female but the male palms give off allergens. It also said that most people who sell plants are not aware of this when ordering palms so you can get either one in a shop.

I called the place we bought the plant and they told me we could bring it back. We returned it and I asked the man if they were going to return it to the shelf. He said, “No, we will have to put it into the dumpster. We cannot restock it because it does not have the restocking sticker on it.” I looked at my husband and tears came to my eyes. I walked out to the car quickly and started sobbing. He looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is going on?” I replied that I didn’t want them to kill Palmy, my new generic name for the male palm.  I told him we could keep it on the back patio and in the garage in the winter. He agreed and like the dutiful husband he is, marched back into the store, repurchased the palm and brought it back to the car.

He then looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is really going on?” By that time I had calmed down and said, “I think I’m sad about Ann’s death.” He said, “Well I hope so, that is a pretty strong reaction for a plant we’ve only had for four days!” It was at that point that I realized that I was experiencing grief from my friend’s death, but I was not aware of it and had been unable to process it.

I was brought up in a home where we did not show a lot of emotion. Logic and reason ruled the day and little if any weight was given to an argument filled with emotion. From the time I was small, I learned to stuff my emotions and deal with whatever situation I encountered. When I did feel grief or some other sad emotion, it was hard for me to cry. As an adult, I have had difficulty crying, even when I have lost someone very dear to me. If I needed to cry, I would watch  a movie with a sad ending. It would enable me to cry a bit and release some of my pent up emotions.

After the incident with Penelope, I began to think about the ability to process emotions in a healthy way, especially grief. Depending on the culture and the home we are brought up in, we are either allowed or discouraged from showing our emotions. Whether we show them or not, they are still there inside of us. I believe it is much healthier to be able to express our emotions appropriately, rather than stuffing them and putting up a brave front. 

Since then, I have been trying to allow myself to express grief when I am alone. I have had a few breakthroughs and hope that in the future I will be able to be in touch with my emotions in a more positive way. After all, a person should not have to put on a sad movie in order to express the emotions that are pent up inside of them, should they?

 

What Are They Going To Do With The Body?

Have you ever been so sick that you wondered, “What they were going to do with the body?”

chest-67592_1280image by Wikilmages Courtesy of Pixabay

When I was attending the university, I stopped into a small deli and bought a custard. It was in a display case that was not refrigerated. I didn’t know much about food and so I bought it and ate it. That evening I became sick, very, very sick. For a few days, I wondered, “What are they going to do with the body?” Would my dad want it shipped to the States and bury it in the family plot or would I be buried in Milan close to other family members? Eventually, I got better and it was a moot point.

People for millennia have thought about that same question. The very rich and powerful have had their bodies interred with great magnificence. The pharaohs built pyramids for their final resting place, while leaders of other cultures have had great sepulchers made. The wealthy have spent a fortune in order to rest in beautiful coffins like the Byzantine one above. On the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, the average person has had to content himself with a simple burial. If fortunate, they would buried in a plain wooden coffin. Many people were just wrapped in cloth and placed into a grave. Still others were burned on a funeral pyre. Either way, someone had to answer the question, “What are they going to do with the body?”

It’s something to think about, but an even more important question is; “What is going to happen to my soul when I die?” Many of us have thought about it and sought out truth to help us deal with that question.

I know atheists and agnostics who do not believe that we have a soul. Or if they do, they believe that it goes into the grave with the body. They don’t believe in an afterlife and live their lives entirely within the four-dimensional framework that they find themselves in. They do not worry about the question of the soul because they don’t believe they will have to give an account to God for the way they lived.

But what if they are wrong? What if there is a great God in the universe and they will have to answer one day for the life they led and the beliefs they cherished? What then? Well, then it will be too late to make another decision and backtrack and recheck their logic.

For me, I have already made that decision. I studied many religions and I chose to believe in the teachings of the One Person who actually went into the grave and came back three days later. I believe He knows the questions we need to ask and He has the answers for them. He is not afraid of any questions we might ask Him while we are looking and seeking to find the Truth.

So if you don’t know the answer to the most important question, i.e. “What is going to happen to my soul when I die?” I would encourage you to make a real attempt to get that question answered. It could be the most important question you will ever ask and the answer could have real eternal consequences.

* In physics, the fourth dimension is time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second-Hand Education

Have you ever received any really great Second-Hand Education? When we think of education, we think in terms of getting it first-hand from a primary source. We receive it from a parent, teacher, book, seminar or webinar. But have you ever thought about the fact that you receive lots of your education in a second-hand way? Exactly what does that look like? 

girl and boy sitting in front of brown wooden coffee table

Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

Well, when one of my brothers would come in late and get grounded for a week, I learned to keep the curfew that was set for me. When I would read in the newspaper about someone going to jail for a crime, it would reinforce the teaching I had received about not breaking the law. When I would hear about someone else’s experiences, either in person or in a magazine, I would learn about what to do or not to do in a given situation. Every now and again though, I have had the opportunity to receive some really great Second Hand Education.

The first time was when I was in the sixth grade and my older brother was a freshman in high school. He got rheumatic fever and once the initial hub-bub was over about it, he was stuck at home for three months. He needed to remain inactive and could not go to school. His teachers had to come to the house after school to teach him. 

I didn’t sit in on all of his lessons, only the ones that interested me at the time. I loved his Latin teacher and listened dutifully while she taught him tenses and grammar. Those lessons helped make learning Spanish and Italian a breeze. They also gave me the ability to understand a bit of French, Portuguese, and Romanian, all Latin based languages.

When his biology teacher came, I would listen as he talked about cells and their makeup. Sitting on the sidelines gave me a leg up when I went to high school and took Biology and then Physiology and Anatomy. Those lessons gave me the preparation to walk into my high school classes with some advanced knowledge.

The next opportunity came when he was getting ready to go to college. He had chosen a major that would require that he read a lot of books. He decided to take a speed reading course and he started on it. I would sit with him in his room when he was learning how to speed read. First, words would be shown to him on the screen, then phrases, whole sentences and finally paragraphs. I learned how to take my finger and run it down the page and retain information. That skill became invaluable in college and has benefited me my entire life.

The last time I benefited from really great Second-Hand Education was when my best friend went to Seminary. She was required to take a lot of interesting classes and she would call me and tell me about what she was learning. She would then send me any books I was interested in and I could then pursue that subject on my own. That experience gave me a knowledge and depth of information on many subjects I would not normally have studied. 

Some of the best parts of my education have come in a second-hand way. Even though I was not the person primarily being taught, I still benefited greatly by another person’s knowledge, skill, and generosity. The information I learned has been extremely useful along the way. I don’t know about you, but I will take education any way I can get it…even if it comes to me in a second-hand way.    

What about you? Have you had some experiences where you benefited from some really great Second-Hand Education? Let me know, I would love to hear your stories!

 

 

Woo Hoo…Made it Through One Year of Blogging!

As of last month, I made it through one year of blogging and looking back I have to tell you, I have learned a lot. A few months after I began blogging, I started writing magazine articles. The format is a little different and you have to write to the specifications of each magazine’s submission guidelines. I checked the Writer’s Guide and I decided to send a blog post to one of the magazines that publish them. 

Within a day or so, I got an email back from the Blog Editor. She said they only publish blog posts by bloggers who have been blogging for at least six months. I thought, “No problem!” I will wait six months and then see about sending in a blog post. However, about five months into blogging, I thought about quitting. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and I was getting discouraged. I seriously considered bagging it but decided to stick it out as my goal had been to blog once a week for an entire year. About a month after that, the readership grew and I am glad that I decided to stay with it.

The problem is real, though. The first five or six months of blogging is hard for a new blogger. It takes time to develop followers and get the reads and comments you would like. I read a blog post on the site Hellbound Bloggers by Harshit Singhal entitled: “5 Reasons Why Most Bloggers Quit Blogging Within Six Months.” He talks about the fact that 9 out of 10 bloggers will not make it through the first year. It is a great read if you want to look it up and very informative. I will mention the five reasons he states that most bloggers quit: 1. Looking for quick money 2. Not passionate about writing  3. Lack of motivation 4. Not enough topics and 5. The unavoidable renewal.

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So it’s tough for new bloggers, that’s seems to be an established fact. When I started blogging, I knew NOTHING about blogging. I just felt like I was supposed to start a blog. I listened to an interview with Kristen Lamb and she mentioned her latest book, “Rise of the Machines, Human Authors in a Digital World.” She is an established writer and her book is full of information about the publishing industry. She also mentioned that it has a special section on blogging. I read it cover to cover and especially focused on the chapters related to blogging. I learned so much from her and I still reread it when I need a fresh insight about the subject.  So, “Thank You, Kristen for all of your help, I couldn’t have done it without you!” 

We can do our best when blogging but we are still dependent on the readers to let us know if what we are writing is speaking to them. I want to thank everyone who read my blog, liked it, commented on it and followed it. I really appreciate the support and encouragement you have given me. I would also like to thank the Lord who gives me the ideas and words to say. I am not a natural writer and without His help I would never have been able to write even the first blog post.

I want to encourage all of you who just started blogging…stay with it. It will bear fruit and it be worth it in the end. If you’re struggling, check out Kristen’s book and you will be surprised at the amount of great information and encouragement you will find.

Again, a big “THANK YOU” to each and every one of you!  Please enjoy a piece of  Blogiversary cake (even if it is virtual) on me!

close up photography of pink birthday cake

Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Obscenity and Trash Talk – The Problem With Crossing The Line

This past week in the news, there were two different incidents in which media celebrities made obscene or malicious comments about other people. Both took a fair amount of pushback from the public, and both celebrities apologized and said they had crossed the line. But I was wondering, what line was it?

zebra-814814_640 Photo by Pattern Pictures – Courtesy of Pixabay

Exactly where is the line that was crossed? I can’t seem to identify it, because if what they said was on the other side of the line, how much was okay up until they got to the line? Which obscenities are okay and how much trash talk can you say up until you reach the line?

LET’S FACE IT, THERE IS NO FIRM LINE ANYMORE, BECAUSE THE LINE KEEPS MOVING AND SHIFTING.

What is acceptable today in the public arena was not acceptable five years ago.  The same is true for five years before that, and ten years before that. The line has moved with every downward shift of the cultureI have lived long enough to remember when men did not swear in front of women and women did not swear in the public arena. In fact, in the home I grew up in, you were not even allowed to swear in the private arena. Girl or boy, when you transgressed, the least you would be sanctioned with was a bit of soap in the mouth (and believe me, Ivory does not taste good!).

So, what can we do in a culture where the lines are so low that you have to don a facemask, oxygen tank and flippers to dive down and find them? First, when people have been trashed in the public arena, we can make our voices known. It is not okay to use obscenities and trash talk when disagreeing with anyone, no matter what their race, religion or political affiliation is.

Since the public standards and lines are so low, each of us must come up with our own lines and standards for communication. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have found a few lines in Scripture that work for me. First, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth,” and second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Those two will help keep my mouth and heart in check. When I do cross those lines, and I have, I need to apologize to the person I have offended and take responsibility for my actions.

Crossing the line? Hah…what line? 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear, Shame and Remorse – Breaking the Bonds

 

woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body

Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

Have you ever been held captive by one of the big three…Fear, Shame or Remorse? I spent years in captivity by these three. People can look at us and never see the invisible chains that are holding us back, refusing to allow us to go free. 

I think for me the worst of the three was Fear. I left my ex-husband and took my six week old baby with me. He wanted us back and threatened me. I lived for years with the fear that at any time he would come and take me or my son. Finally, several years later, when he remarried the fear began to subside, but it still wasn’t gone.

If carrying around the chains of Fear wasn’t bad enough, I was also shackled by Shame. I had been raised in a small conservative town and after college moved in with my boyfriend…soon to be husband. It was at a time when that just wasn’t done and gossip flooded the town and I was at the center of the deluge. At the time, it didn’t really bother me, but several years later when I came back with my baby in tow, I felt the scourge of that Shame.

Add Remorse to the equation and you have a girl who was in bondage. I was really sorry for what I had done, but I could not change it. There was no magic time machine that would take me back and undo my bad decisions.

So there I was, full of Fear, Guilt and Shame and there was nothing I could do about it. I did not have the power to break the bonds that were shackling me…and then I met the Bondage Breaker – The one Person, the God-man-Jesus, who sacrificed his life for someone like me; someone broken and held in bondage by her own bad decisions. What a day that was for me. He walked into my invisible prison and unlocked the door and broke the chains that were holding me.

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It was a great feeling…He had set me free. But was that all that needed to be done? Was there something I was supposed to do? Yes, yes, there was. I had to make the decision to get up and leave the chains behind and walk out of the prison. 

Was it easy? No. Every day I had to choose to believe that I was free and I had to rely on the truths in his word. Truths like…”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”( 2 Timothy 1:7) when I would start to feel afraid. When Shame started to hem me in, I knew that I needed to focus on “For you will forget the shame of your youth” (Isaiah 54:4).  When Remorse started to overwhelm me, I needed to focus on Romans 8: 28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I had to believe that I was forgiven and nothing could change God’s love and mercy towards me.

Set free…Yes, by the Bondage Breaker…once and for all. Learning to walk free…that was another matter…step by step, day by day, until I could truly say, “I am free!”  

 

“The Golden Handcuffs” – Breaking Free

 I was talking to my son a while back and he was telling me about a man at his place of employment. The man hated his job but continued to work there. When I asked my son, “Why?” he said, “The Golden Handcuffs.” I asked him what that meant. He said, “It’s the money, Mom. He can’t leave his job because of the money.”  So that is what it is called in the corporate worldI imagine the higher up you get on the economic ladder, the harder it is to leave the money, even if you are miserable. There are a lot of legitimate reasons people wouldn’t be able to leave high paying jobs, i.e. mortgages, college tuition for the kids, medical problems, or personal debt, just to name a few. All things being equal though, if a person could leave a job without doing irreparable harm to the family, would you do it? Would I do it? Or would we slog through life with a job we hate in order to have more money? Could we really break free from “The Golden Handcuffs?”

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It’s a tough question, one I imagine those working in the nosebleed section of the corporate world have had to ask themselves many times. Most of us, don’t have to make such dramatic choices. For us, we make other choices, and though not the same, are similar in their origin, but opposite in their outcome. We end up shackled by “The Iron Handcuffs of Debt.”

Should we stay where we are, in a nice neighborhood, or move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood and assume a larger mortgage?

Should I keep my dependable car that is paid for or buy one that makes a better impression on my friends and take out a huge loan?

Should I go to a good college close to home or to the more prestigious college and end up with a mountain of debt?handcuffs-2070580_640

None of us wants to be enslaved by “The Golden Handcuffs” or by “The  Iron Handcuffs of Debt.” The decisions are out there, we just have to make them, and hopefully we will make the ones that will not hold us captive.  

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain,. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good-bye “Winnie the Pooh” – Social Engineering at its Most Ludicrous

I just read yesterday that the book “Winnie the Pooh” is again on the chopping block. “Winnie” has always had a tough time ever since it was published in 1926. It has been banned in different countries for a multitude  of reasons: talking animals, Winnie doesn’t wear underwear, and Piglet to name a few. Winnie even has the distinction of being #22 in America on the Banned Book List.  

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So, we’ve established that “Winnie” has been labeled an offensive book. But now we are finding out that “Winnie” has offended even more people. A country to the east of us is now considering banning “Winnie” from their school libraries for a different reason: gender specific pronouns are named in the book. Yes, dangerous gender pronouns are in the book, pronouns like he and she. These pronouns are now deemed offensive.

I am always incredulous when I read reports like this. I mean, really, who is in charge of making these ridiculous decisions? It seems like another case of social engineering at its most ludicrous. Trying to deny that there is a difference between boys and girls flies in the face of scientific fact.

Scientific studies have revealed that there is actually a biological difference between males and females. In utero, male brains experience a testosterone wash that female brains do not. This fact may explain the difference in behaviors between boys and girls as they grow and develop. So from early on, science has found that there are, in fact, differences between boys and girls. 

For the geniuses who hope that by banning the book “Winnie the Pooh,” people will not know or observe that there are differences between boys and girls, go for it.  But know that banning this book in your schools will not change the facts about how we are biologically made.

“You’re Taking Yourself with You.”

I have a good friend who is a Christian Counselor. We were talking about how many times we think that changing our circumstances, i.e.  job, spouse or location will make us happier. She said, “We always have to remember: You’re taking yourself with you.”

luggage-2708829_1280 Photo by Alexes  Fotos. Courtesy of Pixabay.

I’ve thought about those words a lot. If I am unhappy in a certain situation in my life, my natural tendency is to think, “If only  _______ was different.” I only need to fill in the blank. Would that blank be: my job, my kids, my spouse, my house, my car? That certainly depends on what problem I am facing. If only….

My friend made me realize that the first person I need to question anytime I am unhappy with a situation is myself. What is my response to what I am going through? Am I contributing to the problem? Is there something in me that is causing the problem? Am I just plain discontented with my circumstances and refusing to be thankful and content where I am?

Those are hard questions, but real ones that we all have to think about when we are evaluating our circumstances and our discontentment or unhappiness. Who is the main contributor to our problems? Not always, but many times it is really ourselves. We are the ones holding onto a bad attitude or an intractable position.  Changing our circumstances is not really going to make us any happier…after all, we will just be taking ourselves with us!