Expiration Dates

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For the last few weeks, I have been thinking about Expiration Dates and the fact that each one of us has one. I see each of us as having an Expiration Date stamped on the back of our necks at the time of our birth. It’s not a visible mark, mind you. You know, one that we can see if we hold a mirror up to the back of our necks. It is invisible and has been stamped there by our Creator.  No one else can see it. He alone knows which day will be our final day. 

The problem is that none of us knows our Expiration Date. If we did, we would live quite differently than we do. Most of the time, we live as if we have all the time in the world, but we don’t, our time is limited here on Earth.  Intrinsically we know this fact but it is hard to incorporate it into our daily lives. How can we live in such a way that we keep our eyes on the Eternal and not on the transient?

If you are like me, it will take intentionality in order to do it. I must remind myself daily that this could be my last  day and I need to do whatever I am supposed to do today. If I live that way, I will be ready when my Expiration Date arrives.

What about you? How do you keep your mortality in mind so that you can keep your priorities straight? Let me know.

“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

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.

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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 yards 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!

It’s Summer and I am going to reblog a few of my outdoor posts!

First World Problems

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A few weeks ago my son came over to visit. We were talking and he began the next part of the conversation with, “Mom, I know this is a First World problem, but…” He then proceeded to talk about something he was thinking about purchasing. After he left, I thought about what he had said as far as First World problems went.

We know that in the Third World, many people suffer from a lack of basic necessities, i.e., sanitation, potable water, food, shelter, safety,  and access to basic medical care. Most people are just trying to survive in desperate circumstances. When we go to one of these countries, we are shocked by the conditions that people are living in; that’s what characterizes the Third World.

In the First World, the average citizen has most of his basic necessities. There are people without adequate health care and some live in areas where they are concerned about safety, but in general, most of us have our basic needs met. We then deal with First World problems such as: “Which house or car should I buy?” “Which doctor should I go to?” Which job should I take, the one I like or the one that pays more?” We can indeed be stressed when we are in the middle of these decisions, but if we ask ourselves the right question, we can lower our stress level. 

When we are stressing over consumer decisions, it would do us well to change our perspective and ask ourselves what kind of a problem are we dealing with…First World or Third World? If it is a First World problem, let’s take a few moments, breathe and take stock. Usually, we are not facing issues of survivability, we are facing issues of desirability. If that is the case, let’s lower the temperature in the room and get a grip.  Yes, we will have to make a decision but it will be one born of choice not of necessity. That knowledge alone should give us a sense of peace.

What kind of problems are you dealing with today…First World or Third World?

Exit Wounds

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When we think of exit wounds, we usually think of wounds created by projectiles, such as bullets. They go straight through the body creating an entrance wound, an internal wound and an exit wound. That’s how we view them in a physiological sense.

Have you ever suffered an exit wound in an emotional  sense? What is an emotional exit wound? It is the wound you suffer when you leave a person or group of people. Just as a projectile creates a wound to our bodies, an emotional projectile creates a wound to our souls. What might that look like?

You are hanging out with a group of people who are gossips in the break room and you decide you don’t want to anymore. You leave the group and hang out with others at break. Those you left will probably gossip and spread stories about you. Their words and actions create exit wounds. 

Have you ever had to leave a relationship with someone who was toxic for you? If you have, you have probably suffered many exit wounds. That person may have said and done many things to hurt you because of your choices.

Have you ever been in job or a class in school and for one reason or another you were promoted to a higher level? If you have, you know you have suffered exit wounds. You were probably made fun of and people said you thought you were better than they were. 

The verbal projectiles thrown at us hurt and cause emotional pain. Many times the stories told about us are not true but it is difficult to defend ourselves from them. These projectiles can come at us from many different directions but they are usually caused by one thing: Jealousy.

The people, groups or relationships we exited from are jealous of us. Our choices or the choices made for us have caused them to feel rejected and they choose to spew their projectiles of jealousy at us. Now, do you know what I am talking about? Can you think of a time when you have experienced exit wounds?

If so, you know that you didn’t choose to leave those relationships lightly. It takes courage to leave something that is negative, harmful or toxic for us because we know there will be an emotional cost or toll that we will have to pay. We know that we will experience exit wounds when we finally make those decisions and take action. In most cases, when the wounds heal, we will be glad we made the choice to exit that group of people or that relationship.

Exit wounds: they hurt, there is no doubt about it. Let us take courage and continue to make right choices for ourselves even if we will experience emotional pain and suffering caused by others. Just like our bodies, our souls will heal in time and we will be the better for it!

Do-Overs

Don’t ya just love do-overs? Do-overs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they involve people, other times they don’t.

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Let’s say we broke one of our favorite items; we don’t know if we will be able to replace it and then…voila! We find it in a second hand store or online somewhere for a great price. We feel like we have been given a second chance at owning that particular item. This kind of a do-over is a gift but doesn’t usually involve another person (unless another person purchases the item for us).

Do-overs that involve others usually have one thing in common. Someone decides to show us mercy. Perhaps it is a spouse or family member we have spoken sharply to. When we apologize, they forgive us, and we are given a second chance at being kind to them that day. This type of do-over is a normal part of life. It happens often and is essential for keeping the relationships we are in healthy. 

What about a do-over that involves a police officer? Many of us have gotten a warning from a police officer when we should have gotten a ticket for speeding. The police officer shows us mercy and we in turn make an honest attempt to drive the speed limit. We are always grateful for this kind of a do-over. We feel we have been spared the punishment we deserve and know we have been spared a fine of several hundred dollars.

How about those do-overs that happened at school? We flunked a test and after we spoke to the teacher, the test was thrown out. We were able to either retake the test or study for another test and prove we could do better.  We know we have been spared a bad grade, one we rightfully deserved, and we have been given a second chance to make a better grade.

Sometimes in life though, there are no chances for a do-over. We made a mistake and we cannot go back and fix it. It is just there in front of us…we got fired from a job…we broke a relationship…we stole something and now we are doing time behind bars. What do we do then and who do we go to? Is there anyone who cares enough to help us in our situation? Will anyone show us mercy?

There is. He is the God of Second Chances and His name is Jesus. He came to earth to help us and give us a second chance at living a full life, wherever we find ourselves. He wants to show us mercy if we will just ask Him. In His wisdom, He knows how to work out even the most difficult of situations. Perhaps we will not get that job back, that partner back, or our freedom back at the moment but He has a way of helping us get our lives back. And isn’t that what we want in our most desperate of moments? We want our lives back and we want a second chance to make things right again.

Are you in one of those desperate situations right now? Then ask. He will be there to show you mercy and meet you right where you are. He can and will give you a do-over..one that will last a lifetime and beyond. 

Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 KJV

Which Tree are You Eating From?

From the very beginning, God gave man a choice of eating from two trees. Our very existence would be determined by the tree we ate from. Before we decide which tree to eat from, we should probably look at the fruit that each one offers and the consequences from eating from each tree.

THE TREE OF LIFE

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Type of Tree: SPIRITUAL 

Fruit: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL. Galatians 5:22

Emotional Result from Eating from the Tree:  CONTENTMENT  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:1

Motivational Driver: HUMILITY

Path to the Tree:  DELIBERATE CHOICE. “Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Ultimate Result from Eating from the Tree: ETERNAL LIFE

 

THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

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Type of tree: FLESHLY 

Fruit: SEXUAL IMMORALITY, IMPURITY, DEBAUCHERY, IDOLATRY, WITCHCRAFT, HATRED, DISCORD, JEALOUSY, FITS OF RAGE, SELFISH AMBITION, DISSENSIONS, FACTIONS, ENVY, DRUNKENNESS, ORGIES. Galatians 5: 19-21

Path to the Tree: DEFAULT SETTING AT BIRTH. “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5

Emotional Result from Eating from the Tree:  LUST  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1John 2:16

Motivational Driver: PRIDE

Ultimate Result from Eating from the Tree: Eternal Death

 

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TWO TREES SET BEFORE US:  CHOOSE LIFE

Just Snap Out of It!

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Have you ever been in a situation with someone who was going through something temporary and you wanted to say to them, “Just Snap Out of It!”? I have and even if I haven’t said it, I have thought it. 

Three weeks ago, my husband hurt his knee at the gym. He was kind of moping around the house because he couldn’t go for a bike ride or do any physical activity. I knew he would get better in a few days and was very supportive on the outside, but inside I wanted to say, “Just Snap Out of It!” I thought I knew what he was going through; I just wanted him to skip feeling bad and move to being okay with it. You know what I mean, “Just pretend you are not going through the process.” 

Fast forward a couple of weeks; I woke up with vertigo. It was the day of a monthly luncheon I go to and I was really bummed I couldn’t go. Having had it before, I was also feeling bad because I knew I would have a few days or weeks of limited activity. My husband was very solicitous and took good care of me. He felt bad for me and was very understanding. He is a better person than I am and so I’m sure he wasn’t thinking, “Just Snap Out of It!”

You see, we never know what someone else is going through. As my husband pointed out when I read him the first few paragraphs of this post, “We don’t know the mental battle they may be fighting,” and that’s true. My husband just wasn’t bummed because of his knee pain, he was also thinking about the possibility of a knee replacement in his future. Because he is the strong silent type, he doesn’t communicate everything he is thinking and feeling.

When I was younger, I would have probably said to someone, “Just Snap Out of It!” when they were feeling bummed about a temporary situation.  Now that I am older, I have at least learned to keep my mouth shut when I am thinking something like that. I am learning I need to put myself in their shoes and have empathy for whatever they are going through. Sometimes the mental battle they are fighting is a lot greater than the physical discomfort they are feeling.

What about you? Are you one of those strong-willed motivated types that can pull yourselves up by the bootstraps and carry on in most situations? Do you have little or no patience with those who struggle with things that you think you could soldier on through? Let’s face it, whatever we think we are, we are not. We are all made from the dust of the earth and it wouldn’t take much for each one of us to be in the same position we find someone else in. The best thing we can do in most situations is extend grace and lovingkindness to others, since we don’t truly know everything they are going through. 

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8

Try a Little Humanity, please…

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A few weeks ago, I was at the bank paying off a car loan. I was excited and happy as I stood in line and waited my turn. A man came in behind me and I said a few words to him. He gave me a dirty look…he was SO angry. I am ashamed to say that the first thought I had (living in a world of Identity Politics) was that, “He doesn’t like me because I am white.” 

I turned around and thought about him for a moment and then I began to pray for him. Really, I didn’t know why he was so angry. How many times has the bank made a mistake in my account and I have gone down there really angry? How many times have I made a mistake and gone to the bank really frustrated? Of course, the answer to those two questions is, more than a few.

It is so easy to be in a situation and judge someone else because of their attitude when I don’t have the slightest idea what that other person is dealing with. I need to extend grace to people and at the very least, try infusing a little humanity in the situation I find myself in. However, that is going to take living in a way where I don’t judge people by the color of their skin, their religious preference or their lifestyle. I may only interact with them for a few seconds, but I can infuse that interaction with love and kindness.

There was not much I could do in the situation at the bank. The man obviously did not want to talk and the only thing I could do was pray. However, there might be something I can do in another situation. I might be able to help pay for someone’s groceries if they are having a tough time paying. I might be able to buy someone a coffee or a burger if they are behind me and appear to be having a hard day. 

The key will be to get out of my own head and not think that everything that is happening has something to do with me. Just like the man at the bank, there are probably extenuating circumstances that could explain why he was so angry. I will never know. I do know this one thing, though. Most people out there are having a tough time. Each person probably has at least one hard thing they are dealing with. I can’t know each individual’s story, but I can pray that God will show me how to try to infuse a little humanity into each situation I am in. 

Betting on the Wrong Horse

Have you ever gone to a horse race and bet on the wrong horse? If so, you went to the window and bought a ticket for your horse to win, place, or show. You may have paid a small amount for your ticket or you may have bet a lot. Sometimes, you may even have bet everything you had. If your horse was not a winner, you may have lost a little or a lot. One thing you do know is that you “bet on the wrong horse.”

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Even if you don’t bet on horse racing, it is easy to “bet on the wrong horse” in life. Perhaps you broke up with someone really nice thinking that the latest person you met was better, more exciting. Your new relationship begins to sour quickly when  you see that the new person is selfish, self-centered and toxic for you. You begin to realize that you “bet on the wrong horse.” This can happen in the job market also. You have a pretty good job, but you think you need a different one, one that will pay more so that you can get that fast car you have been wanting. Perhaps, you quit the old job and found that the new job is not what you thought it would be. Your new boss is a tyrant and expects you to work a lot of extra hours with no overtime, you’re now on salary. Again, you realize you “bet on the wrong horse.”

What should we do when we have made a bad decision, one that is costing us more than it is worth? The first thing we need to do is admit to ourselves that we made a mistake. We usually know it, but we must say it to ourselves. Then we need to honestly evaluate our situation. What else do we need to do in order to turn around and get going in the right direction?

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The next thing we must do is tell someone else. This step is a little harder to take because it involves our pride. We must be willing to admit our mistake to another person. The best kind of person to admit this to is one who can be trusted and is a lot wiser than we are. A parent, pastor, teacher or other counselor can usually help us get turned around and get moving in the right direction. Many times we don’t want to admit our mistakes to others but the truth is that those closest to us already know we have made a mistake. They are just waiting for us to see it for ourselves and seek their guidance.

What do we do if we have “bet on so many wrong horses” that our life is filled with losing tickets? We have completely messed up in so many areas that we don’t think there is any way to get turned around and get going in the right direction? That’s when we need to go to the One Person who can help us. Yes, I am taking about God. He is more than willing to take us where we are and bring restoration into our lives. The word “repentance” is sprinkled throughout the New Testament and it is from the Greek “metonoai” which means to change one’s mind. When we change our mind about our decisions, we can then come to God and seek His mind on the matter. We can admit to Him that we have messed up and ask Him to help us.

Is it easy to go to God and tell Him we have made a disaster out of our lives? Not always, because again, it involves our pride. We must humble ourselves before Him and admit our mistakes. The good thing about it is that He, just like those closest to us, already knows that we have made mistakes. He is just waiting for us to see them, admit them, and ask for His help. His Word is full of examples of people just like us, who made mistakes and needed His help. 

Betting on the wrong horse…easy to do. Admitting to ourselves we have made a mistake…not so easy. Admitting to others and to God we have messed up…a little harder. But getting turned around and getting a reset so that we can go in the right direction? Always more than worth it!

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9