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

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

As we move into the New Year, there is a lot to keep in mind. One thing that will help us all is if we can remember that “Perfect is the Enemy of Good.”wisdom-92901_640

 

As a recovering perfectionist, I have to keep remembering this. Whether I am cleaning my house, doing a project, or writing an article; there is a point where I must say, “It is good enough.” If I keep striving to make it perfect, I am only going to be spinning my wheels and wasting my time.

I began to learn this lesson when my oldest son was a toddler. I would clean the house, look around and think, “Everything looks so good, it is perfect.” That would last about five minutes. He would drag his toys into the living room, spread them out and begin to play. My perfect home was no more. At some point, he would be done with those toys; we would pick them up, put them away and he would drag out some more. All day long this would go on, and only at night, when all the toys were put away and he was in bed sleeping, did my house look “perfect” again.

I then had another child. The cycle continued and I continued to be stressed on the inside because my “house wasn’t perfect.” Looking back, I can see that I should have just relaxed and enjoyed the fact that my children were having fun. That was really a good thing; my children had a good childhood and enjoyed their home. If I would have learned the lesson then, I could have saved myself years of stress.

You see, when you are a perfectionist, you look at life through a lens that casts a negative light on everything you see. That critical eye can find something that is not quite right in every situation. It can rob you of your happiness because as you look around, you see the things that take away from the perfection in every situation.

The truth is, life is not perfect, nothing really is. The new car is only perfect until you drive it off the lot and a rock puts a ding in the paint. That new home is only perfect until you move into it and someone spills coffee on the rug. The new husband or wife is only perfect until you start living with them. Instead of seeing things through the lens of perfection, we need to see things through a lens that sees the good in every situation.

As we move into the New Year, I wish you one that is good – not perfect!

The Facts are not Equal to the Truth

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When you think about your life, do you focus on the negative facts about it? Were you raised in poverty? Did your mother or father leave your family? Have you lost a business, an election or had to declare bankruptcy? Did you not have much of a formal education? Do you suffer from a physical or mental disability? Do you focus on these facts and believe that they are the sum total of who you are?

I just want you to know that the negative things that have happened to you do not define who you are. They are NOT the sum total of who you are. In other words the facts about your life are not equal to the truth of who you really are. Those negative things are just a part of the story of your life, they are not the totality of who you are. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few examples:

This man was born into poverty. He had about eighteen months of formal schooling. He failed at his first business. He lost eight times he ran for public office. He was estranged from his father. He battled depression for most of his adult life. Who was he? Abraham Lincoln. We all know that he was not the sum total of the negative facts about him and he made one of the greatest contributions to the history of our country.

This man was born into poverty. His parents were on the run from the authorities for the first few years of his life. He lived as an immigrant in a foreign country during those years. He worked as a skilled laborer. The last few years of his life, he lived as a transient. Who was he? Jesus. I don’t need to tell you the contribution he made to the planet.

Just remember one thing: THE FACTS DON’T EQUAL THE TRUTH. 

The truth of who you are is so much greater than any negative facts about you. Everyone has negative things happen to them. It is only part of the story of their lives. The truth about each one of us is far greater than any negative aspect about us. If we want to be productive people, we need to focus on the positive things in our lives and not focus on the negative things that have happened to us. When we do this, we can live our lives knowing that the facts about us don’t equal the truth of who we really are!positive-455580_640image by geralt. courtesy of Pixabay

 

“What’s In Your Hand?”

In my last post, I talked about finding our gifts and talents. So what happens when we do know what our gifts and talents are? Can we just move forward and find a path that will help us express them and use them for the benefit of others? Sometimes the way is clear, but at other times it is blocked, and many times we are the one’s blocking it. How do we block our own path forward? Through Self-Disqualification. 

What is Self-Disqualification? It is where we tell ourselves we cannot move in a certain direction because we either do not have the resources, qualifications, or we believe our past has disqualified us. Let’s look at each reason and let’s take them in reverse order.

Our Past: We disqualify ourselves and keep ourselves from moving forward because we have made some mistakes in our past. We tell ourselves, “Surely God cannot use someone like me.” This is the height of self-negation and it does not take into account the grace and mercy of God: the God of Second Chances. Let’s look at a few examples of people God used in spite of their mistakes: Moses killed a man and fled the country he was living in. God called him to become the leader of his people and help bring them out of slavery. Joseph spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Pharaoh took him from prison and made him the second in command in Egypt. David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed when he found out the woman was pregnant. God used these men in spite of the mistakes they had made or the places they found themselves. If he could use them, he can surely use us.

Our Qualifications: It is true that many times we don’t at the moment have the qualifications to do the job we aspire to do. That said, it will take some time and effort to find the right school, internship, or training we need. Remember, no one is born qualified. Each of us must find a way to get qualified if we want to pursue a certain career path or area of giftedness.

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The Resources: Granted we all need some resources to move forward. We may need a grant, scholarship or loan in order to get more training. We many need money for transportation if we want to volunteer somewhere and get our training that way. We all need something. But here’s the deal, each of us has something we can use to begin right where we are. How do I know this? Let’s look at one of the examples I used earlier. When God called Moses, he was living on the backside of the desert herding sheep.  Moses gave God all these reasons why he couldn’t do what he was being asked to do. Finally, God said to him, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses told him it was a rod. God then had him use what he had in his hand to help him accomplish the task he was given.

So I would say to you? What do you have in your hand that you can use to get started on your journey? Is it a pen, pencil, artist’s pad, mop, broom, vacuum or laptop? Is it a mower, rake, shovel, steering wheel or cell phone? We all have something right where we are that can help us get started in the direction we need to go. So let’s take what we have, where we are and get started. The journey will be exciting. We don’t know where it will lead and who we will meet along the way. But sure as can be, we will never get there if we don’t take that first step! 

“Cogito Ergo Sum?”

large[1]We have all heard of Rene’ Descartes famous saying, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore, I am.” Is it true? I don’t know; should we talk to the goldfish in my aquarium? He exists and I don’t believe he thinks. If he did, he would jump out of there in a heartbeat. After all, he will spend his entire life in a very small confined space. If he could think, he would either be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. He would most certainly need to be treated for a severe case of claustrophobia. Not to worry though…he’s happy. He probably lives responding to his innate biological needs and instincts. 

One thing we do know for sure is that we think and we exist. Are our thoughts important or are they just ethereal things that fly through our brains randomly? Jesus said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” So what does that mean? I think it means that the things we spend our time thinking about become a part of who we are. If we spend our time thinking about positive things, we will become a more positive person. The same goes for the negative. If we dwell on hateful, negative thoughts, we will also become more of that kind of person. We do have a choice about what kinds of things we think about and dwell on. 

Do we always have a choice about what comes into our brains initially? No, not always. We may be driving down the street and see a billboard with a negative sentiment or image. A thought will come into our mind about that image or sentiment. What do we do with that thought? We can choose to think about it or we can refuse to. We have to learn to be intentional about the things we think about. Scripture says that we are to “Take every thought captive.” Kay Arthur said it another way: “Frisk every thought at the door!” 

How do we do that? Simple, we replace it with another thought. We say to ourselves, “No, I don’t want to think on that, I will think on this.” We then choose to think about something positive or different than that image or thought. It takes practice and discipline to stop the negative and move to the positive. Does it really work?

Yes, it happens to me every day. I may be doing something and a random thought will come into my mind. Let’s say it is something negative about someone. I can choose to dwell on it or I can say to myself, “No, I choose to think differently about that person.” I then think about them in a different way and then I move on. I don’t want to harbor a negative image about anyone in my brain. There must be something good about them I can think about if I have to think about them at all. Sometimes, I will think on a Scripture verse that helps me put my mind back into a more positive mode.

Will it make a difference in our lives? I think so. I know two people who have dementia. One was a positive person during the course of her life and the other was negative. Now that they don’t have their faculties the way they used to, the basic thought patterns that they have developed during their lives have taken over. The positive person is cheery although she doesn’t remember much, and the other is as negative as she always was. It is sad to listen to her talk; she views everything from a negative perspective. They are examples that our thought choices really do matter.

What if we have chosen the negative most of our lives? Can we reprogram our brains? Yes, it is never too late. Our brain is a living entity and we can begin to be intentional about what we think about. If you need something concrete to help you get started, I would recommend  a book I read a while ago, “Switch On Your Brain,” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. It talks about “The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.” She has a 21 day Brain Detox Plan to help people reprogram their minds from the negative and help them get their brains on a more positive track. She has worked with the very young and very old and has seen success in both groups. I enjoyed reading her book and appreciated the scientific backdrop for her work.51hyrp28dPL[1] 

What about you? Have you found a way to be intentional about your thought life or are you letting thoughts take root in your brain that are harming you? Cogito Bonum or Cogito Malum: Think on the good or Think on the Bad. It’s your choice!