Gratitude – The Way Back From The Desert of Discontentment

pexels-photo-459319.jpegIt usually starts with a thought. The thought flies through my brain so fast, I cannot even tell you what it was. A few minutes later, another one comes; it lingers a bit and I focus on it. The thought usually starts with some form of “You don’t, You can’t or You aren’t.” The thoughts keep coming and if I dwell on them; I begin to feel discontented with my life.

The negative feelings usually follow the negative thoughts. If I allow myself to think and feel them for any length of time; I begin walking in the Desert of Discontentment. I don’t go there very often, but when I do, I begin to think about my life choices. What if I had made different choices? What would my life be like? Would it be better? If I let my mind go down that path for any length of time, I walk even further into the Desert of Discontentment.

Usually after about an hour of walking in the Desert of Discontentment, I start to look around. It is dry and hot in the desert and very little vegetation grows there. I find myself unhappy and I don’t want to stay there any longer. I turn around and head back the way I came. I look for a landmark to guide me back and then I finally see it.

On the edge of the desert, there is a small hill named Gratitude. If I keep my eyes on the hill, I can find my way out. With each step, I think about what I am grateful for: my home, my family, my health and a hundred little things I quit being thankful for the moment I stepped into the desert.

My hike out usually takes less time than my hike in did. After a few moments of focusing on the things I am grateful for, my discontentment begins to leave. I can see my life and my circumstances from a more positive perspective and I can find my way back from the Desert of Discontentment. And I am always truly grateful for that.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thess. 5:18   NKJV

A Praying Mantis

Several years ago, I came home from work and there was a praying mantis on the wall in the living room. I really do not like most insects and this one was really big. Usually, my husband takes care of any insects in the house but he was at work. Feeling a little silly, I called his office. 

Amy, his secretary, answered and I told her I needed to talk to him because I had a problem. She wanted to know if it was urgent and if I needed to disturb him (he was with a patient). I said, “Well, there’s a praying mantis on the wall and I don’t know if it is a p-r-a-y-ing mantis or a p-r-e-y-ing mantis.” She laughed, “Can’t you just catch him in a container and put him outside?” I replied, “Of course not. I would have to get near him and I can’t do that!” My husband called me a few minutes later and listened to my problem. He said, “Valerie…” I knew that meant he would deal with it when he came home. 

In the remaining two and a half hours before he came home, I fixated on the mantis. I closed the bedroom doors and tried to stay busy. I cooked dinner and all the while, kept going in the living room to make sure the mantis hadn’t moved. It seemed to get bigger every time I looked at it!  Mike eventually came home, took a plastic container, caught the mantis and released it outside. Boom! Five minutes and the problem was solved.

This story is not about sharing one of my idiosyncrasies (although there are many). It’s about focus and fixation. I had a choice when I came home (solving the problem was not one of them at the time). I could ignore the rather benign mantis and go about my business or I could fixate on him and lose a couple of precious hours of my life and my peace. 

We all have problems, many of which are quite benign. Sometimes we fixate on them and make them much bigger than they need to be. It robs us of our peace and can certainly ruin a nice day. How much better we would be if we could focus and fixate on something that would give us peace instead!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Just Answer the Call!

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Photo by axel grollemund on Pexels.com

Have you ever been in the supermarket and someone gets a call on their cellphone and won’t answer it? The phone just keeps ringing and ringing and we all want to say, “Just answer the call!”

It’s that same way with people who are running from God. They try this, that and the other thing and nothing quite works out for them. Nothing seems to satisfy their deepest needs. They might try drugs, alcohol, sex, work, material things, and relationships but nothing gives them the peace they are looking for. Those of us closest to them want to say, “Just answer the call!”

Why? Because we remember what it was like for us before we found the Lord. We were no different and certainly no better. Do you wonder if God is trying to call you? Or do you know for sure that it is Him, and that is why you won’t answer the call? You know, we are not guaranteed that He will keep trying forever.

Are you one of those that thinks that God has quit calling you? Have you ever checked your messages from Him? Check them. You will hear several: “Call me, I am waiting to talk to you,” I sent my Son to die for you,” and the best one, “I love you, in spite of who you are and what you have done.”

Do you wonder if He will answer if you call Him back? Will He be too busy talking to someone else? Let’s see what He has to say about it…”For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10:13. His words, not mine.

What if you answered the call before, but you have turned away? Will He reject you? Can He still use you after all you’ve done? When we turn back to Him, we find that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,” Romans 11:29.

You know, if might just be time to answer that call. Can you hear your phone ringing? I can…

Burning Bibles

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A few weeks ago in Portland, Oregon during one of the protests, someone staged a photo of Bibles being burned. The person (or persons) stacked about three Bibles, set them on fire and then took a photo of them. The photo went viral and of course, according to their plan, people were shocked and outraged.

For whatever reason, I did not react to it, but I have thought about it a lot. After all, people have been burning the Scriptures for Millenia. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) burned the Scriptures when he conquered Jerusalem in 168 B.C. Same with the Romans when they sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Scriptures were burned during the Spanish Inquisition and during the Reformation. The Nazis burned the Scriptures. I am sure in our modern era that the Scriptures are being burned in countries where despots reign and Christianity is a threat to their power.

So what was the motivation behind the Bible burning in Portland? Do the people hate God, Christians or the Bible? Who knows for sure, but in any case it was an act of defiance against authority. In this particular case, the authority of the word of God, and perhaps the authority of God Himself.

Am I shocked? No. Is the Lord worried as He sits on His throne? No, not hardly. Let’s look at it from His perspective:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2: 1-6

Remember this: People will come and go. Nations and Kingdoms will rise and fall, but the word of the Lord will last forever. You can count on it.

Photo by Rafael Juarez, Courtesy of Pixabay.

The Conspiratron 5000

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Within about a month of the Coronavirus hitting our shores, I began to get videos sent to me about it. Some were informative, some educational and some definitely were conspiratorial. As the months have dragged on, the conspiracy videos have definitely topped the list as far as the numbers go. So why are there so many conspiracy theories making the rounds?

For starters, since the world became aware of the virus, the general public has been lied to. We initially were lied to as to the genesis of the virus and about its human to human transmission. While those lies were being told, people traveled around the world spreading the virus from country to country. We have been lied to about the efficacy of masks and we have definitely been lied to about the numbers. We are still being lied to about the numbers. 

Economically, institutions were incentivized to lie about the numbers. If a person died from a car accident but tested positive for the virus, it was considered a Coronavirus death. Every death from a person who tested positive, whether they died from the virus or not, was counted as a death. What percentage did this inflate the numbers by? I do not know. I just know they were and possibly still are being inflated.

We are currently being lied to about the case numbers also. If you test positive for the virus, they do tracing and the people you have been in contact with are also counted as positive cases whether they have the virus or not. You have to look below the graphs to find the actual number of  positive cases. A person has to ask himself why are the officials doing this?

When the public is continually lied to and when the medical statistics and the science are being politicized, you have fertile ground for conspiracy theorists. So what can we do? 

We must watch and wait and see what happens. As each step takes place for our societies to reopen, we can keep an eye on our economies,  our banks, and our institutions. We do not have to jump to conclusions and live in a conspiratorial bubble. 

Make no mistake, I do believe that we are moving towards a one-world government and a cashless society. I do believe someday people will be required to have RFID chips in order to do business (it is already being tested in Sweden). Is that time now? Has all of this happened in order to move us closer to these predicted end-times scenarios? Has it all been planned? I don’t know. But until I do, I will hold on and try not to run all of these events through the Conspiratron 5000. I will take a few steps back, take a few deep breaths and try to objectively watch the trajectory of the virus and the governmental responses to it. Then, I will draw my own conclusions as to what is happening.

How about you? How are you dealing with all of the conspiracy theories being floated around? I would love to hear from you.

Just One Letter

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A few weeks ago, a Councilman in a Midwestern city did something small but extraordinary. He changed just one letter. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Outside of City Hall, someone had painted “Defund the Police” on the street. He didn’t like that message and so he painted over the U in Defund and painted an E instead. The message then read “Defend the Police.” The police in his city had been completely demoralized by those that were denigrating the work they did. I’m sure that having one person stand up and change the messaging was an encouragement to them.

So many times, we think that we have to do something really big in order to make a difference. That man showed us that one small thing can change the atmosphere in a city. Let’s think about another word…Live. Each day we get out of bed and we have a chance to Live. What if we intentionally changed the I to an O? What if we decided that just living wasn’t enough but we were going to make an effort to Love the people we came into contact with? Do we think that would make a difference? Could our actions eventually change the atmosphere in our homes, neighborhoods or cities?

When we look around, we see problems everywhere. We think that something small will not make an impact or have much value. In truth, that is not the case. Jesus himself taught us that “And whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42  Jesus was teaching us that we will be rewarded when we do even the smallest gesture if it is done with the right motivation. 

Small things CAN make a BIG difference. What can we do today in order to change the atmosphere in the world we live in? Is there a cup of cold water we can give someone? A bar of soap, a can of soup, a smile, or a helping hand? Let us not refuse to do something because we cannot do everything to fix the problems around us. Let us remember that sometimes it takes changing just one letter in one word! 

Image by Foundry. Courtesy of Pixabay

The Narrative

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THE NARRATIVE

For those of you who don’t know, there is a “Narrative” that is affecting how we receive our news. Depending on your choice of news outlet, you will read stories and opinions that support “The Narrative” that outlet is espousing. If you only get your news from one source, you are probably missing a lot of what is going on in the world today. Your source may not print many stories intentionally because the stories do not support their “Narrative.”

For instance, did you see the column on Forbes.com by Michael Shellenberger? He is a noted environmentalist who has recanted a lot of the views he held in the past. He wrote his column in response to the recent Climate Alarmism that is being put forth by several members of Congress. You didn’t see it? Probably because it was only up for a short time on their site. You have to ask yourself, why didn’t it stay up? The short answer is that it probably didn’t fit their “Narrative,” so it was taken down.

Did you hear about Kathleen Lowrey, an anthropology professor at the University of Alberta? She is an acclaimed gender-critical feminist who believes that gender is real and relevant. She was dismissed for her views because some students felt “unsafe” with her opinions. She probably wasn’t worth mentioning in most news sources because anyone who makes the mistake of holding the belief that gender is binary does not fit the current politically correct “Narrative” in our society.  

However, if you lived in Somerville, Massachusetts, you probably did hear about the city council approving Polyamory. In case you don’t know what it is, “it is the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships at the same time.” In other words, if several people want to live together in a “collective domestic partnership” they have the blessing of the city council of Somerville. These partnerships have been given the right to provide health insurance and other rights that are given to “families,” such as the right of hospital visits, etc. This story definitely does fit a particular “Narrative,” and received so much attention that many lawyers are contacting them because they are interested in writing ordinances similar to this one on a state and federal level.

Surprised at what you don’t know and haven’t seen on the news? I recommend getting your news from multiple sources so that you have a better idea of what is happening in the world. If you only read or hear your news from one side of the political or social spectrum, you are being fed whatever “Narrative” that source is espousing. Remember it’s not about the stories that are being reported, it is about the stories that are  being censored because they don’t fit “The Narrative” of that particular news source.

Image by Gerd Altman, Courtesty of Pixabay. Snippets of stories taken from LifesiteNews.com, July 3, 2020. Definition of Polyamory taken from Google.com.

Shooting Buffalo

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Photo by Lukas Kloeppel on Pexels.com

Where I used to live in Oregon, there was a ranch about fifty miles north that had a herd of buffalo (bison). They advertised hunts and people from around the world would come there to shoot buffalo. After they shot them, they would take home the head, cape and whatever other parts of the animal they wanted to. When they returned home, I’m sure they told their friends about it and their friends were probably wowed. “Way to go,” they probably exclaimed.

The only problem with this scenario is that buffalo are like cattle. They stand in the field and stare at you. A person can walk up to them and easily shoot them from fifty or a hundred yards. They will not even move…there is no sportsmanship required at all for the hunt. 

It reminds me of the politicians today who stand with the violent mob and say it is okay to loot, deface property and burn down buildings. They think it is okay to topple statues instead of letting the people of their cities and states make an informed decision on the matter. They go along with the crowd when the crowd says, “Defund the Police!” I even heard one political operative say yesterday that social workers should be sent into domestic disturbances instead of the police. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The only problem with this scenario is that the elected officials who say those things are only standing with the violent mob. It takes no courage whatsoever to agree and placate those voices that want to enact change by violent methods. As a mother of a former police officer, I know firsthand that the most dangerous call a policeman can respond to is one involving domestic violence. Really, send in a social worker to deescalate the situation? When I hear this lunacy coming from our elected officials, I just shake my head. Doesn’t anyone remember the French Revolution? No one was safe, not even the people that agreed with the violent mob. The mob eventually came for them also. So when our elected officials are praised by their likeminded peers and are admired for their stands condoning the violence, remember they are just shooting buffalo. No skill, wisdom or courage required!

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

I Know That I Don’t Know

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Last evening I listened to a black sportscaster and a black minister talk about the current problems in our society. They shared some of the experiences they had when they were growing up and I realized something: “I know that I don’t know what it is like to be black growing up in our society.” 

Mind you, I have had black friends and have interacted with many on a personal level. My father hired a black woman to take care of us when we were teenagers. He ordered Ebony magazine and had us read it so we could have an understanding of their culture. As a teenager, I protested outside of an establishment that wouldn’t allow blacks to be members. All that said, knowing about them and even knowing them has still not given me a true understanding of what their experience has been like.

In all of my interactions with my black friends, they have never shared their negative experiences with me. They bore their burdens quietly and with dignity and were a continual example to me. They never used their skin color as a reason for not succeeding at whatever endeavor they were trying to accomplish. One of my friends grew up in the south and I never heard her complain about the treatment she or her family must have received. I always waited for the subject to come up but it never did. One time she was talking about someone who was unkind to her at the store she worked at. Her comment was, “Oh well, they just don’t know any better.” That was her attitude…the people were just ignorant, and of course, they most certainly were.

I spent about an hour last night thinking about my friends and what it has been like for them. I was struck by the suffering they must have gone through each and every day just being a different color than the rest of us. This morning my heart has been expanded by allowing a part of their suffering to become my own. I can only join the Gaither Vocal Band and sing:

“I KNOW A CHANGE IS COMING, LET IT START IN ME.”