Success

apple-1873078_640

When we think of the word “success,” we usually think of it in a materialistic sense. Success from the world’s point of view is money, houses, cars, investments, jewelry; all things that add up to our net worth. However, when we think of the word from a spiritual point of view, it means something entirely different.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Gal. 5:3  This is a completely different interpretation of success. If we are the Lord’s, our lives are supposed to produce a kind of spiritual fruit that can be seen and experienced by those we come in contact with. Our fruit should affect the world around us in a positive way; it will be a natural outgrowth of the way we live our lives.

As fruit inspectors of our own lives, we see areas where we have grown and areas that are in need of some work. In order to grow spiritually, we must cultivate those things that will help us develop in the right direction. Spending time with other believers in church and listening to sermons is helpful, but there are a few other things that will definitely help us grow strong and mature in a healthy way. 

When we let our roots go deep into God’s Word and spend time in His Presence, we are able to soak up the nourishment we need in order to produce an abundant harvest. Unfortunately, the things we need most are the hardest to come by. Finding quiet time in such a noisy world is difficult to say the least. Difficult yes, but not impossible to do if we are creative and intentional.

When we shuffle off this mortal coil, and we all will one day, we want to have been a success. We want our family and friends to have partaken of the fruit of our lives and to savor its flavor when we are gone. We also want The Ultimate Fruit Inspector to see that we took advantage of the things He made available for us to grow and produce an abundant harvest during our sojourn here. 

Image by Lunix2004. Courtesy of Pixabay

Lipstick on a Pig

pngkey.com-lipstick-clipart-png-491215

Have you ever seen a photo (a real one) of a pig with lipstick on? If you have, you know that it just looks bizarre. We all can agree on one thing, you just don’t want to put lipstick on a pig.

You know though, it is something we do all the time. There are things, habits, in each of our lives that need to be dealt with. We need to change them, stop them, do something different, but instead of doing what we need to, we just accept them, put a little lipstick on them and keep on going.

For instance, do we harbor some ill will towards someone? Instead of forgiving them and moving on, we just secretly hold on to it and make excuses for it. Do we take pleasure in gossip about someone we are jealous of? If so, we are enjoying our pet pig and putting lipstick on it in order to make it more palatable to our conscience. 

What about those bad habits we imbibe in that are destroying out bodies? Perhaps we have one too many drinks when we come home from work. Or maybe we continue to smoke when we know it is killing us. We might be sneaking candy when we know it is making our blood sugar skyrocket. You get it, these are pet pigs we are harboring and we just put a little more lipstick on them each time we continue to imbibe in them.

How do we confront those pigs in our lives and do something about them? The first thing we must do is to take a good hard look at them and acknowledge them for what they are. They are pigs…and we need to get rid of them. Let’s stop putting lipstick on them and pretending that they are acceptable. They’re not and let’s face it. Lipstick never looks good on a pig!

Six Degrees of Separation

gray metal chain

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Years ago, the theory of Six Degrees of Separation was floated; a movie was even made about it. It purports that we are all six introductions away from meeting everyone else in the world. Over the years, I have thought about this theory a lot. For decades, I lived in a small town in a rural part of our state. There was not a lot of ethnic diversity in our town and so I wondered how this theory could be true? So, I decided to put it to the test.

I have a friend whose brother is married to the sister of a well known actor. Okay, that makes me four degrees out from meeting him. I have another friend whose husband was a politician. They traveled back to Washington D.C. and met several well known politicians. So that would make me three degrees out from meeting some of those people. But what about people living in Inner Mongolia? How many people would I have to meet in order to meet some of them? Or what about people living in the interior of China? How many people would I have to meet in order to get to know some of them? 

As I said, I have thought about this theory a lot and I don’t believe it is true. What is true however, is that even if we haven’t met those living on the other side of the world, we are still connected to them in many ways. We are not six degrees away from being connected to them. We are connected to them in a primary first degree way because we are all human beings.

For example, we all have the same basic physical needs. We have the desire for our families to be well and thrive. We have the same emotional need to be loved and well taken care of. We all desire to live in safety and be protected from harm. We are all similar in many ways despite our cultural differences. 

When we think of those on the other side of the world, we need to see ourselves as having a connection to them. We should care about them regardless of the country they live in or the government that is ruling over them. We should not dismiss them because they have a different skin color, ethnicity or religion. We are all just people and we are more alike than we are different from each other. When we see that they are in need, it shouldn’t take six introductions for us to reach out and help them, it should only take one.

The Check Out Line

woman wearing blue jeans riding red shopping cart

Photo by Jeremias Oliveira on Pexels.com

Early last week, my step-brother passed away, he checked out. He was younger than I am, and by rights, he shouldn’t have been the first one to die, but he was. I hadn’t seen him for years so I don’t really know where he stood spiritually.  He did however, let me pray for him a few weeks before he passed. The doctors told him he had a limited amount of time and so he had the opportunity to prepare spiritually for his turn in line. They gave him six months to live but it was only two weeks before his name was called at The Check Out Line. 

You see, we are all waiting our turn at The Check Out Line. The Check Out Line is not linear and it seems random at times. You would think the first people in would be the first to check out but The Check Out Line doesn’t work that way. Sometimes those who have been in a relatively short amount of time are the first to go. Since none of us knows exactly when our name will be called, we must ask ourselves the obvious question, “Am I ready to check out?”

Lots of people think they are ready to check out but they aren’t. Those that don’t believe in God or life after death think they are ready. Those that believe that “if they are a good person” think they’re ready. Those that believe we have lots of chances at The Check Out Line think they are ready also…but they are not. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. ” Hebrews 9:27-28. 

We all need to make sure we are ready for The Check Out Line. There IS life after death and we must all face Jesus, the righteous Judge of the universe when we check out. He will of course look at what we have done with the lives he gave us but the most important question will be, “What did you do with the free gift of salvation I offered you?” He DID die on the cross for our sins and He offers us eternal life with Him in heaven. If we want to spend eternity with Him, we must choose Him before it is out time to check out.

Patterns in the Chaos

silhouette of trees

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

When I think of the phrase, patterns in the chaos, I think of Jody Foster in the movie Contact. She had headphones on and was listening to the sounds in outer space that were picked up by the Radio Telescope Array in New Mexico. Someone asked her what she was doing and she replied, “I’m listening for patterns in the chaos.”  No matter where the chaos is,  it is a good thing to look for patterns in it.

As humans living on this planet, we deal with multiple forms of chaos. Take nature, for instance. Where there is a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or tsunami; we must deal with the resultant chaos that ensues. Each leaves a pattern of destruction in its wake in one form another. We have no control over this kind of chaos. All we can do is pick up the pieces and try to fix whatever has been broken or destroyed.

Then there is the chaos that is brought into our lives by others. If we have relatives or friends who have substance abuse problems, we know there is a form of chaos that swirls around them and the situations they find themselves in. Or if we have a family member or coworker who is unorganized or irresponsible, they create a level of chaos that we may or may not have to deal with. When we step back, we can usually see a pattern in their chaos. Again, we have no control over what another person does, only how we decide to relate to it.  Recognizing the pattern gives us the understanding we need  in order to deal with it.

None of us like to look at the chaos that we cause. When we make bad decisions, i.e. don’t pay our bills on time, spend money irresponsibly, or use poor judgment in one way or another; we create a level of chaos. When we step back and look at it, we can see there is a pattern to the chaos and that we alone are responsible for it. If we can recognize the pattern, we can learn to change our behavior. Fortunately, we do have control over this form of chaos and can do something about it.

There is another form of chaos that comes into our lives from spiritual forces. Have you ever made a positive decision spiritually? Perhaps you have decided to draw closer to the Lord, read your Bible more, give more to the Lord, or lead a Bible Study. If you have, you know that soon after you made the decision, you are bombarded with things or distractions that want to negate that particular decision. We each deal with an enemy of our souls that wants to keep us right where we are and prevent us from moving forward. Initially, and from time to time, these forces come against us. We don’t have control over them, but we can pray and ask the Lord to protect us from them. In order to take positive action (prayer) we must step back and see the pattern. Then we can recognize what is happening to us and begin to engage in the spiritual battle.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6: 12-13

Wise Men Still Seek Him

camels-1150075_640

In a few days, the Christian Church around the world will celebrate Epiphany…the visit of the Wise Men who came to see the child Jesus. We know little about them personally. The Scripture tells us that they came to Jerusalem from the East because they had seen a star in the night sky that told them The King of the Jews had been born. They sought him diligently when they came to Jerusalem, were told he would have been born in Bethlehem, and were guided by the star to the place where he lived. They brought costly gifts to Him; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They fell down and worshipped Him and were later warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem because the reigning King at the time, Herod,  wanted to kill the Child. Over the years, their story has been romanticized. Tradition holds that there were three or four of them and you see them in Nativity scenes and plays during the Christmas Season. But who were they really?

No one knows for sure, but there are a few things we can extrapolate from the story. Because they were called Magi (a Persian word), we assume they may have been from Persia. Magi were near the top of their society because of their education and scientific knowledge. They may have been astrologers or astronomers. They may have been in a position to advise the rulers of the day. They were certainly wealthy and made a trek of perhaps five hundred to a thousand miles to see the Christ child. 

Lovely story, for sure, but what is the take away for us, living in our modern society?

1. They could read the signs in the sky and acted on the knowledge that they had. Can we read the signs around us about the times we are living in and make the necessary adjustments we need to?

2. They were willing to leave their comforts and travel hundreds of miles to seek the King. Are we willing to forgo some of our creature comforts in order to seek the King?

3. Even though they were at the top of their society, they recognized that an even greater person had been born and worshipped Him. Do we let our place in society keep us from following the Lord because we are afraid of what people in our social circle will think of us?

4. They brought costly gifts to the King. Are we willing to give expensive gifts to the King, i.e. our time, talent and treasures?

5. They acted on the guidance they received and were willing to change their plans. Are we acting on the guidance we have received and are we willing to change our plans in order to seek and serve Him?

Even though this is a very short narrative in the Bible (twelve verses in the Book of Matthew), there is a lot we can learn from these Wise Men. If we want to be wise men and women, let us put ourselves in their place and think about the sacrifices they made in order to find the Christ child. Their example should make us willing to serve the Lord in an even greater and more sacrificial way. 

Image by Kevin Phillips. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Old Shoes

cowboy-boots-974937_640

Last week, I glanced on the floor of my closet and was surprised by what I saw…a pair of old shoes I won’t wear anymore. I’m a minimalist and so when I replace a pair of shoes, I usually throw the old ones away. I don’t keep them…period. Why hadn’t I thrown them away? I really don’t know, perhaps because they were SO comfortable, I hated to see them go?

We’re coming into a New Year. Most of us want to change at least one thing in our lives, but in order to do that we are going to have to let go of something comfortable, something familiar. You see, old habits are like old shoes…we need to let them go. Experts tell us that in order to create a new habit, we must do an action for twenty-one days. That’s how long it takes our brains to create a new neural pathway and for that behavior to begin to become familiar or comfortable for us. 

I don’t try to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, but I do pick one or two things that I would like to work on or change in the coming year. This year, for me, it’s time management; I would like to make better use of the time I have. So I have a choice, old shoes on old paths or new shoes on new pathways.

What about you? What would you like to work on in the coming year? Are you ready to let go of the old habits that rob you of your vitality and productivity? If so, let’s throw out the old and make way for the new!

Happy New Year to All!!

Image by AlexasFotos. Courtesy of Pixabay

Angels Announced His Birth

christ-898330_640

 

“For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government shall be upon his shoulder;

and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counselor,

The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it,

and to establish it with justice and with righteousness

from henceforth even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

 

Lord Jesus, as we reflect on Your First Advent, we await Your Second Advent when You shall truly bring peace to the earth and the restoration of all things. Amen

 

BLESSINGS OF THE SEASON TO ALL!!!

 

Image by Thomas B. Courtesy of Pixabay.

“We Like America!”

two-4289638_640

Last evening, my husband and I went to look at the lights and fountains at “The Village” here in the city we live in. The lights are usually spectacular during this season and it is one of my favorite things to do. It was cold and so we went and stood by one of the gas-lit fireplaces that are around the complex. Two young men were standing there and they began to share their story with us.

They had come to America some twenty years ago during the civil war in Bosnia. Their family had come en route through Germany and then on to the U.S. The oldest had been a teenager when they made their journey. When we asked him if he missed his native country, he explained that there was a large Bosnian community here. They even had a mosque down the street where they could worship. Although they personally didn’t celebrate Christmas, they were enjoying the beautiful lights and dancing waters of the fountains. When we were ready to leave, they both shook our hands and the oldest one said, “We like America!”

As we left those two young men, I thought about all their family had gone through to get here. I was so pleased we had taken in refugees who were fleeing a civil war and needed the physical safety our country could provide. I was proud that our city had taken in many from their country so they wouldn’t have to live in cultural isolation from their native land. Here they had the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. All in all, it was a great day to be an American!

Image by Mircea Lancu. Courtesy of Pixabay.