Patterns of Life

veniceDo not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

What healthy pattern is in your life right now?

What pattern do you need to tear out of your life?

How can tearing yourself away renew and transform you?

 

When we follow the patterns of this world, we anticipate what will happen by our own logic or patterns of experiences. We dread, expect, or claim what will happen. Conforming creates patterns. Sometimes, we need to tear ourselves away.

All patterns aren’t bad. Patterns can be positive and constructive. When we place standing stones to mark our experiences with and trust in God, the patterns that remind us how He has provided and guided in the past point into the future. We can trust He will provide and guide again…and again and again and again. However, we often cannot predict the specific direction.

When we are transformed, it becomes less about us and more about God. We acknowledge we don’t know the future and trust Him to prepare us for the situations ahead.

Preparation comes through transformation.

We’re not prepared today for what we’ll face tomorrow. We’re prepared to face today. And today mandates our full attention and participation in order to receive the preparation, the transformation, we need for tomorrow.

Prepare something today. It can be simple. Bake a cake or cookies. Make a simple craft or photo collage. What items or materials need to change through the process in order to complete what you’re making? How do you experience transformation in the process? Consider what this reminds you about the way God transforms you.

Believe It Or Not

6d232b852524b43cdf9ce75a50260be8Look at the nations and observe—be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (Habakkuk 1:5, HCSB)

When I first glanced at this, I thought “Isn’t this the case?” I thought of all the junk that goes on in our world today. It’s nothing new. Nations and people have had issues and struggles pretty much since forever. And we’re not going to solve it all.

But setting this aside for a moment, I glanced at the verse again.

You see, Habakkuk isn’t groaning about all the junk in the world. That’s not what is astounding. Another translation says, “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” (NASB)

The reason for the astonishment and wonder isn’t negative, it’s positive! And what we can’t believe isn’t what people are doing but what God is doing.

Well, that changes things.

Sometimes we need to look at something again. Look at people again. Look at a situation again. Look at God again.

Snapshot Moments, Video Life

240_F_16248506_F05h1oUKwBIIm8dsgrii07O3wIByUZxa.jpgIf someone showed you snapshots of my life, you’d assume a variety of things about me.

I’m not talking about the actual photographs stored in boxes and computers. I’m talking about moments of my life that might seem like isolated incidences…until studied in a photo.

Has anyone said to you, “Remember the time you…,” then they proceed to bring up one of those not-so-proud-of-it-so-why-d0-you-have-to-remember moments? Our families are good at it.

But we all change. We need to take videos, not snapshots.

Sure, snapshots are good for fun, silly, even bittersweet memories, but for capturing our lives, we need to be willing to consider a series of snapshots over time. We need to string moments and situations together. We need to refuse to keep someone in a time capsule, when they’ve clearly grown up.

 

Give people room and grace. See how they change. Acknowledge growth to encourage more – in both yourself and others.

The Mirror of My Soul

bibleI like spending time in God’s Word.

That’s not to say I don’t have questions and doubts, that I don’t get a bit bored through some sections, or that I understand everything.

But I don’t read God’s Word just for me. It’s not a self-help book. Oh, it certainly helps, but’s it’s more about Him than me.

I can open the Bible with the wrong motivation or expectations. But I’ve found there’s an approach – an attitude – that helps me.

I ask God to make His Word a mirror.

I know, that sounds as if it’s about me, but not exactly. Of course, if I’m the one reading, it has something to do with me. But looking into a mirror actually gets me to think beyond myself. It gets me out of my head and out of my way. I ask God to let me see Him and see truth. To reveal what’s real. To wipe the fog away and help me focus on what is most important. To engage with Him and become more like Him.

I’ve taken many approaches to the Bible over the years. I’ve scoured it to find inconsistencies. I’ve studies it to solve mysteries. I’ve skimmed it to satisfy my self-imposed obligations.

I’ve also made friends through it. I’ve been comforted in chaotic moments because of what was going on in and outside of it. I’ve let my pride and insecurities crumble. I’ve admitted I was wrong. I’ve seen brilliant hope pierce darkness. I’ve recognized mistakes and taken steps away from them. I’ve trusted God more even when I didn’t understand. I’ve become more patient and gracious. And I’ve grown.

I’ve grown because God has shown me purpose and possibility. That’s what He does. That’s who He is. That mirror of His works, because it reveals Him, and in the process, it reveals me.

You, too.

We All Need Fixed

change_takes_time_fitness_quote_classic_round_sticker-rdafebc83a82649428422e2dff6bee2f7_v9wth_8byvr_324Scroll through social media, and you’ll soon be reminded of many things that are wrong in the world, or at least, what your social media friends believe are wrong. And we all seem to have the fixes that seem so easy. It’s easy to point fingers, easy to claim faults, and easy to say how easy a solution would be.

“Why can’t people use their brains?” They are. But their brains work differently than yours and are filled with different understandings and experiences.

“Why can’t people just love one another?” Sounds good, but what does love look like when someone is threatening someone else, living in a way that’s harmful to self, or involves any number of situations that need correction or confrontation.

“Why can’t people be more understanding?” Try being understanding when you’ve been inundated with messages that tell you how others want to mistreat you, whether those messages are true or not.

Many times, our “if only” solutions that seem so easy involve others’ need to change their minds, approach, or beliefs. Yet we’re not in their shoes. Are we that willing to change? Are we willing to sacrifice our own mind, approach, or beliefs?

If we’re not at least willing to entertain the idea that we might need to shift, be patient, listen, engage people different than us, and be humble, we’re not going to get anywhere. We’re not going to experience change. We’re not going to get our quick and easy fixes.

Because change isn’t simple, quick, or easy. And change isn’t about others. It’s about us.

So the next time you think of what needs to be fixed, consider what needs to be fixed in yourself.

Perspective

When I wrote Farm Days several years ago, my sisters complained that I got a few details wrong. But it was my perspective. My memories (with some added stories my mom and dad shared).

As I’ve been writing this month, I’m well aware that my perspective might not exactly line up with someone else’s who knew my dad. We all have different memories and perspectives. I hope I’ve reflected reality fairly well.

Perspective changes over time. Mine certainly has. As I’ve grown, added life experiences, traveled to knew places, listened to a variety of people, and solved problems, I’ve learned. I’ve changed, and that alters my perspective of the present, future, as well as the past. Growing up on a farm, I had the perspective of a youngest-of-three-girls perspective. I can (at least try to) see my sisters’ and parents’ perspectives of some of the same situations now. I’ve seen each of them change through the years, too.

My dad changed, too. In my opinion, he was a fairly open guy, but there were definitely some “never” lines in the sand, especially when it came to dating and marriage. But sometimes it’s easier to say “never” when the situation is hypothetical. Once faced with the reality, things change. The same happened with farming. Dad was usually open to trying new things, but he also had a strong old-school streak. There were some advances that when they first came up as possibilities, Dad wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. Sometimes he was right: something wasn’t a good idea. Other times, he tried and accepted the new approach with little complaint.

It might take him a while, but he was willing to change, or at least listen to people’s ideas about change.

We need to not only be willing to change but to let others change, too. I could place a stake at any point along my life’s timeline and claim everything and everyone in that moment is the way it was, is, and will be. I could say, “But you said…” without considering the person might have changed his or her mind. I could point to a mistake or a success and let that define a person despite the years that have passed. I could claim, “That’s just who he or she is,” stunting the possibility of seeing and encouraging someone’s growth.

Changing our perspective (and seeing others change) takes humility, patience, forgiveness, and a lot of grace.

Assumed Motives

2015-09-04_16-19-24Why do we assume we know someone’s motives?

We think they’re irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, disorganized, or a myriad of other motives. When we don’t like the way someone responds, we can quickly assume we know his or her reason. And rarely is that assumption positive. We can slowly think we know someone in ways that we really don’t.

And that’s dangerous to a relationship, whether it’s at home, work, ministry, or in friendships. We need to be patient enough to clarify through observing patterns over time or simply asking, “Just so I don’t take this the wrong way, can you let me know if you’re (irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.)?”

Much of the time, if we’re willing to honestly listen and change our assumptions, we’ll find we’re wrong. And in the process, we’ll let others know we care enough to listen. We’ll try to understand them even when we wouldn’t do things the same way. We’re willing to let someone change what we assume.

And in the process, we’ll deepen our relationships. After all, people are more important than assumptions. People are more important than being right or having things our own way. Listening and being challenged isn’t comfortable, but it’s essential if we want to grow, both personally and relationally.