Living Others’ Lives for Us

imagesNot everyone takes the same path we take. I know, it seems like such an obvious observation, but as I listened to people talking one day, I noticed the hint of judgment in the discussion.

It mainly centered on work and education. It was a casual conversation, but it included statements, such as,

  • If he/she would only get more education
  • If he/she would only use his/her education
  • If he/she was willing to work different hours
  • If he/she was willing to put in some extra time
  • If he/she was willing to…

You get the idea.

Every “if only” was following by the declaration that a particular choice would yield more money, status, or success. The underlying tone was, “Why wouldn’t someone choose this route if it will lead to more money, status, success?”

Because…not everyone defines success, status, or “enough” money the same.

We have to be careful. There are plenty of people who are living different lifestyles than us and doing just fine. They might not have all that we have, but that’s not a bad thing. They might not even want what we have, and that’s not a bad thing either. After all, do we always look at someone who has more and long for it? And if that person were to say, “all you have to do to be like me is…,” would we jump into action, or would we skeptically refuse to believe it’s as easy as someone makes it sound?

We might wonder why people don’t try harder and do more, but are we comparing them to ourselves and our ideals? Perhaps we could acknowledge they can provide and succeed in different ways, and we can encourage them where they are and toward where they want to go. Maybe they’re content in the work/money sphere, and their focus on change and growth are in other areas of their lives. Maybe we compare because it makes us feel better, as if our ideals are right. If we begin to admit someone leading a life different from ours, one we see as “less” than ours, can be satisfying, we may feel less about our standards and our lives.

Maybe we can respect and encourage others without making it about ourselves.

Satisfied with Mud Pies

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

We can think our desires for earthly stuff and past-times is so strong that they overwhelm our eternal desires. As Lewis suggests, perhaps that’s not exactly accurate. Perhaps it is our desire for God that is not strong enough. We let it get overwhelmed with earthly stuff. That makes sense, because it’s what surrounds us, what we see. We live on earth, and sometimes, it’s difficult to put first what we can’t see or what we think we can put off for a while. We think we’ll get more serious about our relationship with God later. If we know much about Him at all, we know He’s patient, forgiving, and merciful. So, He’ll accept what He can get from us, right?

Of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s always enough. God knows our motives. He knows our preoccupations. He knows our struggles, our doubts, and our misunderstandings. He also knows our rejection and rationalizations.

Longing for eternal life for Him isn’t a “someday” thing. Eternity is now, too. Longing for eternal life with Him isn’t about life in heaven, hanging out with loved ones, or getting our way, because we think that’s what heaven is. There’s a lot we don’t know about heaven, but we need to fact check what we claim to know, because much of it just makes us feel better.

Longing for God isn’t about refraining from some things as much as it is pursuing others, especially God Himself. When we do, we set aside the mud pies to savor something else, something much better, beyond what we can imagine.

Would you rather play in the mud?

mud-pie-kitchen-dirt-small-things-blog

Life In The Cockpit Of Technology

We gather all the things we need–our phones, laptops, tablets, and more–and we place our earphones on and focus. We can connect with people through technology. We can take care of many tasks. We can work uninterrupted, or at least with a feeling of control over our interruptions.

We’re not unlike pilots in their cockpits as they fly when we lock into our technology spaces. We let few people enter. We have control, or at least we think we do. We take on big responsibilities, but we do it in the illusion of isolation.

Technology gives us the opportunity to make quick connections and have effective productivity. But the more we think we can do within our reach, the more we enter a bubble to get more done. We are more content to focus on tasks than people. When we focus on people, it is often through a screen or microphone.

Technology can open up the world to us, so why do we close ourselves off and connect more with the technology than the world? Why doesn’t we use what have access to as a gateway instead of a destination? We become content to see photos instead of reality, videos instead of experiences, multi-tasking chats instead of face-to-face conversations, read someone else’s opinions instead of wrestling through our own doubts and issues.

The challenge is how to live with technology and use it well without closing ourselves off from the people in our lives. Being in the same room is not the same as being present with people, including ourselves.

How engaged are you with your phone compared to how engaged and invested in people are you?

It’s worth honest reflection and assessment today, so you can live better tomorrow.

Life In and Out of The Sweet Season

Have you ever had that “sweet season,” when you just seemed to be content and peaceful? You appreciate where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Even though life isn’t perfect, it feels like “all is right with the world.” You have a sweet friendship, a sweet job, a sweet reprieve from health concerns, or something else that spurs you to breathe a deep sigh of contentment.

There’s a part of us that wishes we could stay in the sweet season, but we can’t. We can easily become discouraged when we don’t accept the reality that we can’t stay there forever. We need to thank God for the sweet season but not expect Him to keep us there. We would miss out. We’d miss the lessons of hardships and challenges. We’d miss the trust we find when we need to cling to Him through doubts and trials. We’d miss the relationships He forges through the tough times. We’d miss the conviction of correction He gives us when we get complacent or rebellious. We’d miss the appreciation of the sweet season in comparison to the chaos of the seasons surrounding it.

The sweet season isn’t the goal here on earth. It’s the exception that gives us a glimpse of hope and a moment or reprieve. It’s an invitation into appreciation, not an expectation of what we deserve to maintain throughout lives. It’s a gift, not a right.

Appreciate the sweet season, but remember the appreciation mainly comes from the context within the rest of your life.

Receive it as a blessed treat. Enjoy it. Let it prepare you for the next season, which may not be as sweet but still comes with plenty of opportunities to choose contentment and appreciation.

Please Stop the Bleeding

sandA woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:25-29)

This woman pursued Jesus in a crowd. It was a risky venture for a weak woman who wasn’t usually around people. But she took the risk because she wanted to be released from the pain, loneliness, and weariness, and she trusted Jesus would be able to release her.

He did.

We all want to be released from something, because we’re suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually. The woman who had been bleeding for twelve years must have been desperate. She was isolated, ostracized, and likely exhausted and weak from incessant bleeding.

Sometimes we need to pursue Jesus, asking and trusting Him to release us of something. We must be active in our pursuit of Him and confident in our faith in Him. Other times, we need to accept when God wants something in our lives instead of release from it. We still must be active in our pursuit of Him and confident in our faith in Him.

Robbed of Joy, or Filled with Joy?

BeFilledWithJoyYou have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:9)

Joy isn’t circumstantial, but happiness is. Happiness is enjoyable, but it’s also fleeting. Joy is the firm confidence that all is well, regardless of the circumstances. God wants us to be full of joy, regardless of our circumstances. He’s not satisfied with partially or almost full. He wants us to be joy-full!

Being filled with joy requires awareness of the joy-stealers in your life. It’s even more important to realize you can claim joy and lock it into your life so that no one and no situation can steal it. Joy can become a constant in your life, even when your experience of joy changes through situations. It’s not that we have less or more joy – we can be full of joy through any circumstance – but there are times we will struggle more to find, realize and embrace it. And there are times we’ll realize we’ve been taking joy for granted.

To be anointed with the cup of joy is to have God set you apart with joy. He fills you with the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in you, including joy: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). As your life is full of joy, people around you see God working in your life. Be joy-full!

Identify the joy-stealers in your life and then toss them aside as you claim the joy God intends for you.

What Is “Enough”?

gold_coins-6908The people on the van were from a variety of resorts. Each of us had signed up for a day-long trip, and the van drove from one resort to another, picking us up for the day. Spending time together as we traveled was a great way to meet people. As the day neared its end and the people dwindled as we made drop-offs at different resorts, the conversation turned to comparing the resorts, our experiences of them, and sharing insights of other resorts we had visited.

My husband and I have found these type of conversations helpful, because we like to try different areas and different resorts. We know people have varying priorities, so just because one person recommends a place doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for us. But we like to hear the pros and cons of many options.

However, as I listened to this particular conversation, my stomach turned. I listened to the talk about the amount of lobster, quality of steak, promptness of staff, amenities, best deals, and so on, and I thought of all that I had seen throughout the day. I remembered our guide telling us the average annual income for people on the island was $6000, the same cost some people on the bus were quoting as their one-week resort rate. I looked through the darkness at the outline of our guide and van driver and was embarrassed to have them overhear the conversation.

We are so rich in so many ways, yet we easily slip into comparisons and discontentment. We want more because we don’t think we have enough. The probably isn’t need; the problem is want, the desire for more, the distorted value of “enough.” I wondered how much richer our guide and van driver were than any of us on the van that night. Perhaps they had a better perspective than we did. Perhaps they were more content. I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if they believed what they had–whatever it was–was enough.

I think it’s a good think to want more, but only of the right things. Too often, we turn God’s economy upside down. We have too much want for what we don’t need and don’t have enough want for what we most need.

Perhaps it’s a good question to ask yourself today. What is “enough”?