He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Balanced Life

I was talking with a friend this week about how, we as a culture, have the mentality that we have to have ‘more’ of everything!  Most families have a minimum of two cars, closets full of clothes, dozens of pairs of shoes, all the latest appliances and newest gadgets, every new video game (and the apparatus needed to operate it), all the newest videos and books, new cell phones as trends demand, and new furniture along with a garage full, to over flowing, of other ‘stuff’!  So massive are the ‘things’ we accumulate, we have to store part of it in storage units.  Studies indicate self-storage facilities have become a $22-billion dollar a year enterprise.

            We are driven to work as many hours as possible to have the money to buy all these “things,” along with bigger houses and even more things!  All this work is to attain what is known as “the good life.”  But I wonder, are we really?

            When we work ourselves into oblivion, is that good?  We are so caught up in making the next sale, getting more hours or making the biggest deal, we lose sight of what is important.  My friend and I were discussing a documentary called “The Minimalist” which he had watched.  He explained the concept is to live on the least possible, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  The documentary even includes topics like personal growth and relationships.

We all face triumphs and tragedies, and the pioneers across the country were no different.  Generations past lived as indentured servants, felt great worry and fear as their loved ones left another country to come to the US, or sons left for a great Civil War that nearly ripped our nation apart.  Each of these actions was to further the “good life” for the generations to come.  Yet, they too, needed to take time out for God.  

            Before the culture of enormous technology, most people read the Bible, largely because it was the ‘Literature’ available.  Video games, TV shows, internet and other such diversions were not yet invented, so they didn’t have those kinds of distractions.

            It’s all about having a balanced life.  When we get so involved in ‘getting to the top’ and focusing on how many material ‘things’ we can accumulate, we lose sight of what is important.  We risk our relationships with our families and ourselves, which includes quiet time and activities for our well-being; and our God.

            There are times we are so focused on getting out of the house on time in the morning, we put off quiet time with The Lord.  When we are finally back home, domestic duties or other responsibilities press in and put off stopping to take time for Him again.  When we finally make it to bed at night, we are so tired, we are asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow!  This suggests our life may not be balanced. 

            I encourage you to re-evaluate your life.  Is it time to consider a less cluttered life that will likely offer more balance and happiness?

Monday, April 17, 2017

God As Our Center

         Most of us are familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes, which recounts Solomon’s desire and search for all that is good in this world.  Solomon looked everywhere, but in places that did not include God.  He looked at pleasure knowledge, and material things as focal points, to bring him happiness.

            Our world is full of people searching, not unlike Solomon----experimenting with drugs and alcohol, sexual escapades, pornography, careers, gambling, collecting material possessions including big ticket items like cars and houses; sports, and dozens of other types of ‘idols,’ in a search to fill a void in our lives. 

            Everywhere you look you can find articles and workshops, books and blogs for self-help.  The very fact so many are available, suggests people have a real problem! There are all kinds of ideas on how to fill the void in our life, from success to yoga and many, many in between!  But most of these self-help ideas do not include God. 

            Solomon is considered very wise.  When God offered him anything he wanted, he asked for wisdom.  The very idea that he had the thought process to do this, indicates he longed for a right relationship with God, like his father, David.  Yet, with all his wisdom he made choices that led him away from the God of his father.  He married into cultures that were forbidden, and to placate his many wives he allowed other gods to enter his life and began worshipping them.

            This led him down a path of anything but happiness!  His priorities had changed.  God was no longer his center.  Instead of contentment in life, everything brought a measure of disappointment including his family, friends, his life in general and even himself.

            Isn’t this exactly what we see in our world today?  It’s fast paced, with an attitude of working until we drop so everything we own is bigger or better, and more than any of our neighbors. 

            Like Solomon, we need to remember that our external pleasures will not bring eternal joy.  Everything on this earth is momentary and will one day be of no value at all.  In reality, all our earthly possessions, awards, accolades or notoriety, hold no value now, if our center is not God.  It matters not how much we have collected of anything!  None of it will bring us true joy, peace or pleasure, if these ‘things’ are placed before God. 

            God insists on being first!  He is a jealous God.  Anything we willfully put before him is an idol.  We may think our activity, or outing of ‘pleasure,’ is something we deserve, and it may well be; but if we put it before God, it’s wrong.  It requires rethinking our priorities and making things right with God if we ever want to have the perfect peace of God.

            When we ignore the nudging from God, turning our backs on what is right because we believe it is our ‘due,’ then repentance is in order. We’re no different than Solomon and one day we’re going to have to come to terms with our behavior.  

           The aching void that is camped in our hearts, leaving us searching for new ways to enjoy life, can only be filled with God as our center. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Altering My Destiny

           As a child, I remember wondering what I would be when I grew up.  It wasn’t something my family talked about much.  Most of my extended family was poor, and since that is what we knew, it was accepted as “life.”  It was “meant to be” and you couldn’t do much about it!  

          There was one aunt who married into a family of greater wealth than what most of the family had, and it seems she no sooner married than relations became extremely strained; to the point of being totally cut off.  Two uncles took a different road, as well, moving many states away to live their lives.  I have no memory of having met either one of them, yet both are alive and have children, and certainly I expect grandchildren by this time.  They chose to change the course of their lives; they changed their “expected” destiny!

            I have a friend, who for years, said he would become a rich man.  He also said he would stop some specific bad habits, ending with, “It is my destiny.  My life was laid out before I was born, so it doesn’t matter what I do, when it’s time, these things will happen. It is a predetermined course over which I have no control!”  I’m not sure I agree with this idea since, while I know we all have a “destiny,” we alter that course by our choices because we have free will.

            God has a purpose for all our lives.  It is part of the “creation God instills in us before we are born.”  He gives us gifts and opens doors that can lead us down the path that does His will.  But as humans, we can ‘go the long way’ if you will, because we make choices that are not part of his plan.  He doesn’t force His will on us.  It’s a choice.  Consider the Israelites when they left Egypt.  God’s plan was for them to go into the Promised Land.  But their choices left them wandering in the desert for forty years. It was the next generation that finally crossed the Jordan. 

            As I grew into a young teen, still I did not know where my life would lead me.  There was a time I considered teaching and dreamed of writing, but that dream seemed so unrealistic, I didn’t dwell on it but for a moment.  I believed writing was for someone who had much education, was gifted in Literature, had to live in New York or some other busy city, and it could never be me!  It truly never occurred to me that if God wanted me to write, then a writer I would be!

            Yet my destiny was different than what I imagined.  God did have a plan, but I suspect ‘I took the long way’ much like the Israelites because I didn’t believe in my skills or God’s power and purpose.  Of course, God can use my choices to work out His plan.  Writing later in life gives me the perspective of “life experiences,” something which had I started in my youth, I would not yet have had.  Still, if I’d followed my ‘dream,’ however brief, there might have been so many other possibilities.  I’ll never know. 

            Our destinies are part of who we are supposed to be, but the path can go forward, or backward, with lots of “bunny trails” along the way.  We need to be open to God’s guidance, looking to see with a prayerful heart if we are walking through the doors God opened or forging a path through a forest (or desert) we weren’t meant to be.

            Are you following the destiny God has for you?  Have you searched with a pure heart what God’s purpose is?  Or…..are you hanging back, unwilling to grow and produce the ‘fruit’ God has designed for you?