Moving boxes (Photo credit: Andrea_R)
My family and I are moving. We are in the throes of asking the question, “What will we need?” We are not sure of our answer. The new house and community are different from our current living situation. We, like most people, probably have too many things, but we just do not know what the future will hold. As we debate the need for personal belongings, I am wondering about other needs as well.
What do you need to be content, happy, and fulfilled? Do you need a lot of money? Do you need a lot of things? Do you need a certain standing in the community? I imagine most of us have fairly simple needs, but we try to make things more complicated than they need to be. We need . . .
- to know that we are making a positive difference in the world
- to be able to have our physical needs met
- to know that we are a part of something larger than ourselves
Instead of focusing on the extra things of life, why not pay attention to these four things? As we seek to take care of the basics, I suspect that the other things will take care of themselves.
English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I want to better. I want to send emails and write blog entries with no spelling errors. I want to be healthier. I want to be a more compassionate person. I want to be more effective in my time management. I want to be neater. I want a better relationship with God. I want to give my family more quality time. I want to cook more and eat out less. I want to drink less soda. I want whiter teeth. I want to be in a better place financially. I want to be a better listener.
The list of my wants goes on. I imagine I am not the only one who wants to be a better version. The way I live my life is a testament to God, so every error seems to be letting God down. My imperfections are glaring and ever before me. I imagine that is why I like Peter so much. He routinely makes mistakes in the Bible. He is rebuked, warned, and scolded. He denies Jesus. Yet, it is on him that the church is built.
Peter shows us that we are not expected to be perfect. We are expected to do our best to honor God. We are expected to realize our need of God’s guidance. We are called to realize that we need other people to help us and hold us accountable. No one is perfect. We all want to be better. We can only expect a certain amount of self improvement, the rest is god improvement. Especially this week, let us be molded and shaped by the one who loves us unconditionally. Let’s not pay attention to the small things, but let us pay attention to the large things. Let us pay attention to Jesus, our faith life, and how we share our faith with the world. Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Do you deny Jesus? Do you deny Jesus your time or attention? Do you deny Jesus a place in your decision making?
Maybe we cannot get all our wants met, but we can grow as children of God. We can in our imperfect states be builders of the kingdom. Allow God to work in and through you. Accept God’s offer of relationship with you just as you are.
phaedra and our letters (Photo credit: lukemontague)
The mail is a part of our lives. We receive letters, bills, announcements, statements, flyers catalogs, reminders, and junk mail. It comes pouring into our lives at random. Then, one day, a piece of mail can’t change everything. A piece of mail can alter the course of our lives. In one page our plans can be disrupted and our path no longer certain
Thirty-three people received this kind of mail recently. These thirty-three people found that their contracts with a local school system will not be renewed. The school system is making cutbacks to avoid a budget short fall. Whether or not the cuts are necessary or justified is not the point. The point is that thirty-three people have just had their futures altered. They now need to look for other employment. They need to determine if they can continue to live in the small county they work, or if they will have to move. They have to decode with their families what cutbacks will be made in their household budgets.
One piece of mail can make all the difference. Those thirty-three found that they will be unemployed. Other mail offers blessings. Consider love letters, cards of welcome, and thinking-of-you cards that arrive in that same mailbox that brings us letters of rejection and difficult life changes.
We choose what mail we send. We choose if we offer a positive and uplifting message, or if we choose to reject others. Let us be purposeful in sending mail of a positive message. Let us fill mailboxes with blessings, hope and love. Let us make a positive difference in the life of others.
Brooklyn Museum – Woman Fixing Girl’s Hair – Odake Chikuha (1878-1936) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Prior to church the other day, a woman offered to help me fix my spot. She told me that everybody’s got a spot. It is the spot on the crown of our heads that often is not covered by hair. It is not a bald spot. It is just a spot that shows our scalp because of the way our hair grows.
She was helpful and right. Everybody does have a spot. We all have a spot in our lives where we need some help. We all have a spot in our lives that we cannot quite see. We all need someone or several someones to help fix our spot. This is the spiritual discipline of accountability. We as Christians share the truth that someone has a spot, then we help them grow and improve. My spot was fixed for that day and then she offered advice on how to regularly fix the spot.
Who tells you about the spots in your life? Who do you help with the spots in their lives? As Christians we are called to do this. In order for it to happen there needs to be a close relationship built on trust. Often this happens as a part of a small group. Consider becoming a part of a small group that offers encouragement and accountability. Some of these groups are focused on an activity, such has hands on mission or a book study. Some groups have coffee together. Each one provides a place where the spots may be discussed, acknowledged, and corrected. We all have spots. It is what we do about giving and receiving help with our spots that matters.
English: Barking Dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We have two dogs at my home. Maggie is our Scottie. She is nine years old, and she is very bright. Cheze is our beagle. She is three years old, and she is very loving. They have very different personalities, but they usually get along with each other. The other day, Cheze was in the office with me. As she watched out the window, she noticed movement on the perimeter. She barked, loudly and repeatedly. She decided that she must investigate. So, she went outside. Maggie was already outside in the fenced in backyard. Maggie was lounging in the sun on one of our deck chairs as Cheze charged out the door. Maggie did not know the reason for the barking, but she immediately took off from the deck, barking and defending the perimeter. The perimeter is the fence line around the backyard.
The reason for all the commotion was a few dead leaves being blown by the wind. There was no great emergency. There were no squirrels in the yard. There were no animals outside the fence. There was no threat to the safety of the family. There were just a few leaves. Their behavior reminded me of how we human beings act. First, we get all worked up when we perceive a threat. We become anxious. We decide immediate action is required. We make a lot of noise. We get others riled up and on alert. We have a chain reaction of anxiety and noise-making. We text and call about the perceived threat. We blow our horns in traffic. We make a lot of noise. We raise our own heart rates as well as the heart rates of others.
Sometimes there is no threat. Sometimes it is just a leaf blowing in the wind. Instead of jumping to a noisy defense, maybe we should take a more sensible approach. Maybe their should be more investigation and less jumping to defend. Maybe we need a sense of calm rather than jumping to a reaction. What if we support our friends by listening to them rather than reacting with them? Instead of barking, we may just need more understanding of the situations we and our friends encounter. If we are seeking peace, then maybe we should begin by living a more peaceful existence.
A contemporary kitchen pantry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is time to clean out the pantry at my house. This is no real surprise. Actually it is past time. I can tell because the members of this household keep asking me where certain things are. Actually the real reason I can tell is that I found un-opened Mint Milanos. They have been here since Christmas. If the members of the household realized their presence, they would have been consumed long ago. There are partial bags and boxes of all sorts of things in there. On the floor is a loose onion. Definitely time to purge and tidy.
My pantry is in many ways like our lives. We get so wrapped up in the things that are going on externally that we fail to realize the internal state of things. We keep shoving things in. We lose the good things, like Mint Milanos. We also allow things like stray onion to rot. A rotten onion is much bigger issue to deal with than a onion passed its usefulness. We have a clutter of parts and pieces. We start to feel disconnected. We lose touch with what we are and who we are. We feel a sense of being lost and unable to find what we need within ourselves.
Is it time for you to take inventory? Is it time for you to pull out memories, thoughts, and feeling, and take a look at them? Is it time for you to purge some things from your life. Maybe you have been holding on to bitterness, anger, hurt, unrealized expectation, and other things you need to release. Maybe there are just too many things left unfinished. Only you and God know the state of your internal self, but others need you to have things in order. The world needs your best self. You cannot be your best self if the inside is a disorganized, unavailable jumble. You are person of great worth. You owe it to yourself, God, and the world to take care of your internal self.
Image via Wikipedia
It is Shrove Tuesday. This is the day before Lent begins. Lent is a season dedicated to growing spiritually. It is a time of working on our spiritual lives. Many people choose to abstain from certain things to help them become more aware of God. The act of giving something up also serves as a penance, a way to make amends for the sinful often self-centered way that life is led. It is helpful to me to set certain goals for the season. These goals help give me direction in my growth. Here are the areas I am working on this Lent.
Prayer: my prayer time is often haphazard. While it is meaningful, it is not as intentional as it could be. In this season I will be maintaining several prayer practices to help my prayer time be more intentional. I will be praying in a certain place for this season. This does not mean that I will not be praying at other times, but it does mean that it will be a time of sitting and focusing on the prayer rather than multi-tasking. I will also be praying at a certain time. This means that everything else will stop at 9:30 each day for prayer. Usually my prayer time works around the other activities of my day, but in this season, my prayer time will be on the calendar first.
Fasting: My fast will be from coffee. This means that I won’t have coffee. This denial is sacrificial for me, and I will call to mind those who sacrifice much more than I do regularly. It will call to mind those who live under unfair economic conditions who harvest coffee. It will remind me that Jesus sacrificed much more than a chemical stimulant and comforting routine.
These are my two practices. There are many others, but I think these will give me an opportunity to focus on God, to realize that far too often I focus on myself, and to grow in my spiritual life. I invite you to consider ways that you might grow in this Lenten season