Musings from a 50 year old

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I turned 50 a few days ago.  I am a half a century old.  I am over half way through with life.  The odds are not in my favor to make it to 100.  This is another year full of change for me.  It seems to be a common thing in my life right now, so I guess I better get used to it.

As I consider the years to come, I want to make sure they have the most meaning.  I want to enjoy the journey and not get lost on the details. I want to be sure that the people that need me to touch their lives, I do. I want to make sure that I notice each friend that needs a smile.  I want to be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that when a person comes to my mind, I pray or reach out with a quick phone call.  Maybe they need a note of encouragement. I want to be in tuned to God’s Word, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and aware of the needs around me.

God has blessed me so abundantly that I want to be sure that I share this wealth of blessings with others.  I want to be so focused on being thankful there is no room for complaining.  I want to be so aware of those around me, I forget to be self-absorbed.  I want to be so busy recognizing the accomplishments of others there is no room for pride. I want to be so in tuned to others and asking the right questions, I forget my own personal struggles or realize that mine are not really that bad.

Jesus took His “me time” by getting alone with His Father.  Is that the way I view “me time?”

Jesus didn’t worry about impressing the masses, He wanted to make sure the individual felt loved and cared for.  The women at the well was at the bottom of the social ladder, yet Jesus made her feel like the most important woman in the world.

Jesus reminded us that if “you have done it to the least of these my brothers (and sisters) you have done it unto me.”  Do I order my day around the least or try to be seated next to the most?

Do I walk away from a conversation regretting what I said or did not say?  Does the person walk away from me feeling like their day was brightened and their load made a little lighter? Or did I say something that made them feel hurt and despondent?

Do I focus on people or problems?  Do I focus on people or paychecks?  Do I focus on people or personal gain?

I am reading about the life of Elijah right now in my devotions.  I have been praying that my walk with the Lord would be like Elijah’s.  He was fervent for the Lord.  Ready to be bold. Ready to care for the needs of others.  May the next 50 years of my life be filled with the faithfulness of Joseph and Daniel and the fervency of Elijah.

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Lessons from a Cake

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Dave has been wanting me to make him a Bundt cake that he found in the newspaper a few weeks ago.  I finally took the time to make it yesterday.  I had read the ingredients to make sure I had them all so that when I did get time, I would not have to run to the store.  I failed, however, to read all the instructions.  I started making the cake.  I got out my mixer and started adding ingredients.  I turned on my oven to pre-heat it. I started looking at the details of the process of making this cake.  It said to put the cake into a cold oven and then turn it on.  I had to turn off my oven (which was already at the temperature I thought it was going to need to be) and open the door hoping it would cool off before I needed to insert the cake.  In the middle of the cake a pudding like substance was supposed to be placed.  I was supposed to make it earlier so that it had cooled by the time I needed it in my cake. OOPS.   So I made it and put it on ice. That should work.  Needless to say despite all of my errors the cake turned out pretty decently, I am told.  One little thing I should have done that I didn’t, prepare the pan the way they said I should have because my cake stuck using my way.

I should have read the directions in their entirety days before taking the time to make the cake.  The problem was I have made many cakes from scratch, so I thought I knew what I was doing.  However, this cake was a bit different than what I had done before.

We all make mistakes, but do we learn from our mistakes?  Do we allow the mistakes we make to keep us humble?

God told Solomon he could ask for anything, and God would give it to him.  Solomon asked for wisdom.  God was so pleased with this that He gave Solomon everything else he could have asked for.  The moral of this story is that Solomon became corrupted by this lavishness.  He had everything.  By the time he gets to the end of his life and writes the book of Ecclesiastes, he realizes that “all is vanity.”

What does this have to do with my cake?  I find that when I make these errors in judgement, my pride shows itself.  I had made cakes in the past so I assumed I knew what I was doing. Only I didn’t. It was my pride that was showing itself. Solomon gave into every pleasure his heart desired. Later realizing that the lavishness and excess did not satisfy. His pride got in his way and it led to his selfishness. As incidents happen in our lives that remind us of our humanity and frailty, we must allow those moments to remind us what is truly important.

“Fear God and keep his commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Cleaning and Sanctification

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I cleaned my pantry out the other day.  I have been wanting to do this for months now.  When we moved into this house, I had the first pantry that I had ever had.  I did not know how I wanted to organize it nor when I put things in it did I want to think about getting rid of anything.  I just wanted to put things away and figured I would deal with it “later.”  I finally got to organizing and cleaning it the other day and it feels so good now to go in there and smell how fresh it smells and see how neat it is.  I had two shelves for the things I have canned such as jam or applesauce, but had no shelf for the empty jars. I have a shelf for empty jars now.  They used to be stashed into whatever empty spot there was. Another organizational mess.

This morning in Sunday school, we learned about the feast of Passover.  Our teacher spent time in Israel studying and was able to see the customs before him.  He told us about one family who would hide pieces of leavened bread around the house; the children then went around to find these pieces of bread.  They would then take this bread to the temple and burn it. Leaven is a picture of sin in our lives.  The point being made is how much we need to search out the sin in our lives, so that we can be clean before God.

The better we understand the depth of our sin; the greater we understand the depth of God’s grace.

The better we understand the depth of our sin; the greater our sanctification.

The disorganization, the clutter, and the dirt in my pantry bugged me for a long period of time.  It wasn’t until a few days ago when I decided that no matter how long it would take or how much effort I would have to put in, the task needed to be completed.

Sin is the same in our lives.  It may bother us, but we just keep dealing with it and looking for ways to co-exist with it.  Even close the proverbial door on it so no on sees what is really going on inside.  Hiding the sin does not make it go away.  Closing the door to my pantry did not make the mess go away.

In order to really do business in our lives with sin, we must intentionally seek it out.  Just as the children searched out the leavened bread before Passover, so we must search out the sin in our own lives.  We must listen when someone points out sin in our lives.  When we fail to listen and heed or fail to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we are proud and stubborn and harboring more sin.

If you came to my house you would think it looks pretty clean.  I vacuum the floors and clean the bathrooms and make sure my kitchen is spotless.   What if you had looked in my pantry, would you have thought the same thing?

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…” (Daniel 1:8).

It started in Daniel’s heart.  He wanted to be sure to remain clean before God no matter the circumstances.  Each instance we encounter Daniel in the Bible, his sanctification is growing.

The better we understand the depth of our sin; the greater we see our sanctification growing.

What must be lost to gain

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The 2018 winter Olympics are upon us.  I enjoy watching all of the competitions, so the next few weeks will be filled with watching athletes compete for a few short minutes for which they have trained for years, many since they were barely able to walk.  Is it worth all the sacrifice?  There is a lot at stake.  They have to spend hours practicing and becoming physically fit.  They have to watch what they eat, make sure they get enough sleep, find the right coach that they get along with and will also challenge them to their peak performance.  These athletes in every moment of their days are striving for physical perfection.

Two of our daughters have taken up figure skating, and doesn’t every young girl who watches figure skating in the Olympics dream that one day she could make it?  Once we got into the sport, we realized that the financial commitment was more than we could make.  The time commitment forces the athlete to give up just about everything else in life.  Yet, many willingly give it all up with the dream of being the best.  They willingly sacrifice sleep and leisure for early morning practices and coaching sessions.  Family life is centered on going to the gym, or the rink, or the hill.  It is not just the athlete that sacrifices; it is the entire family.

Is it worth it?  To some it is, and we watch their stories unfold before us and their Olympic dreams become a reality.  To others we see their dreams crash around them in a flood of tears and waves of disappointment of being so close and yet so far away from the podium and the medal.

We all have the same amount of time.  How is it we choose to spend it?  We all have talents.  How is it we choose to exercise those talents?  How many times have we said or heard someone else say, “I could never do that, I’m not that talented”?  Maybe you do not have the talent of figure skating, but you do have the talent of hard work, encouragement, or helping others.  There are no gold medals for encouragement on this earth, but in heaven someday God will tell you, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23).

Delaney and I are studying I Corinthians, and this week we were in chapter 9.  I have been pondering I Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  This chapter has metaphors related to athletes in a competition.  At the original Olympic Games, a herald would call the athletes by name to line up and then read the rules so everyone could hear.  Paul in I Corinthians is using this metaphor in this verse.  As a Christian we need to maintain self-control over our bodies.  We need to execute discipline in our spiritual walk with the Lord.  If we do not, we end up being like the herald who after reading the rules, entered the competition only to be disqualified because he did not follow the rules.

The Christian life is not about the external rules that we must follow that get us to receive the ultimate prize-eternal life with God our Creator and Jesus our Savior and the Holy Spirit our Comforter. The Christian life is about living and loving from a right relationship with our God.  This enables us to be self-controlled and disciplined.

The Olympic athletes did not become great overnight, rather they executed much self-control and discipline.  When I meet Jesus someday, I do not want to look back over my life and regret.  Rather, I want to see that the self-control and the discipline allowed me to lay at the feet of my Savior the prize that only seems valuable because I could give it back to Jesus.

Money or Winning

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There are a few things that we would consider a “universal language.”  Money, a smile, a shaking finger, a handshake, a gift, a raised or angry voice, or a gentle voice.  Any of these are understood by the receiver whether the giver is known or not.  Most of these have no hidden meaning, but two do.  Money or a gift could have a positive or a negative connotation.  They could be used as a bribe or as a gesture of love and kindness.

One of the shows that our family enjoys watching is “Survivor.”  It has been running for the last 18 years.  It has become quite a phenomenon and quite an accomplishment to be picked to be on the show.  They asked the contestants that will be playing in the next season a “Would you rather” question.  Would you rather win Survivor without winning the million dollars or be the first one voted out and win a million dollars?  So the question here is what is more important, the money or the title of “Sole Survivor.”  I asked my family this question and they were split.

So money or title/fame?  Maybe it is money vs. the experience. Being voted first off, one would miss the experience.

Money speaks a universal language.  We all need money to live.  Some of us think we need more money to live than others, but it is a need.

Some think that money will buy them whatever they need.

  • Happiness
  • Love
  • Friendships
  • Security
  • Salvation/Eternal life

We work so hard for this needed commodity and yet it has also become a symbol of value and importance.

Peter and John were preaching the gospel and people were accepting Christ as their Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 8, Simon offered Peter and John money so he could receive the Holy Spirit.  Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money.” (Acts 8:20).  Simon thought money could buy for him what he wanted, but Peter told him, “repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord…” (Acts 8:22).

Money does not buy happiness, love, friendship, security, or salvation.  Simon thought that his money would get him the power of the Holy Spirit.  What Simon really needed to do was to humble himself.

Have you met a truly humble person?  They do not have to yell to get our attention, rather their humble spirit commands attention.  A humble person is easy to be around because they are more interested in another’s life than making sure everyone else knows about theirs.  They are good listeners.  They are encouragers. They are noticers.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10).

Consider what it takes to be humble.  In being humble, our happiness is not dependent on things, others, or money.

As I have watched Survivor for the last 18 years, I have noticed that the person that usually wins the money is not the loud or the obnoxious leader.  The path in life to the things that really matter is not the fame and fortune, it is the path of humility.

The “universal language” of a smile, a gentle touch, a gentle tone, and a servant’s heart are the things that speak volumes to others.  Wouldn’t we rather keep company with this type of person and see them win Survivor?  Then we must strive to also be gentle, with a servant’s heart, and a smile on our face.

Money can’t buy happiness, but a humble spirit goes a long way to showing others the love of Christ.

Stop! Ask! Perceive! Notice!

 

 

 

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Do you have a favorite Bible story related to different events?  If we want to read a good hero story, we read the story of David and Goliath.  If we want a story that reminds us how important and valuable living life on purpose is, we read about Daniel.  There are many stories while Jesus was on earth that provide inspiration to various areas of our lives.  The one I want to look at today is the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:40-48.

This woman had a bleeding problem for the last twelve years.  We do not know anything about what this bleeding issue was, but we can only imagine the inconvenience of it.  The conveniences of today like a washing machine were not available.  Jesus happened to be on His way to heal a twelve year old who was on the brink of death, when this woman touches Jesus.  With this touch, the woman was healed.

Jesus stops.  He asks, “Who touched Me?”  As He was walking toward the young twelve year old’s house, there were many people pressing against Him. Wherever Jesus went there were crowds following Him. By this time in His ministry, everyone wanted something from Him.

Jesus knew the pressing nature of the task before Him.  Jarius’s twelve year old daughter was dying.  The request was urgent.  The need was urgent.

Jesus stopped.

He did not need to stop.  The woman touched His robe and was healed.  That is all she wanted.  She wanted to be healed.  She did not even feel valuable enough to approach Jesus with her request for healing.  In the midst of the crowd, she had the faith it took to be healed, but not the pride to approach Jesus with her request.

Jesus asked a question. “Who touched Me?”

When the woman was healed, Jesus perceived that power had left Him.

Jesus perceived.

The woman came forward and fell down before Jesus trembling. She did not assume herself worthy of face-to-face interaction with Jesus, rather she showed her humility by bowing before Him.

Jesus noticed her faith. “Your faith has healed you.”

After this short interaction, the pressing matter of Jairus’s daughter returned and Jesus moved on.

What principles can we draw from this story and apply to our lives?

 

  1. Stop
  2. Ask a question
  3. Be perceptive
  4. Notice the positives in another

 

I feel like I am always in a rush to complete whatever task is before me.  This story reminds me that it is not always about the destination, but rather about the journey.  In order to help others, it is important to stop the activity and notice the person.

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5).  A person of understanding knows what good questions to ask.  Most of us do not like to be told what to do.  A man of understanding will not tell us what to do, but will ask good questions in order to help us figure out what to do.

In order to ask good questions, we must be perceptive.  Perception takes spending time studying others and seeking to understand them.  As we spend time actively listening to others, we will be able to perceive the needs they have.  As we perceive these needs, we can then help them with what they need.  They may need a friend to listen.  They may need a word of encouragement.

Lastly, notice the positives in others.  Most people appreciate when we notice their positives.  We live in a society that is consumed with itself and so unsure of itself.  The woman that is forever known as the woman with the issue of blood had faith.  This is the quality Jesus noticed about her.  People want to be noticed, so notice them.  Notice the positives in them and point them out.  The superficial is nice, but what they really need noticed is the positives in their character.

Relationships take time.  Being like Jesus takes time.  In order to be like Jesus, we must spend time with Jesus.

Stop! Ask! Perceive! Notice!

Friendship

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Friendships…I feel like I am no expert on them, but certainly have come to see the value in them since we have moved.  I needed a friend and familiar surroundings boost, so I drove to Rochester and met some friends for coffee/tea, lunch, and supper.  How good it was to catch up on their lives and see their faces and feel their warm embraces.  I am looking forward to going back again so I can catch up with so many others I wanted to see.

As I am finding it takes time to make new friends.  Everyone has plans and lives and other friendships and families and…

I have a group of college friends who are trying to schedule a week-end together and it seems challenging to schedule with family vacations and other commitments.  I do so value these friends and would love to get together and see how God has worked in our lives over the last 20+ years.  I trust God will work this one out for me as He sees fit.

Do we value friendships or just acquaintances?  Do we value those friends who dig into our lives and try to help us be better people? “As iron sharpens iron so a friend sharpens the countenance of his friends.” (Proverbs 27:17).  Do I diligently work at challenging others to be the best they can be? Am I careful who I spend my time with so that my friendships are with people who challenge me to be the best God has for me?

True friendships take time and energy.  We must be careful not to spread ourselves too thin.  Our jobs take time.  Our families take time.  Our spouses take time.  We need to spend time with God.  Do we prioritize correctly or are we off balance?  There will be times that we spend too much time on one, but as long as we are aware of this and don’t let living off balance be our norm, it is acceptable.  Do you know people who say, “Once I get ‘this’ done, everything will be better.”  What happens?  That one think turns into something else. I have found in my life there is always “one more thing.”  Our friends could be the kind who take lots of time and energy and keep us off balance all the time.  This is not a healthy friendship and should be handled with care and attention to how much time is spent.

Solomon reminds us how valuable friendship is.  “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm…and though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him, a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  A true friend is so valuable and helpful.  They provide encouragement when we are down.  They share in our joys.  They comfort us in our sorrows.  In this day of technology, we must remember that it should be a help to our friendships.  Too often we see people with others, but on their phones with someone else.  Be all present.  When we are distracted, we cannot see the hurt someone has or the joy they have.  It is hard to notice the little things when we are paying more attention to the screen if front of us than the real person in our presence.

Friendship has value.  People need each other.  The older I get the more I value friendships and am willing to drive across the state of Michigan in order to catch up with friends.  Don’t get so busy.  Be intentional in how you spend your time.  “Two are better than one…”