Friday, September 23, 2011

There are no "do-overs".

In the world of little kids, if you mess up while playing a game, you just shout "I want a do-over" and it's usually ok.  Every little boy or girl understands that life is full of misses that need a fresh start. No such luck in adulthood.
A recent survey of people over the age of 95 were asked "If you had life to do over again, what would you change?"  Not surprisingly, none of them mentioned working longer, having more stuff, or climbing higher on the corporate ladder.  What they did say had less to do with the material things in life and all to do with life lived well!
Interestingly enough, the majority of them said they'd take more risks.  We like to live in our comfort zones and if something is a little risky or pushes us to venture out, we usually back off.  Some of us try new things, once in a while, but at the first sign of struggle or failure we give up and run back to what's known and safe.  While risk taking doesn't have to be associated with foolishness or carelessness it does involve stepping out onto new ground. It's interesting how the Bible is full of risk takers. Think about is a product of acting on God's Word. If there's no action, there is no faith. God always asked those who wanted to see Him move to do something, often something that may have seemed foolish or unreasonable. (Joshua & Jericho, Gideon, Moses, David with Goliath, Naaman, Peter...the examples are numerous!) Risk takers may have fear, but they don't let that stop them. They take a deep breath and go!
The second thing people in their 90s responded with was that they'd reflect more - they'd spend more time prioritizing. They'd prune wasted activities & add wholesome ones. They'd praise more and complain less. They'd look for the good in people and in situations, trying to see why God has brought those people & things into their lives. They'd point their face towards heaven more and put their nose to the grindstone less.They would think about God's goodness rather than gripe about their lack. They'd slow down & enjoy the journey!
The third thing they said was that they'd do more things that would live on after they were gone. They'd contribute more to their families' lives and to their communities. They'd share themselves, their ideas, their time. They'd pass on lessons learned and encourage others to "go for it". They'd put relationships first and everything else after. They'd forgive quicker, extend more grace, witness more, and love deeply, They'd focus on their legacies - what others will learn from having watched them live and what qualities people will admire them for.  They hope that their passing means more than a payday or a trust fund - that it means that there are memories that have and will continue to shape lives for God & for good. They hope they leave a better world than the one they were born into!
Nope - in life there are no do-overs; but even if today should be the last day of your life, you still have time to change for the better. Check your priorities. Look for the new adventures and the opportunities that God is opening up. Don't waste one more day in fear. Get out there, find what it is God wants you to do and who He wants you to invest time and love in, and go for it! Don't just exist, LIVE and live joyously!! That will be a legacy worth leaving!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The True Test of Trust!

       Once there was a little girl who loved two things more than anything else in her life - her daddy and climbing trees. She would often climb up in “her tree”, wait for her daddy to get home from work, and then yell words of love and greeting to him as he got out of his car. Her favorite tree was a big old apple tree that had a perfect sitting place about 10 feet above the ground. She loved that tree and spent as much time as she could in it. She was never afraid up there, and climbed up and down easily!
       Then came the day of the big storm. She had climbed up to her spot, like many other days, and just when she was enjoying the feeling of the gentle breeze rocking the branches, the storm arrived in its full fury. The clouds, which just a minute ago had been a light gray, were now black as coal. The gentle breezes were now so strong that they were threatening to knock her off of the branch. She held on for dear life, alternately crying and screaming for her daddy.
       What seemed like hours later, Dad appeared at the base of the tree. He would surely climb the tree and save her…but no. He took his place at the base, lifted his arms, and said “Jump, sweetheart. I will catch you.” What? That isn’t what I want at all. “I can’t jump. I can’t. I‘m scared. Come up and get me.” But the tree limb cracked, the branches shook violently, and the rain began to pelt her with huge drops. “Come on, baby. You have trusted me before so trust me now. I promise I will catch you.” But just couldn’t let go. She held on tighter, clinging in desperation. And then it happened. It wasn’t a jump at all but a surrender. Eyes closed, she held her breath and dropped. Daddy’s strong arms caught her and gently hugged her.The storm still raged but for her it was over. She was safe in his embrace.
       We, too, often talk about our loving Father. He is great and good, trustworthy and dependable. We say it, we tell others about Him, and we believe it…until the storm comes. Then we cling desperately to things we know - worldly wisdom, our own resources, our feelings, our friends, our past experiences. God calls on us to trust Him but we resist. And then it happens - sometimes because we’ve run out of options; sometimes because it’s just too hard to hold on and we’re too tired. Whatever the reason, it finally happens. We surrender. And when we do, God is there just as He promised, with strong arms, a comforting embrace, and soothing words.The storm may rage on, but we are safe...and then we wonder, “Why did I take so long to let go?”
(adapted from a story in “Mourning Into Dancing” by Walt Wangerin, Jr.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My teacher knows best!

Several of my grandkids started school yesterday and I started reliving the first days of school when I was teaching. They were always filled with mixed emotions...Who were the children and did I have any siblings of former students? What would they know or not know already? Were there any extreme behavior problems in the group?  Would the parents be interfering and demanding or supportive?  
I don't know why I had those questions because each year I had all of those. I had students who came in "knowing everything already" whose parents just wanted them to be prepared to eventually succeed at Harvard (Really? Can I teach him to read first?) and the ones who didn't care if their children learned anything as long as they were happy!
I was always given the lion's share of "naughty kids" because the Kindergarten teachers liked my "strict style". (Those teachers didn't know that I sat in the students' chairs and prayed over them! That was the key to success, not my style!!) I also got the lion's share of super high achievers because I didn't believe in holding kids to the curriculum if they were ready to go on. (It's called individualization and it works extremely well!!)
Anyway, all this reflecting led me to thoughts of God and His observations of Us.  How we react to our circumstances must sometimes cause Him to laugh. (Yes, God laughs!) Do we think we know it all?  Do we just strive to be happy?  Do we launch out unprepared for the tasks He has for us because we refuse to put in the time or effort to learn what we need to know?  Are we easy or hard to work with?
The children who put the most into their first grade year were the children who left with confident attitudes, happy hearts, and the best academic growth. The ones who struggled most were the whiners, excuse-makers, & "motivationally challenged".  Interesting that when Jesus was here on Earth, He could only help those who wanted help - and nothing's changed. If we come to Him knowing it all, demanding our way, making excuses, or whining we set ourselves up for a long struggle.  I'd rather come with open hands, open heart, and open mind.  Let Him decide where, when & what I need to learn. It will save me lots of trouble in the long run and I'll avoid both the spiritual two-by-four that is sometimes required to get my attention & the repeated journeys around the same spiritual mountain!! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's A Wonderful Day

It's a perfect day. God has made today so special that I woke up praising Him this morning, Is it a birthday, anniversary, or some special occasion for me? far as my calendar is concerned, it's just an ordinary Wednesday. But today is a wonderful day!
It's gorgeous outside. There's a cool breeze, the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, and a little brown squirrel is playing outside my window. God's beautiful world is visible and close. There's a warm feeling in my heart from memories of a church picnic where there was abundant laughter, great food, and lots of sweet fellowship. I have just come home from a "renewal" trip to California where I got to visit with my kids and grandkids. My mind is filled with happy  thoughts of their smiling, loving faces. There are bright things to come - our daughter is expecting twins in a couple of months and that brings a special thrill all of its own. While that event is not today, the happiness I can anticipate fills me up Today!
Yes, today is just a wonderful day because God made it that way. I have hours, minutes, and seconds to spend loving Him and serving Him in any way that He directs me. I have people to encourage and comfort. I have things to accomplish. I have Bible studies to write and classes to prepare for. I have work that I love. If I didn't have a job to do, I'd be spending today in His presence, so I better look around for my assignment - it's out there, I just have to be aware enough to see it! Today will be a day of ministry!
Of course there are looming clouds out there on the horizon...clouds of struggle, hurt feelings, other things that I may have to have an extra measure of grace to deal with.  But those things are not here Today, and God tells me not to worry about tomorrow.  He will help me handle those things when they come, if they come.  That's the thing about worry - those worry-builders may not ever come! So we should not borrow trouble, and I'm not going to!
I have today, God's beautiful day, and I am going to rejoice and be glad in it.  How about you?