Contentment

We brought a new family member into our home last summer. Mo is everything you might expect a young black Labrador retriever to be…a bundle of lightening, curiosity, sweetness, mischief and love.

And we’ve treated her like we would a new baby. We’ve ordered special beds. We’ve bought her “indestructible” chew toys. We’ve tried fancy dog treats and stimulating exercise toys. Her happiness has been our goal.

But you know what? Out of all the toys and comforts that we’ve provided- Mo’s most treasured item is a basic yellow ball.

A $2 ball.

She’ll play fetch for hours with that ball. She’ll lay it beside her head for a nap. It’s the first thing she searches for in the morning. That basic retrieving ball is never far away from Mo. It brings her happiness, comfort and joy. Contentment.

Contentment is difficult to find. We often find ourselves looking for that next item…the next toy…to bring us happiness and joy. But we rarely obtain the satisfaction and peace we are searching for in our lives.

I’m guilty of it. I look at the cars, the homes, the jobs…the lives of those around me. Instagram and Facebook show happy families and good times. Vacations and retreats. Confident, content and happy people. I then look in the mirror and see brokenness in my own life.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6: 6-8

In reality, I need to focus on my blessings. Instead of the outward comparisons, I should focus on those gifts that are right in front of me. My wife. My children. My health and job. A wonderful community to call home and good friends who stand by me when I need encouragement.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Jesus has given us all we need to find contentment. Giving our hearts…our lives…to Jesus means eliminating the distractions that society places in our way. We brought no material wealth into this world and can’t take anything with us when we die.

How do we find it?

  1. Count your blessings. Often. Yes, it’s an overused phrase. But have you done it lately? Write down the things you are grateful for in your life. Your parents. Your spouse. That friend you can always call when times are tough.
  2. Pray over your blessings. Acknowledging these gifts and thanking God for your blessings is another way to increase the awareness of what you “have” instead of focusing on what you “don’t.” Do this often. Prayer grounds us and allows us to focus on what’s important.
  3. Be a blessing to someone else. The best way to have peace in your heart is to invest in someone else. Check on your elderly neighbor. Call your friend who’s going through a divorce. Cook dinner for someone who is hurting.
  4. Get in God’s word daily. Read the words and study the actions of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Read the words of Paul. Study the Psalms. The Bible gives us a wonderful roadmap for peace.

My prayer this week is to find peace in my own life. I want to discover my own yellow ball.

And please let me know how I may pray for you. God bless you.

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Three Lessons Learned from a Virus

What a difference two weeks can make.

Just a few short days ago, I was considering overseas travel this Fall. I was busy preparing for a business trip to Florida in April. The university campus where I work was filled with students coming back from Spring Break. Everyone was eating out, traveling freely and worshiping with friends. Life was good.

All of that has come to a sudden halt.

The coronavirus has now been labeled a worldwide pandemic. The United States now leads the world in confirmed cases. 

Schools are closed, sporting events are cancelled and travel is restricted. Americans are being encouraged to only go out when necessary. Social distancing has become a “thing.”

We are hurting: financially, educationally, emotionally and spiritually. 

The coronavirus has in Biblical terms, become a Goliath

But I’ve learned three key lessons in the past two weeks that I’d like to share.

  1. Human interaction is essential.  We’ve been asked to limit our exposure to others and the world is hurting…because we are built for fellowship! Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17.  We need to make certain that we are interacting with others on a daily basis…either on the phone, social media or an appropriately-spaced walk with neighbors! Companionship- in whatever form- is important.
  2. God’s beauty is manifested in the outdoors.  We’ve yearned for opportunities to get outside during the coronavirus episode. While we’ve been discouraged from shopping, dining out and traveling…simple activities like walking the neighborhood with family or taking drives along country roads have become an oasis in this time of isolation. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5 I’ve taken time to watch both sunrises and sunsets on several occasions in the past week. God’s glory is all around us in the outdoors. Get outside and enjoy his wondrous works.
  3. Focused prayer is crucial to building our faith.  I’m guilty of rushing through prayers each day. But my prayer life these past two weeks has been more specific than usual. Prayers for the struggling. Prayers for the medical professionals and first responders. Prayers for a vaccine. Prayers for the small businesses and schools. Intense, focused and intentional prayer. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

It’s hard to see any silver lining, but my hope is that we emerge from this crisis a stronger, more humble nation. Many of life’s distractions are limited right now, so perhaps our focus can be on purposeful relationships with family and friends… and our walk with Jesus.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

Jesus loves you.

God bless.

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Complainers

I was ambushed by a frustrated person this week, who was angry about a situation at work.

I listened for about ten minutes. At the end of their tirade, I was asked to “fix it.”

Fix it.

My response was to ask this person what solutions they had developed. What were the possible scenarios they had thought about to address their frustration?

“I thought that was your job…” was their response. “That’s why I came to you…so you can fix this.”

I suggested a couple of ways to address the issue, but neither option was acceptable to the person.

I asked them to take some time to reflect on possible solutions to their problem. If they couldn’t develop alternatives, I would need to move ahead with my own ideas on resolution.

I guess it’s a pet peeve of mine. If someone comes to me with a problem- they should at least bring a potential solution.

I’m such a hypocrite in my spiritual relationship with God, however. I realized this yesterday when I looked at my prayer journal.

I’m a complainer.

Oh….I realize that we are told to bring our concerns to God.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

But my prayer notes looked like a laundry list of situations that I wanted God to “fix.” Instead if asking for wisdom and discernment on how to deal with each problem- I just laid it at His feet.

I had also done a great job of casting my cares, but very little to reflect on the great things that God was creating in my life.

I was complaining, but not submitting.

I was pointing out the problems, but not focusing on the blessings.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalms 106:1

My prayer this week is to spend less time complaining to God. I want to first focus on all the blessings He has granted me and acknowledge all of the good that God is stirring in my life.

I also want to ask for wisdom when dealing with life’s problems.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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