Recommitting to Living Intentionally

In late February I wrote a blog about choosing “My One Word” for 2012.  I choose the word intentional and declared my intentions of “focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.”  It’s now mid-June and the year will soon be half over.  It’s time to take stock of how I’ve done, and the scorecard is not encouraging, although it is not as dismal as I thought it might be.

I previously declared my goals to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I also declared that I would spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  

Of course, as soon as you declare a course of action, it seems as if life conspires to interfere with your plans.  Shortly after writing my Intentional blog, we made an offer on a house, my brother-in-law died Bob unexpectedly, we closed on our house and moved, and we began a major renovation project.  Chaos ensued and I found myself reacting to situations rather than focusing my time and attention in productive ways.  We are now somewhat settled into the new house, we are adjusting to the big hole left in our lives by Bob’s absence, and the master bath renovation is awaiting shower doors to be complete.

It’s time to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy and my focus back on being intentional in my actions.  During this period of great distractions, I was faithful in my daily devotions.  I start each day by spending time reading the Bible and asking God to help me glorify Him in all that I do.  I think it is human nature to seek God’s help and draw closer to Him in troubled times and that was certainly true for me.   That is the positive side of the scorecard.

On the negative side, I’ve fallen back into old habits of playing solitaire and wasting time reading meaningless tripe on the Internet. I justify these time-wasting activities as stress relief; however, I am generally more stressed afterwards because nothing has been crossed off my to-do list.  I have managed to lose 4 pounds–not much for four months of denying myself bread and potatoes, but at least it is a loss and not a gain.  It probably goes without saying that I haven’t been exercising.  And I haven’t been writing.  My third novel which was to be completed by May 1 is no further along than it was in February.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  That sounds like a good plan for my life.  So, I hereby repent of my lack of living intentionally and declare that I will turn from my sin and rededicate myself to those noble goals which I set earlier this year.  For the remainder of 2012, I will live intentionally and make the most of each day and each opportunity to grow in my relationship with God and those most important in my life and to improve my health.

Winning the Amazing Race of Life

Yesterday I watched the finale of the Amazing Race as the last three teams standing vied to cross the finish line first and claim the million dollar prize.  Each team made a major mistake in the final leg that could have cost them the race.

Art and J.J. appeared to be out of the race when they couldn’t decipher a riddle sending them to twin skyscraper.  They bounded back into second place when Rachel and Brendon hurriedly read a clue and missed an important piece of information.  Rachel and Dave seemed to have cruised to an easy win, only to be informed that they had missed a challenge. They hurried back to find Art and J.J. in the midst of the challenge. Fortunately for them, Art had a difficult time riding a narrow sled down a hill, while Rachel managed it with ease.  Rachel and Dave finished the challenge and were crowned the winners of this seasons Amazing Race.

As I watched the teams partake in extreme challenges, I had no doubt that I would never want to be a contestant on the Amazing Race.  Not even if I were young and fit.  I have no desire to repel off a 44-story building, as the final three teams did, or to haul buckets of manure as contestants did in a recent episode.

I was reminded, however, that we are all in an amazing race.  And this race is for much higher stakes than a million dollars.  Our participation in this race will determine our eternal future.  Those who “win” the race receive eternal life in Heaven as their reward. In the Amazing Race, there is only one winner; however, in the amazing race of life, we can all win.

Winning the amazing race of life requires accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Many people claim that there are other paths to God, but the Bible teaches us that “there is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Salvation is attained simply by acknowledging my need for salvation, believing that Jesus died on the cross as punishment for my sins, and confessing Him as lord of my life.

Winning the amazing race of life requires resisting the temptation to quit or be sidetracked.  Contestants in the Amazing Race face roadblocks, detours, and u-turns. Likewise, Satan tries to block our path, send us on detours, and u-turn us back to a life of sin and selfishness through temptation.  We can overcome Satan’s wiles by keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. God promises that He will be there in your moment of temptation. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corintians 10:13)

Winning the amazing race of life requires focus and dedication with your eye firmly on the prize. The Amazing Race contestants are highly motivated, as they want to win the million dollar prize. Paul explained in his first letter to the Corinthians that our goal in life is much more valuable. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)   He said toward the end of his life, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4: 7 -8)

Winning the amazing race of life involves making mistakes, acknowledging them, and getting back on track.  Contestants on the Amazing Race frequently take a wrong turn or misread the instructions and make a mistake.  They continue on the wrong path until they realize their mistake and have fallen behind in the race.  At that point they have the choice to quit and give up or turn around and keep competing.  Sometimes they are able to overcome their mistake and remain in the game; other times they are too far behind and are eliminated.  In life, when we acknowledge our mistakes (sins) and seek forgiveness, God promises to forgive our sins.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Forgiveness gets us back on track with God.

Rachel and Dave were greeted by the cheers and applause of their competitors as they crossed the finish line and won the Amazing Race.  One day my life on Earth will be over and I will be transcended to Heaven where my Savior will be waiting and rejoicing that I have run a good race and have finished the course.

What path are you following in the race of life?  Can you look forward with joy and a grateful heart to a life in Heaven and a crown of righteousness?  If not, I pray that you will allow Jesus to guide and direct you to the path that leads to eternal glory and reward.

Grateful for New Home and Wonderful Neighbors

After a long and tiring search, we recently bought a new home.  We moved into our new home two weeks ago. 

While I love being in my new house, I have not enjoyed the moving process.  I am thoroughly convinced that moving is for the young and that those of us who have passed the half-century mark should stay put.  Or, as my husband suggested, we should change addresses without moving any of the stuff–simply leave it all behind and buy new stuff to be delivered to the new house.

As my knees creaked and my back ached from packing boxes and hauling them up and down stairs, I comforted myself with the knowledge that the pleasure of living in the new house would more than compensate for the physical pain I was enduring.  In my new house, I have a kitchen large enough to entertain my ever-growing family.  Steve and I can cook together without being in each others way.  I look forward to preparing holiday meals in the new kitchen with my mom, sisters, and daughters-in-law.  I can’t wait until my grandson and granddaughter are hold enough to sit at the bar and make cookies with grandma. There’s plenty of room for grandchild #3, due to arrive in late October.

The move was made easier by wonderful neighbors, both old and new.  As we moved furniture and boxes into our new house, we were welcomed royally into the neighborhood.  One neighbor brought us marigolds to plant in our yard, another dropped off freshly baked cookies, and a third gave us strawberries and lettuce straight from his garden.    We very much enjoyed and appreciated our neighbors’ generosity.

Some neighbors have gone above and beyond. Twice since we closed the deal on the house, we have pulled into the driveway to find our lawn freshly mowed by our very kind next door neighbor Charlie.  Our former, and also very wonderful, next door neighbor Susan offered to take any “stuff” we didn’t want to donate to her church’s garage sale. I’m sure she didn’t expect us to fill her garage.  We were grateful to be spared the extra work of hauling our unwanted belongings to the Good Will.  Susan even came over and carried much of the donations to her garage for us.

We still have much unpacking to do, and many more items to donate or throw away.  But, all our belongings are in our new house and it’s starting to feel like home.  While we will miss our old neighbors, we are looking foward to forging many new friendships with our wonderful new neighbors.

Response to “I Just Wish He Would Have an Affair”

Monique Honaman wrote a blog for the Huffington Post recently in response to a comment she has heard numerous times lately:  “I just wish he would have an affair.”  The women who have confided this desire assert that they are married to wonderful men whom they no longer love.  These wives can not “justify” divorcing husbands who treat them well, love them and their children, and provide for their families.  If their husbands would betray them by having affairs, then the woman would be free to leave them without feeling guilty.

Ms. Honaman concluded that she didn’t have an answer for women in this circumstance; however, she postulated two opposing views that she could justify as reasonable responses.  Paraphrasing her words, the views would be (1) you made a vow, so stick with the marriage and (2) end the marriage because life is short to be unhappy.  You may read Ms. Honaman complete blog at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/monique-honaman/i-just-wish-he-would-have_b_1297919.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl12%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D141998

While the two views Ms. Honoman expresses are probably the two most common responses to a friend’s or acquaintances’s declaration that she is unhappy in her marriage, neither of them offer the guidance that is needed.  All marriages go through “dry” times.  Love is an emotion that ebbs and flows.  Just because a woman does not feel the glow of being in love, doesn’t mean she cannot regain that feeling.  So what advise should someone give to a friend who expresses discontent with a good marriage?  These are lessons I’ve learned from my own 31-year marriage and observing others, such as my parents who have been married for 57 years.

1) Focus on the attributes that drew you to your husband in the beginning of your relationship.  If you are like most brides, you were head over heels in love with him on the day you walked down the aisle.  Think back on those days and remember how you felt when your love was new.  Your husband is still the same wonderful man you married with the same wonderful qualities.

2) Regularly make time for dates.  Marriage needs to be nurtured.  When you first began dating your future spouse, few things in your life were more important than spending time with him.  In the hecticness of life, time alone with one’s spouse often takes a back seat to work, children, and volunteering.  You can’t nurture your relationship if you aren’t spending quality time with your spouse.

3) Create opportunities for growth and fulfillment such as working on a project with your spouse or taking a class together.  Having a common goal and achieving it together can restore a sense of unity and accomplishment.  In the early days of a marriage, a couple makes plans together, such as starting a family or buying a house.  They work together for their mutual happiness and fulfillment.  As those goals are met, it’s easy for couple to become complacent.  Set new goals and dreams that will carry you into old age.

4) Look beyond your present unhappiness and envision the happy times ahead for the two of you.  If you have children, you can look forward to their graduations and marriages and future grandchildren.  Plan a special trip to commerate a significant anniversary.  Dream about the places you’ll go and the things you will do after retirement.

5) Remember your vows. You pledged to love this man through better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death you do part.  At the end of the ceremony, the minister pronounced you husband and wife.  He did not say “And they lived happily ever after.”  Of course you want to be happy and you deserve to be happy.  But happiness is fleeting.  No one is happy all the time, and no one is unhappy all the time.  If you stay true to your vows and work at loving your husband, it is very likely that happiness will return and that you will be even happier than you were in the past.

If you are unhappy in your marriage, I would urge to carefully consider the cost of divorce.  Not only is divorce the biggest financial mistake you can make, it is one that many people regret. It is likely that you are married to the love of your life–you just need to make an effort to rekindle the love that lead you to marry him.

My God is Mighty to Save

For Christians, Easter is a time to celebrate Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection in victory over death and grave.  Jesus’s death paved the way for us to be forgiven of our sins, and His resurrection gives us the hope of eternal life with Him in Heaven.

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I received the promise of eternal life, but I also gained a richer, fuller, more wonderful life here on Earth.  Everyday Jesus walks with me through the joy, triumphs, trials, and challenges I face.  He hasn’t promised me a life without troubles, but He has promised to be with me through every step of my journey.

God’s peace fills my heart.  I am assured that God loves me more than I can even comprehend.  My God is mighty to save.  On this Easter Sunday, I am thankful that He has saved me.  I want to live today and every day to bring honor and glory to my risen Savior.

 

Mighty to Save
 
Everyone needs compassion
Love that never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations

Savior
He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender

Shine Your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King
Jesus
shine your light and let the whole world see
were singing
for the glory of the risen king

Blessings Through Tears

Laura Story’s song Blessings is the song which I most identify with at this time.  Our family, like most families I know, has endured some very difficult situations in the past few years, but in the midst of the difficult times we have felt God’s presence every step of the way.   His strong arms have carried us through unemployment, bereavement, and uncertainty.  We have absolute assurity that our God is in control of our lives and our future.  Athough we would never pray for God to bring difficult circumstances our way, we recognize that He uses those circumstances to reveal to us our need for Him and to help us grow in our faith.  Life on Earth will be challenging some days–many days–but as the song says, “This is not our home.” 

 

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

 

 

Groundhog Day Reflections

 

Groundhog Day was my great-grandmother Loflin’s favorite holiday.  I have no idea why she was so fascinated with this day.  It’s really not a holiday at all, but rather a celebration.  I do remember vividly how excited Grandma Loflin would be to find out Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for the end of winter. Ironically, she died on Groundhog Day 1963.  After all these years, the arrival of February 2nd always makes me think of her.

Phil Connors and Punxsutawney Phil

In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day was made starring Bill Murray.  As soon as I heard of it, my interest was piqued and it quickly became one of my favorites.  I love watching Murray’s character, Phil Connors, transform from a selfish, womanizer into a warm, caring individual.

Against his opposition, Connors is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  A major snowstorm forces the crew to spend another night in the small town.  Connors awakens to find that it is again Groundhog Day.  He is forced to relive Groundhog Day repeatedly, with seemingly no end.  He reacts initially with anger, violence, and even by committing suicide, only to reawaken to yet another Groundhog Day celebration.

Eventually Connors stops fighting his new reality and begins to change.  He uses each new Groundhog Day to learn more about the members of his news team and to fall in love with the people of Punxsutawney.  He becomes the polar opposite of what he had been.  He genuinely cares for people and goes out of his way to help others.  In fact, by the end, he is the most loved man in town.

The transformation of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day parallels the changes Christians undergo as God works to shape their lives in accordance with His Word and His plans for their lives.  Removing negative qualities and replacing them with godly characteristics is the goal of the purification process God sends our way through tests and trials.  In the book of James we are told, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:3, 4)  And in Romans 5: 3, 4 we read “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Phil Connors went through a time of suffering and testing to become a man he was meant to be.  God brings trials and tests to our lives to help us become the people he wants us to be.  If we fail the test, He brings another one our way. As we pass each test, we become more mature and take another step toward completion.  The trials refine our character and increase our hope in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It took Phil Connors a long time to grow and mature into a warm, caring man.  I pray that I respond to God much more quickly and that I allow the trials God sends my way to refine and purify me.