Tension!

Have you ever been tense?  Do we know what tension is? Where does it come from? I’m sure we can come up with a few examples.  According to the dictionary, tension is the act or state of being stretched or strained, manifested in strained relationships, mental or emotional strain, a situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness.  Can anyone here identify with those signs of tension? How about the tension caused by a schedule packed too tight? You know the one where the agenda in your hand and clock on the wall are in direct conflict with the speedometer of your car. We rush off toward our destination, hoping for no red lights, and please God, no semis. Just when you think you’ve won the battle – the flashing strobe light behind you tells a different story. Now this is tension in its truest form. Tense!

Tension is one of the leading causes of headaches, back aches, and shoulder pain. The makers of pain reducing medication love tension; we do not. It’s a pain – literally! Tension is also responsible for anxiety, even debilitating anxiety.  Tension can come from the worry cycle. Did you know that worry stems from control? It’s that overwhelming feeling of helplessness when a situation is outside our control. We obsess about it until we’re in a state of inertia, unable to act, but fear the outcome. Tension! Someone said 90% of the things we worry about, never happen. I think ratios are impossible to apply to anything of a subjective nature. Still, worry solves nothing. “Why pray, when you can worry?” or maybe we should turn that around and say “Why worry, when you can pray?”

Tension! Did you know tension can be good? Think of tendons in our arms and legs. If there was no tension we couldn’t walk or lift our arms.  We couldn’t write or use a keyboard.  Lack of just the right amount of tension to belts holding parts of our engine together is a guarantee our cars won’t run; they won’t even start.  The result of poorly calibrated tension in the threading mechanism of sewing machines is a tangled mess of knotted thread. Tension, properly applied is good.

How do we coexist in a world with the reality of tension? Our schedules are always going to be over stuffed, many of our tasks are never fully complete, we get sick, circumstances are outside our control, we have regrets, we fear the future. Sound familiar?

While reading the Bible this morning, Psalm 39 shouted at me and made me realize how tension can so quickly become anxiety and how easily it creeps in to suffocate my joy. “My frustration grew; my anxiety intensified. As I thought about it, I became impatient. Finally I spoke these words: “O Lord, help me understand my mortality and the brevity of life! Let me realize how quickly my life will pass!” If my ultimate goal is to live Jesus in front of people, I can’t let the tensions of this life render me useless. Isaiah 8:22 describes what can happen when I take my eyes off of God and forget to live out his purpose. “When one looks out over the land, he sees distress and darkness, gloom and anxiety, darkness and people forced from the land.”

That’s not what I want to portray in my life. I don’t want others to see gloom and anxiety. I don’t want to live in such a state of tension that I can’t be thoughtful of others and be a helper to them.  If I’m going to be impatient, I want to be impatient to live my life reflecting the Light of the World. I want the tension in my life to be calibrated to the level of strength and motivation, but well within tolerance of God’s plan.

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down, but an encouraging word brings him joy.

My goal today is to provide an encouraging word that brings joy.  I’ll start by seeking the Lord of my life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4crRPpqoW4

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Change!

It must be the season! Do you see it too? Every day someone is urging me to change. Change what, exactly? What if I like me and don’t want to change?  Relax.  This is neither a philosophical nor motivational post about all the things wrong with your life. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I believe we can all be satisfied with who we are and be our own cheerleader while making little adjustments in our navigation to improve the course we’re on. OK so those little adjustments probably mean change – at least a few little ones.  To get us started, remember that attitude is just about everything, so let’s review the one attitude that trickles through the foundation of our attitude: Gratitude (Ephesians 5:20 – Give thanks in all things) That’s a tough one sometimes.  Finding a way to be thankful though will change your perspective on your circumstances – 100% of the time.

With the persistent messages coming at us to change, our answer has to be “change what?” Then assess what little adjustments we need to make in the path we’re on to effect the outcome. There is no point in writing my list here, because it resembles no one else’s. Remember I am unique, just as you are unique. Even so there are similarities, so here’s an assignment. I’m doing this too because while I don’t want to change everything, I do want to change something. Here is one small change that I committed to – 5 minutes with God every day, just me and Him. Surprised? Don’t be. I’ve kept that commitment for quite some time now but it was a change from my ordinary, 5 seconds before I ate dinner. That one change has made me a different person. You might remember the post where I described how we come to recognize the voice of God.

So – that is just one small navigational change in my life. What other changes can I  make that don’t shout at me to CHANGE, but to consciously evaluate how to best live out my purpose and make a difference. I’ll give you a heads up though.  Listen closely because I can’t say this too loudly for fear of starting an online mutiny. There are no rosy tinted glasses, there is no silver lining, and neither Cloud 9 nor seventh heaven exist.  What we have is the reality that life comes packaged as a bundle of good and bad, rushes of excitement coupled with the mundane, ultimate successes and threaded with failures, and that’s what we’ve got. This is where attitude reigns and it’s the one thing we have control over.

Whether we want to change a little or a lot – let’s begin with an attitude of gratitude, then let’s choose to change only those things that we know are out of alignment with God’s purpose for our life. No matter what, no matter where, life is better when God is there.  I love reading the Bible using the Message translation.  I hope you love these words from Psalm 139: 1-5 God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.

God bless your life today and light your path to the changes He would have you make to live successfully and confidently.

Leftover Thanksgiving

How was your Thanksgiving? Do you have anything left over for today?

If you were one of the people in line at the restaurant yesterday, the one that half-way circled the building, what did you observe while you waited? I think I experienced a new definition of crowd sourcing or maybe it was the antithesis of it. Crowd sourcing is most notable for problem solving techniques accomplished by bringing ideas and strategies together in an online forum. The line was formed and in the crowd there was certainly demonstration of ideas and strategy. I saw the warning look flash across faces when a suspect threatened to cut into protected territory ‘the line’.  The problem, though, was artificial. Problem: how-to-get-to-the-buffet-table- before-the-food-is-gone  Seriously? There was no problem to solve. Food was plentiful.

For anyone who snapped at another person because they might step ahead of you in line, putting them one link in the chain closer to the buffet, I have to ask why. What was so critical that pushing was necessary and insulting words spoken? Food at the buffet was supplied in abundance when we arrived and the tables were still overflowing when we left. Our food was hot, it was delicious, and in nearly infinite supply. There was no evidence of starvation in the crowd.

I had to ask myself why all the pushing; why all the territorial barriers; why is it that when we have so much, we think it’s never enough? How do we build up these images of desperate need in our minds, when we already have it; the need has been met? There’s that human nature tendency toward greed again. I blame it on marketing. We are bombarded with messages that urge us to want more, even be entitled to more. If we don’t want it, it’s because we haven’t heard about it yet. “It’s available, therefore I want it.”  We need to act fast, better get it before it’s gone; when in fact the supply is rarely depleted. Think about it.  Isn’t it true that sometimes waiting is an advantage?

I’m not talking about our desire to have fulfillment and wanting things that will improve our quality of life. We will always have needs.  It’s OK to want. It’s not OK to be so obsessed with want that we are consumed by greed and become cruel. The season of Thanksgiving should be just that – a season when we are thankful. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”  If we could all look around us and appreciate what we already have, our lives will improve. Gratitude from the heart changes our perspective on everything. The one day for Thanksgiving reproduces thanksLiving.

It’s OK to want, but in that wanting, let’s assess what we are already blessed with. If this seems difficult, start a thankful list. It begins with the words, “I am thankful for …” then just write it down. Item one – written.  Now go on to the next item and the next. If this seems silly or uncomfortable – I wonder why. Some of us started our thankful list with a piece of paper and have since moved on to a notebook. In our toolbox for life, we need the thankful list. In dark days when thankfulness is buried under layers of strife and discontent, dig up the ‘thankful list’ and start reading. The thought that begins in the mind embeds itself in the heart.  When you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. ThanksLiving.

Unfriended!

They unfriended me

Times have changed. Ya think? I was listening to moms of teenage daughters lament the developing epidemic form of rejection, Facebook unfriending. My first thought was, “Are you serious? Facebook is just a game, a place to read something funny, learn about the latest fiasco in the life of an accident prone friend, or pick up a tip on the best month to buy tires”.  Until that moment, I had considered Facebook as nothing more than a mechanism of communication on a personal level and a marketing tool for businesses who want to sell me their products. Never had the thought occurred to me that Facebook or any social media phenomenon would be used to appraise the value of a person or to rank their acceptance. Times have changed.

The basis of this blog formed out of the discovery that there are bullies in this world.  Through their speech, through their acts, and through their attitudes, bullies are on a mission to bring everyone down to their level of misery.  They have been on Earth since God kicked Lucifer out of heaven, along with his followers. The methods have changed, but the consequences have not. The battle between good and evil continues.

The subject of bully warfare is too broad to cover in a few sentences. We could be here for hours debating the cause and effect of bullying, but just for today – some ways to combat the bullies in your life while you support others who struggle with bullies in theirs.

Start with something easy. At my favorite Meijer Department store there’s a man in a wheelchair who greets customers and welcomes them as they enter.  Throughout the day there are others who fill that role but this is the lesson for us.  When the door opens that initial greeting says ‘acceptance’.  How easy can it be to smile and with sincerity say, good morning or a simply Hi!

Go ahead post a positive comment with joy-filled undertones on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Google+ or Pinterest or – here’s a novel idea.  How about posting on the bulletin board at the coffee house?  You could start today with saying, “Today I am thankful for … the fact that when I woke up, I could see, walk, talk, and hug my child, my spouse, my pet”. Well you can figure it out.

Spread encouragement – especially to the young who are in this life phase where their life experience is so limited, each event is significant.  This is not just drama; it’s real to them. Being unfriended in Facebook is a form of rejection. Today, be a source of emotional strength and be the light to someone who is struggling with feelings of doubt and drained of confidence.

Today is all we’ve got. Tomorrow is the result of how we live it.  How can we build barriers against bullying and tear down walls of defeat? Let’s look inward and fix what’s inside, so tomorrow is better and we can be at peace! Ephesians 2:14 God is our peace…he destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Now if you unfriend me, I might care, but it won’t decrease my value as a person or cause me to evaluate my worth. It just means one less ‘friend’ in my list of ‘friends’. This is the message we need to get across to friends (Facebook or otherwise) that they are priceless and that their value is more precious than rubies. [Proverbs 3:15] God does not make junk. He makes masterpieces. Ephesians 2:10  We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Our job is to do good – to all people.

Good Morning!

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸¸♥¸*♫*•.¸¸♥ YAY It’s a new day! Are we ready to face the giants – friendly and ferocious? Of course we are! We’re armed and ready. We are blessed.  Isaiah 43 – 46 How many times does God say “Fear not! I will be with you when …. ” He says it over and over again and He meant it then.  He means it today – because He never changes.  We can stand and be strong and face whatever comes because we have the master of universe with us. When we feel far from God …. guess who moved.  Let’s come on back to the track and get on it.  Ready to stand up and move in on this day?  It’s out there.  What are we doing in here? Let’s pray hard, be brave, and turn on the light so we can live it in front of our world. Ready?  Let’s go! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqunxki9uNw&feature=fvsr

Heading for an Extreme Makeover!

It must be Friday. How do I know? What gave it away? Running behind on everything, half done tasks, watered down commitments, little mountains of clutter everywhere, turbulence! Blame it on Friday – five days into a too busy week.  Freaky Friday! But I know that’s not it, not entirely. Sometimes I think busy is the symptom of something much deeper. Busy is easy. It gives me a way out of doing things I don’t want to do, but I struggle with the chaotic rule busyness has over my life.  Someone wiser than me said, “When the map and terrain don’t agree, always believe the terrain.” I can’t remember when I heard that or even the context, but the map I’ve been following is deceptively representing the terrain in this picture. The terrain is real, it consists of all the important things that make up my life. God first, then family and friends, work, and after that, everything else.  Clearly my map and the terrain don’t match. Time to download a new map.

In Sunday School class, taught by Scott Steiner, we are learning about inviting God to do an Extreme Makeover in our lives.  The requirement?  “just show up”.  My next Map (list) will include committed time spent with God, not a watered down ‘when-I-can-fit-it-in’ hopeful, but time centered on Him. Romans 9:21 says “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” How will I know what my purpose is, if I don’t get to know the potter.  It struck me while reading Daniel that he must have had really positive attitude. I want that!  I don’t know if he was busy but he had to be under an overwhelming burden of stress. Daniel was standing firm against the king – because he knew in his heart he was doing the right thing.  Daniel 6:10 says he went home to his upstairs room and three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God. Giving thanks – even in adversity – 3 times a day, in front of an open window.  I want to be like Daniel. My three favorite words are integrity, discernment, and wisdom.  I want to be busy – busy living a life of integrity.  Heading for an Extreme Makeover!

Ask me how I’m doing. I will tell you the truth from a heart of integrity.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlh6_5znn7U&feature=related

It’s a wrap!

The election is over at last. It is finished, but God isn’t. Did your first choice win? Did your first choice lose? Do you think the vote caught God by surprise? Regardless of what we think – God is in control. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House. God gets to decide what happens next. Our job is to stay faithful to what we, ourselves, are supposed to be doing. Apathy because your guy lost …

or gloating because your guy won solves nothing. If we want to effect real change in America, we have to tune in to the issues, stay informed, and be a knowledgeable influence on the goverment officials starting with our schools, communities, and state. Seriously – feeding each other’s anger is an unproductive waste of resources. The better choice is finding a channel for what we want to see improved where we live. One person can’t change the whole world, but one person can start a chain reaction – join me? No whining, just lots of praying for direction and how we can be the action toward the start of something better.