A Path, A Guide, A Life

I’ve been thinking …

Life is complicated. We learn from each other how to navigate this thing called life. We first learned from parents, then from teachers, coaches and for those fortunate enough to partner up with one, a mentor who articulates important life-enhancing behaviors. We glean knowledge from listening and from watching others. The common thread in how we learn is guidance woven through every aspect.

We need guides to teach us things we may never understand without the wisdom of people willing to share from their experiences. We need guides to pour into us from their wisdom.     

To look forward and not back;
to look inward before stepping outward;
to grieve a little for what is lost but be thankful more for what is still here;
to plant seeds of encouragement in the dirt that is sometimes dark and heavy;
to be grateful for what is before presuming the best of life is yet to be experienced;
to be careful how you live your moments because they become your memories.

Do you wonder how to get from where you are to where you want to be? Seek a guide who has already forged the path and found success.

Anyway … That’s what I was thinking.

This vignette is written for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is GUIDE. The rules are to write for five minutes without overthinking, without editing, and let the words come from your soul.

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A lens not made for me

“Janie, can you bring me my glasses? They’re downstairs on my desk.” In that simple request was a complicated lesson. My dad was a minister and spent hours out of every day studying scriptures and reading commentaries to prepare him to share the gospel in teaching and in living. He also shared his skill as a carpenter and mechanic for people in need. Daddy’s glasses were not single strength lenses for a linear focused guy, they were trifocals necessary to accommodate the vision stages of close-up study, distance ahead, and a hammer and wrench length away.  When daddy sent me to fetch his spectacles, I went down the stairs wearing my own lenses, but ascended the stairs wearing his.  Thump, stumble, thud, rumble, rumble, thud, thud, ouch, ouch, bruised arm, bruised legs, and battered ego.  The steps on ascent wearing trifocals were fragmented and nothing like they were when wearing lenses fit for me.

The memory of that incident replays often, reminding me that things aren’t always as they seem, there are countless perspectives on the same problem, and the source of a situation is the closest element to leveled truth.  Wearing multi-vision trifocals not made for me, caused faltering and stumbling on steps that seemed broken and lopsided, even though they were level and symmetrical. This same lesson can be applied to what we hear, but don’t experience; what we read, but don’t verify; what we believe without knowledge. Do you see the illustration? This memory returned to me this morning when praying for God to protect my mind from distraction and not get pulled off track into destruction.  Psalm 25:5 “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” The enemy of my soul wants nothing more than to devour every truth and confuse my thoughts.

When thoughts are altered, so are the acts that follow. How often do we crave truth? Proverbs 23:23 says “Acquire truth and do not sell it—wisdom, and discipline, and understanding.” I might have it all wrong, but doesn’t this mean that truth is the embodiment of wisdom, discipline, and understanding?  In Isaiah 59:14, there’s an interesting parallel to this “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.” At this time people were rebelling and turning away from God. They had no conscience for truth. When we blindly believe hearsay, when we don’t investigate the facts at the source, any hope for honesty is gone and truth is nowhere to be found (vs 15).

When I put on those lenses not made for me, what I believed was altered truth. The only remedy was removing the offense, putting that aside in favor of my own glasses whose lenses let me see clearly the way things were. The source, my own glasses, produced the truth. To have the right perspective on issues, we need to look at them through the lens of God’s word. There is honor in seeking the truth, not falling prey to deception. The Message translation of Proverbs 16:13 says it well “Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.” Don’t take my word for it though. Go to the source – the word of God and you’ll have truth, satisfaction, and honor. Psalm 91:14-16 ”The Lord says, “Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he is loyal to me. When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor. I will satisfy him with long life, and will let him see my salvation.”

It’s Optional

How often do you think about options? Last week I was at an event where there were tables of snack food, so many options. I was looking at my messy calendar and trying to schedule a real meeting with a friend and thought – options. I was spending an evening at home and decided to turn on the TV but had no idea what to watch so I grabbed the remote and pressed ‘guide’. So many options, I turned to my standby, Hallmark. Do options bewilder you sometimes? Options bewilder me, not because I don’t already have a calendar full of possibilities, but because I do.  I’m a list maker and a natural born planner, albeit a very flexible planner because I like to keep my options open.  I have a thick spiral notebook with beautiful floral pages that I handwrite my list of options on.  And there’s that word that got stuck in my head and refused to budge. Options!

As my mind was anticipating the weekend ahead and annotating plans to go to a school play, having Sunday dinner with my family, spending time with a friend, and enjoying fresh, dark coffee made with my Keurig brewer, I stopped.  Right there in the middle of those thoughts whirling in expectancy I realized how blessed I am to have options.  There are many who don’t have options.  They have physical limitations, they have financial restrictions, their health confines them to a small, safe space. I couldn’t turn off the thoughts of individuals suffering from serious illness, and their families who suffer with them. Weather in parts of our country have ravaged areas and left people in turmoil for weeks. What options do they have? I was watching a program on TV that showed the poverty in countries where the only drinking water comes from polluted sources.  They have no options. We love options. We’re dismayed at their absence.

I confess. I do my share of complaining. Maybe not vocally where others could hear me, but my mind has been contaminated with little grievances.  The problem with little grievances, is that they procreate and like any other living organism, they grow to the size of their nurturing environment.  Do you ever feel like this? Nobody is perfect. Everyone is allowed to complain.  It’s OK because life isn’t fair and I’m just being realistic. Good point.  But not valid. Nothing good comes out of complaining.  Complaining is a decrepit option.  Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” Interesting!  Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.  Those negative thoughts should be fleeting, not resident. I should renew my mind Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewing my mind is a favorable option. Realistic is recognizing what I have instead of what I don’t have. Realistic is being aware of what I can do, instead of what I cannot. Renewing my mind, refreshing my attitude, regenerating a right spirit within me are options; options as real as the plans I’ve made for the weekend.  Sometimes I overlook the blessings in my life. I often forget that I have options. One option is to adjust my attitude so thankfulness is at the top of the list; the predominant characteristic.  If I get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (the Message) “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.”  But I need help – lots of help!  Well, there’s an app for that.  Psalm 55:16 “I call to God; God will help me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.”

Do you have a to do list? Do you have a plan? I do and at the top of the list is option one:  Renew my mind and generate a thankful spirit.