My husband Brian, and I recently went for dinner at our favourite little Vietnamese restaurant where we enjoyed a tasty meal and good conversation.
When we were finished Brian went to pay our bill and was told someone had already paid it. This was nothing we expected or deserved. It was the random kindness of a stranger, who left before we could express our appreciation.
The undeserved favour we received that evening reminded us of the way God treats us. There is nothing I could ever do to earn or deserve the blessings he has given me.
God sent his son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sins. Because Jesus paid my debt, I am free to come to God and talk to him at any time.
Imagine that, I can have conversations with the King of the Universe. He knows and loves me and invites me to come to him at any time. Not only that, but he has prepared a place for me so I may spend eternity with him.
That, my friends, is the ultimate undeserved favour.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” ( John 14:2-3 NIV)
A few groans were heard as the instructor introduced a difficult new exercise. She responded with, “If you want to have more good days than bad days, you need to do things that challenge you.”
She went on to tell us that improving our core strength would promote better balance which would, in turn, help to prevent injury from falls. It would also keep us healthier and that alone would make the difference between good and bad days.
My mind took in the physical benefits before it quickly moved on to other aspects of my life where this declaration is also true. The thought was simple but also quite profound. When I do things that challenge me, I’ll have more good days than bad.
I need to remember this when I’m tempted to take the easy route rather than stretch myself to see what I can achieve. By thinking I can’t do something just because I’ve never done it before, I am actually ensuring more bad days than good. Instead of having the thrill of new accomplishments, my life will become boring and routine.
My goal is to create the best life possible. In order to do so, I will need to be open to new possibilities and keep challenging myself. My life will become more fulfilled and I can then look forward to having many more good days than bad ones.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” Joshua J. Marine
“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.” unknown
Years ago I heard of an interesting way to catch a monkey. When a banana is placed in a glass jar, the monkey will reach in and grab the banana. With a clenched fist it will not be able to remove its hand from the jar. Even in the face of danger, it will hold onto something it perceives of value, rather than open its hand and lose the prize.
This makes it easy for the trapper to grab the monkey when all it needed to do to ensure its freedom was to drop the banana.
The story came to mind recently when I felt God impressing on me to keep my hands open. Everything was going well in my life and yet I felt discontent. Something wasn’t quite right and I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it.
Like the monkey, I was holding on to the prize in my hand and found it hard to let go. After a struggle, I was able to say through my tears, “I don’t want to give this up, Lord, but I will if that’s what you want from me.”
By opening my hands and letting go of what I perceived as important I was submitting to God’s will for my life. It was strange to think I had to let go of my own desires to find freedom, but that was exactly the case.
The restrictions I placed on my life have been lifted and I am in awe of what God has now placed in my outstretched hands. His plans for me are far greater than anything I could dream of and I am overjoyed to have him back in control.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
It had been many years since we’d planted tulip bulbs and I was watching the progress with great anticipation. Several were almost ready to bloom. I took a picture of one of the buds and planned to take another when the flower was in full bloom.
Well, I did get another picture of this stalk, but it was not what I had hoped for. The nice, plump bud had been eaten by the wild rabbit that lives in our neighbourhood. Several more of these promising flowers had suffered the same fate.
There are still a few buds remaining so either our furry friend had his fill or moved on to sample the fare in another garden. Either way, I can’t count on this not being repeated with the other flowers.
Yes, I am disappointed. Being upset won’t do me any good, though, so I started looking for the life lesson that must be there for me. It didn’t take long to find!
There are times in life I have had great plans that haven’t quite made it to fruition. Like the blooms, they were so close I could almost smell their fragrance. At the last minute, something came along and nipped them in the bud.
Maybe the opportunity wasn’t the right one for me. Perhaps I had more to learn. No matter the reason, I need to keep planting my dreams and goals. It can be scary to risk again knowing things may not turn out the way I hope. The chance is worth it though because that’s what helps me learn and grow.
“If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances.” Julia Soul
Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I was blessed to be able to spend time with both of my children and all seven of my grandchildren. They gave me the best gift possible, the gift of time together.
The young children hugged me, said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and went off to play. My husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and teenage granddaughters sat at the table and we talked and laughed together.
We were also blessed to have our daughter-in-law’s mom with us. The decibel level rose higher as we all enjoyed our time together. The evening wasn’t as much a tribute to motherhood as much as a celebration of life. Stories were told that didn’t always portray me in a favourable light, but that was fine with me.
My family knows that I’m not perfect. I learned long ago to laugh at my mistakes. After all, these make for the best stories!
This, in turn, gives my kids permission to laugh at themselves. One of the lessons I hope to have passed is, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Besides laughter, the other ingredient of our successful gathering was love. It is a beautiful thing and I never want to take for granted the love we share.
This legacy of teasing, laughing and loving was passed on by my mother. She taught us by example. Although she passed on many years ago, I know she’d be pleased to see us carrying on in the same manner. The lessons were well learned and my goal is to ensure they are passed on to future generations.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 GWT)
When I was a teenager, my mother wrote me a letter. I was confused. Why would she hand me written words instead of just talking to me? She smiled and said it was some thoughts she wanted to share and this way I could go back and reread them at any time.
I honoured her by taking and reading the letter but didn’t think the contents were valid. To my credit, I didn’t share those thoughts with her!
Looking back, I see the wisdom in her plan. I was nineteen, ready to leave home and thought I knew everything about life I needed to. Spoken words wouldn’t have been as effective as I probably would have disregarded them.
Basically, my mom told me that I was the only one responsible for me. People would come and go in my life and my self-worth couldn’t be based on the opinions of others. I was the only one who would always be with me. The lesson was to follow my conscience and do what I knew was right.
Sadly, I haven’t always followed this advice. There have been times I’ve tried to make someone else responsible for my happiness. I soon learned that is an unreasonable burden to place on anyone.
Blaming others for leading me astray was easy. Far more difficult was to admit, even to myself, that I had a choice as to my actions. When I chose poorly, it was my fault, not that of anyone else.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple wisdom of a mother who only wanted the best for me. I have learned over the years that I am responsible for my own experience. Thanks, mom.
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up”. John C. Maxwell
My husband and I attended a performance by a symphony and chorus. The venue was small and we were seated behind some of the musicians. We had a side view of the singers and the conductor.
The perspective from that vantage point was very interesting. We were amazed by the variety of instruments the two percussionists played and how they shared duties with several of them. I was fascinated to watch as the kettle drums were struck and then a hand was placed on the top to stop the vibration.
The strings, brass, woodwinds and keyboards each layered on the tones of the other instruments to produce a rich sound. We observed the musicians turning the pages of their sheet music and watching the conductor for direction.
Then there was the chorus. The lyrics were stirring and the harmonies impressive. What caught my attention even more than these were the joyous expressions of the singers. They smiled, swayed to the music and looked like they were having the time of their lives. Throughout, all eyes were focused on the conductor.
I had the pleasure of watching the conductor as he directed both singers and musicians. His pride was evident as he continuously mouthed encouragement and praise.
As I watched this I had a sudden image of God, the conductor of my life. When I keep my eyes focused on him I am aware of his direction. He shows me when to bang the drum and when to silence the sound. His love and encouragement allows me to blend my notes with those of others so we can join together to make a joyful noise.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19 NIV)
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! (Psalm 98:6 ESV)
I noticed the little boy as I was driving slowly through a residential neighbourhood. He was on a bicycle with training wheels. What first caught my attention was how fast he was pedaling. His little legs couldn’t have moved any faster!
Unfortunately, one of his training wheels had been caught between stepping stones in his yard. This meant the bike wasn’t level and without the proper wheels on the ground, he wasn’t moving. All his hard work was getting him nowhere.
I thought to myself, the poor child doesn’t know that no matter how hard he pedals the bike won’t move until he gets unstuck.
A voice inside me said, “This is a good visual of how you spin your wheels and wonder why you don’t get anywhere.” Ouch! The truth can hurt when it smacks you in the face.
When I don’t get the results I’d hoped for I often keep doing the same things as before but intensify the effort. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
What is needed is for me to look at my situation from different angles. Being objective can help me figure out what is causing me to be stuck. I might be able to fix things on my own or I may need assistance.
Once I get back on a level surface I can move forward instead of suffering the frustration of spinning my wheels.
Signs informing us of scheduled street sweeping appeared. They gave us a span of three days for this to happen, along with a warning not to leave vehicles parked on the street over this time.
During our long, snowy winter sand and gravel were used in order to make our city streets safer. Bit by bit it had accumulated. When the last of the protective snow covering melted; I was surprised by the amount of debris left behind.
It wasn’t obvious when it was covered up. When the street was laid bare, the eyesore was difficult to ignore.
Early one morning I heard the rumble of the street sweeper passing by. It went back and forth multiple times until the area was clean. This powerful machine needed to make many passes in order to complete the job.
On most of the street, a thorough cleaning was accomplished. The occasional vehicle made it impossible to for the brushes to get all the way to the curb, which meant some debris was left behind.
This was an analogy of my life. When negative experiences occur I try to cover and forget them. Over time, a mess accumulates. I don’t want anyone to see what I’m hiding as it won’t be pleasant.
Sooner or later, the cover wears thin and bits of the messiness begin to show. Like the vehicles impeding the street sweeper, I have blockages making it impossible to become clean. Until these are removed, there is no way to effectively deal with the debris that lies beneath.
Jesus offers each of us a chance to make a clean sweep in our lives. When we come to him, humble and repentant, he removes those blockages. In one pass, my messy life is swept clean.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 KJV)