The aquafit instructor told us to kick our legs to the side, alternating right to left. I am left-handed, which means I often do things the opposite way to most people.
We had a full class and the participants were crowded close together. When I started off on the wrong foot it was a challenge not to make contact with the person next to me. My kicks caused problems on both sides.
The only way to avoid this was to stop, pay attention to what those beside me were doing and coordinate my steps with theirs. Once I was on the right foot things went smoothly.
The phrase, ‘start on the right foot’ means to make a good beginning; to start of well. Despite my best efforts, this is not always easy to do.
Earlier this week my day started off on the wrong foot. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fight or withdraw from the world. I was kicking myself and it would have been easy to inflict my self-destructive behaviour on others.
What I was doing wasn’t working so I needed to do something different. Once I acknowledged I was tired and overwhelmed it was easier to accept my limitations that day and move on. My attitude improved.
I started my day over, on the right foot this time. Once I was back in step with the world around me my day became positive and productive. And even better – no one around me was injured!
The statement took me by surprise. “Deep love is always accompanied by deep suffering,” our pastor said. My thoughts of love were of joy not suffering, but in that moment I could see how true these words were.
I have wept with friends over a serious illness of a loved one. I have sat with friends as they poured out the anguish in their hearts over situations with spouses, children or grandchildren.
Although I can empathize with my friends, I don’t know and love these people on the deep level they do, so will not experience the same pain.
Countless prayers are requested by those who are suffering. The majority of these revolve around someone deeply loved.
I think of my husband, my children (and their spouses, who are children of my heart) and my grandchildren. I love them deeply and would do anything in my power to keep them from harm. I suffer along with them when they are hurting. If one of them was in grave danger and the only way to save him or her was to sacrifice my life, I wouldn’t hesitate. That is how deep my love for my family is.
This helps me understand why Jesus would die for me. The sinless Son of God took on the sins of mankind because of his deep love for you and for me. Jesus suffered an agonizing death in order to save us.
I think back to the pastor’s words, “Deep love is accompanied by deep suffering.” If there is anyone who fully understands this, it is Jesus.
As we approach Easter and focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus I want to stop and think about the magnitude of this gift I didn’t deserve. He saved me before I even knew I was in danger. I praise his name for this amazing love.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16 NIV)
Our normally efficient high-speed internet was not working. We had been away from home for two months and counted on this means of communication to stay in touch with family. It was also necessary for keeping up-to-date with other commitments in our lives.
Our apartment in Mexico had a landline so we hadn’t bothered to get a Mexican cell phone. Unfortunately, the landline was connected to the internet. The result was a breakdown in all but face-to-face communication.
Our service was down for over a week, back up for a few days and then down again. No one else in the building had this problem. To say we were frustrated would be a gross understatement.
On the plus side, in the evening my husband and I talked or played cards instead of surfing the internet or watching Netflix. We hadn’t realized how much time was spent online until we were forced offline.
I know checking my email and social media can be addictive and have been working hard at curtailing this habit. It is easy to get caught up in the virtual world, with ‘friends’ I don’t even know. This comes at the expense of those I want close relationships with. There is something drastically wrong with this picture.
Emails and texting are convenient and often necessary. Spending hours online scrolling through Pinterest or Facebook leave me with little to show for my time. In order to create more of what I want in my life, I need to focus on personal interaction.
I find it ironic that it took an online communication breakdown to help prevent a breakdown in personal communication.
We spoke to our friend the day before he had cataract surgery. His concern about having his vision tampered with was understandable. What if something went wrong?
Several hours after the procedure we spoke with him again. Although wearing sunglasses to protect his eye while it healed, he was amazed at how much more vivid colours were.
The cataract had slowly obscured the view of his environment. The change had been so gradual it wasn’t noticed. The haziness of his surroundings had become normal.
Once the film on his lens was removed, vibrant hues long forgotten appeared all around him. Instead of looking through a fog, he could see clearly for the first time in years.
The miracle of clear vision was cause for celebration.
As I reflected on this, the memory of situations that had clouded my vision, played across my mind. Emotional struggles, betrayals, disappointments, illness, loss and a myriad of other less than pleasant events had gradually obscured my view of life. The haze surrounding me had become normal. Splashes of colour and promise became a distant memory. My joy slowly faded.
My life changed drastically the day I met Jesus. I had known of him for most of my life but that wasn’t enough. When I asked him to forgive me and take control of my life everything changed. The film of discouragement was replaced with the vision of a bright future. My faith in Jesus healed me.
I praise The Lord I can now clearly see the hope and promise he brings to everyone who calls on him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:41-43)
I had always thought of a teacher as someone who imparted knowledge to a class of students. This could either be an academic program or some other creative endeavor. I pictured someone doing research, creating a lesson plan and presenting the knowledge in a way the learners could understand.
As a teenager, my career goal was to be a kindergarten teacher. Life had other plans and I didn’t get the education necessary for this. The closest I came to fulfilling this desire was to spend several years as a Brownie leader. My opportunity to be a teacher has long passed.
Recently I read a book that changed my thinking. The author explained how all of us are teachers.
I teach by my attitude and behaviour. You may be observing and learning from me even when I am not aware. If that is the case, what am I teaching?
When I lose my temper, am tense, unforgiving and judgmental I’m teaching negative emotions. You will either learn to do the same or to stay away from me. Neither is acceptable.
If, on the other hand, I am peaceful, respectful, encouraging and empathetic I am teaching a lifestyle you will want to know more about. My example will draw you closer.
I learn best from someone who is open and honest. Your challenges and how you deal with them teach me I don’t have to appear to have it all together. I learn there is freedom in being authentic and want to pass this lesson on to others.
My teaching comes from life experience and lessons learned along the way. It is not only formal education that has the power to impact lives. I don’t have to spend time in study and preparation in order to teach. Instead, I need to be aware you are learning from me before I even open my mouth.
In that case, I pray my attitude and behaviour are teaching the right things.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” The words of this well-known praise song started going through my mind as we did our morning beach walk.
There was a good reason for this. Moments earlier, I’d been walking on firm sand. Then, my next step sunk deep into soft sand. I stumbled but didn’t fall.
Nothing about the appearance of the sand gave any indication it wasn’t as solid as where my previous step fell. I could not tell the difference between firm beneath my feet and sinking sand until it was too late. My runners and socks were now wet and uncomfortable.
This is a good picture of how easily I can step into undesirable situations in my life. I may think everything is under control and my steps are secure. The trouble is, looks can be deceiving, as I found out on my walk. Suddenly, the ground beneath my feet shifts and I find myself on sinking sand.
Sometimes my foot only slips a little. I recover quickly and carry on. I adjust to the less stable footing and soon it becomes normal for me.
This process is repeated until I stop one day and wonder how I got so far off track from where I’d begun.
Scripture tells us, “He lifted me from the miry clay and set my feet upon the solid rock.” The miry clay is where I tend to wind up when I rely on my own judgment and ignore the voice telling me this isn’t where I’m supposed to be. Still, I like to think I know what’s best for me. Past experience tells me that my judgment is not always accurate.
The solid rock I need to stand on is Jesus. He is the firm foundation I need. When I rely on him to guide me, he will direct my steps and keep me safe.
Our time in Mexico was coming to an end and this was one of our last beach walks. The wind at my back was refreshing. It also caused a problem I hadn’t anticipated as sand and shell fragments blew into my sandals from behind.
When this became uncomfortable I would stop, remove the sandal and shake out the offending debris. The frustration at being slowed down was tempered by the knowledge my foot wasn’t getting sore.
A piece of dry sea grass blew in and got trapped under my arch. This wasn’t as irritating as the sand or shells but I didn’t like the feeling of it flapping around. I started to lift my foot from the sandal bed and the grass blew right through and disappeared. There was no need to remove the footwear; I just had to get out of the way.
The life analogy struck me immediately. Sometimes troubles and inconveniences hit, slowing me down or making me uncomfortable. I often hold onto these longer than necessary, causing prolonged frustration and annoyance.
Other times, the problem was never supposed to be mine. I simply got in the way and didn’t allow it to pass by. Instead of moving aside to let it go, I trapped it and held on. This was not how it was supposed to be.
I remember a picture I once had on my fridge. One character said, “I’ve come to realize the only thing holding me back is me.” The other replied, “And a mighty fine job you’re doing of it.”
I don’t want to be the one holding me back from the life I desire. Maybe the next time trouble hits I will do something different and step out of the way to let it blow right on by.
A bright flash of colour was seen when the bird flew overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and quite effectively disappeared from sight.
Although I knew the bird was there, it now blended into the drab brown of the leafless branches.
The bright plumage was hidden. Only when wings were spread in flight could colour be seen.
I thought of the times I have also caused myself to disappear in plain sight. When I deny the unique attributes that make me who I am; my drab exterior blends in with my surroundings. No distinguishing characteristics are visible to set me apart.
God has gifted each of us with our own combination of talents and abilities. These are not to be hidden, but to be gratefully acknowledged and used for His glory.
I know this but it still seems risky to leave my safe perch and attempt to fly. I am more like a frightened baby bird than an exotic tropical one. Who am I to think I could possibly soar? It’s probably better to blend in than to draw attention to myself.
I remember hearing there are two things that can happen if I step out in faith to test my wings. One is that God will catch me if I fall. The other is that He will teach me to fly.
Either way, trusting God and following His leading will not be a mistake. Where I can only see my uninspiring, drab plumage, God sees the beauty He has instilled in me.
When, in faith, I embrace the opportunity to spread my wings and fly, the bright colours of His love will be visible to others and point them upwards to the glory of God.
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)
Two months into my painting classes I was feeling quite proud of myself. I could see the improvement with each lesson. My last project was hanging on the wall and made me smile each time I looked at it.
Fresh from this success I decided I was ready to take on a more difficult picture. I tackled it with confidence but by the end of my lesson was feeling disappointed. It wasn’t going well and I hoped it was just at an awkward stage and would look better once finished.
The next time I saw my instructor she told me to paint over my picture and start again. I felt like a failure. My work must be terrible if I couldn’t salvage what I’d started.
She showed me where I’d gone wrong and what needed to change. I had done things my own way and they hadn’t worked. Now I needed to consider the hours already invested as a lesson learned and not wasted time. It would be far more productive to start again than to try to fix my mistakes.
Originally I had started with the focal point. This time I filled in the background first. Step by step I built up to the area to be featured. The result was much better than the first attempt.
Instead of being passable, it was now something I could be proud of. I had no idea the background details were so important.
This experience taught me that past success doesn’t guarantee the same in the future. I hope I have learned not to be so sure of myself that I fail to listen to advice. The work I’ve done and the hours put in are not worth a thing if I’m not getting the desired results.
No matter how much I think I know, sometimes starting over from a new perspective is just what is needed.
I am happy to announce my new book, Another Perspective has now been published. It is available on Amazon or directly from me.
Isn’t that interesting?” I said to my husband. We were on a beach walk when I saw the primitive looking shelter.
It was set back a good distance from the water to protect it from being washed away with the tides. The construction materials were those found readily at hand. Poles supporting the structure appeared to be long, thin pieces of wood such as we’ve often seen on the beach. A few more of these were crosswise on the top, forming a base for the roof. Dried palm fronds on the top ensured a shaded area inside the structure.
The shelter was simple but would provide refuge from the heat of the intense Mexican sun. Other properties had more elaborate structures but this simple one was all that was really needed.
I pondered this thought as our walk continued. Before long I realized snippets of an old song were providing background music my mind. The lyrics told of a mansion that is waiting for us in heaven.
Now, I understood the draw the shelter held for me. It represents my life. My needs may be taken care of but that doesn’t stop the desire for more. No matter how much I have my longing will never be satisfied this side of heaven.
God is my shelter today. He watches over me, guides and protects and has made my life rich with more than material things.
I have the assurance that one day Jesus will take me to a home He has prepared for me and I will spend eternity with Him. Nothing in this life can compare to what is in store for me then.
“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 13:2-3 NIV)