Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Secret to Contentment

 I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 
Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
We plan and dream.  We imagine a life called us.  And on the wings of our hopes we see "happily ever after" just over the horizon.  The days come and go and dreams give birth to other dreams until our very happiness is put on a shelf, just out of reach.  We wait for the day when our children are a little older or our husband's work schedule changes.
But waiting for the right circumstances to make us happy brings a tension all its own.  Very often we mistake this tension as a sign that we are lacking something, but it is actually a tension born out of wanting what we do not have.  Contentment, after all, is an inside job, and no amount of rearranging our lives will bring it to us.  We must find it within ourselves.
The secret to contentment comes from understanding that where we are now is exactly where God wants us to be.  He has a purpose for our lives, and He offers a peace that is separate from our circumstances.  When we open our hearts to this, love comes rushing in the way the tide fills even the tiniest holes in the sand and blessings are scattered around like seashells.
Lord, help me grow in the holy habit of contentment by seeking Your presence and purpose for my life.  Amen.
From 3-Minute Devotions for Women
 by Barbour Books, 2013

Friday, July 8, 2016

Being American Isn't Easy

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free..."
"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she's to blame for their lot in life..." (The American President, 1995).

I love this speech from the movie, The American President, because the words are so real, especially today in this United States.  You can replace the name, 'Bob Rumson,' with whichever political candidate you might choose, but the message is still the same.  Our president doesn't have a girlfriend, but his skin color is black.  Insert that and you have the same message...

Or insert the message that those from a religion we don't know about or understand...

Or that ... well, you fill in the blank with anything you don't like or agree with.

There will always be someone 'different' from us on which to place the blame.

But here's what I know to be true, placing blame and scaring people doesn't solve the problems.  It might win you an election, but the problems remain and, worse still, these actions create new and bigger problems.

For the first time in my adult life I am really afraid for my country, even more so than on September 11, 2001, because this time the threat is us.  We are at a cross-roads where we must choose new leadership for our country.  I have to agree that, given my choices, I would rather choose D - none of the above (not the first time this has happened), but as a citizen of the United States I owe it to my country to vote for the one I believe to be the best choice. 

And here is how I will choose...

Which one will lead most closely to my Christian belief system?

That system is not based in anger, finger-pointing, division, and hatred.  That system, my system, is based in love and grace.  These are the things Christ came to earth to teach us.

We have just celebrated the anniversary of the birth of our great country. I've just re-watched all the videos and movies about how this country came to be and I LOVE them!  This creation, as all creations, was HARD!  There was disagreement after disagreement after disagreement, but there were enough clear heads that kept them focused on the end game, the prize, that, against all odds, it worked.

Our first president, George Washington, intended to retire from office after his first term, but was encouraged to continue because he saw the young country leaning towards political parties and division.  He hoped that four more years of his leadership would calm the waters and establish the idea of one for all and all for one.  Alas, after four more years, the tides were cast and political parties were already in place.

The purpose of those political parties?  To further my beliefs over your beliefs, what I think is right over what you think is right.  In other words...POWER and CONTROL.

Here's what Mr. Washington said, "...There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume..." (published in David C. Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, under the title "The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States") 

Mr. President, you were right.  We are being consumed!  We can point fingers and say that 'they' don't belong to the right party or the right religion or the right country or the right skin color, but as long as we keep pointing our fingers at 'them' our problems cannot be solved.  Where are those leaders of so long ago who set aside personal wants and needs to fight for and create these United States of America?  Where is the spirit of compromise and providing for the common good?

We know of only two times that Christ ever showed anger towards anyone.  In both cases his anger was caused by ungodly attitudes and actions by those around him.  These were the religious leaders, the men who knew 'the rules' better than most of the others and yet, Christ corrected them on several occasions telling them that God wasn't about the man-made rules.  God was LOVE.

Look at who Christ spent his time with.  He ate with those no one else would eat with.  He spent his days and nights with the sinners and the sick and the hated.  He was scorned and killed because his love and peace frightened and angered the general population.  They liked the divisions, them and us.  'We are right and they are wrong!'

How, after all these years, can we miss the message of both of these men and so many more?  God continues to send us these men and women of light and we all agree that their message is sound. 

And then we continue to follow the loudest voices shouting just the opposite message.

I fear that one day all too soon God in heaven will be fed up with we human beings and decide that it is time to finish it.  And all these 'Christian' folks who have shouted the loudest and condemned so many others will find that they have missed the opportunity presented to them. 

We live in a great nation, founded in liberty and freedom and tremendous responsibility.  God put us all here in this time, in this place, to do great things.  We will live up to the challenges He has placed before us? 

Will we rise to the challenge and become what He always intended us to be?

The choice is ours to make.  I pray it will be 'the right one!'