What Are You Thinking About?
Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. Proverbs 16:20
I was about 3 miles into my long Saturday run when I suddenly found it. I rounded the bend in the road and there it was, a brief moment when I felt suspended in time, my mind disconnected from my body untethered thoughts flowing freely. No longer mentally tied to the physical struggles of running, my mind wandered. I had inadvertently stumbled into the running sweet spot; the magical moment in running when you aren't thinking about your labored breathing, your feet pounding on the pavement, and how many more miles you have to endure before you finish. I don't know how I got there and I can't seem to recreate the moment on a regular basis, like a great dish without a recipe, but I know it was delicious while it lasted.
Where do your thoughts go when your mind is allowed to wander? Does your mind fill up with worry, fear or discontent? Does it make lists or set agendas? Does it drift to old memories of better days? Does it start to play the "what if" game?
Proverbs 16:20 tells us "whoever gives thought to the word will discover good." So, I have to ask myself, how often do my thoughts drift to God's word? Not as often as they should is my honest answer. First of all, I don't have enough of God's word memorized for it to quickly come to my mind. Second, I don't spend enough time in it to be thinking about it. And most of all, I let the noise of my daily life drown out the whispers of God.
So what do we need to do in order to give thought to the word? First, we need to make time for it. We need to create space in our day to meet with God. For me, this means getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning. Second, we need to think about it. I have cards with verses posted around my house that I look at regularly. And third, we need to memorize it. My posted verses need to become flash cards. I need to go beyond thinking of God's word to storing it in my memory.
Just like I can't find the running sweet spot without running, we can't think about God's word without reading it.
What is one change you can make today to spend more time in God's word? Find one verse to think about to replace your usual worries or negative thoughts. Take a walk and let your mind wander to all the blessings God has given you.
Further reading: Proverbs 2:1-5, Hebrews 4:12
Wash Your Hands
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. James 4:8b
I knew it. Somehow I just knew it. I had been so diligent until today. Why today I didn't do it, I don't know. But, I didn't do it and soon the scratchy throat and sniffles were going to start. Somehow, I forgot to wash my hands. It was that simple. I didn't, and now I knew I was sick. It's not that I really forgot to do it, I just didn't do it before my hand rubbed my nose after touching the same surface my sniffling nosed students had been in contact with minutes before me. With that one gesture, the germs had found their way into my body and now I was getting sick.
Cold and flu season at school is a terrifying time in a teacher's life. There is not a enough Kleenex nor hand sanitizer in the universe to keep the germs at bay. My hands are usually red and chapped from the constant washing and sanitizing, all in name of cold prevention. It only takes a momentary lapse in hygiene diligence to succumb to the illnesses brought about by microscopic germs.
Germs amaze me. It's unbelievable how something invisible to the human eye can make me feel so miserable. Equally amazing is the defense system our body has against germs. Skin. Germs can only get in through an opening in our skin. An orifice or a cut can allow the microscopic illness carriers to enter our bodies and wreak havoc on our health. Our best defense against disease is to wash our hands before the little boogers find an opening. A little soap and water go a long way in keeping us cold and flu free.
Sin is like germs. We don't always see where it starts, but once we allow it into our lives it begins to cause problems. It starts small and grows big. James 4:7- 10 gives us the soap and water routine for the prevention of spiritual sickness.
First, we need a strong immune system. The healthier we are to start with the better able we are to fight of disease. Spiritually that means we need to remain close to God. We need to resist the distractions and behaviors that take us away from his presence (James 4:7).
Next, we need to frequently wash our hands, visibly dirty or not. Preventing many illnesses is as simple as washing our hands. Verse 8 tells us to cleanse our hands. We need to be in a constant state of diligence and repentance with the things in our lives that are in opposition to God by using his word and as the soap for our souls.
Then, if we get sick we need to listen to our doctor and do what he prescribes for us to do. We need to yield to God our thoughts, behaviors and priorities. We need to seek forgiveness. We need to clean our house with disinfectant. We need to follow the guidelines for healing that he lays out in his word. We need to trust in his instructions and rest in them so that we can recover (James 4:10).
No one likes being sick. It is exhausting, frustrating, and just plain yucky. And to think that the simple task of washing our hands can prevent most common illnesses. Our spiritual lives are the same way. So many negative things that we get into could be prevented if we just "washed our hands" on a regular basis using God's soap and water. I don't know about you, but I think I am going to go wash my hands.
Things to think about: What are some things that you need to come clean about before God? What is one thing you can do today to draw closer to Him? What friend needs some chicken soup from you to soothe her soul and encourage her heart?
Further reading: Psalm 51: 1-4, 10-12
July 14, 2017
Wag the Dog
And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them. Deuteronomy 28:13
I have rewritten my to do list several times this summer. A few things have been marked off, but several of my original items just keep getting transferred from one list to the next. One is something I have to get done, but I just really don’t want to do it. Another is something I want to get done, but it is a big job and I can’t seem to carve out enough hours in my day to start it. So, I end up spending my days doing lots of little things that don’t seem to add up to anything substantial. I am like a dog chasing its tail going round and round getting nowhere.
As I read Deuteronomy 28:12-14 the expression “wag the dog” came to mind. In the realm of politics, to wag the dog is a tactic used to divert the public’s attention from something that is important to something that is less significant. The lesser event is then catapulted into the limelight diverting attention away from what is more important. In other words, you create a distraction to get your opponent to focus on something else that doesn’t really matter so you can keep him from focusing on what really matters.
I feel like my summer to do list has been several weeks of wagging the dog. The unimportant has distracted me from the important. I find it easier to watch Netflix than to clean out the garage or my closet.
God warns us to be careful of allowing distractions to keep us from following him. Putting God first by following his commands, helps us to lead with our heads and not our tails. It makes us productive. It keeps the important things in the limelight, and not on the back burner. By making our relationship with God our priority and by aligning our life in relationship to him, our focus can be on the most important things. Satan wants to wag the dog. He wants us to believe that things that truly aren’t important urgently need our attention. He wants to shift our focus from the important to the urgent. He wants us to chase our tails.
God’s solution is simple. Stay focused. Don’t look left or right. Don’t get distracted. Be careful to do what he has said to do. Follow him. Don’t let Satan wag the dog.
Things to ponder: What urgent things are keeping you from important things? What is one way you can make God a priority today? What is one thing you can accomplish on your to do list?
Making Peace or Pleasing People?
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Colossians 3: 22
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time...Go home and get a nice quiet sleep." These words spoken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on September 30, 1938, became famous for the lack of peace they brought. The agreement made between Great Britain and Germany at the Munich Conference in 1938 did not bring peace to the world, it only delayed the on slot of a world war. The act of appeasement or the effort to pacify an enemy in order keep the peace, was visually captured for all generations by the picture of Chamberlain waving the signed agreement paper as he stepped off of his plane. The peace he proclaimed would only last about one year. Britain declared war on Germany in early September 1939. The leadership of World War II is often criticized for their lack of action and quickness to appease Hitler, but ultimately they were trying their best to not repeat the destruction and death that the rapid road to war World War I had brought upon Europe.
Jesus states in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.." We are called to be peacemakers, but peacemaking and keeping are hard. It is hard to keep peace in families of strong personalities. Peace is hard to maintain in the workplace between misunderstood management and undervalued workers. Peace is elusive in diverse neighborhoods, schools, and churches. It is nearly impossible with opposing views in politics. Peacemaking is hard work. It involves empathy, patience, and compromise, but it shouldn't come at all costs. I grew up a peacekeeper. But, my peacekeeping methods were flawed. I believed peace only came through pleasing. Peace with teachers meant pleasing them with compliance and good grades. Peace with parents was gained through obedience and quietness. Stellar, timely work meant less friction with college professors. Pleasing my administrators with long hours, low failure rates, and few parent complaints translated into less conflict at work. I confused people pleasing with peacekeeping. I bought into the idea that peace had to come at any cost and that if people were happy with me and there was no conflict, then I was being the person I was supposed to be and was doing the right thing. I felt loved when people got along with me and we were at peace.
Colossians 3:22 tells me something different. Paul writes that we are to work not as people pleasers, but as God pleasers. In other words, we are not to do what looks good to someone else in order to "keep the peace" or make our lives less stressful. We are to live our lives in authenticity and right relationship with God. You see, ultimately I please people because I am more afraid of their reaction than I am of God's reaction to what I say or do. I please because I am afraid of disapproval, disappointment, disagreement, or above all else, their rejection. Paul tells me my focus needs to be on God, not others. God's love and acceptance of me surpass the temporary good feelings I get from pleasing those around me. Knowing this should give me the strength to be authentic in my relationships. I don't need to please others because I am fully accepted by God. When I act from this mindset, I can become the agent of reconciliation and peace that God wants me to be without worrying about the rejection of those around me.
So, let's take a lesson from the past and realize that pleasing people will not keep the peace for long. In relationships, conflict and disappointment are inevitable, but when we act with a sincere heart fearing God we can be at peace with our choices knowing "that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward."
Things to Ponder: Who are you trying to please today? What motivates you? Do you do things in order to receive the praise of others or because you know God wants you to do them? How can you be more authentic in your relationships today?
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.