November 24, 2012

Just Do It

I talk, a lot, about losing weight, exercising more, getting up earlier, being more kind, gracious, giving, forgiving, and my list goes on and on. I want to change, permanently. Not for just a week or a month.

So, how do I change? Where do I start on such a long list? One choice, one moment at a time. Rather than lumping everything together into a mountain so steep it is impossible to climb, I need to take the first step.  Then the next. Before long I will be sitting on the crest enjoying the view.

This will take action, not words. We've heard over and over how action speaks louder than words. Jesus said faith without works, isn't faith.

Ah, but to keep the motivation. It feels good to sleep just a few more minutes. That extra helping is hard to resist. Snuggling into my chair with a book after supper is more pleasant than jumping onto the stair stepper. And it is hard to withhold cutting comments and be patient. It feels better to putter around the house in my jammies than to get dressed and go to church. Why? Lack of discipline. And, it is a pandemic in our society.

Discipline is an ugly word, dredging up the image of extreme self denial. Life is already hard enough. What is wrong with some self indulgence? A little? Absolutely nothing. A life time? Plenty. Too much self indulgence leads to deep rooted selfishness, apathy, callousness, and excesses, which are the root causes of suffering in our world.

Wow, what a leap from sleeping in to a suffering world. Not really. Without discipline it becomes easier and easier to self indulge and harder and harder to make uncomfortable, but right choices. As adults we all know what happens to children raised without discipline. So, what happens to adults without  it? Add the accumulation of all the small, continuous acts of self indulgence, multiplied by millions and billions, and I think the issue becomes clear. It is a tsunami of "if it feels good, do it."

Right choices don't feel good, at least not on an bodily level. Doing the right thing is uncomfortable, and often leads to suffering. Most of us run with the speed of a gazelle in the opposite direction when faced with suffering, if we have the choice.

My reading this morning from Streams in the Desert added a deeper truth: "For the hearts that will cease focusing on themselves, there is 'the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.' Phil. 4:7."

The secret of a joyful life in a nutshell. We all know this. I have written of this basic concept before in my posts Ego and How to Have a Joyful Mind. I have tried to follow this mantra, and failed, over and over. It all points back to a lack of discipline. I have made a vow, it is time to stop talking, and just do it.

November 11, 2012

What He Sees

My eyes were opened to another spiritual truth this week. God really does see everything. Let me repeat. God sees everything. He does see my many failures, but He also sees the morning prayer, the prayer during a lunch time walk, and even the private pleadings while hiding in the restroom at work.

He sees when I put my last few dollars into the collection plate, just as He did the woman in Mark 12: 43-44. Jesus noted she contributed not from  her abundance, but from her want. He noticed,  and I am sure He blessed her for it, although Scripture doesn't say.

God also sees the times I clamp my mouth shut instead of uttering what is really on my mind, sparing someone's feelings. He sees when I stand up for my beliefs, even when no one else notices.

He forgives the wrong and blesses the good,giving abundantly when I trust Him, and I can trust Him even when my circumstances hurt.

This means I don't have to worry about competing for His attention. Neither do I have to strive to get anyone else's attention, or covet another's good fortune. I will always have His attention, and plenty good fortune of my own, if I open my eyes and look.

And God goes further, He sees into my heart and knows my many failures are rarely a deliberate attempt at rebellion. He sees how hard I try. And, it all counts toward that moment when I stand before Him waiting to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful Servant."

November 10, 2012

The Other-Someone Else

Not too long ago I wrote about Someone Else. The person who got the job I wanted, the person who was driving the car I always wished I had, and lived in the house I always dreamed of. The list goes on and on. That Someone Else's life was pretty wonderful.

Granted, I also mentioned the Someone Else who had more problems than I do, but I failed to recognize another aspect of Someone Else, the other, Someone Else.

While I am busy coveting what Someone Else has, I am completely ignoring the Someone Else who is doing what I don't want to do. When hearing about a serious problem or issue, what are the first words out of my mouth? "Someone ought to do something about that."

Right now Someone Else in the personage of the police officer, the paramedic, the researcher, the congressman (yes them too), and many others are doing "something about that." These professionals are taking care of many "somethings" I cannot  and do not want to deal with. But this issue goes even further and deeper than that.

God expects me to be that Someone Else as well. I am the one who should step up and do "something about that." It might be a situation I could actually make a physical difference, or perhaps lend both monetary and physical support to, or maybe the situation would only require writing a letter, making a phone call, or simply praying. Whatever the opportunity, it is time I stop wringing my hands and saying "Someone do something!"

St. Paul's words, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," are true, especially now that I am older. My energy level is not the same, and I already appreciate my dad's comment, "Retirement doesn't really mean you have more time to do the things you want, because it takes more time to do the things you have to."

Regardless, it is time I stop being selfish with my time and my wealth (the little bit I do have). It won't be easy. It is harder to step out of my comfort zone now that I have developed entrenched habits and routines, but God expects me to, without neglecting family or my health, or my spiritual needs. After all, He can take my little and make it enough. I just have to be willing.

November 05, 2012

If I Died Today...

If I died today, what in my life would really matter? Would I regret how I spent my time? Would my passing affect others in any way? 

We have all heard the Cherokee proverb: When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. 

Could I honestly say that about myself? In my small circle of family and close friends, that might be true, but of the world? Certainly not. I have not done anything outstanding. My life has not made any difference outside of my small circle. 

Yet, I do matter. As the story of the boy on the beach throwing back one starfish at a time, he might not be able to save them all, but his compassion mattered to that one he did save. If you multiply this action by those of countless others, then yes, the world feels the impact. 

So, it does matter to anyone how I live my life? Yes. It matters to me and to everyone around me. 

This week I took a closer look at how I spent my time, where my focus was. I spend too much time with things that won't matter at all if I died today. The unfinished manuscript, the unfinished painting, they won't have much impact on my family. However, the phone call to a housebound friend, the extra effort at work, and how often I tell my family I love them, that has an impact on others. Those are my contributions to the million of starfish needing rescue. 

And thus I am refocusing where I spend most of my time. So what if I'm not the perfect weight I used to be. So what if my painting will never be viewed by anyone but a few close friends and family. So what if my book never makes the Times Best Seller list. 

My prayer time, the time I spent nurturing others, the gifts of my talents to others, not for my personal gain, but for their enjoyment or uplifting, those will matter after I am gone. Those things will make a difference in someone else's life. 

Keeping my focus on how I might help another, simplifies my life, pulls me back from the frantic busyness and frantic pace I try to keep up. Sometimes sitting on the porch watching the sunset with my husband is far more important than anything else. 

Erma Bombeck said as much after she was diagnosed with cancer. She regretted not spending more time looking at sunsets, playing with her grandchildren, and just being, rather than doing. 

I am going to heed the wise words of the Cherokee proverb, and of Erma, when I decide how to spend my time. 

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