How Do You See Yourself?

Self-help gurus recognize the powerful impact visualization can have on a person’s achievements. If we want to accomplish something we must see ourselves doing it or we won’t even try. One’s self-image can be a propelling force or a limiting boundary. This is true in every area of a person’s life.

My father was a man of enterprise. He saw challenges as opportunities and was the original do-it-yourselfer. His spirit infected me to the point that, even today, I assume that, until I’m proven otherwise, I can do almost anything. I joke about this with my friends, saying that I can still do anything I’ve ever done, until the day that I can’t. And since the last time I tried to do a somersault I succeeded, I can still do one. Even though the last time was more than 30 years ago, until I try again and fail, I’m still a woman with the potential of doing  a somersault.

Although, if I were to try flinging my body around there could be tragic consequences, there is still the possibility that after a training regimen with a skilled coach,  I might actually have another somersault in me. That attitude of potential is empowering, and helps me to accomplish more practical goals.

In the eighties we sang the Sunday school song, “I Am a Promise,” and beautifully illustrated this attitude by singing, “I am a great big bundle of potentiality.”  If you see yourself as a person full of untapped potential, you are more apt to attempt to handle challenges, to expand your horizons, and learn new things. You tend to be more optimistic about life in general.

Some people  see the glass half empty, some see it half full, and some can’t see beyond the smears and flaws in the glass. These latter folks are those with self-limiting self images.

When we tell a child, “You could grow up to be President,” we are not telling them that they are currently fully capable of performing the duties of that high office. We are trying to establish in them a pattern of imagining themselves achieving great things. 

If I see myself as capable, as valuable, as worthy of respect, then my actions will reflect that self-image. As the Sunday school song says, “I am a promise to be anything God wants me to be,” and it’s true at any age.  I believe while we’re still on this earth God has something for us to learn or to do. As long as we live we’ve still got potential. Your potential may be undeveloped and you may need some new knowledge or skills, but these can be acquired with effort…if you try.

Look into the mirror and see that potential, keep that promise.

Christ gives me the strength to face anything.  Philippians 4:13 (CEV)

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Are you offended?

It sometimes seems we in the West have adopted taking offense and jumping to conclusions as our national pastime. My choice of headgear, my personal opinions, or even my facial expressions may result in insults or even assaults, if someone chooses to be offended.

The definition of the verb "Offend" is: 
To irritate, annoy, or anger; cause resentful displeasure in.
To affect (the sense, taste, etc.) disagreeably.
To violate or transgress  (a criminal, religious, or moral law)
To hurt or cause pain to.

I can understand how someone might react strongly, or with anger, to the sort of offense which violates the law or causes personal hurt, but when did it become okay for us to react with personal attacks, either verbal or physical, to a mild annoyance or clash with our personal tastes?

A footnote in my study Bible commented that the Greek word translated in the passage as “offend” literally meant “to stumble, to become ensnared and fall into sin.” That sounds a lot like what’s happening today, doesn’t it?

Rather than looking for reasons to become annoyed or offended and reacting in anger, how about giving everyone the benefit of a doubt? Instead of responding to every news item or Twitter post with a barrage of rage, how about we jump to the conclusion that we may be misinterpreting the information? Better yet, why not give up the electronic versions of the junior high rumor mill and the tabloid gossip masquerading as news, step back, take a breath, and concentrate on making our own lives more productive?

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. 

Philippians 4:8 (CEV)
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Is That All There Is?

There was a hit song in the sixties called, “Is That All There Is.” Even as a child, whenever I heard Peggy Lee crooning those words on the radio I felt emptiness and despair. I believe that song could be the theme song of non-believers, everywhere.

If all there is to life is the pursuit of personal pleasure, how bleak a prospect. One might as well “keep dancing” as the song says. Even if striving for meaning in relationships and service, there must be times when an atheist wonders, “Why bother?”

After hearing the song on an Oldies radio station recently, I amused myself by thinking up lyrics to a new final verse … a Christian response to the songwriter’s question, “Is that all there is?”

My verse begins with, “That’s not all there is…” and includes the hope we have in Christ Jesus, both in this world and the next.  My song-writing skills don’t hold up under much scrutiny, especially in light of the many glorious songs of hope and joy written by Christians throughout the ages. However, my lines of mercy and grace changed the whole meaning and feeling of this song for me.

When I compare the soaring feelings evoked by my personal favorite hymn, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”  to “Is That All There Is?” I am once again reassured that my leap of faith when I chose to believe the Bible was a leap in the right direction.

“In the beginning was the One who is called the Word. 

The Word was with God and was truly God.” John 1:1 (CEV)

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Walk it off

Stepping out on my walk one morning, I noticed a twinge of pain in my ankle. Having reached the stage of life where random pains come and go with great frequency, I decided to try to walk it off.  About a mile into my route, the pain had grown with every step and I was tempted to call for a ride. Instead, I stubbornly set my jaw, slowed my pace, and concentrated on trying not to limp.

walking-shoes

I’d traveled about another half-mile, when I noticed the pain was gone, so I resumed my usual sprightly step. That pain never returned; not on the last half of my walk, and not since.

I am too old for growing pains, so I’m assuming what I felt was incipient arthritis.

I believe every experience in life offers both a blessing and a lesson, if we look for it.

This was the lesson in trust God sent to me through my sore ankle: When pain and strife afflict us in the midst of our routine (and not as the result of stepping off the narrow path), it is important to walk through it. If we slow our pace and set our hearts on going forward as the Lord leads, we often realize the painful situation has resolved itself. 

Perhaps all our uncomfortable experiences contain similar wisdom to help us mature spiritually, if we simply keep walking the path set before us.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

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Old age: a privilege and an adventure

In a recent letter, my best friend commented, “It sure is the pits growing old.” While I can often commiserate with that sentiment, it reminded me of something I posted a few years ago after reading the quote below, from
Older and Happier at Work by Luchman, Kaplan, & Dala, regarding older women in the workplace:

“The stereotypes of old women as poor, dumb, and ugly have remained similar over the past … years. … (however) The older woman should be viewed from another perspective, one in which her life history records her transformations and individuality throughout her lifespan.”


elder on laptop

I come from a long line of old women. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all lived vigorously into their late nineties, so I have always supposed  I would follow in their path. For this reason, among others, I have chosen as my motto, Anyone can be young; it takes talent to grow old.

Few women would agree with all older women being stereotyped as poor, dumb, and ugly, but how many of us think about seeing beyond the gray hair for the life histories which created our individuality? Do we bother to look for these facets in one another? Or in ourselves?

If you belong to a group of women, whether a group of two – just you and your best friend – or an organized gathering, try the experiment of learning each others’ history highlights, life transformations, and idiosyncrasies. What did each one want to become at her various life stages? Did she accomplish any of her youthful goals? Why, how, or why not? What wisdom was gained on the journey? What skills? You may learn surprising things about your friends, and about yourself, giving you a new, richer perspective on the journey of life.

As the elderly character Mrs. Thistlethwaite says in my Christian fiction series, “Old age is a privilege and an adventure.” Looking at aging from this perspective may help us enter old age with the gratitude and flair necessary to enjoy this rare privilege and adventure all the days God gives us.

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Who is responsible?

[This article was originally posted in June of 2016. Unfortunately, it is even more germane today.]

If two groups of people, each a leader with followers, pass on the street and one leader shouts at the other, “You stink! You’re ugly and stupid!” This would be rude, but not a crime, not even if his followers join in the childish behavior.

If the other leader and/or his followers respond in kind, it is still not a crime. If they add, “I hate you!” to their insults, it is still not a crime.

HOWEVER, if anyone, leader or follower, strikes someone, throws a brick, breaks a window, or sets a car on fire, that person is guilty of a crime.

Although insults, and unpopular opinions, even words of hate, are rude, ugly, immature, and certainly not Christian, they are not crimes.  The people who use another’s words to excuse their own acts of violence are the criminals, not the person they are reacting against.

In our current culture where the manufacturer of an item can be sued if a person uses the item in a crime, blame is being moved ever further from the actual cause of crime or injury, leaving individuals free from responsibility for their own actions.

Freedom without responsibility leads to chaos.

Christians have been blessed with the greatest freedom of all and we have the greatest burden of responsibility as well, as we read in the book of Galatians:

5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other.

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New Year’s Clear-out

When my mother’s failing health made it impossible for her to continue to live independently, we moved in together. My mother’s care gradually fell more and more onto my shoulders and, as her health declined, she became increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with her failing strength and abilities. Knowing how hard it must be for her, I tried to be understanding of her frequent criticism and complaints, but I was working full-time and was often resentful of her demands.

One day, while doing my annual New Year’s clear out, I came across a box of old papers and found a Mother’s Day card I had made for Mom over a decade before.  Along with the card, I had included slips of paper printed with happy memories of times spent with my mother from my early childhood until I was a young adult. The slips were meant to be read, one per day, as a  reminder of my love and appreciation. It was obvious that my mother had read them all,  returned them to the envelope with the card, and packed it away.

I pulled out the slips of paper and read them; smiling, laughing, with a lump in my throat as I remembered my mother in the years before age and strokes had made her so dependent upon me.

God knew of the growing resentment I had been feeling about Mom’s increasing demands. I am sure it was His nudge that led me to decide to clean out that particular box.  I am so glad I responded and took the time to read those memories.

I put that envelope on my bedside table to remind me how blessed I was to have my mother with me. In the months I was able to share with her before she died, those memories cleared away my clutter of resentment and made way for love and appreciation.

When we get bogged down in daily irritations it is easy to forget how much we have to be thankful for. It it time for you to do a New Year’s clear-out today?

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The Bible: God’s personal love letter to you

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. –
Proverbs 21:3

Many Christians have a problem reconciling the Bible’s guidance on righteousness and justice with its teachings on mercy and forgiveness. However, when we remember, as it says in Romans 3:20, that the Law was given to us as a mirror to show our own sins, not as a magnifying glass to examine the lives of others, most of our confusion melts away.

God’s Word is a love letter to His children, a personal love letter to each individual, with guidance on how we should live our own lives and how to treat others.

We are to apply the standards of holiness and righteousness to our own thoughts and actions while extending mercy and grace to others, just as God extends them to us. Holding oneself to a higher standard of obedience while at the same time forgiving others should be the goal of every believer.

If you really keep the royal law stated in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

James 2:8
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Meant for evil, but God meant it for good,

Most of you have probably heard about the controversy over the Satanist statue placed in the Illinois Statehouse alongside the Christmas tree and menorah.

Many were outraged by this provocative act of the Satan worshipers, but I have come to regard it in a different way.

Seeing this juxtaposition of the depiction of Satan’s temptation of Eve in the Garden, promising that she could have all knowledge and be like God, next to the Jewish menorah and the lighted celebration of Christ’s birth, I couldn’t help but think about what a fitting illustration it was for the Bible message:

From the beginning, Satan has tried to convince humanity we can be like God, if only we have enough knowledge. God’s chosen people were tempted, over and over, to turn to the gods of popular culture, but kept returning to the one true God. With Christ’s birth, the gentiles were welcomed into God’s family and offered Salvation from Satan’s lies which lead only to sin and death.

Now, if only the display were to add the Cross to celebrate the Resurrection, how powerful the visual message would be.

As his brothers learned when they sold Joseph into slavery, as recounted in the Old Testament book of Genesis, what is meant for evil can be wondrously used for God’s purpose.

Thanks, Satanists, for providing this expensive prop to spread the Bible message.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Ceasefire

There have been many stories, movies, and historical reports of both sanctioned and spontaneous Christmas truces over the years. These stories often give us a warm feeling to learn how soldiers involved in bloody conflict set down their arms for even a few hours in order to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.  

In today’s contentious times, wouldn’t it be marvelous to see those who are so militantly involved in the culture wars set aside their attempts to force their own worldview on those who disagree? What if we met one another in the spirit of goodwill and declared a ceasefire, for even the forty-eight hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, before taking up our weaponized words and sniping at one another over every real or imagined offense?

Most of us are familiar with the words of the angels announcing the Christ’s birth,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:14 (ESV)

Peace is promised to those with whom God is pleased. This peace is not dependent upon any negotiated truce with one’s foes. It is an incomprehensible inner peace despite circumstances.

We welcome Jesus into our hearts at Christmas to find this different kind of peace. When we hold onto Him as our only Savior, we have peace with God.

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