Living a Balanced Life

One of my goals is to live a balanced life. What comes to mind when you think of balance?  Is it Lady Justice with a scale balancing the evidence to determine a just verdict in a trial? Do you visualize a young gymnast walking a balance beam or a bicyclist performing a difficult feat?

A balanced life involves paying attention to your purpose and keeping everything in its proper place to accomplish your goal.  Failure to keep your balance can be hurtful to you and others.

How do we find a healthy balance in our culture? We live with daily tension between our culture’s lure to self-centeredness and our calling to be “salt and light” in a world that is desperately looking for love in all the wrong places. Paul encourages us to balance our life by applying the teachings of Christ in our culture rather than being shaped by its values.

In his letter to the Philippians, he tells us to live out our salvation experience in our current environment of unbelief and opposition: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:12, 15).

I believe a large part of our struggle with balance is our confusion between the goal of life and the counterfeit offers of our culture. Maybe we are so busy with the “means” that we haven’t thought deeply about the “end” or purpose of our existence. A few seem to get it, but many do not. God has intended that our money, time, health, and all good things he has made available to us are to serve as a means to an end. When we forget where these gifts originate or the purpose for which they exist, we become very narrowly focused and selfish. If we follow the way of our culture, our possessions will inevitably possess us.

You can find help to balance your family life in my books Parenting With a Purpose and Marriage is What You Make It at www.cosdavis.com. (book tab)

Life Lessons: Learning to Listen (2)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love. If you’re like me, you have lots to be grateful for. What are you thankful for today? Say it out loud to God; Afterall, he is the Source of every good thing that you have to enjoy.

Thank you for reading my blogs and your comments. I appreciate your effort to read my weekly post and the encouragement your comments bring me. By the way, remember what I told you I would share with you this week? Click on the link at the close of the blog and you will see the cover of my new book. 

Now, let’s continue with our life lesson on a skill that is so important to our relationships, LISTENING.

Surely you have experienced the difference between being listened to and being heard. It is highly probable that you have been on both sides of such situations. Recall a time when you believed the other person attempted to listen to you. How did you feel? How did you think this experience helped you? Now, can you recall a situation when you were trying to have a conversation, and the other person was distracted, or their attention was diverted by something else? When someone continues to repeat this behavior, relationships decline, disappear, or remain stuck where they are.

Not all conversations require deep listening. Some are more surface and require less effort, but it is a good thing to listen well in these times as well in order to establish a pattern of trust, which can lead to a deeper relationship. Good listening tells me you care about me and the things that are happening in my life. When you listen to me, it means you have put your immediate needs and concerns on hold and are investing yourself in me. It is one of the best ways I know to say, “I love you.” I have enjoyed this kind of love from many people in my life, and it is a life-changing experience.

What is required of you to be an active, loving listener? In my book Marriage Is What You Make It,2 I make some suggestions about being a “focused listener” that apply to all healthy relationships. Focused listening involves paying close attention to what someone is saying and how they are saying it. Listening is hard work, but the payoff is enormous. Here are some tips you may want to consider:

  • Make a strong effort to hear what the other person is trying to say.
  • Minimize all external distractions by turning off the TV, radio, phone, and so forth so you can pay attention.
  • Turn down the internal distractions. Calm your mind and emotions by taking a deep breath to relax or use some other calming technique to enable you to listen.
  • Compartmentalize or momentarily put aside concerns that may interfere with your ability to listen. If you are distracted by your project or what is next on your agenda, you cannot focus on what the other person is saying. When a critical discussion is taking place, don’t allow anything but an emergency to disrupt it.
  • Hold yourself accountable for listening well. If you allow yourself to become distracted, apologize and ask the person to repeat what was said. Doing this will serve as a good discipline for you and will convey to the other person you are trying to listen to.
  • Wait for your turn to talk. Avoid interrupting, arguing, correcting, or formulating your response until you are sure you have heard what was said.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal communication that is taking place. The tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language give additional information about the importance of what the person is saying. Words are the basics of the “communication soup,” but the nonverbal elements can be the spices that give the soup a lot of its flavor.
  • Test how well you listen. When the other person has come to a stopping point, repeat or summarize what you have heard. Allow the person to correct any misunderstanding and continue the process until it is your turn to respond.
  • Consider the importance of your listening presence. Sometimes we need to be present with people who are hurting, and there is nothing we can or should say to fix the situation. Your presence and listening ear is what they need. Allow them to talk, but do not feel the need to say something “spiritual” to comfort them. Your presence and care are the spiritual help they need. Just be there and listen.

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Life Lesson: Learn to Listen to Others

It’s getting close to “crunch time” in my life! The editorial process for my book is about over and the marketing push will be revving up pretty soon. The release date for Heaven’s Currency: Investing in the Things That Matter Most will be late February or early March 2022. Next week I will be able to give you a peek at the beautiful cover for the book. In the meanwhile, please be thinking about friends and family members who could benefit from the paperback or ebook.

The central issue of life is not money or popularity but how we live in our relationships with God, ourselves, and others. Following is a snippet from the book where I am addressing ways we show our love for someone we care about. Listening is an important part of loving someone.

” I have spent a good part of my professional life listening to people talk about their concerns. On the surface, it would seem that listening is an easy thing to do. However, I have discovered that deep listening is some of the most challenging and exhausting work I have ever done. I think you will agree with me about that if you have ever taken listening to someone else really seriously. Listening is vital to healthy relationships and is a skill every follower of Christ should seek to develop.

Communication is an essential component of all our significant relationships. I would dare say that most failed marriages share a common thread of a lack of understanding and trust, which are built only when two people work hard at communicating well. Listening is a crucial part of communication. All our important relationships suffer when we fail at listening well.

To love another person well, we must accept and understand them. Deep relationships are not the product of wishful thinking or magic. Neither are they produced by judging and trying to “fix” the other person. Those you are trying to love will be inclined to be vulnerable with you about personal concerns, anxieties, and dreams if they know they can trust you. How can you help them trust you with their feelings and concerns? Listen without judging or trying to fix them or the issue.

You may think you are listening when you are only hearing. There is a big difference between the two. You must be able to hear to listen, but listening and hearing are not the same. Hearing depends on the physical ability to discern sounds. Listening is attempting to understand the meaning of the sounds the other person is making.”

Life Lesson: Trust

Webster defines trust as “assured reliance on the character, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Let that sink in a minute. Where do your thoughts take you? Do you have an unreliable vehicle or appliance? Are there certain politicians who come to mind? More importantly, are there family relationships such as husband, wife, siblings, children,  parents, or “friends” whom you doubt you can really depend on when you need help?

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to feel safe with others, to believe another person can be trusted to always want and seek what is best for us. This kind of faith or trust is the glue that makes marriages and friendships work. Trust in a parent is what helps a child feel emotionally safe and provides a character example for them to emulate.

Trust is an important quality that seems to be in short supply nowadays. For many years I’ve been hearing that people have been losing trust in government and institutions such as the church.  Why have people become skeptical of many political leaders, church leaders, educational leaders, government agencies? For the same reason husbands and wives lose trust in each other. For the same reason, parents and children doubt each other. For the same reason, friendships fall apart. Our form of government, the purpose of the church, and the ideal of marriage and family are not the problem. Character is the issue. More specifically, the lack of trustworthiness is the heart of the issue. 

Trust is like a delicate flower that grows only in a certain kind of environment. Take that environment away and the flower gradually shrivels up and dies. The same is true about the trust that is so vital to all our important relationships.

Here are some of the things I think help the delicate flower of trust to thrive:

  1. Be honest in what you say and do. Do not deliberately or carelessly mislead someone.
  2. Be consistent in what you say you believe and how you act.
  3. Own your mistakes and apologize for any wrong you do and attempt to repair the relationship.
  4. Do not blame others or your circumstances for your bad choices and actions.
  5. Respect the thoughts and feelings of others. Everyone is created in the image of God and should not be treated as a “thing” to get what you want. Follow the “golden rule.”

Perhaps there are other trust nutrients you would add to what helps your delicate flower of trust thrive. What is important to you in growing a trusting relationship? Share that with me. Thanks. Cos

Life Lessons: Gratitude

As most of you know, I’m in my eighth decade here on this planet. In other words, I’m old. And in my days, I’ve experienced good and bad, health and sickness, success and failure, and satisfaction and disappointment.

From time to time I have received a smile and nod of the head of another elderly person when I make this remark: “By the time you learn how to live, it’s almost time to die.” If you pay close attention to what matters in life you can learn some important lessons.

I think I have learned a few things along the way that I could tell some younger folks if they would listen. Some of us older folks would do well also to pay attention to the lesson I’m about to mention; it would make us more considerate and easier to be around. Here’s my life lesson for today:

 Every day goes better when I begin it with gratitude. “Thank you, Lord, for giving me a new day” is my prayer most mornings or sometimes during the day. Each day is a gift; it’s not earned or guaranteed. My life is in God’s hands, and that attitude helps me keep perspective on how very blessed I am.  Reading Psalm 103 helps me remember this truth. How does that psalm begin? “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits.”

Did you notice what the psalmist is doing? He is telling himself to give thanks to the Lord. After telling himself to be grateful, he goes on to list many ways in which the Lord has blessed him and those who follow him. I often need to follow this pattern at the beginning of the day and other times when I feel discouraged or confused, remind myself to give thanks and make a list of ways in which the Lord has been faithful throughout my life.

My faith is refreshed when I remember the many challenges I’ve faced in my younger days and how the Lord has always provided everything I have needed. Whatever challenges you may be facing today or in the near future, commit it to the Lord and give thanks for specific ways he has provided for you to this day. He is faithful and will do it again.

What Momma Said

 

While shopping in a big box store recently I was assisted by an elderly man named Bob. He was very helpful, friendly, and brimming with stories about his life. This type of encounter can make the task of shopping more enjoyable for me, so I listened, and listened, and listened until I left the parking lot.

 One of the things he told me about was the wild side of his life as a pro wrestler for several years. He described this period as living on the dark side of life and putting his index finger on his forehead said he was thankful that a jealous husband had not “put a bullet between my eyes.” I got it. I did not ask him to elaborate. He went on to say, “Women like that are like books with a pretty cover, pretty on the outside but empty inside.”But, thankfully for Bob, he was to become a believer, a follower of Jesus, thanks in no small part to his fourth wife to whom he has been married for forty years.

At some point, Bob met the real deal, the kind of person he could trust, and made a wise decision that has put him on the right path in life. My encounter with Bob has caused me to remember something Momma said to me when I was growing up.

 I heard this caution more than once, “Watch your company.” Sometimes you think you are pretty smart and that you have it all figured out and find out later that you should have listened to the advice of someone who can love you as a mother can. I was that person but I learned and the more I listened to her the better life got for me.   

What is the point of all this about Bob and what Momma said? Character, something many in places of leadership in our homes, churches, and government tend to give a polite “nod” to but do not really believe or practice. “Biblically speaking,” character is the basic issue of life. All the educational degrees, money, fame, Twitter followers, and celebrity you can attain will not make you a good, wise, and honest person. If you have someone in your life who will speak the truth to you, thank God and try to be that kind of person yourself. Trust is the key ingredient to all good relationships. People who love you will always do what is best for you in the long run. Thank you, Momma, for what you said. Proverbs 3:1-8.

Pay Attention to the Packaging

 

I’m not a movie critic but will recommend you watch “Second Hand Lions” sometimes when you need a good laugh and a reminder of where our real riches are found. It is one of my favorites, the story of two elderly brothers who retired to an old house on a run-down farm in a rural area in the southwest. Unexpectedly, their great nephew was dropped off for them to care for while his mother continued her loose lifestyle.

The brothers had become “filthy rich” in their adventures in the Middle East and had stashed their treasure in their dilapidated barn. Although they were elderly, they had not lost their zeal for adventure and were willing to go to their stash to support whatever might interest them. They flew a bi-plane, bought a yacht for their small lake, a skeet machine for their entertainment, and a second-hand lion they proposed to hunt for sport.

The part of the story I want you to think about is how the older brother decided to plant a vegetable garden to occupy their time and provide healthy food for their meals. He had never gardened before. He was sold several packets of seeds, supposing them to be a variety of vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, squash, corn, etc., and put the package at the head of each row to identify the vegetable they would gather from the seeds planted there. Weeks later the garden was showing promise but needed some weeding. The younger brother decided to help but was confused by what he was seeing. Looking over the expanse of the growing plants he asks, “What is this?” and repeats the question about various other rows.

The brother whose idea it was to plant the garden answers, “Well, this is squash, that is carrots, and this one is corn,” to which the inquiring brother replies, “It all looks the same to me; it’s all corn,” and throws down his hoe and storms out of the cornfield. Although the packaging was labeled as carrots, squash, and assorted other vegetables, all of it was corn. The truth was in the seed, not what the package advertised it to be.   

There is a consistent biblical theme that we must not ignore: we will reap what we have planted or sown. We may be fooled by the packaging, but the seed determines what will be produced. Corn seed grows corn, no matter what the package says it is.  The world and its marketplace advertise products and ideas that appeal to our pride, comfort, self-indulgence, and ego. Doesn’t God caution us to be wise and understanding about what the world is trying to sell us? The packaging can be very alluring and deceptive but the end result is bad news. “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked. We will harvest what we have planted.”

 Christ wants us to develop a godly character that rewards us with a deep peace and purpose in this life and great rewards in the life to come. The biblical message is unmistakable; there are two paths in life. One leads to personal destruction, the other to eternal life. Sin, rejection of God’s will, brings death. Obedience to God’s will brings life. That eternal life becomes yours the moment you choose to respond by faith in  Christ’s as your Lord and Savior. 

Knowing Christ now is greater than anything this world can offer. Think of all the benefits you have now because you have put your faith in Christ to save you to accomplish His will in you. I’ve often thought that if there is no heaven or hell, knowing Christ now is the best way to live. But there is a heaven and a hell. And, we are laying up treasures in heaven right now as we choose to live faithfully. Take heart, the best is yet to come!

You Live in a Two-World Marketplace

You live in a two-world marketplace in which you invest every day

We live in two worlds simultaneously; our current physical existence and the spiritual realm that is every bit as real as the trees, houses, and people around us. Both worlds have a marketplace with something to “sell” us. And, every day we make choices to invest in our time, money, and energies in what one or both of these markets have to offer.

This idea may seem a bit odd to you but think about it for a moment. A physical marketplace is a location or virtual site where you buy something such as tires for your car or a meal with your family. An exchange occurs when you use a plastic card representing payment or pay by cash or check. You are provided with a set of tires or a good meal with your family for your investment. Money is the currency of our physical marketplace.

On the other hand, the spiritual marketplace (heaven) offers abundant life in the here-and-now and the promise of eternal life through a personal relationship with God. The spiritual life is about investing in the relationships that matter most in life. Our life, given in love, is the currency we have to invest in the things that matter most to us.

Every day you and I invest  things that pertain to our life: time, money, words, talents, and energies. Each day you invest twenty-four hours in work, sleep, and various other kinds of activities. You use the money you have earned to support the people and things you value. You give your talents to help others in organizations you deem important and use your words and energies to promote values at the core of your being.

What are you getting from these transactions? You are getting the things you believe you want or need. If your interest is pleasure and what you can see, taste, feel, and take from life before you die, that is how you will invest your life. Likewise, if you believe your life is a gift from God to be used for His glory, you will choose to invest your life in developing personal character and faithful relationships. In both instances, you choose how you invest with the hope of getting a return on your investment.

The idea that life is a marketplace in which you invest every day is solidly biblical. The concept is directly expressed or implied in many of Jesus’ teaching, i.e., Parable of the Talents, Sermon on the Mount, etc.  Those who embrace Christianity believe life has a purpose and that we are accountable to our Creator for how we use our life. If the Bible is true, we should be concerned with how we invest our time, money, talents, and energies.

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36.

You live in a two-world marketplace with two fundamental choices; to live by God’s plan or go it on your own. This choice is the most consequential one a human being is ever called on to make. But, choose, you must. Our choices have attendant consequences; this one determines the direction of the brief life you have on earth and your eternal destiny. How will you invest your life today?

P.S. Good news! I plan to finalize proposals for editorial processes and marketing for my book this week. The book’s title is HEAVEN’S CURRENCY, INVESTING IN THE THINGS THAT MATTER MOST. I am excited about the process in front of me and ask for your prayers for the success of this project. I have been working on the book for nearly three years and believe it can have a great impact on people’s lives and bring honor to Christ. I hope the book will be available by spring, if not sooner.

Your Choices, Your Character, and Your Destiny

 

What do 168 and 8736 have in common? 168 is the number of hours we have in one week. From that, you have probably concluded the 8736 has something to do with hours also. It is the hours we are given in one year.

On average an American male lives 76 years while females outlive us by 5 years, on average. Like me, some of you are “living on borrowed time.” One thing I am aware of is that I am running out of time and I need to faithfully use what I have left to prepare myself for the life ahead that has no time limit. What about you?

One of the truths I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is this: The choices I make determine my character, which in turn determines my future. This brings me back to 168 and 8736, and more importantly to 24, the hours I’m given today. This may be the only time I have left. I must make good choices about how I will invest my life because those choices will determine my character.

Somewhere I came across the idea that you can get a pretty accurate idea about a person’s character by examining their calendar and their checkbook; how they spend their time and money. The way we use time and money indicates what is most important to us. Your behaviors related to these two resources give a vital clue about your most deeply-held values. Your character, your religion, is not what you profess to believe but how you live. The decisions you make concerning your resources are the real test of who you are, not who you think or say you are. Day after day, you make choices which, little by little, make you more like Jesus or put you further and further away from being the person you were created to be.

Your incredible power of choice is exercised in many ways every day by how you treat God, yourself, family members, and others. Your character is always in the process of developing or devolving, and it is critical that you understand and cooperate with God’s plan and make wise choices in the way you invest your life.

Jesus tells us to keep things in our brief life in perspective. Our time is limited and we need to be sure we have invested our time, money, and other resources in those things that have eternal value. “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust can ruin them and thieves can steal them. But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20).

God has given you today. How will you invest it?

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for what he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot 

Your Life is a Time-Sensitive Trust from God

Does truth really matter to you? If it does, there are several things you will need in order to have the truth and use it well. First, you will need to have a trustworthy source. Where will you get the information by which you will make decisions? This is an area of deep concern to me because I recognize two things about human nature. First, even well-intentioned people don’t have all the facts about most things. We make interpretations about things we see and hear according to the way we see life. We rarely know all the facts and circumstances as to why someone does something we don’t agree with. Do you think that may be why Jesus us tells us not to “judge” others?

The second thing I have learned through difficult experiences is that some people make a habit of lying. I used to think that something I read was true because it was in print or because someone in a place of leadership said it. How naïve and gullible I was. No longer am I so silly and ignorant. We have people and movements in our country who have an agenda that will basically destroy our country. Jesus dealt with people like this all the time. He knew who they worked for and what they represented. We cannot hide from the fact that our country is under attack. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.

So, what are we to do?  Find reliable sources of information. How do you know they are reliable? Does what they say or write agree with commonsense? Is there a consistency in what they say and what they do?  Is their basic message supported by scriptural teachings and principles? The Bible, as interpreted through the life and teachings of Jesus, is our ultimate source of authority.

The bottom line for me is, does what I am reading or being told pass the tests of scriptural truth and common sense?  Now, let’s see if the truth I share with you today will meet these tests. 

The second life-changing truth I want you to consider is: Your Life is a Time-sensitive Trust from God.

This truth is a foundational teaching of Christianity. Biblical concepts such as stewardship, responsibility, judgment, rewards, discipleship, and Christ’s lordship rest on the premise that we have been entrusted with something. A trust is a property or interest held by one person for the profit or benefit of another. The owner of the property or interest in this case is God, your Creator. You are the trustee or steward of this trust.  

What is it that God has entrusted to you? He has entrusted you with your life and all that comes with it. You belong to Him. Your body, wealth, gifts, talents, and time belong to Him. According to scriptural teachings such as The Parable of the Talents, you are accountable for how you manage His interests. 1 Peter 118-19 is one of numerous New Testament reminders of the tremendous price Jesus paid to save us and make us His own, “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold…but with precious blood…the blood of Christ.”

What is the time limit on the trust God has given you? The trust remains in effect until you die. During your lifetime you are allowed to make choices that determine your character and your ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. You are not guaranteed a specific amount of time in which to execute your trust. Scripture and common sense caution you not to presume you have another day past the one you are now living. You do not know when the time for your trust will run out.

Do you believe this truth about your life being a time-sensitive trust from God? What are you willing to do, to change in order to take it seriously? How will you treat God, yourself, and others in light of this truth? God gives us only one day at a time and that is all we have. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come for us but we have now. Let’s give God and others our best today and every day that He gives us.