Faithful Change

 

Faithful Change

Do you sometimes feel dizzy or a bit depressed by the magnitude and pace of change? Does it seem to you that you are continuously dealing with some form of change? The weather, your body, mood, finances, job-related transitions,  sickness, death, or marriage of a family member require some form of action. Additionally, we must learn how to respond to the deteriorating societal values and the increasing intrusions of government and powerful corporations in our everyday lives.

In his book, Faithful Change, Dr. James Fowler states that each generation has felt they lived in unprecedented times; experiencing the full range of challenges of human living. To live faithfully, we must learn to make good choices in light of those challenges. Our need to change comes from at least three choices which he identifies as (1) developmental change,(2) healing or reconstructive change, and (3) change due to disruptions and modifications of the systems that shape our lives.1

Developmental change is the process of physical, emotional, and intellectual changes and challenges we face in the life cycle from conception, birth, young children, pre-adolescents, teenagers, young adults, and so on until old age and death. This process is ever-present as we deal with two additional areas of challenge.

The second area, which Fowler refers to as “healing or reconstructive change,” has to do with the need for healing from harmful patterns of emotion and thinking which we have adopted to help us feel safe and less vulnerable to the realities of life. This false sense of self and security is challenged when we lose a job, face a serious health crisis, lose a loved one or go through a divorce or other major disruption. Such a crisis presents an opportunity to reassess who we are and to make the necessary changes.

“Change due to disruptions and modifications of the systems that shape our lives” has to do with the challenges which come from our participation in the social, political, and economic processes of our society. Very often we feel the only control we have in these areas is how we will respond to the decisions those in power are making. We are in the midst of what is often labeled as a “cultural war.” One of the challenges a believer faces is in this postmodern culture is how to maintain a faithful, loving witness in a society we believe to be in a rapid downward spiral.

How can we live faithfully in a world that seems so chaotic and out of balance? I often ask this question but have no advice to offer concerning the solution to many of our challenges. But, I  know where to start, and then it is a matter of trusting  God to lead me daily in how to be faithful day by day. This morning as I wrestled with a sense of being overwhelmed and confused about what to do with all the change, I was reminded of the Anchor in the storm, the firm Foundation as I read these words from Psalm 1: 1-4,

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scorners! But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law, he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its seasons, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 46 is also a great encouragement if the pace and enormity of change are getting to you. Blessings, Cos

 


1. James W. Fowler, Faithful Change,(Abingdon Press, Nashville,1996), p.9-11.

 

 

 

Lonely?

 

 

 

Lonely?

Sometimes I feel lonely. What about you? I believe everyone struggles with a sense or feeling of loneliness from time to time. This deep, uneasy struggle for meaning may last for a day or two for some of us while others live with it day after day, never really escaping its drain on their energy and sense of purpose.

There are many reasons you may feel lonely; an unrequited love, loss of a job, illness, lack of meaningful relationships, or marital issues. The common denominator of these and other issues related to loneliness is that they touch a deep area of need in each of us; the belief that I have purpose and meaning, that I matter, I am loved and important.

The Psalms of David often give poignant insight into his inner struggles. Although he was in the very center of God’s will, Saul was relentless in his efforts to kill him. He suffered the disappointment of trusted friends who turned against him. In Psalm 142 we get a glimpse of the depth of David’s loneliness. I find what he said in verse 4 very moving,” I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”  

There are times when we can be with people and be lonely. There are also experiences when we are alone but not lonely at all. Being alone and being lonely can be two totally different things. The issue is whether or not we feel understood and cared for in that relationship. Good relationships require the work of  purposeful communication; the willingness to talk about our feelings, wishes and desires and the disciplined attentiveness of deep listening.

I often feel lonely for God, feeling distant and out of touch with Him. In times like these I must live by faith and remember that, while I may feel God is silent, He is there and ready to hear me. When David experienced loneliness He turned to God, “ I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living…Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name…” (vs.5,7).  God answered and restored David’s sense of meaning and purpose.

One more thing. Do you know someone who may be lonely today? Will you make the time to reach out to them? Will you try to really listen deeply to them? They may have been crying to God concerning their loneliness. Who knows but what you may be God’s answer to their prayer.

Time is Flying

What is time? If you consult a dictionary you will discover no fewer than a dozen options. One such answer is “a period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”

Over the centuries mankind has measured time with calendars, sundials, clocks, and watches. A dash on a tombstone between the date of a person’s birth and death represents the years and month he or she lived. We humans seem to be very conscious of time. Why is that? Could it be that somehow we instinctively know our days are numbered? I confess time is very important to me; there are no fewer than eight to ten calendars and time devices in my house to keep me focused on what I need to do. 

Ways to measure time are human constructions to help us manage our lives by setting appointments, mealtimes, bedtimes, and the hours we work at our jobs.  Calendars help us remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant days. Obviously, these instruments for measuring time can be helpful to us in ordering our lives in productive ways. But, there is another purpose these devices can serve that we may not think about very much. What is that?

For Me, the clock and calendar remind me that my life is speeding by. There was a point in my life, somewhere around age 50, when I began to be more aware of this reality. I  compare that awareness to a roller coaster ride that ascends rather slowly to the highest peak and drops with breath-taking speed, never to slow down again. The truth is that my life has always been speeding by but I didn’t have enough wisdom or understanding to realize it until that certain point on the roller coaster ride.

There is a clock in our hallway that has two Latin words inscribed above its face, “Tempus Fugit.” In my  high school  Latin class, I learned those words mean “time flies.” Indeed it does. I need to be reminded that my life is speeding by and the way I use this gift is very important. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.  

How will I use my time today? That all depends on what I really see as a priority and what I will choose to do based on what I say I believe. I say I believe a relationship with God and others is the central meaning of life. However, what I do is what I really believe. How I invest my time will be the true test of what is important to me. 

We have the gift of now, today. Yesterday is gone and cannot be recalled. Tomorrow is not here and may not come for us at all. As for me, I will attempt to be intentional, purposeful to use my time in a way that will honor God by helping others with an encouraging word, prayer, and deeds of kindness.

Tempus Fugit.  How will you use your day?

Two Important Words

 

 

Two Important Words

“Thank You” are two of the most important words we can use. They rank right up there with “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” Of course, none of these words are meaningful if they are not sincere, coming from somewhere deep inside us.

Giving thanks, expressing gratitude are highly encouraged in the scriptures. Paul reminds us in his prison letter to the Philippians (4:6-7) that thanksgiving is a great antidote for anxiety. Try it sometime when you are feeling anxious. Take a few minutes to make a list of all the good things God has done for you in your lifetime and see the anxiety give way to hope and confidence in God.

Saying a heartfelt “Thank you” acknowledges our dependency on God and others who do good things for us. Expressing gratitude also demonstrates an awareness that our lives are intricately interwoven with God and others. We are the recipient of kindness and grace we do not deserve. Expressing gratitude shows respect for God and others and tends to dispel the selfishness and entitlement into which we can so easily fall.

As I think about my need to be more thankful I am reminded of a couple of phrases from prayers I have heard. The first is from a deceased friend who often prayed at mealtime, “Lord, give us grateful hearts for what we are about to receive.” The other was passed on to me from a woman whose heart was deeply touched by her aging father’s gratitude for his health, “Father, thank you for the measure of health I still enjoy.”  Both prayers express a tremendous truth about life: God is good to us and the proper response is to say “Thank You.”

Do you sometimes get frustrated when you do something generous for a family member and there isn’t the least acknowledgment of your kindness? Now, I know we are not to do good things for selfish recognition but I admit that the lack of “thank you” bothers me. This is probably something I need to work on but I honestly feel disrespected when this happens. When I am tempted to judge the character of others for this omission, the Spirit causes me to ask these questions, “Do treat God the way I think I am being treated?  How does God feel about the way I treat Him?”

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom that springs from the soul.” Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

 

MY “To Do” List

 

 

 

My “To Do” List

For many years I have had the habit of making a weekly “To DO” list. This process helps me organize and prioritize the things I want to get done and keeps me focused. It also serves as a way to evaluate how I have invested my valuable time.

This week, just as I have done many times, I have included “Encourage someone daily” on my list. Why do I do this? First, as a believer, it is imperative that I show concern for the needs of others. And, given the times we are in, everyone could use a friendly “How are you doing?” or “I’m praying for you” message.

Another reason why I do this is that I’m repaying a debt of gratitude for all those people whose words and actions have helped and encouraged me to face various challenges and disappointments that threatened to dissuade me from my goals. My memories take me to my parents, church members, teachers, pastors, a college president, businessmen and women, employers and colleagues who have blessed my life with words and actions that showed a sincere interest in me.  I’m sure my journey would have been much more difficult had those people not made the effort to encourage me.

I regret not recognizing the impact many of these people had on my life and not thanking them before they departed us. However, their memories live on and continue that ministry of encouragement. I am grateful for these folks and want to continue to do what I can to let others know they are being remembered in prayer and that I will do what I can to help in practical ways.  

By the way, I woke up this morning feeling a bit lonely, low energy, isolated and generally out of touch with God. Getting “out of myself” and sending an encouraging text, making a call or writing a note is one of the surest ways I have found to cure blues.

It is quite likely you know someone who needs and encouraging word or action from you today. Make the effort. You never know just what such an action will do to lift their spirit and instill the courage they need to keep moving ahead.

God bless you.

Need an Adjustment?

 

 

 

Need an Adjustment?

I went to a chiropractor recently for an adjustment to begin the process to realign my neck in order to alleviate a problem with my shoulder. This was my first chiropractic adjustment and, while not painful, held a few surprises. I’ll not bore you with the details but it got me thinking about “adjustments” I’ve had in other areas of my life. Some have been much more difficult than the experience with the chiropractor.

For example, “You’re getting too big for your britches” is a warning I heard from Mama more than once in my growing-up years. I interpreted that to mean things such as, “You need to change your attitude, your tone of voice, you need to adjust your thinking, or you are about to be in real trouble if you don’t immediately stop what you’re doing to irritate me.” She was a great mom but there were certain things she wouldn’t tolerate and when she let me know I was about to cross that line, I did what any kid with common sense would do. I adjusted to her rules and I lived another day.

Mama had her rules, the chiropractor has his standards for adjustment and God, our Father, has His rules. Mama corrected me because she loved me. I let the chiropractor adjust me because I trust his standards with the hope he will help alleviate my shoulder problem. Why does God give us the Ten Commandments? Why the other behavioral standards such as “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind and soul… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself?”

God knows what we need to be truly happy and balanced in life. He works in all kinds of situations to accomplish one basic goal, to improve our character to the point that the attitude of Jesus becomes our approach to life. As I read scripture and pray I am often made aware of the need for attitude and behavioral adjustments. It hasn’t failed me yet. When I make the adjustment, I and those I care about are the better for it.

What about You? Is there something in your life that needs adjusting?    

The Girl with a Nice Voice

The Girl with a Nice Voice

Recently Cecelia and I were notified to go to Nashville to get our first covid-19  shot. This was good news but I was unfamiliar with the exact location. So, on the day we were to go I put the address information into the GPS, which I often refer to as “the girl with a nice voice.” I have been to Nashville hundreds of times but, as mentioned earlier, I needed help from the AI system with the exact location of the East Garage where I was instructed to park. 

As I monitored the screen I could see the distance to the garage was diminishing and soon the girl with a nice voice said “destination is on the left” and with the voice of confidence she announced “destination.” Good, I thought and made the left turn and parked in the garage. With the help of a young woman, we found the place to get our shots and everything was wonderful until…we tried to find our car.

We followed the directions of a nice employee to get back to the East Garage and found the elevator and punched the number 4.The elevator didn’t go to the 4th floor. We approached an attendant and explained where we had parked and discovered that we were in the East Garage but the reason the elevator didn’t go to the 4th floor was that this garage didn’t have the 4th floor. After about 45 minutes of walking and asking for directions, we discovered we had actually parked in the Central Garage.  

The “girl with a nice voice” had deceived me and I had been laboring for some time under wrong information, thinking I was parked somewhere I wasn’t. Bad or partial information can create real problems and confusion. Correct information can lead us to the right thinking and actions.

When we return to the same place for our second covid-19 shot I will be wiser and will trust what experience has taught me. Some information is a lie, some is partially correct and some is absolutely correct. Life experience has taught me I can’t completely trust AI and the opinions of persons with a certain agenda. However, I do have a “guidance system” which is totally true and accurate about the big things that have ultimate value and meaning in life. I can rely on God and his Word to guide me in the way I should live.

“I will meditate on thy precepts, and regard thy ways. I shall delight in thy statute;

I shall not forget thy word.” Psalm 119: 15-16  

 

 

Prayer for America

Several years ago the following prayer came to Cecelia and me from Dr. David Jeremiah and Turning Point ministries. I have used it as a bookmark in my Bible and devotional books and have often referred to it and said “Amen” to the sentiments of this petition to our Lord. Perhaps the prayer is one you will pray and share with others. Let us pray for American and commit ourselves to be part of God’s answer to our prayer in these challenging times. As Psalm reminds us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

     Almighty God, In all of history, there has been only one nation like America–founded by pilgrims seeking freedom to worship, established on a vast continent between two oceans, dedicated to the proposition that we are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: one nation under God. You have delivered us in war, prospered us in peace, and raised up generations willing to offer the last full measure of their devotion for the preservation of liberty at home and abroad. We have been a light for the world. From our shores has gone the greatest missionary force in history. But now, Lord, America has fallen into darkness, disobedience, and indifference. We have sinned; and we, your people, Lord, humble ourselves, and pray and seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Please forgive our sin and heal our land. Give us leaders who understand the times and know what we should do. May the torch of liberty burn brightly, inflamed by the goodness of your people  God, bless America. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

How Should We Live?

The political turmoil of the past several years has served to put an exclamation point on something I’ve read about in Scripture and believed for most of my life. Evil is real. Evil predates the human race and it is still hanging around and becoming more and more pervasive in our everyday lives. One of the big issues related to why evil has such influence is because believers are often asleep or too caught up in this “temporary” world and its demands and allurements to recognize what’s going on. 

What has happened to our country? It’s deeply concerning to consider just a few of the problems. We have a national debt that is approaching thirty trillion dollars ($30,000,000,000,000). The implications of that should tell us something about the direction we are heading. But worse than that, our soul is terribly sick, if not lost. For almost fifty years we have been taking the lives of innocent babies through abortion(estimates vary from 50,000,000-60,000,000). Illegal and prescription drugs are killing our youth. Violent protests promote looting and destruction of property. It appears that many educational institutions and local schools are promoting ideas that are void of the idea of any absolute truth, re-writing our nation’s history and undermining our constitution. There also seems to be a noticeable dearth of news organizations that aren’t political and work hard to give us a “no spin” approach to what’s going on. And Washington, D.C. We are living a culture that has abandoned the One, True God. Do I need to say more?   

The issues we face in our personal lives and the societal ones just mentioned can be enough to bring on feelings of helplessness and despair. Most of our personal and national problems didn’t just happen overnight. And, they won’t get fixed overnight. Here are some suggestions I have for all of us:

1. Take responsibility for yourself. I can’t solve the problems of the world but I can do a lot to fix what’s wrong with my attitude, the way I talk, and the way I invest my time and money. 

2. Focus on some areas in which you can have influence. Do you have concerns about certain issues? Find ways to address them. Align yourself with causes that reflect your core beliefs and values. For example, I give regularly to one or two pro-life organizations, Judicial Watch, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Do what you can in areas that concern you. Don’t worry about fixing the world but do something every day to encourage someone, lift a burden and give hope. There is a saying of Mother Teresa on my refrigerator that says, “Do small things with great love.” If each of us will lovingly do the small things we can do we will make a big difference. 

3. Prepare for the battle. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:10-18 that we are battling an enemy that we will not defeat in our own strength. Put on the armor God provides and stand against evil. And pray, pray, pray.

Transition

 

Transition

Our nation is in a time of transition.  One president has left office and another administration has assumed leadership of our country. A different political party is in control and responsible for the leadership and direction of our nation for at least the next two years. Whether you are saddened or happy about the prospect of new leadership, the fact is that change is coming.

Living well requires us to handle transition or change well. This is true in all areas of our life. Think about some of the transitions you have already survived. You and I have transitioned from being a baby to being an adult. I’m sure some of our parents wondered if we would make it through those turbulent teenage years, but with their love and patience and God’s grace we did!

I, like you, have had difficulty with some of my transitional times.  I was an emotional wreck when my first child left home but I adjusted to the reality that God’s plan is for parents to give our kids roots and wings and to celebrate their independence, often through our tears.  And, I continue to face the challenges life throws at me.

Someone has observed, “The only thing that doesn’t change in life is the fact that things change.” Well, that may be true to a large degree but not entirely accurate. But what can we do to ensure that we come through these transition times with our sanity and soul intact?

Whatever the challenges you face, I believe we can live faithfully by doing the following:

First, I must face the reality of whatever challenge I’m dealing with. Denial is not the solution. To deny that my body is going through physical change or that life will be the same when I move from the house I’ve loved for years is a sure formula for getting stuck in an unproductive and stagnant place.

Second, I need to size up the reality of my situation, decide a course of attitude and action and move ahead. When change knocks at my door, I will answer it and act responsibly in the things I can do.

Finally, I will rely on the fact that my God does not change. He is the Unchangeable, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God and Father of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I will live in the promise of Psalm 46:1-2: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea…”

May God find you faithful in the challenges your transition s bring your way.