That’s Gratitude for You

 

If you read last week’s blog you will recall my story about my frustration with birds pooping on the swing I use for meditating and resting from yard work. I am happy to report the spike board I put above the swing is working! I have not cut the tree from which I was “spotted” but neither have I suffered a repeat of being personally assaulted by the ungrateful creature that pooped on me. By the way, the spot on my blue pants will not come out. Every time I wear them I will be reminded of the indignity that was visited upon me. 

There is something deeper I am about to get at, an idea that you and I may do well to consider. But first, let me pass along some things about birds that my friend, Alexa, has shared with me. Birds can be annoying and messy but did you realize they serve some good purposes? They help control those pesky mosquitoes and other insects that annoy us, pollinate plants and vegetables, spread seeds (not always so helpful). Caring for birds is also a big business in our economy; an annual  2 billion dollar industry focused on bird seed, feeders, etc. There are approximately 15 billion birds in the United States and almost 11,000 different species of these reptiles.

Now to the idea I want you to think about with me. Sometimes I think about the deeper meaning or spiritual application of common things and how they may apply to my relationship with God or others. I love birds. We have a beautiful backyard with lots of trees where they can nest, and we have three birdhouses we provide without rent or upkeep. We have a creek and a birdbath where they can drink and bathe. We also have three feeders we keep supplied with feed. We have even bought expensive safflower seeds to discourage squirrels from eating their food. I have invented a contraption to stop squirrels from climbing the feeder pole. Be patient, I’m getting to the idea.

With all I’ve done for these creatures, why would one of them even consider making me the target of their poop? Why didn’t he come down and say, “I’m so sorry I did that. Forgive me. I’ll be more careful next time. And, by the way, thank you for taking such good care of me and my young family.” Are you getting an idea of where this is going?

Well, birds don’t do that kind of thing because they are not mentally and spiritually equipped to do that. God didn’t make them in His image. Now, you may not like to think about it this way, but do you think God may sometimes think we take His care for granted. Does our attitude of entitlement and presumption have a parallel to being pooped on by a bird? No, there is no parallel because birds have no soul and just do what they do naturally. When we act ungratefully or disobey God we are doing worse than pooping on Him. We are trashing the love and sacrifice of our Savior.

There’s a story in Luke 17:11-19 that reminds us of our propensity to act like a dumb bird. This is the story of the ten lepers. William Barclay says, “No story in the gospels so poignantly shows men’s ingratitude.” In this story, there are ten people who are suffering from the physical and social issues of this terrible skin disease. When Jesus comes to town, they implore Him to heal them. Jesus has compassion on them and speaks the word and they are miraculously healed and clean. They must have cried, laughed, and jumped for joy as they headed off to get back to their families. They go on their way without a single word of thanks to Jesus for what He had done for them. Somewhere along the way, one of them comes to his senses and decides to express his gratitude for the act of mercy that has changed his life. He returns and thanks the Lord. The story ends with Jesus’ question, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine-where are they?”

I have had some health issues and other challenges through the years that have caused me to understand the importance of a grateful attitude toward God and many people who have invested in my life. Every morning, when I realize I have been given another day, I thank God. Try this every morning and get your day off to the right kind of start. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 107:1.

P.S.: Today, say a sincere thank you for some act of kindness someone has done for you.  

Dealing With Disappointment

For the past several days I have been dealing with a major disappointment related to the book I’ve been working on for almost three years. About a year ago I made contact with an agent I had a good feeling about and we hit it off really well. He liked my idea and was very helpful and encouraging in the early days of the work. We were excited and shared hope and an expectation about getting the book published.

Everything was going well, and then life happened. This man became very ill and underwent surgery. We talked a couple of months ago and were hopeful we could get the book finished and on the market this fall. A few days ago, he contacted me to tell me his recovery is taking much longer than expected and that he is unable to continue working with me on the book.

Upon receiving his message, I responded that I understood and thanked him for the encouragement he had given me. I also expressed my disappointment for both of us. I believe we would have produced a really good book together.

It has taken me several days to process what this turn of events will mean to my work of almost three years. Honestly, I don’t know what it will mean. One thing I’ve learned in my rather long life is to not minimize the way people deal with their disappointments. For me, this is a pretty big deal and I need to think, feel, and pray my way through it. This is what I am advising myself to do.

Sometimes inspiration and insight come from unexpected sources. I’ve been asking God to help and direct me in what to do next and I think I got some direction from a baseball game I was watching recently. The disappointing thing in the game happened in the 5th inning of the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins. Superstar Atlanta player, Ronald Acuna, Jr. attempted to catch a fly ball hit to right field; landed awkwardly on his right leg, and was carted off the field and on to the hospital. The medical examination later revealed a tear in the right ACL and Acuna is out for the season. The game was halted for several minutes while the tearful, 23-year-old star was being carted from the field. Teammates gathered around and wished him well but had to resume play after this devastating event. There was a pause in the game but it wasn’t over.

The Marlin player who hit the ball Acuna tried to catch scored an inside-the-park home run, leaving the Marlins trailing now 5-3. Max Fried, the Atlanta pitcher who gave up the hit, was still on the mound and hadn’t pitched to a batter in several minutes. Fried had struggled often during the game and now must somehow put aside the disappointment he and his teammates had witnessed and get his head back in the game. But, he continued to struggle, and with only one out the bases were loaded. What I saw next was borderline heroic. With steely concentration and skill, Fried struck out the next two batters to preserve the Braves’ lead and to become the winning pitcher of the game.

When asked later about Acuna’s injury, Fried expressed his concern for his teammate and said “It’s obviously very unfortunate, but you have to stay with the task at hand and finish the game.”

I’m sure you have dealt with lots of disappointing things in your life. Maybe the disappointment came by way of a failed relationship, a lost job, or an accident. Perhaps you have been hurt by an uncaring act or meanness of another person. Or, like me, you are disappointed by something totally out of your control and there is no one to blame. Whatever the case, I want to share a few things that are helping me “get my head back into the game.” If you don’t need this now, there will likely be a time when you will.

  1. God is more concerned about my character than He is my comfort. God cares when life hurts me but He sees the big picture while I’m looking at the smaller stuff. God isn’t obligated to fulfill my dreams. My disappointment results when reality doesn’t line up with my expectations. God is not surprised by any of this; He’s got bigger plans for me.  
  2. I have His promise that he will work something good out of the disappointing situation. “He works in everything for good to those who love Him…” That’s a great and encouraging truth found in Romans 8:28. And, that “everything” includes disappointments! So, God isn’t finished with me or this particular situation. He is working and I have something to do as well.
  3. What do I need to do when I’m disappointed? It’s okay to be disappointed but we don’t need to get stuck there. Trouble and trials are a part of life but they are not to define us. We are not victims; we are “more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.” We grieve our loss but get back in the game. This grieving may take a while but through faith in the Lord, we keep moving ahead. For me, faith is to continue to work on this project. Every time I proof another page or check another footnote, I am expressing my faith in God and His purpose for this book. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need for endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what was promised.”
  4. I confess my disappointment to God and ask for wisdom to process this disappointment in a way that will make me a better person. My identity is not determined by what happens to me and my plans. Someone has said that 10% of life is about what happens to you; the other 90% is about what you do about that 10%. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in everything you do and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

How Is Your Spiritual Vision ?

Several years ago I had an experience with “floaters” which caused me to do some research and thinking about my eyes. Your eyes are a marvelous testimony of the ingenuity of our Creator. If you haven’t done so, take some time to investigate some of the marvels of one of the most intricate and wonderful parts of your body, your eyes.

For many years I had perfect (20/20) vision. But as I continued to age, I needed glasses with a corrective lens to enable me to read and see things up close more easily. Another change came and I now wear glasses to correct my vision at far, intermediate and close distances. This is the last step before I will have surgery to replace the lenses in both eyes to remove cataracts and correct most of my vision issues. I take care of my eyes in order to see correctly. 

Vision is important, physically and spiritually. I encourage you to take care of your eyes, protect them from injury and get the medical help you need for them to serve you well until you don’t need them any longer.

What is spiritual vision about? It is how you “see” life. It involves such things as attitude, prejudice, selfishness, gentleness, honesty, faith, love, hope, and many other moral and spiritual qualities. Someone has said, “We don’t see life as it is, we see life as we are.” We bring our personal interpretation and perception to everything we do? You deal with your spouse, children, family, friends, and strangers based on your spiritual vision.

Spiritual vision, the way you “see” life is what Jesus is referencing in this statement, “…if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  Matthew 6:22-23.

Your spiritual vision has been formed through how you have interpreted your life experiences. Good for you if you have chosen to believe and act on some very healthy perspectives on life from parents, teachers and other authority figures. On the other hand, you may have been very stubborn and prideful and chose to learn some lessons “the hard way.” Have you interpreted life through the lens of  God’s Word? If not, where do you get your outlook on life?  

How is your spiritual vision? My ophthalmologist checks my vision by having me read four lines of different letters and symbols of different sizes. That is his standard to determine the accuracy of my vision.  Where do you go to have your spiritual vision checked and corrected? We need to go early and often to Jesus to correct our thinking. Go to His teaching, go to his actions and think about how you are to do life. Paul prescribes the cure for  prejudice, selfishness, and pride which can distort our thinking, “Have the attitude which Jesus had..” Read the entire prescription to fix your thinking in Philippians 4:4-8. Blessings, Cos   

Why Do you Think The Way You Do?

It’s encouraging and refreshing to deal with honest people. I had an experience recently that made my day. I took my car to a repair shop to get the front brake pads replaced. I had been told by another shop that I would need this work done soon and went to the second place for another opinion. The mechanic at the new shop did a quick look, without removing the wheels, and estimated I had a couple of thousand miles left on the pads.

 I liked the price of the work at this shop and decided to let them do the work. I brought my car back in a few days and went home expecting to return that afternoon to get it. Instead, a couple of hours later, I got a call from the service manager, “ Mr. Davis, you don’t need new brake pads. You have about half the life left on the ones on your car.” We discussed the situation to my satisfaction, and when I went to get the car I said, “George, thank you for being honest with me. You could have done the work and I would not have known the difference. Why?” He told me he never did work that didn’t need to be done on a vehicle. “Why?” I repeated. Then he told me why he thought the way he did about being honest with people, “When I was growing up, I wouldn’t be able to sit down for days if my dad caught me in a lie or doing something dishonest.” He also told me of another repair shop he left because his employer wanted him to be dishonest in dealing with customers.

George’s dad is no longer around to punish him if he varies from the early lessons concerning honesty. Thankfully, George has decided to continue to think and act honestly with people. As a result, I and others who come into this repair shop will be treated well because He has developed a pattern of thinking that prompts him to treat people with respect.

 Those fixed, unconscious patterns of thinking such as George operates by are important to each of us. Think about these questions. How do you view life? What do you think is really important? How do you think about God? Yourself? Others? Take a few moments and consider how you are thinking about these things.

Next question, “Where did you learn to think this way? “  Do you just go along with the crowd and never dare to really think deeply about important stuff? Do you get your ideas from the brilliant politicians in D.C.? Who or what has had a strong influence on the way you think?  

What do you use as a measure to determine if what you are thinking is true or false? What role does the Bible play in helping you formulate the way you think about the things that really matter?  

 At the close of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7), Jesus tells a story about two builders.  The fool refuses to build his life on the teachings of Jesus and faces the destruction his choice brings. The wise man adopts Jesus’ teachings as his way of thinking and acting and his life withstands all the assaults and storms life can throw at him. There are consequences to how we think about God and His plan for our life. Think well and deeply about that. 

 

 

What is Parenting About?

What is Parenting About?

Perhaps the most central question we need to ask ourselves as parents is: “What is parenting really about?” In other words, what is the main role or central purpose I, the parent, need to fulfill in relation to this child that has been entrusted to me?

Unfortunately, for some reason, this may be an area of concern which some parents never consciously consider. Many are so caught up with their personal agendas and the busyness of life that they don’t take time to talk about, much less put into action plans related to their primary role as a parent.

I would venture to say that many parents don’t have much of a clue as to what their main purpose as a parent really is. With our society’s rapid advance toward materialism and secularism it is no wonder that we are losing our sense of what life is really about.

This secular mindset defines what many think life is really about. Consequently, they rear their children in this godless approach to life where all values are relative and human life itself is becoming less and less valuable.

What do you think is the bottom line in parenting? What is parenting about to you? My next blog, “North Star Parenting” will attempt to provide a direction for you to consider.

 

Our Family and What’s Going on Today

SONY DSC

Are we coming apart as a society? What, if anything, does the shooting in Las Vegas say about the reality of evil? What role does the family play in the development of a stable society? Why does trust or the lack of it affect our society?  

The Trust Factor is critically important in life. There’s a lot in the news nowadays about trust, or the lack of it, when it comes to our government leaders. Folks all over America are doubtful of the motives and capability of many of those we have elected to serve us. We have a real ”crisis of confidence” in our country and there doesn’t seem to be much prospect of it getting better. How did we come to this place and how can it be fixed? Let’s learn to built trust in our families and with each other by what we say and how we treat each other. 

TRUST is a very important ingredient in life. It is present in all healthy relationships; marriage, friendship, business, parent/child, government and between leaders in the international community. Trust is foundational to the orderly and productive functioning of life. Without it we live in uncertainty, doubtful of the word or actions of the other person or country. President Reagan said, concerning agreements with other countries, that we should “trust but verify.” There is much wisdom in that idea; trust that the other person (country) will keep their word but understand that trustworthiness is proven by action consistent with one’s promise or agreement.

I believe the family is the basic unit of our society. As the family goes, so goes the world. Families produce children and children grow up to serve many different functions in our world. Some become congress people, some senators, some become Supreme Court judges and a few have the honor of becoming President of the United States.  

Everyone comes from a family of some type. But every family has the responsibility to attempt to instill the character values which make a person trustworthy. Character matters and there is no place where it matters more than in your family.

As for me, I will continue to live as a follower of the Light of the World and light my little candle in the terrible darkness. What about you? 

 

 

Truth and Trust

SONY DSC

An important factor in building trust in your marriage or other relationships is being truthful about ordinary, everyday things in life.

Mary Ann asks John, “Did you make the bank deposit today?” John hesitates for a moment but responds from the other room in an irritable tone,”Yes, Mary Ann, I made the deposit.” Opening the site to their bank account he negotiates the on-line transaction.

Why did John choose to lie instead of saying something like, “No, but thanks for reminding me, I’ll do that right now?” There are various reasons he could give for his course of action: “She’s always nagging me about something.” or “”I can never do anything to please her.” or “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

While this kind of incident may seem to be unimportant , it reflects a deeper issue which can ultimately destroy the trust in a relationship. What is the “root cause” of John’s lying about such a simple thing? One part of the deeper issue may be John’s unwillingness to face Mary Ann with his mistakes and correct them. Without blaming Mary Ann, he needs to find the issue within himself that seems to make it easier to lie than to tell the truth. So far as Mary Ann’s part in this problem is concerned, she may need to look at ways in which she somehow makes facing his shortcomings more difficult for John.

If we are not careful about these little things and correct our error our spouse and others will eventually discover our secret lies. When we are “found out” trust in the relationship will be damaged and that person may begin to wonder if there are other things, bigger things, we are not truthful about. Remember, the behaviors we repeat can become habits. Our habits determine our character and our character determines our destiny. 

The most important issue in the trust factor is your character. To build trust with others you must hold yourself accountable to tell the truth in little things as well as the big things.

 

Do You Really Want to Build Trust?

Do you  really want to build trust in your marriage? If so, you need to see how things you do or do not do everyday affect your spouse’s ability to trust you.

Marriage has multiple demands that go beyond maintaining and growing the relationship with your spouse. Work, child rearing, financial management, and such things as maintaining where you live play a part in how trust is built or destroyed in your marriage. With effort a deficit of trust in any of these areas can be overcome in time. However, an unwillingness to address trust issues will lead to a growing distrust and possible destruction of your marriage.

The real issue in making your marriage work well is CHARACTER. By this I mean that people of good character really want to mature and do those things that are healthy for their marriage. They will make mistakes but will also admit them and attempt to correct them. You will not need to try to change a person with good character because they will want to change for the sake of the marriage. So, it all comes down to a couple of things: heart and head.

The “heart” part has to do with will or intention. “In my heart, do I really want to do the right thing?”This question gets at the essence of the issue. If the heart is wrong or selfish then only a deep personal change such as conversion can change this.

The “head” part has to do with knowledge or understanding. A person can have a good heart or intentions but lack knowledge. For example, you may want to live within your means but are challenged when it comes to knowing how to make a budget. This principle applies in many areas of marriage and family life. Trust grows when each of you shows yourself willing to learn new skills which are important to the overall management of family concerns. Likewise, trust in these areas deteriorates when such issues are not addressed.

What is Your Trust Quotient?

What is your trust quotient? Very trusting of others? Too trusting of some people? Distrusting of almost everyone?

How did we come to be who we are when it comes to the matter of trust? Since a good marriage and other important relationships depend on trust, it’s important for us to think some about these questions.

You may not have to search any further than your family of origin to understand why you trust the way you do. If you grew up in an environment that was emotionally stable it is likely you don’t have lots of trouble trusting others. However, if you grew up uncertain of the love of your parents, feeling you might be abandoned or that you had to earn their affection, you have probably struggled with trust issues. If you were a child of divorced parents this could also cause serious problems in trusting others. Abuse and neglect are also fertile soil for distrust.

“Well,” you may ask, “How does my trust quotient possibly affect my marriage?” Let me explain what could be happening. Transference is a term which means that we are acting in or reacting to a current situation based on past experience. For example, John says to his wife, Melanie, “I’m not your father. I’ve told you the truth and you refuse to believe me because your dad always lied to you.”John is saying that Melanie is accusing him of treating her the way her father did. She is transferring feelings of distrust and anger from her experience with her dad to her husband. There may be absolutely no rational basis for her behavior.

Obviously, John will feel like he is under scrutiny a good deal of the time and any slip up will bring the accusation, “You don’t love me.” Hopefully, he will see that, although he is trustworthy, he will need to be especially patient with Melanie in order to help her build the trust which will make the marriage work. Melanie will need to get some insight into how she has developed this deficit of trust and work through the emotional damage done to her so she can live with some sense of assurance and comfort in her relationship with John.

Trust Your Spouse?

There is no way to overstate the importance of trust in marriage. Trust is to your marriage what your heart is to your body. Trust is absolutely indispensable to a healthy marriage. Therefore, our character and the things we do to earn trust are vital if we are to have a good marriage.

What I have just said implies at least two important things about trust. First, trust is a basic need in your marriage. Being able to depend on each other to respect your deepest feelings and needs builds security and gives comfort. When this is not true good communication is absent and there is a sense of anxiety and loneliness in the marriage. When your word cannot be relied on in ordinary, everyday transactions the foundation of trust is eroded and a deeper problem is often lurking just under the surface: If I can’t trust you in the small things, how can I trust you with my heart? Trust is basic to your marriage.

Another idea I want you to consider is that trust is learned. There is a real sense in which most of us didn’t really know our mate when we first married. Perhaps we had developed a certain level of trust strong enough to take a big chance on marriage. But, if our marriage has grown the way it should, we have had to continue developing trust in our spouse .The biggest issue for couples in this area, I think, is whether you believe your spouse is really trying to be unselfish and to look out for your best interest. If that trust is there you can continue to grow through mistakes by forgiving each other and address the areas where you need to grow. As you mature together in your love you will find that you have learned more and more how to trust each other.

Not all people enter into the venture of marriage with the same ability to trust and this can be a problem in making the marriage work. Why is this and what do you need to do if you are in this situation? We’ll look at this in the next blog.