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.  

Thinking About God

 Small god or Big God?

Good God or Mean god?

Weak god or Strong God?

Have you given much thought to how you think about God and the effect that has on your emotions, your outlook on life, and how you live? How do you answer the three sets of questions above?

Why does it matter what you think about God? It matters because your god or God is your ultimate source of authority, what or who matters most in your life. Your values and the way you live are shaped by whatever has authority in your life. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, (your source of meaning and authority) there will your heart be also.”  He also said, “ Out of the heart come the issues of life….”

Is it possible for a true believer to have a distorted or inadequate view of God? Absolutely. I think it is very likely that you and I and every believer underestimate the God who cares for us and supplies everything we need. Why do I believe this is true?

First, who can fully grasp the glory and magnificence of the Holy One? We are mere mortals dealing with the infinite Reality. We don’t have the capacity to fully grasp the greatness of the God we love and serve. Is this what Isaiah 55:9 is saying? “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.”  

Not only are we finite and limited in our ability to fully grasp the greatness of God, but we are also “fallen” human beings who are tempted to believe wrong ideas about God. Although we are saved because of our trust in Christ and His death and resurrection, the old nature is not completely eradicated. That means we are still capable of sin and distorted ideas about God. We are saved but God continues to save us from our sinful past through the process of sanctification.

Paul has lots to say about the need to think clearly and live purely in his letters to young believers. Romans 12:2 is a good example of this, “Do not conform to this world but be changed by the renewing of your mind.” Change the way you think about God and His purpose for your life. What were they thinking about God that prompted Paul to challenge them to “Present yourselves as a living sacrifice to God”? Romans 12:1.

The third reason I believe Christians are often misguided in our thinking about God is that we have somehow been deceived into believing the devil doesn’t exist. Jesus certainly believed in his existence. Take note of the wilderness temptations in Matthew’s gospel. Was Jesus just imagining the devil was there? Was He hallucinating after forty days and nights in the wilderness? Satan is not dismissed in scripture as some benign imaginary character. He is real, evil, deceitful, and a liar who wants to somehow cast doubt in our minds about the character of God. Peter tells us to think soberly and watch carefully because the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to tear apart. 1Peter 5:8.

One of the best and most important things you will ever do for yourself is to get your thinking about the character of God aligned with the life and teaching of Jesus and scripture. Until you commit to the teaching of scripture about who God is your emotional and spiritual life will be plagued by doubt and confusion.

I encourage you to think about what I’ve said. And, think about how you think and feel about God when bad things happen to you. That may give you a hint about the need to change your thinking to align with biblical teaching.     

 

Toxic Thinking

Have you ever known someone whose thinking has been poisoned by the words and actions of others? I’ve known several folks like this. Many of them developed toxic thought patterns about themselves because of verbal abuse by a wounded parent. There is an old saying in Scripture that goes something like this, “The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Toxic or poisoned thinking is often a generational issue; the grandparent is angry from an unhealed wound, afflicts their child with their bitterness and on and on it can go generation after generation.

 Hopefully, someone down the line will learn to think more healthily and break the destructive pattern. “I want my daughter to grow up thinking much better of herself than I did.” This woman, a successful businessperson, and going through a divorce, had come to see the negative impact her mother’s words had had on her. She was determined to heal and stop the cycle of toxicity. You would probably be surprised at the number of people I counseled who had dealt with such toxicity at home.

 I grew up watching how this kind of poisonous thinking affected one generation after another. A boy I grew up around, let’s call him Josh, received the brunt of some of his mother’s angry outbursts. Instead of gently correcting him, she would hit him with a broom or with her fist. But, what probably hurt him more deeply were the toxic words he came to think or believe about himself, “You can’t do anything right.” I was around this situation several times and knew Josh was just a “normal” kid, certainly not deserving this awful treatment. I felt sorry for him but it was difficult to relate to his situation since I never experienced this kind of abuse at home. Josh and his family moved to another town just before he became a teenager and I would only see him occasionally or when our schools would compete in basketball.

It would be years before I began to see how that message, “You can’t do anything right,” seems to have affected Josh. Somewhere along the way, he must have believed and adopted his mother’s view of himself. If you hear your parent’s message often enough and long enough you tend to believe it is true. Believing a negative message can have devastating results.

Josh began falling behind in school and eventually gave up and dropped out of high school. He left the state to find work and eventually despaired of his life but failed in his attempt to end his misery. Two marriages ended in failure. Thankfully, Josh came to embrace God’s love for him and some deep healing took place. Tragically, for most of his life he had allowed the toxic, evil thinking of someone he loved to dominate his thinking. That way of thinking had almost destroyed him but, thank God, he found acceptance, forgiveness, and grace in Jesus.     

When you look in the mirror do you see someone who can identify with Josh? Somewhere deep within you do you believe you are worthless or unloved? If you do, you have believed a lie straight out of hell. God loves you and wants the best for you. If you see someone in the mirror that identifies with Josh’s mother, please get help for the healing and help you need to correct your toxic thinking.

Toxic thoughts produce negative feelings about yourself and others. Your feelings are what they are but they are not based on truth. Healing will come when you acknowledge your feelings, forgive those who have hurt you and, change your thinking to agree with God’s estimate of your worth.  God loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you.

Perhaps my words cause you to consider the impact your words and actions, good or bad, can have on someone you love. Bless them with your loving words and encouragement. May God give you the power to bless those you love.

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 Was I Thinking?

 

Do you ever have to change your thinking about something because new information about it causes you to reconsider? This kind of thing happens to me often.

Recently, I contacted a yard treatment company for an additional application for my yard. The price for the work seemed much higher than the quote I was given a few weeks earlier. I texted them back and told them the original quote on the work was $70.00, not the $100.00 they quoted. Let’s stop right here for a moment and see how the new information affected me. How do you respond when the information you receive is counter to what you have been thinking is correct?

Trustworthiness is the first thing I look for in a company. Some bad experiences have caused my unconscious thinking to be a bit skeptical until I believe I can trust what I am told by the company. Thus far, the work by this group had been very acceptable, but this new quote raised a suspicion that I might be getting ‘bamboozled.”

Then, I did something I should have done before responding to the quote. I went to my notes on our initial conversation to verify that I was correct. What I discovered was that I had conflated different parts of our discussion. My thinking was wrong and I acted on wrong thinking. There it was in my notes; the cost for the application was $120.00, not the $100.00 they quoted.  

What did they think about me? Did they think I was trying to get a better price? A cheap person trying to cheat them?  Well, I wrote a quick text apologizing for my misunderstanding and told them I would be getting back to them concerning the work.         

You probably have stories of how you were on one side of a situation where you or the other person were acting from wrong information. How did the issue get resolved? Or, did it ever get resolved? How did your feelings change once you got better information?

What am I getting at with this story? I want you to consider how the truth underlying my simple story can have profound effects on the most important relationships in your life. The truth is: your thinking will determine the way you act toward God, your spouse, your children, etc.. Actions follow thinking. I will attempt to share more specifics about this in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, consider how this idea is working in different areas of your life.

Since the way we think is so crucial in how we act, let me offer a few pieces of advice for all of us.

  1. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19.
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  3. Consider the possibility you don’t have all the facts.
  4. 4.Hold yourself accountable for how you think and how you act.

Own Your Stuff

One of the greatest challenges of human relationships is to keep our personal stuff from creating unnecessary issues. In other words, we need to learn to own our stuff. For example, if you are person who always needs to be in charge, you can make others uncomfortable with your need to control or have things your way.

Refusing to recognize and deal with our “stuff”  may cause others to have little to do with us. However, our children cannot easily avoid us and may choose unhealthy behaviors to deal with our stuff.

Children often adapt unhealthy reactions to a parent’s angry tirades, abuse, anxiety or any number of other issues. One example of this is the child who becomes a “pleaser.”  This child doesn’t dare do or say anything that might create discomfort for someone even if he/she has been highly offended by their actions.

How does a child come to be this way? Most likely they learned early to stuff her feelings out of fear of setting off a parent’s explosive temper. Their “pleaser” ways may protect them from the parent’s anger but can have a big downside. They may come to believe they can’t have strong negative feelings. So, feelings are stuffed or the person can become passive aggressive.  Certainly, they can’t take the risk of expressing their feelings directly and openly. Continuing on this path of stuffing their anger may lead to avoiding all kinds of conflicts and develop very shallow relationships in life.

What do you think could happen if an angry parent becomes able to own their stuff? It would mean they could learn to apologize and the child wouldn’t have had to internalize the parent’s stuff. It would mean the child could grow up with a more balanced emotional life. 

Is there some emotional baggage you need to own? What, if any, unresolved anger or insecurity do you need to address so your kid won’t have to deal with it? If you don’t own it, it is quite likely your child, and perhaps others, will have to deal with it.

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

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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

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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.