Showing that You Care

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never grow weary of doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13

I consider myself a “do good-er”. I try to be a good citizen and help out in ways that I can. Whether it is reporting things to city or my association, picking up trash or volunteering at my child’s school, I try to do something. I don’t usually receive much appreciation, but I know I won’t stop because it is just in me. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t care but I do.

When I was in college, I commuted to school. But during my last semester, my parents paid rent for me to live closer in a family’s home. I thought I was living with a traditional family but that wasn’t the case. The mom lied about the situation. I ended up living with her college aged son and another male roommate and she would live with her boyfriend at his home.   The one guy worked the night shift at his job and slept most of the day. Her son, Jon, was my age and attended another college. At first, I kept to myself but still had simple conversations with him. I let him know right away that I was a Christian. He let me know that he never went to church and used to have a drug problem. I got a lock for my door.

The living situation wasn’t ideal for me, but when I did see him, I would ask him how his life was as he would with me. I found out he played football for the school and he was interested in the same degree I was studying, Kinesiology. He seemed to want to do better with his life.

One night I woke up about 2 a.m. and heard a strange noise. I knew the one roommate was at work and thought it was Jon. I looked down the hallway and noticed he wasn’t home. It ended up being the dog drinking out of the toilet. (I never thought it was true but I know it is now!)  Jon came home shortly after I inspected the house and he saw me.   I told him I was worried he wasn’t home and hoped nothing happened to him. He has a weird look on his face and said, he was fine. I walked back to my room (locked the door, of course) and fell back asleep.

The next morning Jon told me how nice it felt to hear someone say they were worried about him. He said his mother nor his father ever cared where he was growing up. I told him that I have a problem of being a worrier and always kept tab of everyone in the house. He said he was happy for once someone cared.  I moved out shortly after because I still felt a little weird being alone in a house with men. But always hoped Jon would stay clean and in school.

Everyone says they are busy but I believe people really do want others to show they care in some way. If someone has a baby, surgery, suffers a death or divorce…whatever the situation people need a kind word, a good meal or prayer. Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do, but something is better than nothing. It always makes me feel better, when someone calls me and asks if everything is okay if they haven’t seen me in a while. I appreciate the friends that I have that take that time to do that out of their busyness. I am guilty of wasting time like nobody’s business: looking at Instagram or watching, actually binge watching Netflix. However, I am looking to change this behavior and make more time for better things to keep up my “do good-er” status and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Lesson Learned: Invest wisely in the caring of people, whether you receive appreciation or not.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, help me to see when someone needs encouragement or help. Give me balance to do these things. Help me be the hands and feet of Jesus. Fill me with your love to show love to others. I pray that I be a “do good-er” for you Lord, not for my satisfaction or reputation. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Shame doesn’t create lasting change

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17

Shame…what a hurtful emotion. One of the cultures in my family love to use shame to try to make one change their ways. When someone doesn’t turn out the way they hoped for, they tell you how they are bringing dishonor to the family. When I was in my early 20’s and dealing with an eating disorder, some people in my family would tell me in their first language that my pants were crying because I was in their eyes, fat. If they hadn’t seen me in awhile and I was heavier, they would say things like, “what happened? you used to be pretty.” They would then blame my mother and she would be mad at me because she didn’t like the shame on her. Vicious cycle.

The pressure from family, friends and society can be very heavy with shame. We feel if we tell them how horrible of a person they are, it would get them to change and they would become a new person. We know it doesn’t work. If it did, there wouldn’t be overweight people, abusers, addicts, criminals. Shaming doesn’t work.

When the horrible terrorist attack occurred in Orlando, Florida at Pulse Nightclub, I was sad and hurt. I knew that certain people would be saying this was the judgment of the Lord on gays. And so it happened. I was reading an article about one of the people who survived the attack. She said, she was so shocked by what happened that she walked into a church for the first time in her life. I am not sure if she was gay or straight as both were present in that nightclub. Now, if anyone at church who condemns the gay lifestyle told her she was a horrible person for going to a nightclub, would she have an idea of who Jesus was? I don’t know what actually happened in her experience, but I sure hope she was hugged and loved on in that church she set foot in.

There is a great series of Christian documentaries by Darren Wilson. There are four in total: Finger of God, Furious Love, Father of Lights and Holy Ghost. All of which have the theme of showing the love of God to everyone. In several of the documentaries, they run into people who are shaming sinners. They have signs that they are going to spend eternity burning in hell, for various things unless they stop living in the world and give their lives to Jesus. Darren asked one of them, how many people have they converted to Christianity and he said none. He said he has been protesting sinners for years. Is it me or do they need a new method? I know we want people to give their hearts to Christ and change their sinful ways. But when shame is involved, it shuts people down and turns them the wrong way. Jesus spoke truth in love, but never in a shameful way to change the person. God can change anyone’s heart. We are to continue to love with boundaries until that day comes.

When I had family telling me to lose weight because I needed to find a man, their words did not make me want to do it. I wanted to bury my face into a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. My friends spoke life into me and loved me no matter what my size was because they didn’t care. They just encouraged me to take walks with them and make healthier meals. I began to lose the weight, met my husband and lost more. Love has a funny way of doing that.

When we see people sinning and living lives that we know are harmful, it is both difficult and sad. But we need to continue to show love and be the example that Jesus would want us to be. Would you want anyone telling you are doing something wrong by demeaning or belittling you? I know I would want to see the example and receive encouragement. I have made the mistake with my daughter where I said something shameful regarding her doing something incorrectly. She was in tears and said, “Mommy, you never showed me how to do it, I am only 5 years old.” That was a shot through my heart. My lesson learned: discipline through love, not shameful punishment.

Lesson learned: Shame no more, change to love and encourage.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for trying to encourage change through shame. I am thankful that you love us, not shame us that we want to change. Break the chains of shame in my life. Let me see people the way you see them as valuable. I believe that you have the power to change any person. Thank you for your love, grace, mercy and forgiveness when we make mistakes. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Put your money where your heart is

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Money. I am little obsessed with it. The obsession isn’t about greed or lust, it is more how does God want me to use it. I feel at times that I am not being a good steward of money. I am talking about those spur of the moment purchases…Like going to Starbucks. Or that area by the check stand where you think “sure I totally need AA batteries, Kleenex and Reese’s peanut butter cups”. I see you Target’s popcorn and Icee combo. Get in my belly! (I think I need to stay away from Target for a while.) I pass by Old Navy and think sure I need another tee-shirt and jeans. Then I wonder, why can’t I afford new windows, give money to charity or have money to grow our savings or fund my Roth IRA.

I did have the sense to take a course by financial adviser, Dave Ramsey, called Financial Peace University. It did teach me some things, but I didn’t apply every principle. We use a credit card (okay we shuffle between 4 of them) but we pay off their balances every month. So I assumed, that I was being responsible. Sure paying them off is being responsible, but having no money left over to do good is not great either.

I read a very popular book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. It was amazing, weird and truly life changing. I am always looking to minimize and not be wasteful. Yet, I have that problem at Target, where I am buying more than I should because it is cheap, on sale or that I am bored. Marie Kondo has some interesting ways of dealing with clutter. A couple of tidbits are she wants you to talk to the things you want to get rid of and tell them they served you well and to choose things that spark joy. That statement, “spark joy”. That is the life changing statement for me. I cringe thinking of buying things that a really expensive, even if they are great quality. But when you think about it, if you keep buying cheap things to replace the other cheap things, it doesn’t save you anything and just adds more to the landfills. I realized that statement of “choosing things to spark joy” is very similar to 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” as well as the above stated verse in Matthew.

There was a recent occurrence that gave God a chance to speak those verses into my life. Usually when I am in the car driving, I listen to Air One, a Christian music station. They have great music and d.j.s. They also are very encouraging and uplifting. They do not have commercials to pay their bills, it is listener driven. They have a couple of fund raising efforts a year to keep the station going. When that time of year comes and they are asking people to commit to supporting their station. I admit I want to change the channel. But Ryan Seacrest in annoying and partly responsible for the visibility of The Kardashians. Therefore, I listen through those donation requests hoping a song comes on. I think to myself, “how can I give more, when I need to take care of my household?” But I was listening one morning during their pledge drive and this time I felt the Holy Spirit say, “doesn’t this spark joy in your life?” I love how God can turn any situation to be meaningful in our lives. Of course, it gives me joy. It give me more joy than a coconut chai tea. More than something in that dollar bin that will break in a couple of weeks.

So, I called and made a pledge. I pledged $20/month to their radio station. This became a catalyst for making better choices and to be a better steward of the money God has blessed us with. I put a note in my wallet that has the question, “Will it spark joy?” It is a reminder that I can invest in people who are in need , to save for the rainy day fund, necessary home improvements, or college tuition for our daughter instead of making a wrong purchase.

Dave Ramsey said something that was so hilarious and truthful that takes away the desire of wanting more stuff. “You never see a U-Haul truck following a hearse.” You just can’t take it with you. Do you want your loved ones to deal with all of your junk when you are gone? I sure do not! Create a better legacy. There is always someone who needs to be invested in.

Lesson Learned: Create a legacy that reflects Jesus and use your income for what sparks joy.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help me be a good steward of what money you bless me with. Remind me to make wise choices. I ask for a healthy perspective on money and to show me where you want me to spend money and when to save. Remove those fleshly desires of buying things I do not need. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Does the Jesus sticker on your car match your behavior?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

How do you react when things don’t go your way? Are you calm or do you implode like a detonated building? We live in a very over reactive society. It seems like the more drama you show, the more likely you get what you want. It is very sad and teaches children the wrong way to handle things. It seems like most people want to be civil with each other. Unfortunately, when some over reacts, your first impulse is to do the same thing.

There was one night our family ordered pizza. I called and placed my order for carry out. I could tell it was a busy night for them because I was placed on hold the first time for over 10 minutes to be disconnected. Then waited again to place my order. When I got there, I told them my order and they said it would be just a little longer. The place has only carry out or delivery. There were 10 of us crammed into the little waiting area. We all began to notice that we were waiting longer than we wanted. The staff seemed short-handed too. The people I was waiting with all began receiving their orders. I was starting to get impatient.

One lady made a comment to me that it seemed I was waiting longer than anyone else. I decided to say something. I asked about the pizza and he said, he will check. He came back with a frightened look on his face. He said that my pizza was never made. I exhaled slowly and loudly and asked for a refund. He told me that he wasn’t allowed too and all he could do was give me a credit for another pizza. So now I am “hangry” (hungry and angry). I asked politely for his manager. She looked frazzled and tired. I also noticed everyone was watching me in how I was about to respond to her. I made a decision to give her grace. In calm manner, I told her that it seems to have been a mix up and I didn’t get my order and how I would like to still get a pizza. She apologized profusely and said she was short-staffed and they were experiencing many technically issues with their ordering system. She offered to make the pizza personally and told me she would give me credit towards 2 pizzas. She told me how long it would take and I said I would wait. She walked in the back to make the pizza. I sat back down and the people waiting were smiling at me. One man said, “Wow, you were so nice and patient, I probably would have blown my top.” I smiled and said, “I could have done that too, but with all the problems in the world, I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.” I got my pizza quickly. Both the guy and the manager thanked me for my patience and even offered to carry the pizza to my car. The pizza seemed better than usual too.

People do watch how you react to things, especially of one claims to be a Christian. There is nothing wrong in expressing your feelings or dismay, it is how you do it that can be a blessing or a hindrance. It seems like a super power to be patient with others. I struggle with it all the time. But God reminds me of that situation all the time, when I feel like I am about to go off on someone.

Lesson Learned: How would God want me to react in difficult situations? With His love and kindness.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to remember to give grace freely. Remind me what truly matters. Mistakes happen, whether we give them or receive them. Let your heavenly love flow through this earth. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Wasteful Thoughts are Wasteful

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5

In my teen years, I struggled with an eating disorder. Even though the physical punishment of the disorder stopped many years ago, the mental anguish still surfaces. I get thoughts of feeling inadequate because I can’t maintain an ideal weight or my body can’t exercise like I did many moons ago. There are days now, I feel the hatred for my body, like I did when I was 14 years old. I was feeling self-conscious.

In the past few months, I have written about having a lot of back pain. Any kind of treatment I tried, nothing would relieve it. I did not want to take prescription medication. I finally took both prescribed medications and had some relief. After a few days on the medication, I noticed I was very swollen. I was retaining a lot of water. Clothes were tighter and the scale was higher. This made me very uncomfortable. I couldn’t get past the extra pounds. I thought, I can’t deal with more weight gain, I would rather be in pain. God spoke to me in that moment. I heard, “Would you want your daughter to ever waste a thought about how she didn’t like how she looked?” I felt that cold shiver down my spine and I knew it wasn’t from the back pain. I would never want my daughter to get wrapped up in that type of thought bondage.

I knew I had to also stop proclaiming my thoughts out loud or ruminating about how I didn’t like how I looked. I don’t need to blame the world for its distorted perception on beauty. I already know the world’s thoughts on that. My thoughts need to be true and focused on what is holy. If there are side effects from medication that helps, I need to deal with that. I will not be on them forever and things will adjust. If the pants size gets bigger, than I need to buy new pants. Maybe the scale needs to get donated. There are better thoughts to have in my life than my clothing size.

Lesson Learned: Focus my thoughts on what is true and noble.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me in your image. I pray for healing over my health both physically and mentally. Holy Spirit me to see me as you see me. Renew my mind each and everyday. I pray for the chains and bondage to be broken of anxiety right now! In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!”