Thursday, August 30, 2007

Journey to Contentment (Part V)

I AM THANKFUL:
FOR THE WIFE
WHO SAYS IT'S EGGS N BACON TONIGHT,
BECAUSE SHE IS HOME WITH ME,
AND NOT OUT WITH SOMEONE ELSE.


FOR THE HUSBAND

WHO IS ON THE SOFA
BEING A COUCH POTATO,
BECAUSE HE IS HOME WITH ME
AND NOT OUT AT THE BARS.


FOR THE TEENAGER

WHO IS COMPLAINING ABOUT DOING DISHES
BECAUSE IT MEANS SHE IS AT HOME,
NOT ON THE STREETS.


FOR THE TAXES I PAY

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I AM EMPLOYED
.

FOR THE MESS TO CLEAN AFTER A PARTY

BECAUSE IT MEANS I HAVE
BEEN SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS.


FOR THE CLOTHES THAT FIT A LITTLE TOO SNUG

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I HAVE ENOUGH TO EAT.


FOR MY SHADOW THAT WATCHES ME WORK

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I AM OUT IN THE SUNSHINE


FOR A LAWN THAT NEEDS MOWING,
WINDOWS THAT NEED CLEANING,
AND GUTTERS THAT NEED FIXING

BECAUSE IT MEANS I HAVE A HOME
.

FOR ALL THE COMPLAINING
I HEAR ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT

BECAUSE IT MEANS
WE HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH.


FOR THE PARKING SPOT
I FIND AT THE FAR END OF THE PARKING LOT

BECAUSE IT MEANS I AM CAPABLE OF WALKING
AND I HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH TRANSPORTATION
.

FOR MY HUGE HEATING BILL

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I AM WARM.


FOR THE LADY BEHIND ME IN CHURCH WHO SINGS OFF KEY

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I CAN HEAR.


FOR THE PILE OF LAUNDRY AND IRONING

BECAUSE IT MEANS
I HAVE CLOTHES TO WEAR.


FOR WEARINESS AND ACHING MUSCLES AT THE END OF THE DAY

BECAUSE IT MEANS I HAVE BEEN
CAPABLE OF WORKING HARD.


FOR THE ALARM THAT GOES OFF
IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS

BECAUSE IT MEANS I AM ALIVE.


AND FINALLY, FOR TOO MUCH

E-MAIL
BECAUSE IT MEANS I HAVE
FRIENDS WHO ARE THINKING OF ME.


I just got this in my e-mail. Most fitting for the topic at hand.

Journey to Contentment (Part IV)

"By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
-Hebrews 13:15 (emphasis mine)

Let's face it. Sometimes (and some-days) we simply do not FEEL like giving God praise. There are even entire seasons in our lives in which we struggle giving God praise. We consciously know that "... God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rm. 8:28) but our feelings are screaming otherwise. How can I praise God when I am experiencing financial strains, a health problem, a move, or a teething/screaming infant? Take it a step further into the extreme... what about a job loss, an insurmountable medical bill, cancer, haunting memories of past abuse, death of a family member or friend, house fire, etc.? During these life-rattling situations, this Hebrews passages comes alive with reality: "... let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually...". Sometimes, finding a way to praise God is going to be a sacrifice. It's going to be hard, maybe seemingly impossibly hard, to come up with a way to praise God and give Him thanks. Also notice that this passage doesn't say "give praise to God when you feel like it". It says "praise God continually"... whether you feel like it or not. Whether things are going swell or falling apart at the seams. We must give God praise continually regardless of our circumstances... regardless of our feelings.

Let's look at another passage:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
-James 1:2-4

As a Christian, isn't it one of our main goals to become mature in Christ, complete, lacking in nothing? Our only other purposes in life are to know God more fully and glorify Him with our lives. Listen to Scripture: "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds...". Pure joy? Is THAT how you perceive difficulties that arise in your life? I don't know about you but rarely, if at all, do I just leap for joy when another new difficult, painful, tiring, and/or potentially anxiety-causing situation crops up in my life. More times than I'd like to admit, a very more real thought is along the lines of "not again... not more...". But as a follower of Christ, according to Scripture, we are to be overjoyed when another trial comes our way because it's another step closer to God both in faith/trust and in sanctification. We should be working to the point where we willingly and openly embrace trials because we know we're going to grow up and mature in our walk with Christ. It won't be fun to endure the trial, but the end result is priceless. The majority of our spiritual growth will only come through adversity.

Trials will either make you bitter or better.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Journey to Contentment (Part III)

"4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
-Phil. 4:4-9

Peace: tranquility; serenity; calmness within the soul knowing God is in complete control; anxious for nothing

Peace, serenity, and contentment is not something that just automatically occurs in a Christian's life. So what do we need to "practice" in order to attain an inner peace?:
1- choose to give your anxieties to God
2- choose to pray specifically
3- choose to be thankful
4- choose to dwell on the positive

If we have time to worry, we have time to pray. We should try substituting prayer for worry, the positive for the negative.

Read Phil. 4:8 specifically. What's our part?:
-to continuously & consciously think things that are true, good, and pure
-to refute those thoughts that are contrary
-to trust in God's eternal will- that He will use bad/painful/evil circumstances for His good purposes

I don't say these things in order that we completely discard and/or ignore the difficult, anxiety-causing situations that crop up in life. But what I am saying is that we shouldn't dwell on them. Even in prison, Paul preached the gospel. He never complained about being dirty/smelly, being chained to a guard, having to use the restroom with no privacy. No, rather he focused on the positive: he could still preach about Christ! Even better, the guard was chained to him and he couldn't get away from Paul. He HAD to listen!

The more you focus and dwell on the negative things in life (financial problems, singleness, difficult marriage, inability to have children, a wayward child, health problems, etc.), the more whining, complaining, depression, and negativity become a part of who you are. Even in the most dismal/painful circumstance, there is SOMETHING to praise God about. Seek it. Look for it. Dwell on it. In the opposite direction, the more you seek to praise and give thanks to God, the more it becomes second nature. In a very real way, you are what you think.

What about you? What stream of thoughts play in your mind all the day long? Are you dwelling on the positives in your life or the negatives? Are you quick to judge, complain, find fault? Or are you quick to see God working, find a praiseworthy item, give thanks?

If practice makes perfect, why not try practicing being thankful. Practice giving praise to God. Practice always looking for the positive. Practice thinking that which is true, right, pure, and excellent.

More to come....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Journey to Contentment (Part II)

"Not that I (Paul) speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
-Phil. 4:11-13

The author asked for us, the reader, to paraphrase this Scripture. Here's this Scripture in the ADV (amplified Duckwall version):

"God has taught me (through much training) how to be content regardless of my circumstances. It did NOT come naturally. It was something I had to learn through repetition. I've had food and money... I've also gone hungry and have been poor. In each situation, I've learned to be content. It was a "secret" that I had to discover. It was not a bit of knowledge available for all to see and attain. I had to diligently seek it to find it. The secret: true contentment is found in Christ alone. He is the One who gives me strength in all circumstances, regardless of how bleak/hopeless or wonderful/joyous the situation. He will help me. He will sustain me. He will provide for me. Keep your eyes on Christ, and contentment will become a reality in your life."

Contentment: an inner peace that is "learned" by repeatedly fixing your eyes on God and trusting Him to guide/protect/provide; accepting God's sovereign control over all of life's circumstances; accepting your "cup" in life; walking by faith; TRUST IN GOD regardless of circumstances and feelings.

Miscellaneous ramblings: It has got to be a slap in the face of God when we, as His children, don't trust in Him. Has He EVER done anything to break trust? Has He EVER broken a promise? Has He EVER failed? ABSOLUTELY NOT! So why why why is it so difficult to crawl up into His lap and entrust our lives to Him? It HAS to be our flesh that wages war against the spiritual realm. In a way, to NOT trust in God is insanity.
*For example: It is God who created the earth, the universe, the sun/moon/stars. He created our bodies... our mind, will, emotions. He is a God of intricate design and detail (as evidenced by pretty much everything in our world, esp. science). If He is so powerful, creative, wonderful, good, and awesome, then why can't we trust Him with our finances, families/children, health, future? It makes no logical sense! It's insanity. Our sin has truly made us "crazy"...

More to come...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Family weblog gone private

Recently, RD and I decided that our family weblog should be a private blog. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and we felt, as a protection to our family, that not just anyone should be allowed to view our family happenings. We have sent out several invitations but if you have been missed somehow and would like access to our family weblog, please e-mail me at: duckwall_ms@yahoo.com

Sorry if this has been an inconvenience to anyone.

Journey to Contentment (Part I)

Wow... I can't believe how long it's been since I last posted here! Let me tell you, though, these past few months have been packed with much spiritual growth. What I want to share with you here in the next few weeks (perhaps months) has been my walk into Biblical contentment. If you are interested, please walk with me.

In an earlier posting (April 7- "Cool Things II"), I had discussed a huge turn of events concerning my mothering. As I continue walking the path of healing and maturing, God has been teaching so much, especially in regard to contentment and peace.

About a month ago, I sort of hit a crossroads in my walk with God. I was really wanting to step forward and get into the meat of Christianity (so to speak) and was really feeling the Lord leading me to pursue a Titus 2 mentoring relationship with an older woman. Someone to teach me, encourage me, rebuke me, pray for me, and to keep me accountable. God so very faithfully led me to a wise and mature woman, Sherry C. We have just recently started to meet regularly and it has already been a tremendous blessing. Together, we are starting to work through a book entitled "Calm my Anxious Heart" by Linda Dillow. If you have never read it, it is a MUST READ.

Here are some of the insights that I have received in reading her book:

*Prescription for contentment:
1- never allow yourself to complain about anything- not even the weather
2- never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else
3- never compare your lot with another's
4- never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise
5- never dwell on tomorrow- remember that tomorrow is God's, not ours

These words were penned by a woman named Ella that worked with the pygmies in Africa for 52 years. She left all that was familiar and comfortable. No electricity. No air conditioning. No modern conveniences. Sometimes the heat reached 120F+. Yet in all of her discomfort, she found contentment and peace in God.

I must say, I hear this woman's testimony and am ashamed at how I can complain about so many things in my life.

Complaining seems to be a deep-seated issue for me. My two closest companions in life (RD and Rebekah M.) have both, on numerous occasions, rebuked me for complaining. Why am I so discontented?...

Perspective. Webster defines it as: looking through; seeing clearly; the capacity to view things in their true relation of relative importance". A way of seeing. An eternal perspective, then, is God's way of seeing. When we have God's perspective, we view our lives and evaluate what is important from His perspective.

THAT'S why I have a discontented spirit... I do not have an eternal perspective. I focus on the circumstances surrounding me rather than on God.

More to come...