For Him

For in him we live and move and have our being- Acts 17:28

So, Sometimes my attitude really stinks. I mean not all the time, just on occasion. Like when there is an AT&T salesperson at my door, or a phone call from a salesperson whom I did not reach out to, suddenly calls wanting to sell me something. Oh, I appreciate their tenacity. Their persistence, their drive to make the sale, close the deal, earn their commission. But, really? I mean can’t they see I’m busy? That if I really wanted to buy something, I would reach out to them? I would be visiting their store or place of business?

I like to think that I am generally optimistic, you know, the glass half- full kind of person. The one who tries to see the best in a bad situation. The one who glosses over issues and looks for a quick solution to fix it. But, the one thing that bothers me and puts me in a very judgmental state, is this. “Why are you trying to sell me on this?” “What is your real purpose?” or “What is your motivation?” I am a real skeptic when it comes to motivation. I don’t want to be told how this will benefit me, what I really want to know is how it will benefit them. Why are you doing this? Why are you convinced this is what I need? Do you really know what I need?

Of course, most of us know that the motivation for salespeople is to make money. It’s their job. It’s how they earn a living. And I give them credit for trying to do their jobs. But as I expand this idea of motivation out further, I often wonder what the motivation of Christians should be towards their lives, their faith, their witness to the world.

I recently was watching a video of a bright and cheerful Christian. They were certainly convinced what they were taking about was very important to me and anyone else who would care to watch. Their voice was raised to an excitable pitch and allowed for the occasional pause, and the lowering of tone for an emotional impact. They waived their hands- well, their whole arms- as every good communicator should do- thank you COMS 101 class notes for that insight– as I had been taught in college. Never just use your hands but make large movements with your whole forearm for affect, to seem sincere. I’ve never really remembered to do this when teaching, and I don’t really want to. Why? because I do not believe in manipulating others for my own benefit. Not when it comes to things like teaching the Bible or sharing the Gospel. Oh it works, it gets attention, but I am looking for God’s words to convince the person, not my theatrics. I’m not wanting to gain fame as a trained motivator, just an honest person, making an honest appeal.

But, please don’t misunderstand me. I am a manipulator at times too. Just ask my husband! I have learned recently that I am a shock absorber- Thanks Dr. Caroline Leaf- for helping me understand how my quick fixes and glossing over the bad to keep the peace made me a shock absorber- someone who seeks to keep the peace- not so others will be happy- but so that I will be. Yup, convicted and guilty of that. So, while my motivation might appear great, it really is for me, about me, and not about others. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Leaf, I suggest you listen to her podcasts, or read some of her books. She is not an untrained self- help guru, but a Christian neuroscientist who understands how our minds work, both physically and spiritually. Her insights have been tremendously helpful to me as a navigate my own emotional health and spiritual journey.

So, back to motivation, I have been thinking quite a bit about it lately and have been reminded that our motivation should be focused not only for others, or towards ourselves, but towards God. We might have a great plan, a great idea that we really think is best for others, but what is our real motivation? I recall a lecture from college during which the professor gave an invaluable life lesson, one from his own college days. He was about to graduate and was praying and struggling over what God was calling him to do with his life. He had been a religion major- same as I was- and wondered what God was going to do, where He would send Him, what were his next steps, when he overheard a casual conversation in the cafeteria. His friends all had plans- plans to make it big- they were all going to join together and create a mega church after graduation. One was a great worship leader, another a great expositor of Scripture, another a great business leader. But the one word that kept repeating itself during the conversation was not “we” or “God”, but “I”. To the dismay of my professor, all he kept hearing was”I” am going to do this or that,”I” am starting a mega church- The lesson the professor was sharing is to not forget who we are doing this for- our education, our training, our presentations, our jobs, our lives- It’s for Him. Not us. Not me.

It’s not that God actually needs anything from us. He doesn’t, but when we think of what he has done and continues to do, giving and keeping our very existence going- then it is For Him. This is what our motivation should be. What my motivation should be. When we begin any new project, whether it is a new job, education, ministry, or outreach let us first ask ourselves, what is my motivation? Second let us ask God to direct us in how we should be doing it for Him. Third, let us not become proud of ourselves and try to do everything on our own. Reach out to others and let them help.- If its truly for Him- we won’t be bothered by their input and help. God bless

Default

What kind of person are you? I mean really! What kind of person are you? Are you positive, or negative? Do you look for the silver lining in the clouds, or see just the storm and rains? We all seem to have a default setting. The setting we have allowed to program our thinking and reactions to our circumstances. But, can we change our defaults? I believe so, but it will take effort on our part.

Recently, my husband and I have been reading through a couples communication study. The author, who is a respected psychologist, offers questions for couples to consider to aid in their understanding of their communication styles. Yes, we all have different styles of communicating. And it doesn’t just refer to how much or how little we talk, but what words we choose. It is also based upon our preferred learning styles. My husband is primarily an auditory learner, while I am a visual learner.

One of the recent topics we have read about is the need to focus on what works in our communication over what needs improvement. It might seem counter- intuitive, but it is what athletes do in order to regain ground after a slump in their performance. Focus on what you are doing right and not what you’re not doing so right.

I believe this can be true of our communication with others as well, not just with our spouses. It is way too easy to look only at the problems we see in society- in our neighbors, co-workers, schools, communities, etc. and not see what IS working. To find the good in others, and not default to the negative aspects. Anyone can find faults to complain about. Commentators and critiques have found ways to make their judgements on the failures of others into jobs. Whether in sports, business or politics, finding fault is an industry. We even sometimes refer to these critics as analysts. But, in our striving to find faults and solutions, we really need to look at what is being done right. What works. Work on strengths, not weaknesses. God Bless- Nancy

Pray

Today I have a simple question to ask of you… Do you pray?  If your answer is yes, then let me ask another follow up question…. When?  Maybe your first thought about this answer was a particular time of day, like first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. There is really no set time that is better than others. However, praying first thing in the morning kind of gets the day started off in a better direction. Do you pray alone? Or with your spouse? Or with your kids before bed time? I remember praying with my kids at night while I sat on the edge of their beds. My husband and I began praying together both in the morning and at night a few years ago. My favorite time to pray is when I have the whole house to myself and can just have this awesome conversation with God, pouring my heart out to Him. Or in the car- I promise I do not close my eyes when driving!

Maybe you can’t remember the last time you prayed- I mean really poured your heart out to God with thanksgiving and also with your concerns. Maybe you save prayer for the big stuff- like health scares or financial stresses. Or maybe only when that child or spouse that just needs to change- in your opinion. Or maybe you just get busy and slowly prayer becomes something you’ll get to later in your already busy over scheduled day. Yes, we can get lazy about prayer. It can be like that well intended diet we started. As soon as the desserts show up our diet is gone and our good intentions are lost.

Some people like to schedule their time with God for reading His Word and for prayer. This I do recommend to keep from falling away- like that well intended diet plan. But, if you blow it and miss a day don’t worry, just get back at it. It helps to remember why we pray in the first place. Its all about communication. Jesus even gave His disciples – and us- an idea of how we should pray in the Lord’s prayer. No, we do not have to follow it word for word like a memorized prayer. But, He gave us ideas of how to pray- to communicate- with God- the Creator of the universe.  If you’re unfamiliar with what’s called the Lord’s Prayer you can find it in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

The most important item to take away from Jesus’ model He gave His disciples, was that He prayed to His father. If Jesus prayed, shouldn’t we also? Jesus is part of the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Did He need to pray? Wouldn’t that be like talking to yourself? Well, that’s a deeper question to think about now, but what we should realize is that Jesus communicated with God the father regularly. And that is what He wants us to do as well.  It doesn’t matter the formula, time of day, or words- God knows us- He wants to be in a communicating relationship with us. He wants our praise, our thanksgiving, our petitions, requests, our worries and stresses- all the messy stuff of life- He cares. He accepts and does not reject those that call upon Him to be saved (Romans 10:13). He hears us (1 John 5:14), He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), He loves us (John 3:16). He wants to hear from us, so why not at the end of reading this, you just stop and pray. No excuses, just do it. Not sure what to say? Just tell Him whatever is on your heart. He’s waiting for you to make the first move.

-God Bless

– Nancy

 

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Here’s a question for you to consider… Have you ever walked into a room at the tail end of a joke? When everyone is laughing, but you? And you wondered what the joke was? Or maybe it’s worse than that.. You hear two people talking and you can make out bits and pieces of the conversation, but as you approach they suddenly begin whispering. Ever wonder if they were talking about you? We all have had those thoughts at times and unless we ask them to repeat the joke or ask what or whom they were talking about, our minds tend to fill in the blanks. We make up the rest of the story. The parts we didn’t hear. We become our own fiction writers.

I admit it.. I am a big Hallmark movie fan. Currently my husband and I have been binge watching Hallmark movies. We watched all the fall themed movies and now we are watching the Christmas Hallmark movies. Yikes! Why so early with the Christmas movies Hallmark? It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. Well, anyway, we all know the basic story line. Guy and Gal are dating for several years. They are happy, maybe a little complacent, when the girl is asked to travel out of town for work. (Guy can also be substituted here). When she travels from her hometown and her guy, she suddenly falls for the handsome stranger in the course of 1.5 days. Handsome stranger falls in love and somehow in the 1.5 days of their acknowledgement of each other he buys a ring and thinks about asking her to marry him, or go out on a date or something. Meanwhile guy in hometown shows up just as handsome stranger is going to propose and declare his love for the gal. But… the guy from hometown suddenly decides HE will propose to our gal. The handsome stranger is waiting just far enough away to see the hometown guy drop a knee, BUT what he doesn’t see as he hurries away is our gal’s decline. And a misunderstanding follows, which allows for ALL those commercials during the last fifteen minutes of the movie- Hey Hallmark needs to pay for the movies somehow, besides selling cards! Anyway, once the misunderstanding is corrected our happy new couples lives happily ever after- lights fade- roll credits.

So is life like that? Well as I described before kind of. Recently, I overheard my husband in the other room. I thought he was talking to me- I mean we are the only two in the house. But in reality he was speaking out-loud about another matter. I created a fictional conversation in my mind, that included me. Needless to say I had misunderstood. After I had stewed for a day, we finally realized what he was saying hadn’t been for me, but for something else. But it had ruined a good day. The Bible says we are to guard our heart for “Everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). Luke 6: 45 confirms the important connection between the heart and words when he writes, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks ( ESV). Ouch, we have all been there, we say something we shouldn’t. And sometimes we are overheard. We also shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It causes confusion and even hurt feelings. Good communication is important in friendships and relationships. It can be the difference in moving forward or holding on to misunderstandings and grudges. The next time you over hear a conversation and are unsure if they were talking about- stick with non-fiction- ask them to clarify their conversations. Now back to the binge watching- God Bless Nancy

Reboot

Uuugh. Have you ever had one of those moments when your life came to a halt? Everything appeared to be moving in slow motion or completely frozen and lifeless. Yes, I am talking about my computer. What did you think I was talking about? Recently I was in a situation in which several of us were working together when we lost the internet. So, we could do the only high tech solution that works- resetting the router. This simple solution solves many issues. So does rebooting our computers and turning our mobile phones off and turning them back on resets these devices. We all live in the age of handheld devices and connection and communication through the internet. When the connections fail, we cannot communicate. Sometimes its our router, sometimes our internet provider and sometimes our devices. But, whatever the reason, it needs a reset. While our devices and routers are coming back online there is a wait, a pause if you will. We must sit there and wait until the technology catches up. What do we do with that time?  It depends on the person. Some will bang the keys or frantically touch the screen, hoping that through their repetition, the waiting will be shortened. Others might stare blankly at the screens, believing they can mind control light and life back into their screens.

A pause is good for us. It forces us to take a break and slow down. It forces us to think and reflect. Resting and pausing is a good thing. The Bible talks quite about rest as it does working. We are instructed to rest on the Sabbath, but we are also told to avoid laziness. The Psalms are full of pauses. There are many different interpretations for the term Selah. If you have one of the Bible versions that includes this word at the end of paragraphs in Psalm 66, I encourage you to take a look at this passage. The definition I have heard about Selah is that it was used as a pause in between singing that roughly means, “Pause and calmly think about that”.  I thought of that this week as I took a few days pause from writing this blog. If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that I generally write at the beginning of the week. I was using a paused time to reflect and consider and think about what to write. Such pauses are helpful. They allow us to stop and think about what we are doing and what we have already done. So next time your internet crashes- remember Selah- pause and think. It may be that God has given you a break to think. God Bless -Nancy