Pressing Forward

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. 3:12

My husband built a very sturdy desk for me, which is my writing desk. The desk is in front of a window which gives me the perfect view outside to the street. We live on a corner, so actually my view is not one, but two streets. It gives me the vantage point of observing the life around me as I write. Often, it becomes the inspiration for my writing and podcasting. So, this morning, like many others I was inspired by the runners outside. Every morning and afternoon I watch as several neighbors get their daily exercise in by running the streets near my home. I admire them. They are dedicated. I am not. I’m not much of a runner anymore and I was never a long distance runner, but more of the fifty- yard dasher in my high school days. I was all about the speed and not about the marathon.

The apostle Paul spends a great deal of time talking about life as a race, like a marathon. So, even though I don’t claim to be a marathoner, it is what I am doing in this life. Life isn’t a dash, but a long distance run. My neighbors who run would understand the analogy that Paul writes about I’m sure.

What struck me this morning was that these runners, whether they realized it or not, could stop at any moment and yet they would still be moving forward. This whole planet is constantly revolving, moving, spinning, so are we. But also life is constantly moving forward. We have no control over this forward movement. I heard someone recently comment that we cannot control our circumstances and what happens but we can control our perspective. So true. There are some things we can control, of course, but we cannot stop life from moving forward. We cannot stop time.

As I also heard a comment recently about the decision to move forward. But given that we are all already moving forward in life, this too seems to be not completely accurate. It might appear at times that we are stopped, stuck, in a long queue line, or in a rut. I’ve often felt like that and I’m sure you have too. Life just isn’t changing fast enough. Our circumstances seem stuck, not getting any better, maybe even getting worse. But, truthfully, life has not stopped. So the decision to move forward isn’t actually a reality, but rather deciding how we will keep moving forward despite the circumstances we are in. Sometimes we do need to make changes and change our perspective or our attitudes, but we do not control life or time. We must choose how we can be moving forward. I like Paul’s view of pressing on. It is this constant choice to keep pressing on, to keep moving forward.

One of the runners I have been watching from my window has given me a great deal of encouragement for pressing on and moving forward. I have watched as they first started their daily routine. At first they would walk by my house; not fast, but slow and steady. Next, I notice they added more movement in their arms and hand weights. Then a few weeks later, I watched as they began to jog at a slow pace. This morning as they went past, they had a definite runner’s gate and were using their arms to move along as well. They had been finding their stride to move forward. And as I have been watching and observing them, I am encouraged that I too can begin to join in moving forward, past this moment of feeling stuck in a rut, even if it is a slow pace at first; walking before running. But pressing on, making good decisions, working on my attitudes and perspectives to try to see God’s perspective. Life is moving forward, I do not choose to move forward as though I can control it, but I can choose how I will be moving forward and pressing forward to align more with what God has designed. This is what a faith walk looks like, not a dash, but a marathon, God Bless- Nancy

Shifting Blame

Blame shifting holds us back. We simply cannot move forward while looking backward and assigning blame on another person.

I first learned how to drive a manual transmission while my husband and I were living in Spain. Many of you reading this blog or listening on the podcast, might be unfamiliar with manual transmissions. Here in the United States the stick shift is not that prevalent. but when we lived in Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s there were very few cars that were automatic. So, it was quite out of necessity that I should learn to drive a ‘stick’. It was much trial, error and practice, but I finally got the hang of when to let out the clutch, move my foot from the brake to the gas pedal and boom! off I go. Timing is everything in shifting between gears. You could not move forward without shifting the gears to the next higher gear. To slow down and eventually come to a complete stop, you must reverse the process to down shift. shifting up to move forward and shifting down to stop.

I recently watched a parody intended to put shame on the Gen Z’s. It was designed to poke fun at their blaming everyone for the problems they are facing- like increased student loan debt, poor wages, a bleak economy and social and environmental injustice that they are left responsible for. It was light- hearted, but close to the truth as well. This is how many Gen Z’s see their world.

The truth is, we all have been guilty of shifting the blame for all of our problems on others. I recently came down with a cold, for which I blamed my husband- he had it first. And I became quite miserable. So, it was all his fault. Or so I concluded. But, honestly, I can never be completely sure. I might have picked it up just about anywhere. But, he was the easiest to blame, because he was the most logical source.

It is so easy to find others to blame, and some of that blame is justified. We are human beings. We are not human doings. and most of the time we really mess things up. Oh, we get it right sometimes, but we also make mistakes. We try to do something we shouldn’t be doing, and we fall short. We try to keep up with others and be like them, instead of being ourselves. Being the people God uniquely created us to be. We make decisions that aren’t the best for us or for others who we are responsible for.

If we look for the mistakes in others we will find them. If we look for the mistakes we ourselves make we will find them- and then point to the other person as the reason why we made the mistake in the first place. We really have a problem with admitting it could be our fault. We also shift the blame to others, because we don’t know how to fix our mistakes, or the mistakes of others. We want to move forward, but we get stuck looking back and placing blame, instead of shifting the focus on the solution to fix the mistake or shortcoming.

We blame others for our financial situation, rather than looking for a solution, by creating our own businesses, going back to school, or reducing our spending. We blame our parents- I did too!- for how we turned out, but do not try to learn who we are and how to grow and change- How to overcome the past- sometimes difficult and painful pasts- by learning from others who have walked a similar path before of restoration, healing and growth.

It is easier to complain and blame than to ask God for wisdom in overcoming the past and how to move forward. Blaming can become comfortable to us. It keeps us from bearing any responsibility. We sometimes like to stay stuck in first gear, than risking letting out the clutch and pressing forward. I am not just speaking to Gen Z, as I am speaking for myself as well. I am a recent college graduate who, like Gen Z is facing mounting student loan payments and many employment application rejections. I, too, see the injustice in the world and want to do something about it, but not sure what to do. It is easy for me to blame the employers who won’t take the time to view my application because I am a woman, or I have been out of the workforce as a Stay at Home Mom, and lack experience. As my youngest says ” You can’t get experience until someone hires you and they won’t hire you without experience.” Yes, it is as much a dilemma for me as for a Gen Z. And that is my point here. We all can blame others- younger people or older people, but the truth is, if we work together, forget about differences in ages, economics, gender, stop labeling and stop blaming- we could do so much more.

Blame shifting is not new. Check out the Book of Genesis and you will find it started very early with the first married couple. And they didn’t have parents to blame. Or co-workers, or even children. They were Gen Alpha. Adam realized the mess he now found himself in- working crazy hours with hard work and thorns and thistles,a messed up, broken relationship with his wife, the realization he did not have clothes and needing to hide so God wouldn’t see him naked, and now he would die, like get old, get wrinkly and die. And he blamed his wife and then God. It was all their fault. Not his. He just stood back and was minding his own business when his wife brought the piece of fruit to him. I mean what is a husband to do? Make his wife mad and not take a bite? Or take a bite and take a chance, ’cause she wasn’t dead yet, right? So, yeah. According to Adam it was God’s and Eve’s fault. God because He gave Eve as his wife and Eve because she picked the fruit, took a bite, and talked him into following suit. But… Adam too was to blame. Where was he when Eve was confronted by the serpent? Did he really have to eat too? I mean God had told him not to eat. So. yeah the first default blame shifting happened right there in the first few pages of the Bible. It is not new. You can find other examples in the Bible, but you can also find a solution. It’s called grace. And that will be on next weeks blog- Stay tuned! God Bless- Nancy

Embracing Pain

There isn’t anyone alive today that has not experienced pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, relationship pain, financial pain, even spiritual pain. We don’t like it, but yet it is something we will experience throughout the course of our life. We often attempt to avoid pain and hurt by avoiding conflict, finding medicines to dull our pain, and trying to not think about the negative. But, maybe instead of escaping the pain, we should instead embrace it. We will have troubles, the Bible even says we will have them in the Gospel of John (John 16:33). But we are also promised that Jesus has overcome the world. He has taken on our pain and hurt from this broken world and overcome it through His death and resurrection.

It is impossible to escape pain from a broken world, the world that was never designed to be this way in the first place. It wasn’t supposed to be so messed up. We weren’t meant to be so messed up, but it was our choice, at least it was Adam and Eve’s choice to follow their own way and lead us all down the path of brokenness, pain, hurt, suffering and ultimately death.

So why should we embrace this pain? Well, maybe we need to realize that as we are moving forward in this life, down our own paths, maybe, just maybe, we can find some redeeming quality to this pain. Maybe our pain will make us smarter, stronger, and more hopeful than we would be if we hadn’t experienced it. I know of a woman who is posting videos on her journey through cancer. She is creating this documentary, that if anything, inspires me to take each day as a blessing from God and to live each day intentionally, enjoying what I love to do. Her pain is joy to others. It inspires others. I’m sure she does not want this cancer journey filled with both physical and emotional pain. But she is finding peace and joy amidst her struggle as she allows her self to be vulnerable about her own fears, including death.

I have also considered my own journey through grief of losing my mom. This pain that I still feel has brought me much closer to God. And maybe that is the greatest reason to embrace pain. For when it is at its greatest, its most hurtful and bitter as if it is a knife plunging into the flesh, it is then that we cry out most earnestly to God. And He hears. When we are done trying to figure everything our for ourselves, and are completely undone, we fall at His feet and let Him pick us up as a parent scoops up their crying child. -God Bless Nancy

Letting Go….

Hi, my name is Nancy and my superpower is worrying and overthinking. Everything. Or at least it was. With the new year I have decided to let go of my superpowers for a bit. Or at least try to. If you’ve read my posts before, then you know I over plan and over think and over worry. Is that really a thing? I think it can be. I think there is nothing wrong with a bit of concern, but when we take it too far and what ever we are concerned with takes up all our thoughts, well yup you got it!, over worry.

So, while I might not admit to making a New Year’s resolution, I usually do; I just don’t tell anyone, so that way if I fail, no one has to know. Pretty good plan, huh? Well, this year it isn’t so much what I am adding to my resolve, like exercise, but what I’m leaving behind. I’ve decided to leave the past, right where it should be, the past. Everything that went wrong and everywhere I fell short, or others fell short. I’m just going to not bring it up in my mind. This year is a new chance for falling short, both mine and others.

When we hold onto those past short comings we label people and ourselves in such rigid ways, that we end up only seeing ourselves and others in that way. So we enter a new year expecting the worst from ourselves and others. We limit them and us and restrict any growth.

I really don’t like labels. People can move forward and grow. We are all capable and with God’s help we will continue to grow in our faith walk and in life in general. No one would expect a kindergartner to do Algebra and neither would they stay at the kindergarten level. They will grow and learn. Adults can grow too. We learn from the past and give ourselves the grace to move forward despite making past mistakes. We should offer this grace to others as well. Putting the past behind and moving forward is not just a cliche, but is a part of living.

But what about worry? Are you going to mention that again? Yes. Yes, I am. I am still a work in progress in this area and a verse came to mind this morning as I thought about what to write. It’s from Matthew: Here’s Jesus’ words on the subject of worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?(6:25-27, NIV).

Many of you might be familiar with this passage, but I think the best part is found further on in the reading of chapter 6 from verse 34;  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today is its own trouble” (ESV).

Ahh, see there’s my biggest nemesis! Being anxious and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. Today is enough for today. And this is also where letting go of the past comes in. I think much of what we base our worry and anxiety on is from our past. If something went wrong before, surely it will go wrong in the same way tomorrow, right? Well, no. Yesterday’s mistakes were so yesterday, tomorrow’s mistakes will be tomorrow’s, we need to be concerned about today. And when we focus on that, the part about not worrying about our stuff, as mentioned in verses 24-27 about food and clothes comes in to play. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Think about today. And oh yeah don’t worry about today. God’s got this. That might be a unofficial version of the text, but I think that is what it is saying. Just something to think about. God Bless -Nancy

Looking For Good

The young girl ran purposely across the wet sand of the beach. Her hair blew across her face, making it difficult to see where she was running to. Her smile was big and every so often she would laugh with happiness. Every once in while she would look back over her shoulder to see if the thin blue piece of plastic was sharing in her enthusiasm. She held tightly to a small thread in one hand and kept running. Soon the blue plastic rose up from the wet sand and lifted higher and higher. The girl kept running for a bit until she realized her kite was now actually in the air. She stopped and watched it dance across the sky over the beach. She held tightly to her little string, listening to the advice of her dad and mom ‘To not let go” Her joy was evident to all by her huge smile. She pointed upward, to make sure no one missed this glorious event that had just happened. Then. Just as quickly as the blue plastic had risen from the sand, it crashed downward in an uncontrollable death spiral. The wind had shifted. The kite crashed to the sand. The girl was heartbroken. She had gone from excited anticipation, to joy, to devastation in the span of a few minutes.

If you’ve ever flown kites at the beach, you’ve probably been through this many times. You know what to expect. You know you need wind and updrafts to make things fly. But, when we are young we expect flying a kite to be easy. We just run really, really fast and it will soar. We are heartbroken when our kite crashes. It’s worse if it gets broken when it crashes. The few dollars our parents spent on the bright piece of plastic- or if they were really ingenious- the time they took to make a kite- was all gone. It was now a pile of string and plastic. Sometimes broken kites can be repaired, but usually they can’t.

I thought about this today as God challenged me to “look for the good” in things of life. Life can seem like flying a kite at the beach. We can get excited with a new plan in our lives. We want it to succeed, just like the soaring kite. We pursue it like the running child on the beach. We want our plans and dreams to follow us and then catch the wind and fly. For a while they might seem to be working with us and soon they are making forward progress. But, suddenly, there’s no wind, or a downdraft, that sends our dreams falling down. We wonder how can we recover the flight? Will our dreams crash like the kite? Can we find a good updraft to help them soar once again?

Unlike crashed kites that usually cannot be repaired, life can be repaired. Yes, sometimes God might want us to let go of some plans and dreams because He has something better in mind. Other times, though, He wants us to keep trying and not be discouraged when we feel broken and our dreams seem far from flight. Hold on to the string and don’t let go. God can use broken dreams and plans. He can use the broken us.

And I believe He wants to use the broken us, because when we are broken is when we call out to Him for help. We need Him to fix our kites sometimes. To heal our broken hearts and help us with our dreams. We might not see His hand at work in our lives and we might get discouraged when our dreams look like a kite spiraling down from the sky. It is in those times we need to stop and look for the good. When you find it, you will find it is from God.  In Jeremiah 29: 13-14, God reminds Jeremiah and us,  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (NIV).

God Bless -Nancy

 

Drone’s Eye View

Do you like being stuck in traffic? Me neither. Have you ever been in one of those huge traffic jams on an interstate? When the traffic is moving along great and then all of a sudden a chorus of red tail lights appears up ahead like a wave at a baseball game. It starts in the distance and then it is right upon you, the car in front you and then follows with the car behind you. A sea of red tail lights as far as the eye can see. Everything comes to a stop. And you wait. And wait. And after a few minutes you begin to wonder how long will you be stopped? I mean you have places to get to. Everyone does. But you can’t get anywhere because all the cars around you have stopped and you’re stuck in the middle of this giant traffic jam. The worst is when everyone turns off their engines and gets out of their cars. My family and I were once stopped for two hours on the interstate while traveling. And it was in the middle of summer. It wasn’t fun.

The first question that usually arises in this situation is “What is going on, or what happened?” The second is usually “How long are we going to be stopped?” You can’t see far enough ahead to see what happened, but you can see behind you as the long line of stopped cars grows further into the distance. With social media and available apps, sometimes we can find out just how far up the road the traffic has stopped and if there are any alternate routes. But, what would be really nice to have is a drone.

My oldest son, Michael, has a drone and is an officially FAA licensed drone pilot. I am amazed at the photos and video footage he takes as a real estate photographer with his drone. As is commonly heard in real estate “Location, location, location” A drone can give potential buyers the perspective of what the house or land looks like from above. It can see how far the property is located from the beach, schools, restaurants, or what lies around it. This view is especially helpful when viewing parcels of land on which there are no buildings to photograph, just an empty lot. The boundary lines can be edited in later, but gives the overall size of the lot, that would not be appreciated as well if seen from a ground level perspective.

I would like to have a drone of my own. Not the kind to view the traffic jams-although that would be sweet- but a drone for life. I do not like being stuck anywhere, including in the  valleys of life. When you are in a valley you can’t see up out of the lower level you are in. It is not a mountain top experience where you can see the path laid out before you. Those times when you don’t seem to be moving forward, those times of waiting and wondering, “How long will I be stopped” “I wonder what is going on?” I would fly my life drone up and on ahead to see what the stop was and how long ahead I need to travel until the jam is cleared. That would be awesome. Then I could just review the video footage and know confidently just how long this valley of stopping and waiting would be.

Of course, there is no such thing as a life drone. So, I just need to stop, relax, turn off the engines of my own plans and timing as I attempt to move forward. I can either enjoy this time or be miserable. Either way, the traffic isn’t going anywhere until the road clears. I do not have the perspective I need to see on ahead in life, but I do know someone who does. I don’t need an app for that. Prayer and seeking God’s perspective doesn’t need an app. It just needs time. The kind of time when I’m stopped in a valley of waiting. Waiting can be something God uses to slow us down long enough to stop, pray, and pick up the Bible and read. We can find the perspective we need when we stop and pray and read. God might not show us everything at once, but He might provide encouragement that will help us as we wait.

This morning I was reminded that God’s perspective is not mine. As Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Pr. 16:9, ESV). We might think we know what we are doing, the where we are going to and the when we are expecting to arrive, but we don’t. We do not have God’s perspective. As Solomon observes, “All of the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (Pr. 16:2, ESV). God’s weighing the spirit, is like the bigger perspective of the drone. God can see what direction we are heading on our own and what lies ahead of us if we continue on this path. He is concerned with our hearts and with our spirit, not just with a physical direction we’re heading. Sometimes the valleys of waiting and stopping are to help us become what God intends for us, not just to stop us from getting from point A to point B.

If you feel like you are stuck in a traffic jam of life let me challenge you to take a step back and trust God . He knows what is going on up ahead. If you want to understand His perspective, seek Him in prayer and in the Bible. That is my challenge for myself today- God Bless- Nancy

Let Go

Last time I shared with you the need to press on and how that looks sometimes. People won’t always believe in what you are trying to do. There will be obstacles to moving forward. We took at look at Philippians 3:12. This week I have been reminded that sometimes we need to let go of things in the past that hold us back. Paul wrote to the Philippians about all his religious standings and experiences that should have given him confidence and something to boast about, but he chose not to rest on these laurels for he felt he had not arrived at a place of maturity or perfection. In verse 13 he tells them “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (NIV).

I bring that up because its a great verse, but one not to be taken out of context. Paul was forgetting those things that gave him tremendous credibility among the Jew and Gentile believers. What I have been challenged to do this week is to leave behind and forget the ugly things of life. The mistakes I’ve made in the past, the unkind words or actions of others, you know THOSE things. If you are like me, you are much harder on yourself than on others. And if you’re like me it is easy to remember when someone has hurt you. It is easy to hold on to unforgiveness and to let others know how you’ve been wronged. The more you repeat it, the more difficult it is to forget it and move on. The same is true of ourselves. The more we think about our shortcomings and mistakes of the past, the more they will bother us and steal our confidence for the future. It is true we can’t change the past, but we can live for the future.Every day is a new day to get up and move forward. Paul compares it to straining or reaching, like a runner towards the finish line. For my football fans, think of it as stretching the ball across the end zone with all you’ve got, while being pummeled by twenty other players. You got this, just let go and move forward. – God Bless -Nancy

Giving An Apt Answer In An App World

If you’re like me you some times forget people’s names. I mean not people you don’t know that well, but people you see frequently. Or maybe its a street name or the name of a restaurant. It’s right there on the tip of your tongue, but it just slips your mind for a minute. Then later, usually later in the day, at some random moment it comes to you. You might even say it out loud. And then give yourself a hard time for not remembering it sooner. What you needed was the right reply, the suitable answer, at the right time. What you need is an apt answer. What does apt mean? Suitable and at the proper time. It’s not a word that we hear often, but fits well with today’s blog.

Sometimes the challenge of moving forward in life is that we get stuck. We can even get down on ourselves for being stuck. I often find myself feeling stuck as I navigate from stay at home mom to college grad looking for a job. And from a home filled with kids to an empty nest. Everything is different. Everything is new. It’s not bad, just different. Yesterday was a day like that. Different, new and causing me some anxious thoughts until someone spoke an apt word( the right word at the right time). It was unexpected, but I knew as she spoke it, that it was for me and had been a God moment. What’s a God moment? It’s when you know God has planned something and shown His glory, His goodness, His mercy and even His love in our lives. Yesterday was that moment for me. The right words at the right time. An apt answer.Sometimes we just don’t know what the next step in the journey looks like. It is easy to get stuck, feel unsure of ourselves and looking for the right answer, It can feel like looking for that misplaced name. And then God uses someone to speak an apt word into our lives.

We all need a friend who will give us a word of encouragement, the right word at the right time. In our rushed and hurried world though that doesn’t always happen. We are too busy staring at our phones, tablets and computers, to see the needs around us. And if we are looking for help we search for an app to guide us to the right answer, instead another person. Let me challenge you today to look for that person in your life who needs a word of encouragement. Maybe its someone whom you don’t know well, but from the look on their face, they could use a smile, a compliment, or even a word of appreciation. You could make a huge difference in their day. Proverbs offers this great verse; “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply- and how good is a timely reply” (Pr. 15:23, NIV).  We all need a timely word and according to the verse we will find joy in giving it. God Bless- Nancy