Resisting Change

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I’ve wondered often, “What causes people to resist making changes that would improve their life dramatically?”

Marital problems

We listen to couples tell long tales of conflict in their marriage. The original offense may have happened on their honeymoon. After years of fighting  they are ready to divorce. They don’t really want to know what would improve their marriage. They just want out! Others don’t want to divorce, but they want us to tell their spouse how bad they are. Some come to unload their garbage because it is overflowing, but don’t want to know how to stop collecting it.

We have friends and colleagues who keep repeating self-destructive behaviors. We know how much better their lives would be if they would make a small adjustment. Sometimes if they set a boundary they would not be so used up and fall sick so often. Sometimes making an agenda would mean they could get everything completed without staying up late, night after night.

We have a strong human penchant for resisting change.  We believe what we see. What we see may be an illusion, but we are convinced we are seeing reality. We justify ourselves and blame others. Jealousy and shame, guilt and vengeance all live in our sinful, stubborn human hearts.

It is far easier to continue as we are than to make a change. If a doctor tells us two or three changes in our way of life that will reduce our risks of serious illness, we find it hard to make those changes. We would far rather he prescribe a pill we could take once a day to repair the damage it’s taken us years to cause.

I don’t have answers to everyone’s troubles. I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can only change myself. Do I want to change things in my own life that would make my life more fruitful or more pleasant?

If I’m going to see change in my life, there are a few basic things I must believe.

  • I must believe God knows all about me and knows what would make my life better.
  • I must believe He has my best interests at heart. When He says something is dangerous for me, I must believe Him.
  • He gave me His Spirit to teach me and guide me, comfort and help me. I don’t have to do it all alone.

The big changes in my life all came as a result of God opening my eyes to what was wrong in my own life. He then showed me what to do, like repent or forgive or trust. I need to believe that if he tells me to do something, it is possible for me to do it. He is willing to help, but He wants me to choose to do it.

Those are all fundamental to changing our attitude about change.  We also have people in our lives to help us change.

When an enemy points out a fault, it is easy to discount what they say. But when a close friend points out something, we should take it to heart. I think there are a few ways to respond to a friend’s comments.

  • Do I really do that? Often?
  • Why is it wrong or bad (if we really don’t know)?
  • What is a better or right way to do it?
  • I’ve never done it any other way. How do I even start to change?

We don’t often talk like that, even to our best friends. But if these attitudes and questions are stirred in our heart, we will begin to see how change is possible.

Take a moment to consider:

Psalm 16:11 says, “ You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  God doesn’t leave us on our own to figure out life, He will instruct us either through His Word or through people He sends our way.

Is there a change in your life that you are resistant to change? Has God been nudging you to change something in your life? Has a friend pointed out a change they would like to see in your life? Why not ask God to help you make the change? Why not ask your friend to walk with you as you change in this area of your life.

There is freedom and joy in letting go.

Counting My Blessings

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I am 72 years old today. I don’t feel any different today than I did yesterday. You know the feeling. You kind of expect sometime you will feel different when you have a birthday. But that never seems to happen.

There are things about my body I wish were like they were when I was 35 or even 55. But like those days, this body will never be like that again.

There is much that I’m very grateful for. I’d like to share some of those.

I’m grateful to be alive and well. Too many friends and family deal with constant pain or threats of dire illnesses. My own mom died 22 years younger than I am! I have had only minor and transient health problems.

I am thankful that I can sleep well. Only on rare nights do I have trouble falling asleep. Usually I know what the cause is and try not to repeat that again. With regular rest, I have the strength and endurance I need for the next day.

I am grateful I can exercise. I’ve been exercising regularly for 15 years. I’ve been able to keep osteoporosis at bay, something so many of my female relatives have had to suffer with. I’m flexible for my age and have even been able to improve my balance over the last months.

I am grateful I can eat what I want to, within reason. Again, I know too many my age who suffer with diabetes or heart or kidney illness and need to limit their diet severely.

Beyond those obvious things, I’m grateful God has opened the opportunity for me to develop my art talent. That was a gift I didn’t know I had. It is late in life to begin, but now I have the time to practice, at least a little, every day. God blessing me with good eyesight and steady hands makes this a great hobby that can last long into my old age.

I am so thankful for God’s gift of a wonderful husband. Mike really loves me! He cares about what happens to me. He has made opportunities for me to grow and develop and serve others in whatever way I seem led. He is not selfish or bull headed. We have learned together how to care for each other on good days and bad. I am grateful that I can be proud of my husband and the way he treats others. Mike is God’s greatest gift to me.

I am grateful that God gave me two sons. They are very different and they have had very different lives than ours. But they are good men and I am proud of them.

I am a happy Grammy to two great kids! They are treasures and I pray much for them!

I am truly grateful for my friends (including my siblings). Each one has added to my life and my joy. I have friends I can share everything with. I have friends who share some of my interests and encourage me. I have young friends who keep stretching me and who want to hear what I have to share (a blessing many older people do not have). I have older friends who understand what I’m feeling without me having to use too many words. I have friends who won’t let me harbor hurt or anger or unforgiveness. They challenge me and pray for me and help me grow in compassion, graciousness and forgiveness. What a treasure they each are to me! I wouldn’t be the kind of person I am today without them.

Finally, and over all of these gifts, is God’s great love for me. He chose me and has kept me all these years. He has opened doors I never could have imagined. He has provided all I needed and plenty to share with others. He has been my dearest friend.

This is a short list, but the ones that seem most important today. Thank you, God, for 72 years!

Legacy

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I’ve had legacy on my mind a lot lately. When we think of legacy, we usually think about wealth or property that is passed on to the next generation. But the legacy I’m thinking about is the imprint we leave on others’ lives.

I was not so aware of the changes in my dad when he met Jesus. He had never been a drinker or gambler. He had never been an angry man or selfish or proud. But he would have said God had done a good work in his life.

With my Dad’s birthday and Memorial Day being so recent, I’ve been pondering my dad’s legacy. My dad didn’t have an easy life. His father was an alcoholic, he lived through the Great Depression and then served in the army in Asia during WWII. He went to art school after the war and worked in commercial art for more than 50 years.

The legacy from my dad was a good example of faithfulness, gentleness, and thoughtfulness of others. A tender heart and listening ear. My dad took the lessons he learned from the Bible and lived them before us all. Everyone who knew my dad was blessed because of his touch on their life.

So, how do we leave a good legacy? That’s been the point of my pondering.

Our beginning doesn’t have to determine our ending. God wants to make every life a masterpiece of His redemption. We all have messy backgrounds. We are all born sinners and are raised by sinners. Whether our sin was outward and hurtful to others or inward and self-serving, sin always damages. No matter how badly we were treated or how badly we behaved, God can change our legacy.

Before we were even conceived, God had a plan for our lives. He had good works planned for us to do. He didn’t expect us to figure them out on our own or do them on our own. He began over-seeing our lives and drawing us to Himself from our birth.

He brings us to the point of salvation and gives us the gift of eternal life. It is a gift, but it is a gift that is meant to be developed.

The Message Bible helps us see what Paul was saying to the Philippians and what God is saying to us.

Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

Philippians 2:13-16 —-The Message Bible

We cannot positively influence others for Jesus when we are full of ourselves and bent on pride and selfishness. We only spread God’s love and mercy as we allow Him to change us and give us a heart for the hurting.

His work in our lives is on-going. We will never be completely clean and polished in this life. We will always need to open our lives to God and allow Him to make something beautiful of our lives.

The legacy we want to leave behind is a story of a life yielded to God. We want our attitudes, decisions, and desires to match His will and plan for our life. We want to be willing to give our all and trust God with the outcome. Others see the way we live before them, the way we treat them, and what we teach them. May this legacy draw them closer to Christ and His will and purpose for them.

Forgiveness Revisited

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Over the years I’ve written different times about forgiveness. In addition, my husband, Mike, has helped me understand what forgiveness is and is not. For instance:

  • Forgiveness does not mean we forget what happened, but we can remember it redemptively. That means that, although the memory may be present, bitterness and resentment are not.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to automatically trust the offender again. Trust is always earned.
  • Forgiveness does not assume we reconcile and re-enter a close relationship. Of course, we do, if we safely can, but not if the other person would repeat the hurtful actions.

Because of recent events in my life, I’d like to talk about some other aspects of forgiveness. Sometimes fresh pain can help us embrace fresh understanding. I think that is what has happened with me.

Here’s some general, background information. We can forgive offenses against us. Even before the person asks for forgiveness for something they did or said against us, we can choose to forgive. This is what Jesus meant when he said to forgive as our Father in heaven forgives us. (Matt 6:12-15) God forgave us before we even knew enough to ask for forgiveness. (Rom. 5:8) This can be hard for us, but it is possible. Otherwise, Jesus would not have commanded us to forgive. (Lu 17:3-4)

We don’t forgive the sin involved. That is between the offender and God. Only God forgives sins. We forgive the damage done to us, but God forgives the sin.

But the kind of issue I have been dealing with, off and on through my life. Is different. What do I do with the hurt I feel when someone I love is hurt by someone else?

The first time I found myself in this cage was when leaders in a church we were serving accused my husband of things he had never done. They treated him badly and cut us off from fellowship with them. The cutting off part had an upside.  It meant I didn’t have to continue to see them and try to act like I wasn’t offended. But for over a year, I harbored resentment and anger over their unfair accusations and treatment of my husband. Throughout the year I tried to forgive them and constantly failed. Why?

I failed because what they did to my husband was not mine to forgive. So, what should I do with the hurt? I began to realize I did not have to try to forgive. That was not my responsibility. I was not failing in my relationship with God. He never intended me to carry that burden of forgiving what they had done to Mike.

Did I like them after that? No. Did I want to spend time with them? No! Did I want revenge? No. Did I want bad to happen to them? No.

My husband had forgiven them right away. He was hurt and struggled with what he could have done differently or if he had done anything wrong. During that time, I spoke the truth to him about what he had done and what they had done. His pain eased and we started a new chapter of our lives, equipped with a few very costly lessons.  

I’ve just been through another lesson in this area of forgiveness. I won’t tell the details here because I don’t want to add any pain to others who were also hurt.

Again, someone did a series of mean and hurtful things to one of my loved ones. The offender has been trying to get in touch with me for months. I’ve dodged the calls. My sweet husband has been running interference for me. I was struggling with whether I had forgiven this person. I had. I held no grudges for the things done to me or that directly affected me. However, I would get physically ill just thinking about those phone calls.

It all came to a head when I received a general note of apology and request for forgiveness. I could honestly say I had forgiven wrongs done to me. But what should I say about the discomfort I still felt about this person?

Once again, I realized I was harboring anger and resentment over the sins done to my loved one. Those were not mine to forgive. Finally, I was relieved to realize I didn’t have to forgive these offenses. My loved one was the only one who could forgive what was done to them. And only God could forgive the sins involved.

I got real release when I realized the person who was hurt was already in heaven. The pain and frustration were forgotten with the first glimpse of heaven. The offender cannot hurt this person anymore.

I am free. The heartache has been replaced with that glorious image of my loved one’s joy in heaven. When the hurt comes to mind again, I purposefully replace the images with the huge smile on the face of the one in heaven.

Does this mean I trust the offender to not do anything hurtful again? No. Do I want to restore the relationship with the offender? No, I’m not ready. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to talk and visit without pain, but for now, I’ve asked the person to pray for us both. I will continue to lift this person to God and wait to see what God will do with this relationship.

With God, we get to revise lessons learned earlier again and again. I am grateful God wants to set us free from the sins and snares that trip us up. Maybe what I share here will help you in a similar test.

Take a moment to consider:

  • Are you trying to make forgiveness into forgetting or reconciliation or having to trust again?
  • Is there something you have been struggling to forgive that isn’t something you need to forgive?
  • Have you asked God to help you replace the hurts with a redemptive thought?

Artful Seeing

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“What do you see?” That’s the question my art brings to my mind constantly. It’s a new way of living.

I see light and shadow. I see roundness and flatness. I see over lapping and underlying. I see large and small. Young and old. Whole and broken. Shades of color. I stop and look. Look intently. Look to see: Why? How?

At first it was a discipline to stop and look, to really see what I was looking at. Then it was automatic when I was getting ready to sketch something. I didn’t just rush into putting pencil to paper. I took time to see the parts, the form, the shadow. Later I took time to see how the subject could be captured on a page. I was concentrating on light and dark tones, outlines and forms. Then I learned to take the time to plan how it would look on paper, the flow, the margins, the feel.

But now, I see that this way of really looking has affected my whole life. Instead of just seeing color and form and flow, I take time to consider the story behind the image. A flower in a vase has a story to tell. Looking at a whole tree with only green leaves, I see the young shoots; the mature, strong leaves; and the old, withered and spotted or drying leaves. What have they experienced? What story could they tell. Even the knotted and twisted branches of a tree tell a story.

When I see a face with lots of creases, I wonder were they good things or bad things that etched those lines on that face? When I see a joyous smile, I think about what has brought such joy to that person. A limp has a story behind it. A hand held out to help another, it has a story too.

I want to see like Jesus sees. I want to have compassion and tenderness toward all God’s children. Even the unlovely, I want to ask the question, “What brought them to this trouble?” and “What does God want to do for them?”

I have wanted to see others this way for a long time, but art has brought it to the front of my mind much more often.

I am grateful for this talent God has given me, but right now I’m even more thankful for what this practice is doing in my life.