‘Bad Day’? It’s a Matter of Perspective.

24 Sep

I’m always surprised by how people define “bad day.” For many, a “bad day” is when:

  • You can’t find earrings at Charming Charlie’s to match your dress for caution-baddayinprogress_lolwithgod_dawnwilsona birthday party. (This almost never happens because that store is amazing!)
  • You break a fingernail, right after getting a professional manicure.
  • You can’t find a parking space a few paces away from Home Depot’s front door.
  • You discover someone ate the last chocolate chip cookie in the bag … which you carefully hid.

Really?

OK. This isn’t going to be an especially lighthearted post. But I thought about this topic after I got upset looking for that aforementioned parking space. God really spoke to my heart that day. Broke it, actually.

THESE are the kinds of real-life “bad day” issues that lead to REAL frustration or fear:

  • You can’t find your child at the mall for more than 60 minutes.
  • Your husband loses his job. Again.
  • Your cancer returns. With a vengeance.
  • Your home is burglarized, your house ransacked and you discover many treasures are missing.

And then there are “bad days” most of us will never have to face.

  • Total rejection: A woman who cannot find a job because no one in her village will hire a “Christ-follower.”
  • Horrific persecution: A pastor whose leg is broken during torture in Laos because he dared to preach the gospel.
  • Unspeakable pain: A mother who weeps because her daughter was raped because the family converted to Christianity.

A bad day is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

There’s simply no comparison between the first group and the last.

We can view the circumstances in our lives in multiple ways, and how we view them affects how we feel and respond.

One of the best ways to view circumstances—especially the tough ones (because really, with the absurd ones we just need to grow up!)—is through the lenses of trust and gratitude.

Trust when you feel abandoned? Gratitude when a crisis comes?

Stay with me here ….

There is great power in trusting God; and there is great transformation in a thankful heart.

For the Christian, there may be many bad days, even awful-horrible days; but there is more to life than even these circumstances. In the midst of great upheaval and struggle:

  • We can trust the Lord when we are afraid, and be grateful that most of the things we most fear never even happen.
  • We can trust the Lord for what we don’t understand, with gratitude that He is never perplexed and always has a plan.
  • We can trust the Lord with an uncertain future, gratefully acknowledging He will be in our future as assuredly as He has in the past.
  • We can trust the Lord to care for us, grateful for His endless resources and loving supply.
  • And we can trust the Lord when life falls apart—when we suffer incredible loss or pain—still grateful He is sovereign and will yet accomplish His will in, for and through us.

Granted, this is easier said than done. But daily practice is good heart preparation.

When we practice trust and gratitude in the simple, everyday circumstances of our lives, these habits will strengthen us when the bigger challenges and unexpected trials come.

In wisdom, we exercise our trust and gratitude “muscles,” and God (because He cares about us) wants to help us with that. As Matthew Henry wrote,*

Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God’s love….”

Believe me. I am not taking on this topic lightly.

I love and pray for The Persecuted Church and have found both conviction and great strength in the stories of God’s struggling children around the world. These believers “count it all joy” when they face trials of various kinds (James 1:2-8). Many rejoice and even celebrate, knowing God is working and they will receive great reward for any sufferings they face (Matthew 5:12; Romans 5:3; James 1:12).

How can they do this? They’ve counted the cost of following Christ and partaking in HIS sufferings (Luke 14:25-33; 1 Peter 4:13-16). They’ve  found God’s grace sufficient and strengthening in their greatest times of need (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When asked how we can pray for them, members of The Persecuted Church usually do not ask people to pray their burdens will be lightened, but rather that they will be wise to make good use of their afflictions—especially to be a strong witness to those who observe how they are suffering for Christ.

In cushy America, our concept of suffering for the Lord is so skewed. We’re constantly praying for “safety,” but not for opportunities to share Christ. Amy Carmichael wrote, “We must learn to pray far more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle wounds.”

So convicting. Especially when I lament over a broken fingernail or empty cookie bag.

It puts our petty “bad days” to shame, doesn’t it?

Are you having a bad day today? How might more trust in the Lord coupled with the practice of gratitude help your perspective … and ultimately, your responses?

 – Dawn

 * Matthew Henry, Commentary on James 1:1-22.

 

 

 

 

 

Less Is More, More or Less

9 Sep

“Wait, don’t throw that away!” I yelled. “I’ve got an idea!”

I love Pinterest, except for one thing. It makes me not want to throw anything away. I mean, I Hoarding_LOLwithGod_ToiletPaperRolls_Pixabaymight need that toilet paper roll or bottle cap or empty Styrofoam tray later to make something wonderfully creative!

I have to confess: I used to pin ideas on how to organize my house. But I never got around to actually organizing my house, and it was pretty impossible anyway. When you run out of places for stuff, it sort of spills out all over your home. 

People hoard everything from yarn to stuffed animals to hammers to makeup. (I know, because I saw all that on a Pinterest board about hoarding!)

I also saw a greeting card the other day with a room full of hoarded things on the cover. It read, “Congratulations. You’ve made a huge mess for me to clean up after you die.”

I’d laugh, except it’s not really funny. We are a nation obsessed with stuff, spending our abundance on things we don’t really need, and leaving it all for the next generation to deal with.

It’s no surprise, one of the hot topics on the Internet is the “less is more” craze. From authors to TED talks, from organization specialists to fashion consultants—everyone seems to be talking about eliminating excess and owning a richer life with less stuff. 

In some cases, the less is more crowd is advocating the opposite extreme of hoarding!

One lady I read about proposes we keep only 10 items in our wardrobe. Another decided to live in a mini-house and pared down all her belongings to practically nothing. Then she went out to buy some of the things she got rid of in her haste!

My philosophy is:  less is more, more or less.

And here’s what I mean.

First I tackle my stuff by asking tough questions:

1. Have I used it in the last year?

Why not? Why store stuff I’ll never use? (A few things, I wasn’t sure about, I put in a box to evaluate again later. A FEW things.)

2. Do I truly love it?

Does it make me smile or leave me sighing in frustration? Am I keeping it because someone gave it to me? Am I just struggling with how to let it go?

(Yes, I kept some special “just because” treasures—only OK because I have room for them.)

3. Do I have a reasonable location to keep it in my home?

Are things just piling up? Would I have to buy a storage unit to store these things? Why? Is that wise?

If I really love it, is there something that can go to make room for this?

4. What are the memories associated with it?

Are there good memory reasons to keep it (possibly for legacy purposes, or for the next generation)? Does it have any bad memories associated with it—and am I ready now to deal with those memories and move on?

(For some people, everything they touch has an associated “memory”—good and bad memories—and that can lead to hoarding. I’m not talking about that issue here. That may require counseling.)

5. Do I have more than one of this item?

Why? Is that realistic? (I counted more than a dozen pair of scissors in my home, and I’m not talking about those fancy craft scissors.)  I’m learning life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).

6. Could someone else use this more than me?

Especially if I’m not using it and don’t need it, I need to think missions, the homeless, Goodwill or Amvets, a needy neighbor, etc. (1 John 3:17)

Maybe you have some other questions that help you.

I recently decided to take all my boxes of stuff stored in the garage and place similar items on a white cloth on my dining room table. I took pictures of the similar items in groups. Then I sent those pictures to family members. 

“If you want it, let me know,” I said. “Otherwise it’s going in a garage sale and to Amvets.”

It’s amazing how little they wanted. Why did I think they would?

I’ll admit, it was hard to decide to let some things go. The six questions helped me.

But it’s not just “stuff” that concerns me.

Sometimes our biggest stressors are excesses in the stuff life is made of.

Life is made of Time. Schedules. Activities. Relationships. Things like that.

Less of some things is good. 

But then again, more of some things is good too.

 It depends on what we’re talking about.

For example, being busy is good; it means we are engaged and occupied in a (hopefully) worthwhile activity, but being too busy means our priorities may be out of whack. And busywork is seldom good.

A full calendar can reflect a good life, but too many things on our calendar is not good. It eventually can lead to burn-out. We have to learn to balance work and rest. We can’t go through life like tightly-wound springs. 

This is even true in our spiritual life. While ministry and service are good, if we constantly give out and never take in, that won’t work.

We need to refuel. We need to sit at the Master’s feet and learn of Him. We need to be still and take time to meditate on scripture. We need to rest (Matthew 11:28).

To be honest, I didn’t even see all of this until the Lord set me apart for a while. I couldn’t be busy. I couldn’t keep up with my calendar. I couldn’t even do ministry.

I could barely breathe.

I came apart because I failed to “come apart” with the Lord to evaluate my life and my priorities.

My loving Father God showed me all the excesses in my life, and where my life had become too lean. 

Now I am learning not just to “pace” myself, but to give myself more grace.

And I am oh, so thankful for God’s grace, lifting me up when I stumble in this new walk with Him.

These days, it’s not simply a matter of less is more, but rather, “What do YOU want me to do today, Lord?” I’m following the example of Christ. Jesus only did what the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:19) and I want to do the Father’s will too (Matthew 12:50).

Some days it’s less; other days it’s more—but every day, it’s just right when I lean on Him for direction.

Where are you struggling with too much? In your home? In your schedule? Something else? Will you bring that to the Lord and ask Him for direction? And will you obey Him?

– Dawn

Graphic, courtesy of Pixabay

5 Brilliant Lessons Age Spots Taught Me

2 Sep

I didn’t know lion cubs are born with spots—brown rosettes—on their body. Almost like a leopard.LionCub_pogo_mm_Pixabay

A funny cartoon shows Daddy lion talking to his young cub.

“Don’t worry, Son,” the lion said.

“They’ll go away as you get older. They’re just youth spots.”

Youth spots are cute, but what about age spots?

Poet Elaine Bishop wrote, in “Poems of Hope and Humor,”

“When I woke up this morning, I found another spot.

I do not know what’s causing them, but I sure have a lot.

Grandma called them liver spots; that does not appeal to me.

Now I’m hearing age spots; Oh, Lord, that could not be.

I’d pass them off as freckles but that would not be true,

And I must always tell the truth whatever else I do.

As long as I’ve no name for them and I’m still in the dark,

I’ve decided I’ll call them my special beauty mark.” *

GrandmaDorothy_LOLWithGod_5BrilliantFactsAgeSpotsTaughtMeI always said I wanted to grow old like my Grandma Dorothy (pictured here). Yes, she had wrinkles and age spots, but her gentle spirit and kind heart always glowed.  She loved Jesus and it showed!

I just didn’t expect to see my own wrinkles and age spots so soon! 

As I sat in church one Sunday, I stared at my arm, counting the age spots:  1 – 2- 3 – 4. Oh, please! Enough already!

As I sat there, only half listening to the preacher at that moment, I was hearing another message. My age spots were “speaking” to me, and they taught me five important lessons. Brilliant lessons!

1. GET SMART: Use Sunscreen!

I haven’t been wise. Although I wasn’t a “sun baby,” since moving to California I’ve soaked up lots of sun just in daily activities. And I haven’t used sunscreen.

Damage is apparent, but it’s not too late to start. (I hope.)

I’ve read lots of home remedies for age spots (like a mixture of brown rice, agave nectar and lemon juice), and the market is flooded with potions for a price. (I’ll probably get emails from them!) But the truth is, we all get them. Some more, others less.  We need to get smart and use the sunscreen!

2. SEE REALITY: Beauty IS More than Skin Deep.

My Grandma is in heaven now, but I remember her true beauty. Whenever I looked at her face, I saw more than wrinkles and age spots. Her beauty truly was more than skin deep. Her beauty was deep within and it blessed all of her family and friends.

In extolling the virtues of the noble woman, the writer of Proverbs says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 HCSB).

Matthew Henry wrote, “…the fear of God reigning in the heart, is the beauty of the soul; it lasts for ever.” **

I want that beauty of the soul, don’t you?

3. FACE TRUTH: You’re Terminal.

Hollywood celebrity Valerie Harper, diagnosed with brain cancer, said, “We’re all terminal; none of us are getting out of this alive.”

The Bible says much the same thing about our earthly existence. Unless the Lord comes to snatch us away (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), we’re all doing to die (Hebrews 9:27).

We’re all terminally ill with a disease named “death.” 

Christians don’t need to worry about this fact. To be “in Christ” and to die is “gain” (Philippians 1:21). We go directly into the presence of the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul said he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

4. REDEEM TIME: Don’t Lose Opportunities.

Although we don’t know the final date for our tombstones, we have today to love and serve the Lord and people.

We need to “redeem” (buy up) every day, looking for opportunities. How?

There are many ways to redeem our remaining days. Here are just a few:

  • We can awake from our sleep and understand the times (Romans 13:11).
  • We can look carefully how we behave and be wise (Ephesians 5:15).
  • We can make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5b).
  • We can seek the will of God each day—our marching orders (Ephesians 5:17).
  • We can be filled with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b) and under His control.
  • We can do all God calls us to do with all our might while there is still time! (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  • We can set our mind on heavenly things, because really, the truth is we are “dead” to this life—with our lives alive in and “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Don’t live in such a way that your final day is filled with regrets. Where you have sinned, confess and repent … and then move on! God has much to accomplish through you until your dying breath!

5. REMEMBER HOPE: You’re Promised Another Body!

While the Christ-follower’s soul goes to be with the Lord, the body is changed later (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16). Our bodies are raised “imperishable”—perfect and free from all death and decay (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

This is part of the blessed hope (Titus 2:13-14) of the Christian’s eternal life. Our mind can be in the beginning stages of transformation now (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). But someday our lowly body will be transformed to be like our Savior’s glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

Our new body will never wear out or grow old, never get sick or decay and never die! 

And no more age spots!

Which of these lessons from age spots speaks to you today?  In light of your aging, how will you cooperate with the inner transformation God wants to produce in you?

– Dawn

* “Seeing Spots” by Elaine Bishop, Poems of Hope and Humor (AuthorHouse, 2013), p. 9 (Emphasis mine).

** Matthew Henry Commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31

 

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