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Use Your Imagination

4 Jan

Ever since I was five, I “saw things” in the everyday. It wasn’t just pictures in the clouds. As an adult, it happens all the time.

When I worked at a Christian newspaper, I looked down at the floor and saw the head of Jesus in the swirls of the floor covering. ScreamDoor_smaller

Every time I look at my kitchen cabinets, I see Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.”

It happened again this week during a shopping trip. I looked over at the potatoes and onions aisle and there it was, staring at me … a DuckDynastySweetTaterduck!

I had to buy it, and when I got it home, I showed my husband – after I drew on it, creating a “Duck Dynasty Sweet Tater.”

It had a head with a beak, a neck, a body, and even a curled tail!

Chalk my finds up to perception … or crazy thinking.

Who cares? I’ve had a blast imagining all through my life.

Today, I think it’s a gift, but growing up, I only heard of “imagination” in negative terms. I didn’t realize the Bible talks about imagination in negative and positive ways.

NEGATIVE Imagination:

  • “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, Amplified).
  • “… for the imagination … of man’s heart is evil and wicked from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21, Amplified Bible).
  • “They … walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart … they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart” (Jeremiah 7:24, 11:8, KJV).
  • “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51, KJV).
  • See also Nehemiah 6:8; Jeremiah 13:10; 18:12; 23:162 Peter 1:16).

POSITIVE Imagination:

  • I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, that are present here, offer willingly unto thee. O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee” (1 Chronicles 29-17-18, ASV).
  • “… No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it – What God has arranged for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, The Message).

NOTE: God says His Spirit will reveal the “deep things” of God – those things we cannot imagine in and of ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 2:10).

So there is negative imagination and positive imagination – but what makes the difference?

To be positive, to be holy, our mind, thoughts (and especially, our imagination) must be reined in and controlled by the Spirit of God. We must have a “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, Amplified) that is transformed by God (Ephesians 4:23), because God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts – they transcend our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

Paul says we must take our thoughts – and that includes the imagination – “captive.”  “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV). In other words …

If we’re going to use our imagination wisely, it needs to be handcuffed to Jesus.

We need to remember, as children of God, that we are in Christ; we are destined to conform to His image (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). And so, we want the mind of Christ, which is humble and surrendered to the Father’s control (Philippians 2:5-11) – to the praise of His glory!

So according to the scriptures, we can have God-sanctified imagination.

My desire is to use my imagination in healthy, wise, godly ways. How can I use my imagination?

  1. I can envision goals and brainstorm strategies to achieve them.
  2. I can picture the consequences of obeying God … or disobeying Him.
  3. I can contemplate and create projects, art – beautiful things – that will honor the Lord and encourage people to live for Him.
  4. I can imagine the glories of heaven and use that “vision” to help me choose wisely, with eternal values in mind.

How about you? How are you using your imagination today? For God’s glory, your good and the good of others?

~ Dawn

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Straight Thinking about Holiday Oxymorons

9 Dec

My husband and I often laugh at the covers of women’s magazines.  So often they offer high-calorie foods and gorgeous desserts (like the Molten Chocolate Cake shown here) right next to dieting articles (like this one ~ “We lost 230 lbs!”).  Have you noticed that?

Some other cover oxymorons (and it’s not just Woman’s Day):

  • “Your healthiest year ever”… next to a whole collection of muffins and pound cake
  • “Eat healthy fast-food cheat sheet”… next to Corny Cupcakes (cupcakes on a skewer made with brown butter frosting and jelly beans)
  • “Drop 10 lbs in 4 weeks”… next to Simple & Delicious Cheesecake Brownie Bars
  • “8 Reasons why your diet isn’t working”… next to Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits.
  • “Stop Gaining Weight!”… next to “Easy Holiday Baking: Delicious pies and cakes”

You get my point. Why is it we don’t think straight when it comes to food or other things we want?

I laughed at a recent post by Jeff Goins, a writer I follow. He suggested (in an email titled “Giving Thanks ~ for EVERYthing!”) some funny holiday oxymorons:

  1. Remember to be grateful for what you have… Don’t miss these great deals!
  2. Catch up on work before the end of the year… Don’t forget to rest.
  3. Try to get some “me” time… Don’t neglect spending time with family.

We need to think straight about those seeming inconsistencies, don’t we?

When we have that normal stress (“tension”) going on in our lives, it’s important that we listen to a voice outside of ourselves. We need to ask our Heavenly Father what He wants us to do, and search the scriptures for His wisdom. Right thinking can help us walk that fine line of tension this month (and every month).

You’ve felt it.

  • We want the 90″ flatscreen TV for our family for Christmas, but know our budget will only allow for one much smaller (if at all).
  • We want a new dress for the Christmas party when the truth is, we already have three or four outfits that will do just fine.
  • We want to spend hundreds of dollars more on gifts than last year, but we don’t want our family to fall over a financial cliff.
  • We want to sit down and read a Christmas novel like Unexpected Christmas Hero, but there are cookies to bake for Junior’s school party…  and the office party… and the Christmas Eve party.
  • We want to stuff our faces at the holiday office get-together, but a little voice says, “What were you saying to your friend yesterday about not wanting to gain more than two pounds over Christmas?”
  • We want to curl up by the fireplace and take a nap, but God’s Spirit nudges us to visit Sister So-and-So in the hospital.
  • We feel like we owe everyone a piece of our time, but God says, “come apart with Me before you come apart” in all this holiday rush.

It’s the tension of all those extra choices that adds to our stress at Christmas. We need God’s wisdom, don’t we?

The Bible gives us that wisdom. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” That is the protection we need ~ surrendering our will to God’s will.

We’re also instructed, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That is the source of godly priorities.

And we are told, “…seek those things which are above, where Christ is… Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). That is how we embrace an eternal perspective.

What we become and how we deal with circumstances is largely determined by our desires, thoughts and focus. Whether during the holidays or any day of the year, God wants us to make balanced, wise decisions. Seeking Him and responding with proper attitudes is a good start.

So … how are you dealing with the normal stress and challenging tension of these holidays?

– Dawn

Those Pesky Idiosyncracies

27 May

It’s been said that married men should forget their mistakes. There’s no sense in two people remembering the same thing.

It’s also been said that marriage is a relationship where one person is always right … and the other is the husband.

Those jokes are funny, but not too kind to the menfolk!

Unfortunately, marriage is a sea of challenges that requires graceful navigation!

I was recently encouraged by a book about this complicated relationship. Elaine W. Miller wrote We All Married Idiots, a book that examines three things we will never change about our marriages, and then she offers ten things we can all work on to improve the husband-wife relationship. (1)

In one chapter, Elaine talks about learning to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies.

“Since living with idiosyncrasies is a part of marriage,” she wrote, “You might as well treasure those peculiar habits. One day you might miss them. I know I did.”

Elaine’s husband Dan was a tapper. He tapped on things. “I think in his mind the whole world is his trumpet as his fingers play a perpetual tune,” she said. “He taps the table when he eats, the steering wheel when he drives, the newspaper when he reads, the pulpit when he preaches, and my shoulders when he puts his arms around me.”

The tapping got hard to take. “If I let it,” Elaine said, “his tapping gets on my nerves. Many times I have said in an irritated voice, ‘Would you please stop tapping!’

“However,” she added, “when he was hospitalized and I was uncertain if he would live through the night, those words weren’t on my lips. I stared at his silent fingers, held his motionless hands, and pleaded, ‘Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.’

“Funny how our perspective on idiosyncrasies changes under different circumstances,” she said. “Many will admit the very thing that bugs them is what first enticed them to their beloved, and what they will miss the most when their loved one is gone.”

I remember reading about a woman who hated her husband’s snoring. She complained and poked him through the night. But after the man died, she told a friend she’d “give anything to hear that man snore again!”

Those pesky idiosyncrasies are simply more proof that we are all unique, and the truth is, every marriage has them. It is our attitude that makes the difference. Elaine explains that love is kind (according to 1 Corinthians 13:4). And what does that look like? “Being kind to your mate means overlooking those oddities that sometimes drive you crazy. The next time your love does the idiotic, remember this ~ you married an idiot and so did your spouse.” (2)

Elaine points out that the words “idiosyncrasy” and “idiot” both come from the same Greek root word (idio) meaning “common man.” In other words, we all do things that are a bit eccentric or peculiar from time to time.

As I thought about this, I realized how many times simple kindness and grace ~ and especially loving words ~ have acted like soothing oil in my own marriage. (Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband has put up with me this long!)

Rather than focusing on each other’s quirks, we’ve chosen to concentrate on what is good, pure, lovely, etc. (see Philippians 4:8). Some of those pesky idiosyncrasies remain, but they aren’t “issues” anymore. We’ve learned to love and accept each other and try to see each other through the eyes of the Redeemer we both love.

When I stop to think that God created me with unique idiosyncrasies ~ and He loves me ~ it encourages me to share the same kind of love with others, especially my spouse.

How about you? When you think about your spouse (or if you’re not married, a boss or a parent or someone else you have a relationship with on a regular basis), is there something that the person does that really bugs you? Could love, acceptance, patience and mega doses of grace ease your frustration?

(1) Elaine W. Miller, We All Married Idiots (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2012), p. 7.

(2) ibid, p. 7.

Elaine Miller is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has authored two other books, Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives. http://www.splashesofserenity.com.

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