Fluctuations

A lovely beach in Florida!

Things change. You’ve noticed too, haven’t you?

Schedules. Jobs. Bank Accounts. Relationships. Health. People.

Some of these improve, some decline. Some of them have a cyclical feel about them while others are abrupt.

Have you had some changes in your life recently that have thrown you for a loop? I certainly have! I admit, I often welcome a change in routine.

Six years ago today, I wrote this on Facebook:

Always use a pencil when writing things in your planner!!!! You never know when God has a change of plans coming!

And it is just as true for me today! In fact, those of you who have known me for a while, know to keep our address in pencil! My physical location has changed and, hopefully, I have also changed (and grown) as a result of living this life.

Each move, each change, has been an opportunity to adjust the way I view the world. Have I been hardened? Grown in my compassion and service for my fellow travelers? Have I become more discerning? More intentional? More loving? Of course, there is always loss along the way, but there always is loss when engaging in the world.

Here is my confession: I get a little panicky when there seems to be relentless undulation. When I come up for air, I want air — not water. Rapid changes can make me feel like I am gulping air and desperately trying to get oriented!

Here is a link to a song that has a phrase I love to remember:

“Sometimes He calms the storm, but other times He calms His child.”

Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture, hymn, or Christian song that speaks to you about life changes?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [Hebrews 13:8, NIV]

May you be comforted by the unchanging love, grace, and mercy of Jesus!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: MINDFULNESS

Success vs Failure

Why are so hard on ourselves?

Of course, there is always room for improvement. But something doesn’t have to actually be “perfect” to be a success. For me it takes work not to pick apart how something could have been better and just be thankful that it was good, even if it wasn’t perfect.

Why is it that our failures (real or perceived) are like flashing neon signs – always trying to grab our attention?

Maybe it is a good way to keep me humble. Typically things aren’t all good or all bad, I can look at things on a 1-10 scale. And even if it was a miserable experience, there is usually something I learned and, in that case, there was something redeemable about it.

What about when we do “everything right” and things still go awfully wrong. Are we really in as much control as we think? Everything hinges on something and not everything is in our power. We don’t have control over others. We only have control over our actions and responses. And even when we do things perfectly, there is no guarantee the outcome will be what we were hoping for.

Are there some days just getting out of bed and facing the day is an achievement?

I think so.

Success and failure are in the eyes of the beholder. What the world pushes us towards and what God is nurturing in our hearts are likely very different things. Who do you listen to when you are evaluating success?

My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever. [Psalm 73:26, NIV]

May you view your activity with through God’s eyes!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: FLUCTUATIONS

Boxes

I have packed and unpacked a box or two in my life. I suspect that is just a part of my life. We ship out orders and we unpack product. We pack up for festivals and unpack and then repack. And then we do it again. I am a good packer though not a perfect one. When it comes to packing our vehicle for events or when we move, my hubby is the man! It seems he enjoys the challenge of playing “Tetris”. Even if he doesn’t really enjoy it, he does a great job so I back away and let him have at it.

Sometimes my boxes are a time capsule of memories.  Good, bad, fragile, pointless, expired, new, fat clothes, skinny clothes, things from my mom, things from my kids, a sweet note from my hubby.

When I die and there will be a number of boxes to go through, let it be known here that there are boxes of stuff that I just hadn’t thrown away yet. But hopefully less and less as time goes on because I am planning on going through a few between now and then!

It is good to put things in boxes those things that you think you want but you aren’t sure. If you wait a while, the decision might get easier later on – either you know for sure you want it or you can let it go.

Pondering what to carry through life is a pretty huge job. There are physical things that may have value (monetary or sentimental) but then there are emotional and spiritual things.  If we are too bogged down with things it makes it harder to get to the next place because we are lugging our “possessions”.

During Bible times, there was a lot of travel. Much of it was by foot but sometimes it involved an animal too. It seems we have so much stuff these days that traveling is a bit bogged down. Maybe living is a bit bogged down.

I am thankful we have thrift stores and missions where we can donate stuff. But I need to be better about not collecting it to start with.

How about you?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. [Colossians 3:1-3, NIV]

Purging and Packing!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: SUCCESS vs FAILURE

Reaction vs. Response

For some reason, those two words feel very differently to me. So I checked in with Merriam Webster to see what the distinction might be. I guess the difference is mainly that a response, as an action, is neutral but a reaction can be positive or negative. I don’t know. What do you think?

Definition of reaction

1athe act or process or an instance of reacting

bresistance or opposition to a force, influence, or movement especially tendency toward a former and usually outmoded political or social order or policy

2a response to some treatment, situation, or stimulus her stunned reaction to the news alsosuch a response expressed verbally critical reaction to the play

Definition of response

1an act of responding 

2something constituting a reply or a reaction: such as

aa verse, phrase, or word sung or said by the people or choir after or in reply to the officiant in a liturgical service

bthe activity or inhibition of previous activity of an organism or any of its parts resulting from stimulation

cthe output of a transducer or detecting device resulting from a given input

How do you respond to situations? What is your tendency? Do you rush to judgment? Collect the facts first? Are you willing to hear everyone out? Are you a “reactor” or a “responder”?

Of course, it all depends on the situation. Some do call for quick action. But for normal, everyday things that happen, do you have a tendency to be negative about whatever you are facing?

And are you happy with it?

Training ourselves to respond calmly to situations is important. Paying attention to the words that come out of our mouths is important. Along with that, habits like eye-rolling, heavy sighing, foot stomping, door slamming, needing to have the last word, and low-register grumbling are just as important to gain control of.

Here is a challenge for both you and me:

Let’s spend the next 24 hours without uttering a complaint. Will life be all rosy and full of tulips and puppy kisses? I doubt it. But we can still spend 24 hours not verbally complaining. If you really need to “complain”, write it down in a notebook and in 24 hours decide if you still need to present the complaint.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] [Philippians 2: 14-15, NIV]

Blessings to you as you consider reactions and responses!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: BOXES

Complaining

It is so easy to fall into a rut with complaining but it casts a shadow on whatever the experience was, even if the problem was minor. Even “helpful suggestions for improvement” register as complaints to the other person. So be sure to exercise your mind and also come up with several positive observations to share.

Does every issue or annoyance need to be voiced?

I don’t think so.

I get it, life can be frustrating and things don’t always go smoothly. But that has always been the case. Adding fuel to the tension of the situation by eye rolling and grumping and slamming things around does not help anything work more smoothly and it opens the doors for other issues.

Honestly, some things are not worth complaining about.

And some things are.

The principle behind The Boy Who Cried Wolf comes to mind in a time like this. If you complain about everything, then people tend to turn you “off”, ignore you, or label you as immature. And when you have something important to say, they have been trained to blow you off.

Yes, there are times a complaint is warranted, but be careful lest complaining becomes a regular part of your personality emissions. It’s a habit that does not draw people in. It’s true, life is not all roses and buttercups – but, whatever your particular situation happens to be – there are people way worse off and dealing with much bigger issues and not making a huge issue out of it. Negativity might get you some action but you can compel more people into action when you choose your words and approach with care.

21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
    and gracious words promote instruction.

22 Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
    but folly brings punishment to fools.

23 The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
    and their lips promote instruction.

2Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. [Proverbs 16:21-24, NIV]

Want to address an injustice? Fight on behalf of someone who needs help. Don’t be so caught up in yourself and the inconveniences you experience that you miss the bigger picture.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow. [Isaiah 1:17, NIV]

Complaining and grumbling are habits. Bad ones. You don’t have to gloss over bad behavior but as you look for your voice, find one that speaks Truth but also can be listened to. If you intersperse a tiny bit of truth in an angry and accusatory presentation, it will be lost.

What are you fighting for?

Liz

PrayerPrompt: REACTION vs. RESPONSE

Tools

Do you have projects in mind and the tools to accomplish them but never get around to the project? My guess is that project never really moved up high enough on the priority list because even if we don’t have the right tools, we can figure out how to get a job done.

Of course, life happens and things we hadn’t even imagined can propel up the priority list in the blink of an eye. Life and circumstances are always changing and something that actually may be a priority gets pushed aside until “later” but sometimes later doesn’t come. We don’t always get to do the things we want to do.

I have come to believe that having the tools isn’t the key. Using the tools is the key. We all know of the guy who has all the big, cool tools. At first glance, you might even be envious. But if he has no time to use them, then it just seems sad. What is the point of having “all the stuff” if you can’t enjoy it?

I will admit, in certain areas of my life

(A): I have the tools;

(B): I have the knowledge of how to use them;

(C): But, I don’t have the gumption/time/energy/ability/___________ to use them, therefore

(D): I don’t have the results I want!

Owning the tools is not enough. Having the knowledge is not enough. Making the effort, etc. is not enough. It seems like there is a need for all three to even work towards the goal and even then there is no guarantee the project will be successful!

  • Feeling like you can’t move forward because you don’t have the tools?
  • Stuck in some phase of a project?
  • Suspect you don’t know enough to move forward?
  • Lack the time or motivation to tackle the situation?

Let’s not blame it on the tools.

If you are feeling stuck in a place where you don’t have “progress”, think about why that is. Pray about what might be holding you back — it may be that this area you think is “progress” isn’t a good idea.

Sometimes our priorities have changed.

Sometimes our life direction has changed.

Sometimes it is fear of failure.

Sometimes the goal is outside our ability and so it hurts our brain to even think about tackling the job.

By taking an honest look at our priorities and our abilities we can re-evaluate them. Still stuck? Have a conversation with a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. [Romans 12:3-8, NIV]

God’s peace as you prioritize!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: COMPLAINING

Bones

Have you ever broken a bone? If so, does it ache when the weather is changing? Do you have any lasting effects of your broken bone?

On a good day, our bones are tucked inside our bodies. They are protected but give strength and form to our bodies. If you have all your bones and they all work fine, be thankful. While we might think nothing of it, there are those who are adjusting to life because on ongoing issues with their bones.

On a difficult day our bones might ache;

they might be exposed;

they might be weakening;

they might need healing;

they may have been removed.

Working through chronic pain, injury, disability, the healing process, and the loss of bone or limbs takes a lot of energy and focus. Our bones are such an integral part of us and it is easy to see why God used it to help us make connections. Bones are a common experience even though ailments related to bones may not be.

Have you felt negative things “in your bones”? Have you felt things so deeply it felt like it was in the marrow of your bones? I love how God talks about bones in His Word!

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. [Proverbs 14:30, NIV]

Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. [Proverbs 15:30, NIV]

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. [Proverbs 16:24, NIV]

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. [Proverbs 17:22, NIV]

As your ears and eyes soak up Scripture, it will permeate your thought life and be visible in how you interact with others. It will deepen your understanding of His love for you and all the people on this planet! God’s Word changes hearts and lives. It digs deep and roots out the yuck that we have buried in our bones.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12-14, NIV]

God’s blessings as you surround your eyes and heart with His Word!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: TOOLS