Category Archives: Meditation

IT IS WHAT IT IS

Two tough days for me each year are the days I go to the dentist for cleanings.

I’ve gone to the dentist since I was a child. I know the dentist and her staff are my friends. I like them. I just don’t like what they do.

At the dentist’s office last Monday, I said with confidence to the hygienist, “You should find less plaque buildup on this exam. I have a new toothbrush with a built-in timer. I now brush for two full minutes twice a day.”

I waited for a bit of praise, but I didn’t get it.

I got this instead.

“Four minutes,” said the hygienist.

“What?” I asked.

“Brush for four minutes at bedtime, two minutes on top and two minutes on bottom. Two minutes in the morning is good, though.”

Just when I think I’ve adhered to the rules, the rules get tougher.

I realize that I pay my dental professionals to care about and care for my teeth.

If I am unhappy, I can stop visiting them any time I choose. But I won’t  do that.

My teeth are important to me.

But today, so many experts (paid and unpaid) tell me how to take care of myself that I am overwhelmed with “good” advice.

From computer, television, and smartphone screens, from billboards, and from literally tons of unsolicited mail I pull from my mailbox, professionals offer me their advice.

Medical doctors say I should spend several hours each week exercising.

Opticians urge me to wear sunglasses when I am outside and safety glasses when I mow.

Dermatologists tell me to wear SPF 30 sunscreen.

Naturalists tout the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.

Audiologists say I should wear ear protection.

Personal trainers insist that I wear weights on my wrists and ankles.

Therapists whisper, “Go to your happy place.”

Psychiatrists tell me to take antidepressants and practice cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herbalists tell me to drink green tea.

Nutritionists tell me to stop eating salt, sugar, fat, wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, soy, artificial colors or flavors; meats from animals treated with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones; fish bred and grown in dirty water; and plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Apparently, Mark Twain got it right when he wrote, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

I am all for being as healthy, comfortable, attractive, and active as I can be. But this overload of “healthful advice” is oppressive.

As a good friend said to me this week, “Facts are facts. It is what it is. I am getting older.”

We all are. No one has yet developed a product, activity, or mindset that will stop the aging process.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that our outer selves are wasting away. He encouraged us to be focused upon being renewed inwardly day by day.

Inspired advice.

I throw away 99% of the advertisements I find in my mailbox.

I did recently, however, save a brochure urging me to make my final arrangements now so when I die, my grieving family will be spared that task.

That, I deemed to be advice worth heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FENCES

My grandchildren and I take many walks around my neighborhood.

Sometimes we encounter a sign that reads: Warning: This yard is protected by an invisible fence.

The homeowner has placed this fence around his yard to restrict his dog from roaming the streets. Often a compliant dog sits or runs within that yard, but it never approaches us.

Those are not the only invisible fences I encounter.

The most restrictive invisible fences are erected by your enemy and mine, Satan.

Satan often erects invisible fences inside our minds. Here are some of his fences I have encountered.

  1. Warning: You are not good enough to have a relationship with God. Stop expecting one.
  2. Warning: You have nothing of value to contribute to the world. Stop trying to be a giver.
  3. Warning: You are a woefully flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Stop sharing your life with others.
  4. Warning: God lets bad things happen to good people. Stop trusting His plan for your life.

More than once those fences and others like it have stopped me in my spiritual tracks. Sometimes I remain stuck there much too long.

I remain stuck until I recall some of the things Scripture tells me about Satan. These include:

  1. When he [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
  2. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  4. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).

Why would I allow such a one to dictate to me what I should and should not do?

But sometimes I do listen to Satan’s lies because there is usually an element of truth in what he whispers to me.

  1. I am not good enough to have a relationship with God, but God, out of His infinite grace and great love, offers it anyway.
  2. Through my own efforts, I cannot offer anything of value to the world, but God graciously works through me to accomplish His good purposes.
  3. I am a flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, but God has put me in those relationships. He will bless me with the ability to function well in them.
  4. God does allow seemingly bad things to happen to good people. But God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom. He is always working to bring about what is ultimately good for us. He asks us to trust Him, even when situations don’t make sense to us.

If we allow him, Satan will steal all the joy Christians are meant to experience. He will kill our hope of attaining eternal life. He will destroy any witness we can offer the world.

Satan relentlessly attempts to “fence us in.” God, on the other hand, offers us lives of freedom in Christ.

EXTEND GRACE

As many of my readers know, I have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wikipedia defines the condition this way: mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. This often takes up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with ticsanxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide.

Some parts of this definition describe me. Others do not. I am not a compulsive hand-washer, and instead of “having difficulty throwing things out,” I feel compelled to purge.

I detest owning extra anything. When I begin obsessing over the fact that I have too many shirts, spatulas, Band-Aids, bath towels, etc., I go into full-fledged panic attacks, and some of these things must go.

My husband teases that he is afraid to leave me alone when we are having a garage sale. He fears I may sell our house for $10.

So, you ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

I am telling you this to educate you on this condition. You may know other people who are diagnosed with the disorder or display symptoms of it.

The OCD sufferer probably looks completely normal. She may seem a bit odd at times, but who doesn’t? But inside, she is often a raging mess.

She may be frantically counting the letters in the words she hears you speak. She may be panicking about having unintentionally harmed someone. At one time I feared (illogically, yes) that I may have been the force that prompted a man I didn’t even know and who lived in another state to kill his children.

The level of my fear of causing harm to people is off the chart. I have felt guilty for causing divorces, car accidents, illnesses, and violent crimes that I could not possibly have caused.

And, I am preoccupied with these fears. If you notice I am not listening to you when you speak, or I snap at you for no apparent reason, or I insist upon doing something that seems irrational (repeatedly checking the news feed on my phone), know this: I am acting on emotional impulses I haven’t yet managed to control.

Someone, and people disagree about who it was, said this: Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

You know this is true. You, being one part of the people included in the phrase “everyone you meet,” almost certainly fight battles. I don’t know what they are; therefore, I may not make allowances for them. I am sorry.

Don’t make quick judgments about people. Realize that you don’t know everything about anyone. And some of the things you don’t know are significant, life-altering, and painful. Make being kind your natural, default way of interacting with everyone.

And always, always extend grace.

GERANIUM SPEAK

I went out early this morning to water the plants in my yard and the potted ones in front of the house and on our patio.

The hose I use for this task isn’t optimal. It kinks sometimes and snags on every shrub and decorative rock in the yard. That is one reason I resist watering outdoor plants. That stubborn hose, and this awful heat.

I watered the rose bushes, the lilies, the spyreas, the hostas, and the newly placed slabs of grass Dan had put around the mailbox.

I unsnagged the hose at least 12 times and dragged it to water the petunias, coleus, and geraniums growing in big pots across the front of the house.

The clean, earthy scent of the geraniums always catches me off-guard and makes me stop and inhale deeply. They looked a bit bedraggled this morning because I had neglected watering them as I should have because of, you know, my kinky garden hose and the awful heat.

As I plucked off a spent blossom and stem, I thought I heard the plant clear its throat.

“What?” I asked, stooping down to its level.

“I’ve missed seeing you,” the fragile, white-flowered plant rasped.

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ve neglected you a bit lately.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s been awfully hot. Even now, the sun is burning the back of my neck.”

“Tell me about it,” the plant said.

“Plus, I planted more flowers than usual this year, and watering them is time consuming. The roses are blooming right now, and they require lots of water.”

Nothing.

“You and the other geraniums are still my favorites though,” I said. “I even named my blog after you.”

“I know.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard it through the grapevine,” it said, and laughed.

“Ha, ha.”

“Maybe you should plant fewer flowers. Then you would have more time for us geraniums, you know, your favorites.”

“Well, yes. But I love the other plants, too. Not as much I love you, of course.”

“Uh huh,” it said.

I stood, unwound the garden hose from the base of the rose of Sharon bush, righted the birdbath the hose had overturned, and cranked the cantankerous, green hose back around the metal wheel where it lives.

I went inside the house, cleaned up, drank about a gallon of water, and sat down with my Mornings with Jesus book, My Utmost for His Highest book, and my notebook for writing down new spiritual thoughts every day. I realized I was a couple of days behind in my study, but I dutifully read the May 30 passages, took a few notes, and began to pray.

“I’m sorry, God, that I’ve neglected my study a bit lately.”

“It’s okay,” I think He said.

“I’ve been really busy. We had the Memorial Day party on Monday. Plus, I’ve been working to get my family photos into albums, organizing things for the grandkids’ scrapbooks, taking care of my flowers and plants, doing some writing, and rereading A Separate Peace. It’s one of my favorite classic books.”

“I know all that,” He said.

“Oh, I forgot. Of course.”

Nothing.

“I have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak,” I said.

I felt Him smile at me.

“But you are my number one priority.”

He hugged me.

“Uh huh,” He said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT

Like many Christians my age, I grew up singing the golden oldie hymn, Trust and Obey. Even now, with little prompting, I can sing all the verses.

This old song, as well as others, taught me valuable spiritual truths.

I learned, for example, that Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go, Faith Is the Victory, and Jesus Paid It All.

I know the messages in these songs are true because Scripture supports them.

But back to Trust and Obey.

Obeying was not particularly hard for me. Because I was taught the difference between right and wrong, and because I knew the benefit of being one and the penalty for being the other, I lived, though far from perfectly, pretty much on the straight and narrow.

But for me, trusting has been harder than obeying.

Obedience is a concrete term. It, or the lack of it, is demonstrable. I can wrap my arms, and my brain, around obedience.

Trust, however, is a less tangible concept. It belongs to that nebulous set of nouns that cannot be seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled. Trust exists within my mind and heart.

I have had trouble nailing down an answer to the question: Do I trust God?

Of course, I trust that He is, has always been, and always will be. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. He is the Author of everything good. He is love itself.

But trusting becomes a bit more difficult when I bring myself into this matter of trusting God.

Can it be true:

  • That He loves me just as I am?
  • That He cares about what happens to me?
  • That He sees me blameless through the curtain of His Son’s blood?

Though Scripture assures me the universal answer to each one of those questions is yes, I have resisted believing God’s “yes” applies to me.

That is because my brain is quick to remind me of my unworthiness. Unworthy people, I reason, should receive nothing good.

I could not “see” my way to believing God’s yes was for me.

Recently, Dan and I were discussing some project he hoped to complete. I expressed doubt that He would accomplish his goal.

He looked squarely at me and said, in a challenging voice, “You’ll see it when you believe it.”

(Of course, he meant to say, “You’ll believe it when you see it.”)

Within an instant of hearing him say, “You’ll see it when you believe it,” something shifted in my thinking about trust.

You’ll see it when you believe it.

Isn’t that the very definition of faith?

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead (Hebrews 11:1 TLB).

I wanted to be able to see that God’s yes is for me, but Jesus says, “No. I am asking you to believe it. When you believe it, you will see it.”

My trust problem disappears when I choose to believe, even when I cannot see.

God’s yes is indeed for me. It is for you, too.

And you will see it when you believe it.

STILL HANDS

What are your hands doing right now?

They’re probably not folded peacefully in your lap. My hands are rarely at rest.

Even if I sit down to take a break, my hands reach for something to do.

I pick up and reread a piece of mail. I tidy the table beside my recliner. I search some topic on Google.

“Keep my hands still” never appears on my to-do list, but maybe it should.

Hands accomplish wonderful things. They stroke the heads of our children and place checks into the offering plate. They nurture plants and cuddle pets. They distribute groceries to hungry people at the food pantry. They fold in prayer, and they squeeze our mate’s hand before we go to sleep.

They also accomplish necessary things like steering cars, pouring cereal, changing sheets, and paying bills.

But some things are more enjoyable when performed with quiet, still hands. Listening to relaxing music. Watching a baby sleep. Reflecting upon the goodness of God. Feasting our eyes on beautiful landscapes. Pondering the infinite majesty of God while looking at a full moon or a sky full of stars.

In an email conversation with a friend recently, I commented that when Mary of Bethany sat down with Jesus, her hands were probably folded peacefully in her lap. They were not mending socks or composing a grocery list.

And Scripture tells us that Mary “chose the better thing.”

Notice that in this story recorded in Luke 10:38-42, Jesus did not follow Martha into the noisy kitchen to chat with her while she prepared a meal.

Why do you suppose he conversed with the woman with still, quiet hands rather than the woman with the busy, soapy, sauce-splattered hands?

Was it because he loved Mary more than he loved her sister? Or was it because Mary chose to give Jesus her full attention?

Mary didn’t ask Jesus to follow her into the garden and visit with her while she picked lettuce. She didn’t talk to Jesus with clothespins in her mouth while she hung out the family’s laundry. She didn’t catch up on her dusting while she talked with Jesus.

Mary didn’t multitask on that day at that time.

While Mary spoke alone with Jesus, she did nothing else. Nothing.

Try to picture her serene face as she converses privately with her Lord.

The Bible doesn’t record the conversation Mary and Jesus had, but we can speculate.

I doubt Jesus shouted accusations at her as he shouted them at the hard-hearted spiritual leaders of the day. He certainly didn’t scold her for not helping Martha in the kitchen. I doubt He scolded her for anything.

People who choose to be still and listen to Jesus receive not a scolding, but an outpouring of love and acceptance. Possibly, they receive blessings those of us with busy hands miss.

That was certainly the case with the sisters in Bethany.

Is it possible that Jesus waits for you and me to slow down, rest our hands, and listen to Him?

What are your hands doing right now?

MOVE THE POTS

As my grandchildren often remind me, I am not a good backer-upper. I proved this last summer when I backed over a decorative pot at the edge of our driveway.

Last night my husband said, “The way your car is parked, you could easily back over the pots by the driveway again.”

“I promise you I will not hit those pots,” I said, heading out the front door.

He laughed.

“You’re going to move the pots, aren’t you?” he asked.

“You bet I am,” I said.

Sometimes it is safer to remove an obstacle than try to avoid it.

A friend of mine, a very responsible Christian man, began visiting a gambling casino. At first, he wagered only small sums of money, but the habit grew on him. Eventually he realized he had a big problem.

He tried taking less money with him to the casino and tried limiting himself to staying only one hour at each visit. But he easily overcame those restrictions and continued betting as heartily as before.

Finally, he went to the casino manager’s office and asked to have himself restricted from entering the casino. Security team members would thereafter remove him from the premises if he came through the door.

Figuratively, he moved the pots.

Another friend obtained a high interest rate credit card. She planned to use the card only occasionally and to keep the amount she charged on it low.

Gradually, however, she bought several items of expensive clothing and jewelry and charged those purchases to the card.

When she realized she had run up a large debt, she determined to use willpower to pay off the credit card debt and stop charging purchases on the card. She failed.

Finally, she cut up the card, and as soon as her debt was paid, she closed her account.

This woman also, in a manner of speaking, moved the pots.

Sometimes we have too much confidence in ourselves. If I am careful and diligent, I can avoid those pots, get control of my gambling, or change my expensive buying habits.

 It is important to know when we can trust ourselves and when we cannot.

 Life usually teaches us this lesson by allowing us to fail a few times.

A married woman wishes she had changed jobs when she realized she was sexually attracted to a coworker. She did change jobs later, after the affair, and after the damage had been done.

A teacher wishes he had stopped eating lunch in the staff lounge when he realized it was a hotbed of gossip. He did stop eating there after another teacher, tainted by baseless rumors, lost her job.

A former heavy drinker wishes he had avoided restaurants that served alcohol. He did avoid those restaurants after receiving a DUI conviction and having his driver’s license suspended.

The decorative pots beside our driveway are inexpensive and easily replaced. But marriages, sobriety, integrity, financial stability and the like deserve protection at any cost.

If you suspect you are heading for a collision that could destroy one of those treasures, don’t trust too much in your own ability to avoid it. Move the pots.

These look much prettier in the spring with flowers in them.