Hatred Only Hurts Yourself

ROMANS 12:19 NLT
19 Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

I always thought God put this passage in the Bible to help me learn a principle such as self control or forgiveness or something; like a parent giving a lecture to their child, “Stop teasing your friend or you will be sent to your room” kind of thing.  I always felt disciplined and judged.

However, the more I read this verse, and the more I learn about God, the more I realize that not just this passage, but most of the rules that God wants me to obey serve a purpose to protect me.  He is not just randomly handing out a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Research shows that unresolved anger can build up toxins in a person’s body over time, eventually manifesting itself through actual physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and eventually possibly stroke, heart attack, depression, to name but a few.  Any of these symptoms, if left untreated, can affect a person’s ability to live a happy, healthy lifestyle (taken from The Women’s and Children’s Health Network). 

How many of us have unresolved anger in our lives over family conflicts, work situations, road rage, or an injustice done to a loved one (perceived or real)?  How many of us justify our anger which turns into hatred when left to grow?  I need to remember that when I harbor anger toward a situation, a specific person, or an event in my life that the main person I am hurting is myself. 

Now I am able to see the bigger picture.  Not only does unresolved anger further alienate me from people, situations, and events, but most importantly, it destroys me from the inside out.  When viewed that way, why would anyone choose to destroy themselves?  To choose to forgive is not the same thing as choosing to forget (a topic for another day), but it is obeying God’s Word and that is something that I want to actively pursue.  I love knowing that the rules God puts in the Bible for me to follow have reason behind them.  They are not random but instead serve a purpose.  Even if they didn’t, I trust Him enough to obey, but it sure is nice knowing that I serve a God who loves me so much that he does not want me to destroy myself. 

I am reminded of that simple act of love every time I instill a rule with my children that helps to protect them.

 

Mistake…or Opportunity?

“Don’t miss the opportunities brought to light by your mistakes.”  (Dan Miller)

How many of us have a hard time remembering the above phrase when we make a mistake?  Are you quick to beat yourself up when you do something wrong, replaying it over and over in your head long after everyone else has forgotten, until it is a bigger deal than the original event ever was? 

Can you imagine a household where spilled milk, ground in Play-Doh on the living room carpet, or a new hairdo for the dog made with finger paint were considered opportunities instead of mistakes? 

Does calling it an “opportunity” automatically excuse the offender from restitution?  No, but it does release that person from unnecessary guilt, freeing his mind to think about how things can be done differently in the future to prevent the same “opportunity” from repeating itself instead of degrading himself for making a mistake in the first place.  And, sometimes, someone may need to create the same “opportunity” quite a few times before a different result will occur. 

 So, the next time frustration gets the best of me and I fall short of what I intended to accomplish, I am going to try to put into practice the perspective of “opportunity” instead of “mistake.”  If nothing else, maybe I will start to laugh and free myself up to figure out how I can prevent it from happening altogether the next time. 

And, maybe, just maybe, I will then carry that same guiltless experience over to my children the next time they create an “opportunity” of growth for themselves.  The more focus put on the learning experience, the better the outcome for everyone. 

 

 

Even Jesus Asked For Help

Mark 14: 32-34 “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”

One of Jesus’ main purposes of coming to Earth was to be a human example, giving us encouragement and hope for our daily lives.  Reading the above passage, it was nice to know that even Jesus called on his dearest friends, the people closest to him in his ministry, for help right before the ultimate sacrifice he would make – dying on the cross for our sins, himself being without sin. 

Notice, though, the example he gave.  He did not go around telling everyone he met that he was upset, he did not try to get sympathy, or even try to have others handle his challenge for him.  No, he separated three of his closest companions from the rest of the disciples, a select group already, and then allowed himself to be vulnerable with a trusted few.  Even with them, though, he never asked them to take away his pain, only to help him keep watch, stay awake with him while he brought his concerns to his Heavenly Father, our real source of comfort.

I think that is a great example to follow.  I know I, for one, hate to ask others for help.  I never want to intrude on their busy lives and I am always afraid of bothering others with my petty concerns, but I am quick to live my life, showing my stressed-out self to anyone who will listen.

However, even though others cannot take my hard times away from me, or even do the work necessary to get through my personal challenges, Jesus’ example shows me that I do not have to be alone.  It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to share my inmost feelings, and it is okay to accept help – in fact, if Jesus did it, then it is more than okay; it is the best way. 

I throw out two challenges:  The next time you are facing a really tough spot, who are two or three dear friends that you can ask to help “keep watch?” 

And the final challenge is this: When you see a friend facing a really hard time in his or her life, are you willing to step up and say to that person:  “Here I am, how can I keep watch for you?”

Attitude of Gratitude

Today is a day set aside to thank the many people in this Country who sacrifice their time, energy, and family life to allow us the freedoms we enjoy. 

 What would life look like if instead of only thanking people once or twice a year, on special occasions and holidays set aside to remember, we showed an attitude of gratitude everywhere we went? 

 What would the cashier at the grocery store say if you looked her in the eyes and thanked her for the friendly service?  What would the waitress at your favorite restaurant do if you left a 25% tip instead of the standard 10-15%?  What if you poured your co-worker a cup of coffee when you went to refill your own, or paid it forward by buying the person’s meal behind you in a fast food line? 

 What about if you started showing that same consideration to your own family; making your husband’s favorite dessert “just because” or volunteering to be in charge of baths and bedtime so your spouse could have some “me” time?  What about getting home from work early and raking the leaves or cleaning out the garage?  How would your kids react if you got off the couch and played their favorite game with them or volunteered to take over one of their weekly chores for the night? 

 What would the world look like if we all took the time to make life just a little happier for someone else instead of focusing only on our needs, our wants, or our busy schedule? 

 Today, while we celebrate the sacrifices our military, police, firefighters, and their families make for us every day, let us choose what action we are going to actively participate in to continue making this Country a better place, a little bit every day.  Who knows, maybe your attitude of gratitude will rub off on someone else and they will in turn keep the cycle going.

Popularity Contests Don’t End After High School

Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.”

 Most people think that once they have their diploma in their hand, they are not only able to shed homework, teachers, and mandated gym classes, but the popularity contests that can make the school years unbearable.  However, it does not stop there.  Even though you are given the privilege of graduating into adulthood; with that responsibility comes cliques associated with the workplace, church volunteering, mom’s group…the list is endless.  I am sure if you looked hard enough, you would even find cliques in retirement facilities. 

 Thinking about this phenomenon and trying to determine which people are less affected by the whole cycle, my conclusion is this:  Usually the people who escape the popularity syndrome unscarred are the ones whose focus consistently remains outward instead of inward.  By focusing on others needs and asking God what He can do to show us how to be a blessing to others, we focus less on what we are and more on what we can do. 

 Another way to put it is this:  By continuing to keep our focus God-centered, caring only what He thinks of us, our focus stays off of ourselves and genuinely gravitates toward how we can bless others.  When doing this, people are not only naturally drawn to us but hopefully we become an example for others to follow, inspiring them in turn to focus on others instead of themselves. 

 So, if you feel at any time in your life you are losing the popularity contest, purposefully take your focus off yourself and instead focus on one way to bless someone else.  Not only will you feel happier, but more than likely, you wind up being the ultimate winner.

I’m Thankful for the Bruises

Any way you look at it, I would be described as an overprotective parent.  When my first child was born, I would cringe every time he would get a scrape, bump, or bruise thinking it labeled me as a neglectful parent. 

By the time our second child arrived I was a little more relaxed, having been reassured by the pediatrician with our first child that toddlers who are healthy and growing correctly will have bruises up and down their legs, the result of being allowed to explore and enjoy their childhood. 

After having suffered a miscarriage and then being blessed with yet another child, I was again a Nervous Nellie, afraid that this child would die an untimely death due to some freak accident before the second birthday.  Having celebrated that milestone recently, I again started to calm down some regarding injuries and death.

This past week our middle child got hurt at school.  Once again, Nervous Nellie tried to rear her ugly head, fully ready to dress each of my children, head to toe, in Cottonelle bath tissue as demonstrated in that cute commercial several years ago. 

I was brought back to reality quite quickly when I realized that instead of being upset, I am truly thankful that my children are happy and healthy, in every sense of the word; kids who have the capability to get hurt.  The bruises they receive are a result of having the ability to use their legs, arms, hands, and feet in play – exploring, testing their boundaries, and sometimes are a direct result of not using their brain to its full potential.

With this new mindset, I am actually preparing for more injuries in the future, proving that my children will continue to grow, explore, and thrive in the world instead of being locked away in our house, safe from all danger but also stilted from reaching their full potential. 

So, this weekend, I challenge your family to go out together; Explore, have fun, be creative, and maybe, just maybe, earn a few bruises of your own.  You might be glad you did.

Take It To The Next Level

How many times in life do you strive for perfection and continually fall short, only to give up altogether?  If you are anything like me, eating healthy and exercising always begins again every Monday.  I vow that I will yell less, hug more, work less, play more – only to quit because I am not living up to what I feel I should not only attain, but maintain.

 A great friend of mine told me this saying: “Take it to the NEXT level,” and I think it’s perfect.  It really made me stop and think.  The idea is not to attain perfection; the idea is to only bring it up one notch, which in all honesty, who can’t achieve that? 

 Eating would look like chewing on a smaller portion instead of inhaling seconds and thirds and fourths.  With exercising, that might mean instead of moving my body three days a week I strive for four, or instead of 20 minutes, I aim for 25. 

 For my marriage, that might mean tackling a household chore that my husband hates, or making his favorite dessert, or offering to run errands (with the kids) so he can have the house to himself. 

 With my kids, it could look like spending 10 extra minutes really listening to them or taking an extra 5 minutes in the morning to tuck a special note in their lunchbox.  Maybe it is snuggling together, reading a favorite story, or coloring while watching a family friendly TV show. 

 It is going to look different for every single person, but for me, it frees me up from trying to be perfect and instead motivates me to work toward being my best.  Putting on makeup even if I am just staying home for the day, drinking that extra glass of water instead of a whole pot of coffee, and the list goes on.

 And who knows – it might be contagious.  When I stop expecting unrealistic expectations from myself, maybe I will stop expecting that from my family too and they in turn will feel relaxed enough to personalize their choices, and “take it to the NEXT level” for themselves.

Give or Allow?

Quite a few of my friends lately have been going through some really rough times.  I mean, real, gut-wrenching, ‘don’t want to get out of bed’ struggles. 

 I overheard someone tell one of them, “God does not give you more than you can handle.”  Even though that message was meant to encourage, I personally could not really agree with that statement, and here is why.  That implies that God is the one giving us the bad times, the hardships, the pain; and the God that I know and have come to believe in does not do that. 

 Instead, I like to think in terms of this sentence, “God does not allow more than we can handle.”  That statement conjures up an image of God and Satan fighting head to head; Satan and his cronies being the ones that are trying to make life miserable and God only allowing them to go so far before He steps in and says, “Enough is enough.”

 Another way to look at it would be seeing the picture of loving parents who willingly allow their child to suffer natural consequences of the sinful world, either through a mistake their child made himself or because of someone else’s mistake.  The loving parent stays in the background, watching, monitoring; waiting for the child to cry out, “Help me” before stepping in.  Does this mean the parents do not love their child?  No, just the opposite.  The parents love the child so much that they are willing to allow a little bit (or a lot) of hurt to help the child grow into the mature, responsible, independent person that child needs to become in order to reach his full potential. 

 Does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Yes, that is what free will is all about (which is a topic for another day).  Do I believe that God purposefully gives people hard times, pain, and suffering?  No, that belongs to sin and the Bible states very clearly that God hates sin and all that sin represents. 

 Having said that, will my friends’ lives be free from the pain they are suffering right now by saying “God does not allow more than we can handle?” instead of “God does not give more than we can handle?”  No, not really.  Their circumstances will not change overnight.  However, instead of picturing a God who is purposefully causing pain as comes to my mind with the wording in the second sentence, I instead picture God as a loving father, keeping the enemy from completely destroying my friends’ lives (or mine) when reading the first sentence.  I picture God protecting, sheltering, and only allowing so much; enough to help them (or me) grow and reach their potential instead of being completely destroyed by the enemy who is trying to do just that.   

 I hope this encourages not only my friends who are going through some rough times, but anyone else reading this who needs extra hope today.  God is not the enemy; He is the One keeping us from being completely destroyed when the bad times inevitably come.