Archive | June, 2013

Curb Walking

29 Jun

I didn’t want to do it. I’d used the cooler morning to work in my vegetable garden and by 9:00, it was already 80 degrees. However, I’d met one of my writing deadlines; it was now time to start taking care of my temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NIV).

It helps if I talk to myself. 
“This is the first day of the rest of my life. Get started. You can do it.”
Did I mention I didn’t want to do it?

I know routine helps me do the hard things. Apply sunscreen. Assemble hat, water, cell phone (includes music and timer). Stretch.
“It’s getting hotter and I really don’t want to do this.”

The strangest thing happened. I opened the door and started down the block. I had to stop and adjust my music. An instrumental version of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” made me smile. About two blocks from home, the Maranatha Singers serenaded me with a favorite Scripture from the King James Bible. “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee” (Psalm 42:1 NIV).

I wasn’t panting yet.

It was time to renew my habit of curb walking. You may not have seen it done. I never have. Perhaps it’s time to share my secret of turning a walk into a workout without putting stress on joints. You’ll need a certain amount of “who cares what I look like” confidence, a neighborhood with curbs, and not too much traffic.

I walk close to the curb and take two steps on the street. Then I step up and take two steps on the sidewalk. Back to the street for two steps, then two steps on the sidewalk, and so on I go. Once you get the hang of it, you can move quickly.

One gentleman on a recumbent bike stopped me last spring. He had watched me cross the street to step up with my left foot for a block, then cross back to the other side and step up with my right foot for a block. I knew he was watching and I was a little embarrassed. But I didn’t stop.

“What is it you’re doing,” he asked as I approached.
“I’m curb walking. It’s my version of walking and step aerobics. That’s why I continue crossing back and forth across the street.”
“I’ve never seen it done, but it’s a good idea. You should be proud.”
“Thank you. I know it looks silly, but it’s a good workout.”
“Don’t worry about how it looks. Just keep it up.” He rode off on his bike, his big dog leased by his side. That conversation did a lot for me. Thank you, God, for using other people to encourage us.

Surprisingly, I had a great time worshiping God and taking care of myself at the same time. It was only 25 minutes, but I’ll eventually get back to that hour I was doing five days a week last year. And to think I didn’t really want to do it.

Celebrate

21 Jun

Are you ever weary? I’m not referring to fatigue resulting from hard physical work. I speak of the weariness from working too hard, too long. It may be a job, a project, a tough relationship, or even following hard after God. Today it all caught up with me. I realized I was weary.

George looked at me. “What’s wrong?” (I can’t fool hubby.)
“I have no idea.” It took some thought as to why I felt bummed. “It may be because I can’t seem to have any fun.”
In the last couple of days, I had taken several breaks from writing. House cleaning and laundry sure didn’t help—neither did gardening, reading, or watching a recorded TV show. I tried prayer, Bible study, and counting my blessings. Nothing fixed my mood.
Then George asked, “How about dinner and a movie?”
Bingo!

I needed celebration. Everything I tried was a solitary endeavor. I needed fellowship and fun. God is all about celebration. Think of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth or the apostle Paul reminding us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV).

God proclaimed regular times of celebration in the Old Testament. The biggest and best was the Year of Jubilee. Every 50 years God commanded the Israelites to cancel all debts, release slaves, plant no crops, and return property to the original owner. Every generation could experience new beginnings through complete trust in God’s provision.

Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming He was the fulfillment of the year of Jubilee.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19 NRSV).

George’s offer made me realize I had become captive to a deadline. I grabbed Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and read the last chapter: “The Discipline of Celebration.” It was balm to my soul. How easy it is to forget the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Lack of joy should have been a clue I wasn’t trusting God to help me meet my deadlines. My life was out of balance.

God had already provided for this evening of celebration. The place I wanted to eat “just happened” to have a Groupon—$20 worth of food for $10. Fits of laughter made a delicious meal even more delightful. We saw a good movie at the senior discount. What a blessing.

Are you weary? Perhaps you need a date with your mate, a night with the girls, or a game in the man cave. Celebrate love and friendship. Celebrate freedom in Christ. Celebrate with music, laughter, good food, and gratitude.
Just celebrate.

Relationship Repair

15 Jun

The question is not if a relationship will need repair, but when will a relationship need repair. Only superficial acquaintances avoid conflict. We can stick to subjects such as food or fashion, golf or fishing, and never have a cross word. However, if we want to go deeper than the weather, we’ll eventually find points of conflict.

We grow up with rules, spoken and spoken, in our family of origin. There are certain topics we don’t discuss, certain emotions we don’t express, and secrets we don’t acknowledge. We may think, “If you love me, you’ll never make me feel guilty. That was my father’s favorite weapon.” Then when a mate or friend has a legitimate complaint about the relationship, we feel betrayed, unloved, and angry.

The same is true of unspoken expectations. Many couples have told me, “If he/she loved me, he/she would know what I need. If I have to ask, it seems forced and artificial. What’s the point?” Asking for what we need is an important skill anyone can learn.

A healthy relationship is based on love, trust, and growth. It will offer honesty, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and mutual responsibility for maintaining the relationship. If one person walks on eggshells and the other feels free to explode in anger, the relationship may not survive.

How then can we quickly repair relationships? Repair depends on the level of offense or pain. The “secret” is our attitude. First, we can simply overlook some things, realizing fatigue, stress, or even low blood sugar can make us grouchy. Maybe it’s not that important. Love and let it go.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 quoting Prov. 10:12 NKJV).

Second, the issue or offense is irritating and important but not deeply meaningful. However, it could become a more serious problem if we don’t address it. It’s time for a simple to understand, but difficult to practice skill: The I Message. I’ve taught elementary students to use this simple, formula to express needs.

I FEEL (Use specific words to describe emotions: angry, confused, disappointed, attacked).
WHEN (Describe the upsetting behavior without character assassination or blame).
I NEED (a response from you, help with, a different tone of voice, eye contact. Be specific), please.

In a usually positive relationship, intimacy increases when we’re able to express our needs and feel heard and respected. Once again, attitude is key.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15NIV).

A third category is serious, painful, and threatens the relationship if ignored. It may be a flaw in the other person or touch a deeply held belief or fear resulting from a previous relationship or family of origin. This response is best thought out and, if possible, prepared in advance. Examine the source of such a powerful response and be ready to explain it. Then without blame, express your feelings, what the issue represents, and ask for compassion and understanding. The greatest success comes when both parties accept responsibility for their part and value the relationship.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95).

With God’s help, we can repair relationships quickly.

Please share comments, questions, and/or how these tips worked for you. You can encourage and bless others with your response.

Control

7 Jun

I may be a slow learner, but one thing I know: I have no control over another human being. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t control someone else’s drinking, spending, risk-taking, or attitude. I can influence, guide, instruct, even threaten or beg, but I cannot control. Neither can you. There’s freedom as well as frustration in that realization.

As a teacher and parent, I attempted to motivate obedience through teaching personal responsibility and intrinsic benefits. I wanted my children and students to know the joy of learning and the rewards of commitment and hard work. However, failing that, I dispensed consequences. Faced with consequences, most people comply with rules and standards. But not always. Sometimes we try to get between our loved ones and life, but that eventually becomes impossible. Life overflows with consequences—everything from a damaged relationship to life in prison.

I control only one person. I can choose my thoughts and my behavior and emotions will follow. Excluding physical restrictions, so can you.
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28 NASB95).

I require God’s help controlling my spirit; it’s not an option. His faithfulness is my stability and strength for living. I need Christ’s love as my motivation and purpose.

“For the love of Christ controls us. . .so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him. . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NASB95).

As we grow in knowledge and love for God, we’re changed. We’re able to give God control when we remain focused on His character and compassion rather than our fears or needs. Then, like a fruit-producing vine, the Holy Spirit reproduces Christ’s nature in us.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22–23 NRSV).