Perspective

Thursday morning I stepped out of my car into the sweltering heat. My glasses fogged as I walked into the office building where I work. Without effort, my thoughts headed down a well-worn path.  I rehearsed the why’s of my current location, the what’s of nature I’d rather be surrounded with, and the how’s of potential change. But the when is not now and the where isn’t settled, so I redirected myself to my work, grumbling a bit and enduring on.

Saturday afternoon I slid into the driver’s seat of my car – literally – slid – onto the seat as my legs were so sweaty the usual struggle of sticking was long past. My face was beat red from the couple of hours I’d spent walking on the concrete in the sun and heat surrounded by the buildings of downtown.

And what was that I felt?gratitude?

I was thankful for the option of turning on the air conditioner, blocking out the sun with a visor, and getting ice out of my freezer at home anytime I wanted to. It was hot, at least as hot as Thursday. But spending a couple of hours serving others who aren’t as fortunate as I am, made all the difference in my heart.  I’m sure the people we met appreciated the ice-cream sandwiches and cold water we shared. But interestingly, none of them were grumbling about the weather. And once again my heart told me it is true: It is more blessed to give than to receive.

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May you find the blessings in your own life as well no matter your situation.

 

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Smile of God

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” My thoughts turned to that classic children’s song this morning. Perhaps you also know the song but may or may not know the verse that goes like this – “Jesus loves me when I’m good, when I do the things I should. And He loves me when I’m bad, though it makes Him very sad.”

I believed every word of that song as a child. And due to my personal nature, I believed Jesus was sad when I was bad because He was disappointed in my behavior. He would still accept me, but He was disgusted with me. He still loved me – but only because He had to because He was God and He didn’t have a choice.

I think I had it wrong.

At the end of time, the saved and the unsaved will have done some of the very same things in their lives. There will be those on each side of the gates whose behaviors looked very much the same to those around them. Since the Bible tells us that all of our attempts at goodness are filthy rags in the eyes of God, this should not surprise us. So why do we think that we can earn the smiling approval of Jesus with our good works or cause His sad disapproval with our bad works?

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

He came to save, not to condemn.

He came to restore, not to shame.

I still believe every word of the song. But rather than thinking Jesus is sad when I am bad because He is disappointed in me, I now see it this way – He is sad because He knows that the selfish thing I did is going to cause me and others pain. But He’s not frowning on me in disapproval. Nope, He’s headed to the barn to get His Muck boots. After putting them on, He holds out His hand and offers to walk through it with me, helping me grow as we walk.

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It is in reaching out and taking His hand that I bring the smile to His face.

From Critical to Compassionate: 10 Ways to be Kinder to Yourself and Others

Critical: Better late than never.

Compassionate: Better now than never.

Critical: That was stupid of me.

Compassionate: I learned something from that experience.

Critical: Stop telling me what to do. 

Compassionate: It will be a beautiful thing when you trust God to direct my life.

Critical: That’s crazy! How did you ever come up with that?

Compassionate: You have a unique perspective.

Critical: You’re wrong!

Compassionate: Hmm. Interesting. I don’t see it that way, but you may be right.

Critical: I’m really dumb.  

Compassionate: I’m a human being with a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses.

Critical: You’re kidding me! She did that?!

Compassionate: She must be going through a rough time right now.

Critical: I already said what I thought. I can’t change my mind now.

Compassionate: I am on a journey of growth. I see things differently than I did before.

Critical: I can’t face those people again after what I did.

Compassionate: Seeing them reminds me I’m glad I can make healthier choices.

Critical: I can’t do that.

Compassionate: I may not have a natural talent, but with practice I’ll probably get better at that.

Practicing Medicine

“How long have you been practicing?” the elderly patient asked. I had only been out of school a short time and the way he said it implied to me that he thought I had a bit to learn. A bad taste came in my mouth. “‘Practicing’ medicine?” I thought. “These are people. I can’t practice on them.  I better know what I’m doing or not be doing it at all.”

Some fifteen plus years later, my perspective is different. I sure hope I’m still practicing medicine. Practicing means I’m still learning. Practicing means I’m still open to new solutions.  Practicing means I get better with time instead of just older. “Practicing medicine” means it is of value to me, I do the best I can, and I put effort into getting better at it all the time.

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In the book “The Gifts of Imperfection” author Brene Brown has suggested a whole new way to apply that idea and I have found it to be full of grace. Try this: “I practice compassion in my life.” “I am a practicing Christian.” “I practice forgiveness.” “I practice self-control.” “I practice healthy boundaries.” “I practice temperance.” Those statements mean that I value those things, I am doing the best I can, and I am putting effort into learning to do them better with time.  It accepts the fact that this life is a journey and we attain the skills to do it well through the process of living it.  “Practicing” gives us grace to forgive ourselves.  Today I’m going to practice.

The Farmer’s Son

“I’d like to come by and visit.  Would that be all right?” His call surprised me.  I hadn’t heard from him in some time. But he was visiting his parents about an hour away and wanted to stop by for a while. “Absolutely!  Come on over.  Jeff should be back shortly.  He’ll be happy to see you.” As the activities of the day would have it, he arrived before Jeff. We sat on the front porch in the warm summer air chatting and waiting.  Soon Jeff arrived.  Jeff wasn’t expecting him and didn’t recognize him right off in his bib overalls and cap.  We’d always seen him in his dress slacks and a tie, this farmer’s son turned banker.  But his friendly smile and firm hand shake immediately gave him away.  We went in the house where Jeff could relax and we could visit about the good ole’ days.

The farmer’s son visited a few more times over those two years.  The last time he came it was obvious it would be the last time. We chatted more about the things “back home”. Before he left that day he said, “You know, I always say I’ll see you again. But we all know one of these times I won’t.  One of these times it will be the last time. In case this is the last time, I want you to know what you’ve meant to me.  I can’t explain it really.  I haven’t known you that well. But know you made a great impression on my life. I think we could have had a lot of fun times together if I’d known you better. If I don’t see you again, I want you to know I’ll miss you.” And the two men hugged and slapped backs like only men can. It was the last time.

I saw the farmer’s son again at the funeral. He drove a long ways for the service. He didn’t stay long.  He just needed to say good-bye one more time and acknowledge the passing of his friend.  I saw him in the foyer at the church wearing his more familiar attire of suit and tie.  Many people came that day that I won’t remember.  But I’ll always remember seeing him there because of the words he dared speak at his last visit.

Why must we wait until the doorstep of death to say words that could have such meaning in life? Or worse yet, why do we sometimes never dare to speak them at all?