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Does happiness elude you? Are you disenchanted with life?

It’s so easy to flounder in feelings of discontent. We don’t have to look far to find something to complain about. Government. Health. Finances. Longevity. People. Job Security. The other political party. Relationships. Rush hour traffic. Adulting. Taxes. Social Injustice. This world and this earthly life are full of imperfections that can interfere with our plans, mar our happiness, rob our joy, and jade our outlook.

I’m reminded that this world was never where our happiness was meant to come from. If the lasting peace we seek is based on everything in our life going “right,” or all the good things in life finally lining up, I’m afraid we will never be happy, because everything will never be fully right. Not in this broken world. Not in this life.

It’s not wrong to desire a more perfect world; our souls were created to crave this. And it’s not wrong to enjoy life and the world around us. But it’s short-sighted to look for lasting contentment on earth. We were created to long for an indescribably fulfilling eternity with the Creator of our souls, our loving God.

The enemy of our souls has myriad weapons and tactics, but one steady aim: to drive a wedge between you and God. He’s good at finding your weakness, your vulnerability. The crack in your armor. The crack he finds in each of us will vary. Is discontent your weakness? Discontent is not just a matter of your own unhappiness, it’s also a foothold for the devil to drive you farther and farther away from what you need most: God, and his body of believers to help you stay strong in your faith.

If it is contentment you seek, it’s not found in perfect circumstances, but in relationship with a perfect God.

Jesus said, “give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Not just in the good times. One of the best ways to battle discontent is to stop and thank God for all he has done and for all you do have. Our pastor encouraged us yesterday to remember to thank the Giver before we run off to enjoy a gift, and to keep our eyes on Him rather than on what he gives.

May a heart of gratitude bring lasting peace to us now, because an eternity of abundant, endless blessings and beauty and perfect “rightness” awaits.

give thanks

… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

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Grace Like Snow

The grace of God is difficult to understand. The idea of granting favor to people who don’t deserve it is so foreign to our small, justice-wired minds. His mercy is equally confusing: to be pardoned from the consequences our blockheaded behavior deserves.

I understand that I am to be a conduit of God’s grace, I really do. But even when I am willing to show grace or mercy, my sense of justice keeps rearing its score-keeping little head.

I don’t fully understand how God’s grace operates. Grace, like lasting love (because let’s face it—if it isn’t lasting, it isn’t love), isn’t an emotion, but a choice. Grace sometimes means thinking outside the box.

In fact, true grace often means throwing out the box altogether.

The Lord has been showing me that I need to stop wishing people would change when they don’t line up with my list of Things I Like in a Human. I not only need to stop wishing they would change, but I need to change the way I see others and be more accepting of our differences. I’m trying, truly. And yet, no matter how hard I try to change my attitude toward those who see and think differently, it occurs to me that I can never change enough. There are always going to be things about people that I just can’t reconcile. I need to be more open minded, and yet I can only open my little brain so much.

Ah, the limitations of being human.

That’s where grace comes in.

I don’t understand people. Shocking, I know. Christ says I’m to love people as he does, without condition (conditions include wishing they would stop being so anal/boasting/dramatic/verbose/needy/etc). So, in order to love as He loves (and commands), I must rely on grace—that mysterious spiritual blanket that falls on me and everyone around me like snow, coating us all until we are a bizarre collection of snowmen, mismatched in size and shape and yet oddly uniform, suddenly similar. His grace, like snow, puts a hush in the air, quiets the clamor in our judgmental minds, and blinds us to one another’s annoying quirks and all those other things we just don’t understand or—let’s be honest—like about each other.

They say love is blind. This doesn’t mean love turns a blind eye to destructive behavior. But I do think blind love means that with the help of the Spirit and grace of God, I could be far, far, far easier on others in the privacy of my heart.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Don’t secretly demand that people measure up to some standard that you and I, if we were to be honest, don’t always meet ourselves. Do you want a friend? Show yourself friendly. Do you want more attention? Be more attentive. You want more respect, show more respect. Not because giving is a magical formula for getting, but rather because wanting to receive what we’re not willing to give is selfish and hypocritical.

Wait, was that a snowflake…?

My 92-year old father-in-law is an amazing person. And he has dementia.

He lives in a wonderful care facility but is often mixed up about where he is, how things work, where he believes he’s been. When left to his disordered thoughts, he gets fixated and rambles at length about things that make no sense. We sometimes find him alone on a bench in a hallway because his deep baritone voice carries and his loud nonsense speak disturbs the residents in the main room.

My husband and I find that if we ask him about history—of which he is highly knowledgeable—his thoughts become more ordered and he can carry on a relatively normal conversation, recalling people and events with astonishing accuracy. He will sometimes tell us about a world leader or an event unfamiliar to us, so we Google it while he’s talking and he’s always spot on. But he also thinks he’s on a ship or in a train station, and he often sees things that aren’t there. Once he thought Andy Griffith walked by.

And yet despite his disordered mind, he always has a positive attitude. When I ask him how he’s doing, he often says, “I can’t complain. I’ve had better days, but you know, you just have to make the best of it.”

This makes it easy to remember the man he was. Family, friends and people in his community have long known him as a wise, kind, generous man who would take a homeless person to a restaurant and buy him a meal; a hardworking family man, and a steadfast Christian who always attended church no matter what shift he’d just gotten off, and even while on vacation with the family. He would find some church in whatever town they were visiting and take the family on Sunday morning—the fishing and sandcastles could wait.  He prayed faithfully and read his Bible consistently, and everywhere he went, he never knew a stranger. He talked to people everywhere: at the gas station, grocery store, doctor’s office, and it didn’t matter if he knew them or not. He often encouraged people to look to Jesus and go to church. Without fail he was gracious, selfless, and respectful of everyone he knew, no matter where they came from or how young or old they were.

And he still does this today, even in his mentally incapacitated state.

The care staff has only known him as he is now: a nearly blind, nearly deaf, nonsensical old man who needs help with everything most of us do without thinking, like walking, eating, and using the bathroom. We’ve overheard him thanking the caregivers and apologizing for causing them trouble. They tell us often that he is one of the kindest people they know. This is a man who can no longer use logic and reason and has absolutely no control over anything he thinks or says. He has no filters, so what he thinks, he says.

Even with dementia—or rather because of it—he is teaching me something important about the indwelling Spirit of God.

I try to be kind, and I try to be generous, and once in a while, I try to be self-sacrificing, especially if I know it will bless someone. To be honest, kindness and selflessness are not natural reflexes for me (unlike sarcasm and sampling cookie dough), so for me to act this way is more of a conscious decision, a choice. As in an all-out flesh-wrangling choice. I’d like to think I’m developing more Christ-like reflexes…

Meanwhile, as I was praying for my father in law this morning, it occurred to me that this man has absolutely no choice over his behavior, and yet the fruit of the Spirit is clearly evident in him. The goodness and faithfulness and kindness and generosity he shows to those around him come from a place well beyond his mind—a much deeper place. He cannot will himself to act in any certain way. The way he treats others is motivated solely by his spirit, a place in which the Spirit of God clearly and fully dwells.

He didn’t build a cathedral or start a mega church or write a theology book or travel the world to preach the gospel. But what he did was just as phenomenal. His faith is simple and astounding. “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back” could be his life song, because, as an adult who had tasted of the world, he gave his heart to Jesus and didn’t turn back and has lived out this decision for more than 50 years.  This man and his spirit-filled life have encouraged the faith of countless people. He aimed to follow Jesus all his days, and this aim has served him in the end because whether he knows it or not, he is finishing the race well. He doesn’t know it, but he’s teaching me about the miraculous indwelling of the Spirit of God, and he is inspiring me to be as purposeful in my aim, and to finish well. He doesn’t know this but his wisdom and his faith are still guiding me.

What a miraculous thing, to be so thoroughly motivated by the Spirit of God. I pray that Christ would so inhabit me that his likeness, the fruit of his Spirit, would flow as effortlessly from me.

fruitQ: Do you ever think about what you’d think and say if you had no controlling filter on your thoughts and words? What motivates your words and actions?

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned  in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –the Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:11-13

wind-treeContentment is so fragile, so subjective. If we truly desire to be content no matter our circumstances, or believe we’ve achieved it, soon something comes along to test this resolve. I can’t resolve to be content. And I’m tired of faking it.
I often see verse 13 plucked out of this paragraph, and yes, while always true, the apostle is specifically saying we need help to be perpetually content in every situation. The fact that Paul makes a point to say he needs God’s strength to achieve this tells me that continual contentment is important to have and yet impossible to achieve alone.

I live in a world that constantly tempts me to desire comfort and ease as a replacement for contentment, and it is quick to tell me what it will take. The latest fashion trend (which appears to be 90s Grunge at the moment-ehh, no thanks). Newer furniture. Bigger home. Perfect body. A newer-faster-cooler car. The latest app to make life easier. Healthier junk food. Stress-free relationships-job-commute-vacation-etc.

Deficiency or pain or discomfort or unrest or disunity or human imperfections (ours AND others’) will always be with us. ALWAYS. Contentment is going to need to be more deeply felt, more firmly established, less apt to be plucked away the moment something goes wrong.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
(She) will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7-8

What shakes your sense of contentment? I confess that for me, and more lately as I am “feeling” age gaining, it doesn’t take much. How do you respond to adversity, or a rough day at work/home/with kids? Boneheads on the road? (um, I’ve never seen any…) Unsatisfactory customer service? Mind-numbing political rhetoric? Facebook feed? How long does it take for you to turn from the source and reach deeper for the Source, for the Lord’s strength and larger eternal perspective, for peace that passes understanding in the midst of discontent?

Waking to find all 3 of my books listed on book blogs for Top 10 Tuesday 5-star titles today. Here’s one featuring The Memoir of Johnny Devine, along with 9 outstanding titles. Also, visit Reading Is My Superpower for not one but TWO of my books listed, as well as some excellent titles for your reading list!

By The Book

Thanks to the folks over at The Broke And The Bookishfor hosting Top 10 Tuesdayevery week. There are lots of book bloggers that participate, so make sure to click HERE to find out what they are up to.

toptentuesday

This week’s theme is 10 of My Most Recent 5-Star Reads. I have been inundated with reading blessings this year and have enjoyed lots and lots of great books. The following are the last 5-star books I have read. Make sure to check out the reviews I have linked.

Top 10 5-Star Reads

(In Alphabetical Order)

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (suspense)

The Body under The Bridge by Paul McCusker (mystery)

The Fragmentby Davis Bunn (historical suspense)

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Guarded by Angela Correll (women’s fiction)

The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer (contemporary romance)

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow (legal drama)

If I Run by Terri Blackstock (suspense)

unknownUnknown51kwubDrxcL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Unknown

The…

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Revisiting Good Friday…

Along The Banks

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wondered on occasion if God really loves me.

Remember when Jesus said take my yoke on you, for my yoke is easy and my burden light? Imagine a thick wooden yoke with slots for a pair of oxen and Jesus strapped into one side. He not only offers to help shoulder the burden, but I think he carries the bulk of the weight, gives us the “light” end. He positions the wood across his shoulders in such a way as to lighten our load. I love that picture.

It’s Good Friday and I’m reminded that Jesus carried another piece of wood across his shoulders for me—alone. Not a yoke, not a shared burden, but a lonely task. To bear the weight of all my sin.

Before I realized this week’s post lands on Good Friday, I was planning to write about why I…

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I fell in love. With the book. With the characters. With the settings. And especially with the message of letting go – of fear, bitterness, and burdens we were never meant to carry.

Source: Review (and a Giveaway!): Like There’s No Tomorrow by Camille Eide

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