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I Want (To Be More Like) That

One of my biggest dreams is to genuinely repeat the words of Paul from his jail cell:  “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) Wow! To have that level of contentment must be unexplainably freeing.

I have my days in which nothing bothers me.  I am resting in God’s promises and blessings and am truly thankful for what I have been given.  Then there are other days: days when it seems that I have little value.  There are too many other people who are prettier, thinner, more creative, more organized, wealthier, more patient, more loving, more giving. . .the list goes on.  Just when I begin to think perhaps I am good at something, I come across someone WAY better.

It’s why I take periodic breaks from social media and hope to someday have the “courage” to stay off all together (you know, I can’t miss out on all the information or possible messages and notifications-as if no one has any other way to get ahold of me).  The comparison trap has to be one of Satan’s favorite tools, and social media provides the perfect venue to blast people with how much better everyone else has it.

I made jam and I was pretty proud of myself, until I saw someone else’s post who made 3 times more than me.  I thought I looked pretty good the other day, but I got on and saw someone’s selfie who looked absolutely flawless.  We had a great time camping, but someone else was posting pictures from their Caribbean cruise. I got a cool new rug for the living room, but someone else got new flooring throughout their entire house.  My husband got a raise, but someone else got a huge promotion that added $20,000 to their yearly income.

You know what I mean.  It’s human nature. People want to show off their blessings.  “Look how much fun we have.” “Look how great I look.”  “Look how successful we are.” I’ve done it too. I think those, “Wish you were here!” postcards should end with a question mark instead of an exclamation point. As in, “Don’t you wish you were here?” And of course I do.  It’s Bermuda for Pete’s sake and I’m in Michigan.

That’s why it seems an unending battle to fight the “green eyed monster” and pursue peace and contentment.  We will never be able to genuinely utter Paul’s words if we compare ourselves to everyone else. Some things we have are better, some things aren’t nearly as nice.  There will always be people who make more jam, and people who make less.  There will always be people who make more money, and people who make less.  There will always be people who are more profound and write better, and people who ask me to proofread their writing. That’s just the way it is.  The point is to focus on what we do have.

It has been talked about in television shows, books, articles, blogs, and seminars. The secret is that thankfulness brings joy. If we count our blessings, we don’t have time to mourn what we are lacking. Oprah talked about having a gratitude journal. Ann Voskamp challenges people to list their blessings to 1,000-making it a daily habit. Some days I do well and keep listing and listing and listing. Other days I feel sorry for myself and it looks something like, “I have two arms,” or “I am not hungry.” But hey, those are things to be thankful for.  It at least keeps my mind looking for the good in my life.

I have to admit, I haven’t been keeping up on my list, and I really, really need to get back at it. I know my triggers for comparison and I know I need to avoid those more.  Perhaps you would like to join me?  Let me know and I’ll pray for you as we seek to “learn” contentment. Remember, we are blessed. We may not be blessed in the exact same ways, but our blessings are no less significant.

If you want more encouragement, head on over to one of my favorite resources:

http://www.aholyexperience.com/ann-voskamp/

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Assumptions, Beliefs, and Book Covers

So. . .in conversations with people I tend to avoid topics that I know will get them fired up.  Some people love to get others going.  They purposely bring up topics or make comments hoping to get responses from people whether it is in person or via social media. I’ve never understood that. I try to avoid certain topics with certain people because I know they are steadfast or just plain stubborn.  Short of a conversion or heart change of some sort, they aren’t budging.  However, these days there are certain topics that you can’t discuss with anyone.  Their religious or moral background isn’t necessarily an indication of where they stand on a specific issue anymore. The lines seem more blurred.

The most recent example of this is the gay marriage issue.  I haven’t discussed it much with anyone outside of my own family, because I don’t feel like I have anything new or fresh to say.  It isn’t that I’m hiding what I believe because I don’t want to experience any backlash, it’s just that it seems people feel very strongly about it one way or the other and when strong emotions are involved people don’t always think logically or factually.  Sometimes if people know where you stand on something before you begin discussing it, they believe everything you say will come out biased and they hear something akin to the teacher in Charlie Brown.

Anyone who knows me well will know where I stand on important issues. I’m not afraid to share my opinion if the timing is appropriate or I feel that someone is receptive. I am more than willing to defend my beliefs and integrity and that of my family if it is needed.  I am certainly always ready to defend God if He is under attack. I don’t hide the fact that I am a conservative Christian and as such believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and should not be added to, taken away from, or altered or interpreted to match personal beliefs. Now you can guess where I stand on gay marriage, but that isn’t the point here. (Now this is where any readers who disagree may start hearing “whaa whaa whaa wha wha wha wha.”)

The point is that it is so hard to get a good gauge on where people might stand on issues. I find myself becoming more cynical towards people, and I don’t like that.  My son recently came to me excitedly and said, “Mom, did you know that Chris Pratt is a Christian?”  I have to admit that I seriously doubted the legitimacy of that claim.  I am not going to lie: I stereotype stars. It wasn’t until we did some research online that I thought it may be a good possibility. It isn’t that I don’t believe there are conservative stars, but I mean seriously, there is a reason they go underground in groups like Friends of Abe.

I’m jumping around a little here, but there was a point I wanted to make when I started this blog. The point was that it seems like a much more complicated world that my kids are growing up in than it was when I grew up. In particular, the blurred lines of gender identity.  When I grew up, if I saw a boy I was interested in, I didn’t have to find out first if he in fact was a boy, or a girl living as a boy, and then have to find out whether he was in fact, interested in girls.  I’m not saying there wasn’t homosexuality, but it certainly didn’t seem as widespread. Or maybe you may say I was just naïve to the fact.  Either way, there were certain assumptions you could make about someone’s gender identity based on how they looked or acted.

You may think these ramblings have no point, but in my mind it all boils down to one thing. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, you can’t even judge it by its book description on the back. Just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn’t mean you can assume they believe certain things: as is evidenced by the rainbow colors over many, many professed Christians profile pictures on Facebook. Just because someone says they are a woman or a boy doesn’t mean they were born that way, or that they even have those sexual parts.  Hmmph, maybe the book I just got my daughter that has a pyramid on the front and says it is about Ancient Egypt will really be about planting an herb garden.