Posts Tagged ‘my faith zone’
5 TIPS FOR A BETTER 2012© 2012, Vicki Hinze Warning: This is a no-edit zone…
Start 2012 with a positive and constructive message—to yourself:
1. Awaken each day with a sense of gratitude for all the good in your life. Things might be tough, times hard, but there are good things too. Focus on them.
2. Acknowledge your problems but give your attention to solutions to the problems. Solutions heal challenges. Griping about problems doesn’t.
3. Be specific about what you want and don’t lose sight of it. Put a note on your bathroom mirror so you see it when you brush your teeth. Put a photo that represents this want to you where you see it often. Keep reminding yourself what it is you want and why.
4. Choose an area of self-improvement and actively seek ways of helping yourself with it. For example, if your temper gets the best of you, then find a way to turn that temper around so that you’re taking a calm, reasoned approach to resolve an issue or a conflict. You’ll be happier and so will those who are on the receiving end of your temper.
5. Monitor your self-talk. One of the most destructive things I see is others who talk negatively about themselves, their lives, their families, their friends. They see what’s wrong and bad and broken and what needs to be fixed. But they fail to see the good. They fail to appreciate the goodness in these others and fail to see and/or appreciate what is right. Then they wonder why they feel so discontent and dissatisfied. Is it any wonder? How can you feel anything but, hauling around an attitude like that? See, appreciate and acknowledge the good. These are gems in your life. Notice the sparkle. Whenever you think something negative, automatically rephrase it into a positive. (Thanks for the added insight, for revealing the truth. Or maybe the thought is that someone is selfish. Immediately rephrase it in your mind. Thanks for letting me see what selfish looks like. I don’t want it, so now I can avoid it. Or maybe that person is selfish about this. But s/he is wonderful about something else.)
My personal pet peeve was an individual announcing that she was brain-dead. Listen, we all have synapse misfires, moments of forgetfulness. But brain dead? What a horrible thing to say about yourself. And why, I ask, would anyone wish to hear a lecture by someone who considers him or herself brain dead? So this negativity also calls any credibility into question. Is that loving yourself? Valuing your gifts? Honoring the Giver of your gifts? This comment was not made in jest, but even if it were, it’d still be devaluing something precious, and is that really funny?
Christ said to ask in His name and it will be given to you. He said to appreciate your portion. He said He came so that we might live life more abundantly. He didn’t mean we’d live with an abundance of negativity, anger, upset, oppression or fits of temper.
He said that those things we desire, to express the gratitude warranted as if we already have them. Why? Because that reaction from us expresses a trust in Him. We believe His words. “Ask and it shall be given to you.” Either we believe him, or we don’t. Either we trust God or we don’t. You can indulge in a lot of gyrations, but when you wind down to the bottom line, that’s it. Your faith in Him is expressed in your belief.
We should be content where we are but also strive to be “perfect.” Perfect, as in more Christ-like. I loved the “WWJD” bracelets and notes and, well, all the items because they were visual reminders of the ultimate aspiration.
If the whole duty of man is to love one another and the first Commandment is to love God above all, then it is essential that we know what love is so that we understand it.
We learn through experience. Our own and the experiences of others. Yet too often self-love is confused with self-conceit. They’re totally different. It’s essential to love ourselves, and this we must do to love God and love others. But conceit is to be avoided. Why?
Loving ourselves acknowledges God’s gifts to us. The glory and honor is His. We’re grateful for those gifts, we love those gifts, but we recognize and acknowledge that they are gifts from Him to us.
With self-conceit we don’t. Our gifts are ours. Our accomplishments are ours. Our wins are our wins. We don’t honor God, we honor ourselves.
Conceit falls flat every time. There’s no foundation to sustain it. No rock under it upon which its tenets rest. It’s all on us, and we’re fallible, often mistaken, flawed human beings. Our best will never be perfect. At most, we’re half-informed, often misguided works-in-progress.
But love, loving doesn’t require perfection. In acknowledging our part, honoring Him and His part, we draw on His authority and His perfection. We have His tools—all tools—all of Him available to us. And that is amazing and awesome and humbling. Humility and self-conceit simply do not co-exist.
Love yourself, honor God, and have a wonderful 2012!
The World Can’t Take Away Anything the World Did Not Give© 2011, Vicki Hinze WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
At certain times of the year, we think more about life in general and our lives specifically than at other times. We remember Christmases past, we remember many of our “firsts,” we remember those we love dearly who are no longer with us.
We recall traditions and funny events, we recall specific situations or circumstances, and we recall the glory days of the way things once were but are no more.
This year, many of us are in a mess. We’ve lost our jobs, our homes, the lives and lifestyles we worked hard to build. We also face an uncertain future. For many, this is an era of times that try men’s souls—and women’s and children’s souls, too.
But we know from experience that circumstances change, eras come and go, and our present will soon become part of our past. Our future is yet to be determined, and yet when we’re mired in muck, we have a hard time remembering that we are the masters of that destiny.
We get caught up in the ways of the world, following the hierarchy of needs, and forget that the planning and preparing we do today go a long way toward manifesting the future we have tomorrow. We forget that while attitude won’t fill an empty belly or put shelter over a head, it will create a circumstance where we can fill our bellies and shelter our heads. Attitude matters.
When we’re soaring and things are going well, we don’t often stop to think about our basic needs. But when those basic needs are threatened or taken or lost, we think about little else.
It is in the troubled times that we have the greatest opportunities. We can hit the reset button without fear of losing much—it’s already gone. We can dare to take risks, to follow a dream, to consider ourselves positioned for a grand adventure. We can start fresh. Maybe the life we created was comfortable but unfulfilling. Maybe we felt more like we were stuck on a treadmill or in a mouse’s maze but thought we had too much to lose to suffer the discomforts of starting over fresh in something that to us represents the brass ring.
There is no one brass ring. Ten people have ten brass rings. It’s unique and individual to each of us, just as our own definition of success is unique to us. That is a blessing because it takes us all, it takes all our brass rings to create the whole we all enjoy.
When the world takes things away, remember that what it takes is limited. The world can’t take what it doesn’t give. It can’t take what is yours by right, endowed on you by your Creator.
The ways of the world are not God’s ways. We’re told it, reminded of it, and if we imprint it on our hearts, we’ll have the tools we need to come out of crisis. When bad things happen, we blame fate, blame others, blame entities. But the truth is, that while others and entities might have contributed to our challenges, we embraced them.
We bought the home that stretched our budget, maxed out the credit card on things we couldn’t afford, elected to stay laid off for the maximum time we drew unemployment benefits. Maybe we weren’t totally aware of the path to destruction we were walking, but we did choose to walk it. We didn’t realize that by drawing those benefits so long we’d render ourselves unmarketable and need new skills. That the interest on that credit card would soar and grow to a seemingly bottomless pit.
Perhaps others weren’t as forthright as they could have been, but we were active participants and since this is our life, we are ultimately responsible for it. It isn’t fate or others or entities who suffer the consequences. It is us. And therefore, we learn that in all endeavors, before we participate, we should ask ourselves if things go well or wrong, who suffers the greatest consequences.
If we’re in a tough spot, and so many of us are, we realize that simple truth now, and we’re struggling to find a way to a better future. But before we focus on that future, we should focus on our present. On the things that remain when the world has taken all it can take from us.
What do we have left?
We have Life. Where there is life, there is hope. That didn’t get to be a common saying for the sake of itself but because it is true. Life carries hope because so long life exists, change is possible. We can change. We can start over, start fresh, begin again.
We have Faith. God rejoices with us when we make wise choices, and weeps with and carries us when we make bad choices. He never abandons us, even if we have ignored Him for years—or forever. He eagerly awaits us turning to Him and longs for us to return to Him. When we walk with God, we might falter, but He does not. He guides our path and is with us even when we deny Him. He remains. In good or bad times, or times when we’re so mired and lost we don’t even know what to ask for or what we need to find our way. God knows. Faith sustains us and fosters whatever we need to find our way.
We have Knowledge. Of wrongs we’ve committed, errors we’ve made, flaws in us and in others that we gave authority in our lives. And because we have knowledge, we have the chance for fresh starts—not just today, but every day. Any minute of any day we can choose to start over. Every minute, every day. We have the opportunity and the wisdom to begin again.
We have Humility. We know now we can break because we have broken. But we also know that we can survive breaking and we can heal. God specializes in healing the broken and in making crooked places straight, and He loves nothing more than us. We look back through our lives and say that He won’t bother; we’ve broken ourselves so many times before, but wisdom and knowledge dispute that. He remains forever. We can break and break and break—no matter how many times we break—He is always with us and because there is no greater love than His love for us, He is the way, the truth and the light. We can trust Him in all things, and He will always be there for us. No step we take or move we make is made without Him. Sometimes we walk in His grace, sometimes we walk in our free will choices, but He is there.
We have gratitude. Gratitude for all that remains. Gratitude for dignity, self-respect, honor, courage, bravery. Gratitude for the ability to endure and suffer and grow wiser and stronger. Gratitude for being broken, because in having done so, we know we have the ability to patch ourselves together, heal, pick ourselves up and begin again—this time, wiser and stronger and more armed with all the things we now know remain and can’t be taken away unless we choose to give them away. Gratitude for experience.
The world can’t take any of these things or many others, nor can it take our thoughts and dreams and our willingness to humble ourselves before God and men. The world can’t take any of these things because it doesn’t own them. Neither did the world bestow them on us.
These things are divine gifts, as are our special abilities and skills. Our purpose. And with divine gifts, even when we are in turmoil, we also know contentment and peace. We know trust.
If in exercising our free will, we trust God, then He directs our steps on a new path. A better path. On that leads to a life better than the one that shattered and left us broken. An everlasting life. Eternal life.
And we take that path knowing we are never alone.
That, dear friends, is grace. Grace in action. And grace is the most sacred of all the gifts bestowed on us by the Divine that the world can’t touch much less take away because the world didn’t give it. It is a gift of the heart from a loving Father and it is ours forever.
THE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING is a national treasure, one that is worth recalling and reflecting on so that we don’t take it for granted or simply come to think of it as the day before Black Friday. What is offered in the day of Thanksgiving to our nation and its people is far more precious.
When we seek the truth about the holiday, there is no one better to explain it than the source, the father and first elected president of our nation.
Here, in his own words, is what President George Washington had to say about it:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
“Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
May the traditional spirit of Thanksgiving be a blessing to you and yours. And in these times that try souls and make us weary, may we remember to hold fast to an attitude of gratitude. For all our flaws and challenges, ours is an exceptional nation. At times, we lose our way, and we forget who we are. But we have the opportunity to remember today.
My special Thanksgiving prayer is that we read the words of our founder and recall who we are and, most importantly, whose we are.
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
We’re believers. We do believe. We praise. We pray. We appreciate God’s investing in us and in the details of our lives. We understand that His investment isn’t lip service, His love is unconditional and He wants to be involved in all of our lives—the big things and the little details.
Some spend most of their lives looking for security only to discover it doesn’t exist. But believers know it does exist—in Him, and it’s the kind of security that lasts longer than a lifetime, which on the grand scale of things is a twinkling.
I used to wonder why Christians didn’t get all bent out of shape about things going on in the world. It seemed to me they should be more verbal and involved and aggressive. There’s a part of me that still feels that way, to be honest. (Judgment in action.) But that part is tempered by the part of me that grasps they’re way ahead of me on the spiritual ladder. They’ve gotten it—that twinkling and that while life is a treasure and valuable, eternity is a lot longer and most valuable. But I digress.
What’s really on my mind today is that we petition God for many things, big and small. We do so for ourselves, our families, our friends and strangers. Often for people we haven’t seen before and never will again. Maybe it’s a look in their eyes, or a slump in their shoulder, and we gather that they feel burdened or worried or afraid. Maybe overwhelmed or under appreciated. We petition for blessings for many reasons.
What I wonder if we petition for enough is to be a blessing.
As foot soldiers, we each have the opportunity to be a blessing to others. Sometimes we seize that opportunity, sometimes we let it pass by, thinking we’re being silly or overly dramatic or maybe we’re disheartened by all the bad things we see happening around us.
It’s hard to see everything going on in the world—the corruption and hateful and just downright absurd behavior that flies in the face of all we hold dear—and not be disheartened. So we see many opportunities to be blessings to others and for any of a number of reasons, we ignore them.
One of those reasons that happens often is when we have a chance to say or do something that could be a blessing to someone else but we don’t take it because we think it’s such a small thing, it couldn’t possibly matter.
What’s a smile worth, anyway? What does saying thank you matter? Does a sincere compliment really qualify as a blessing?
It depends on the receiver. How badly do you need to see a smile? Hear a thank you? Need a compliment?
Frankly, some days any of those things are nice but not necessary. But there are times when any of the three might change an attitude or make your day. Might totally alter your perspective from one that is borderline despair to one of hope.
One thing I’ve noticed a lot in people is that for all our technology and social networking, there are tons of people suffering acute loneliness. Not just lonely people. Acute loneliness.
Their friends are all online people they’ve never met. Their sense of community is in cyberspace. When something horrific or wonderful happens, they look around and realize there’s no one “local” with whom to mourn or celebrate.
Don’t misunderstand. Online friendships are a treasure. A cyberspace community can be a real blessing. But we need real live interaction with others and in our communities, too. We need balance.
When we don’t have it, we will inevitably suffer bouts of acute loneliness. Doubt it?
How many times have you read where someone was dead for three days or a week in their own home before anyone knew it? You can bet that person had bouts of acute loneliness.
How much do think a smile or a kind word or a few minutes of conversation would have meant to him or her?
A smile is never just a smile, and a kind word is never just a kind word. And that’s my point. Outreach is important, yes. But so are the little blessings that can totally change a person’s day or their frame of mind. Smile at someone who feels the world has forgotten them, and you’ve been a blessing.
Little things, seemingly insignificant things, aren’t insignificant and they do matter. And standing on the other side of the fence, it’s hard to tell when they most matter.
So in asking for blessings, whether for others or ourselves, it seems important to also ask to be a blessing. We don’t always know the difference we make to others, but He knows. If we’ll act when urged, no matter how silly or small a thing it seems, He will guide us and use us to show His love to others, and we’ll be more balanced. That’s a win/win situation.
Bottom line, it’s a blessing to ask to be blessed and to ask to be a blessing. There’s a special joy in doing something good for another that you never experience doing for yourself.
So today I’m asking. Let me be a blessing…
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Called to Serve? Bottom Line: Trust God
©2011, Vicki Hinze
Many believers feel called to serve and answer that call only to then feel displaced among others in their field or area of expertise. They have no qualms with others in their sphere also called to serve. They have close friends and wonderful relationships with many in that sphere. But still they feel they don’t quite fit. Or, more specifically, that their contributions—the means through which they serve—don’t quite fit.
Some don’t feel embraced by the community they seek to serve. Some love but feel slightly out of step with the community. And some feel their service fits the mold or established template . . . and yet it doesn’t.
Their reactions to this sense of belonging but not belonging, or of being on the fringe, vary. But it’s typical for these servants to suffer bouts of insecurity, of feeling as if they’re failing—not just those they intend to serve, but failing their Lord, which is far more disturbing to them—and their esteem and sense of worth feels hammered.
This leads to servants questioning themselves about their path. Well, first to doubting it. Had they interpreted their calling correctly? Are they doing what they’re supposed to be doing? The way they’re supposed to be doing it? Is the rough road they are on a sign that they goofed and they’re not on the right path at all?
All these things and more in which the servant feels a sincere lack of certainty seep in and take hold, and before the servant knows it, seeds of fear and doubt sprout and grow into full-fledge mounds.
That really clutters up their thoughts and that clutter feeds the uncertainty until the mound becomes a mountain.
Here’s the thing. All that clutter and scrub brush grows like crazy and wraps like vines on a tree until the trunk of the tree is obscured. That trunk is truth. The truth founded in faith.
Evil wears many faces and uses many methods to counter good. We all know it, but we also need to remember it. Evil also attacks us where we’re most vulnerable, and how much more vulnerable can a believer be than in a profound desire not to fail God? So the more we fear and doubt, the more power we give to evil and, boy, will he use it against us.
There’s a key reason this is so. Evil has a strategy. If we’re tied up in knots and consumed by fear and doubt, we’re playing pretzel, and when we’re busy being a pretzel, we’re not busy serving. Evil wins. If good isn’t there to counter it, evil wins by default.
But servants aren’t doomed to be pretzels or helpless victims in this unless they fail to recognize, acknowledge and address what is happening. If servants do those things, they recognize that they can counter.
A mustard seed’s worth of courage—that’s all it takes to turn things around.
Courage for what?
To pick up a machete.
A machete. Huh?
When you pick up a machete and cut through the vines concealing and choking the trunk, you remove that which binds the trunk. When the trunk is unbound and exposed, the truth is unbound and exposed. You can see the truth because it’s revealed.
When the truth is revealed, what happens? Clarity.
A few points I think are noteworthy:
- 1. Picking up that machete is trusting God. He knows you. He knows your heart and everything else about you. Nothing is hidden. And He chose you for service. Imperfect, flawed, scarred, battered and/or soul-weary, He chose you. If you’re on the fringe, He knows it. If you or your service doesn’t quite fit an established mold, He knows that, too. If you are walking in faith, in His path and will and not your own, being where you are, doing what you’re doing might not be comfortable, but it’s not a mistake. Bottom line: Trust God.
- 2. If you aren’t on the right path, or you’re not sure you’re on the right path, ask Him to make that clear. Ask Him for signs you can’t miss or misinterpret and believe you’ll receive them. Ask for guidance to the right path and believe you’ll get it. Here’s a tip: You will. It’s blatantly stated, not up for debate, and couldn’t be more clear than it is in Matthew 21: 21-23: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Either you believe in His Word or you don’t. Bottom line: Trust God.
- 3. Evil loses its power. It can’t trick, deceive, clutter or muddle your mind. It can’t stand up to truth. God promised to be with you always. He promised never to leave or forsake you. If anyone’s not been home or been left in the hall, it isn’t you. You left Him. So reconnect. Evil will flee. Bottom line: Trust God.
- 4. With a clear mind, you reassess and grasp this gem of truth: There are no molds. There are man-defined similarities, traditions, general commonalities and preferences, but God made each of us universal (in spirit) and unique as individuals. That’s an important distinction. The Word tells us we are fashioned by His hand. We are as He made us, with the gifts and abilities He gave us. We choose whether or not to use them and whether or not we use them as He wishes or we wish, but they’re there. So if we’ve chosen His wishes, we’re following His will, and we still feel we must be like others or fit some other mold, isn’t that a backhanded way of saying God messed up? And isn’t that insulting Him and expressing a lack of gratitude and a lack of faith? Isn’t that counter to the bottom line, which is: Trust God.
You know, I’m a simple woman and not some highly skilled theologian. But that doesn’t mean my purpose is less valuable or less valued than anyone else’s. Neither is yours. God infuses us all and uses us all in ways of His choosing. We sometimes get so mired down in minutia that we forget that.
We can get too mired down to notice or recall or discover many facets that truth reveals. That’s worth remembering, too. Not just on the “God giving to us” end, but on the “us giving to God” end. He doesn’t need us. He wants us. He respects our free will and delights in our desire to connect with Him and serve Him, and in our willingness to serve Him by serving others. That’s significant because we’re all different. Why is that so significant?
Because being different, we see and react to different things in different ways. God made us so. That means human beings aren’t one-size fits all. We need different approaches, different methods and different means. Something that touches one person will not touch another. Something that touches that second person won’t touch a third.
God comes to each of us in ways we understand. As different people who are in different places with different attitudes and different perspectives standing on different rungs of our own personal spiritual ladders, doesn’t it make sense that He would call servants capable of touching those He wants touched in ways they understand and grasp what He wants understood and grasped?
And doesn’t it make sense that He’d match servants and serving?
We question, and that’s a good thing so long as it is constructive. But when we fret and worry and fear and doubt, that ceases to be good, it becomes destructive and that destroys momentum.
I look back over this post and realize that it’s been a circuitous route leading back to a place that could have made this a two-word post.
But I hope that there’s been value in the journey and that whatever fears and doubts you’ve been experiencing, it’s helped bring a little clarity or triggered something in you that brings you clarity. I hope that when you reach the bottom line, it’ll be the simple and elegant bottom line:
During struggles, we often forget that contentment is a choice.
Many are drowning in challenges and are having a difficult time–in their jobs or lack of one, in their families, with their children or in clashes with relatives, in other relationships, and within. When challenges occur outside that impact how we feel about ourselves inside, that’s conflict, and too often we get to a point where we feel as if we’re clinging to a limb by our last nail, looking down at a huge drain, and the temptation is strong, then stronger, to just let go and swirl on down.
Believers suffer these struggles too, and cling to that limb embracing faith. But doubt is strong and it’s used against us. The devil loves weakness and seizes vulnerability, so we get kicked when we’re down. Hard.
Suffering the blows makes it hard to remember that as believers we have promises. We won’t be alone, abandoned or forgotten. What’s intended to harm us will be turned for good. And there are many more that offer hope and encouragement, guidance and comfort.
Yet when we’re hanging by that one nail and watching the muddy water beneath us swirl down that drain, it’s hard to hold onto that certainty and maybe even hard to remember those promises. But it is exactly then that we most need to remember them.
If we stand fast and hold on, continue to trust God and believe His promises, we’ll get through the troubles. We won’t be immune to them, but we’ll have the endurance and strength and fortitude to hold on and see the struggles for what they are–opportunities to grow and change and gain new insight and wisdom.
Think back. When’s the last time you gained anything that elevated you in your spiritual walk during easy times? During times when you were cruising along without challenges? It just doesn’t seem to work that way. Challenges and obstacles force us to evaluate and decide what most matters, who most matters–who we choose to be and how we choose to act and react in the face of adversity. In our responses, we define ourselves and our faith. We either have firm reliance and trust or we discover we need work in those areas.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to be content wherever we are. He did so from a prison where he was steeped in sewage. If he can be content exercising his will and trust in faith, so can we.
So choose to be content. In your circumstance, no matter how dire things appear, remember that ours is a steadfast God who does not change, who keeps His word, and never gives us more to handle than we are capable of handling, and choose contentment. Hold fast to faith and believe. When doubt or fear rears its ugly head, tamp it.
If you choose contentment, you’ll look not down at the drain but up. You’ll see past that one nail on the limb to the strong arms above it, poised to catch you should you fall.
Contentment is a choice. Choose wisely.