Attitude is Everything

A small boy featured on Funniest Home Videos put on his back pack and ran away from home. His problem came when he got to the street in front of his house. The young boy stopped, turned, and yelled at his mother, “How can I run away from home when I can’t even cross the street by myself?”

After seeing that boy on FHV, I was reminded of Katie, a five-year-old, and Anders, her three-year-old brother. Katie was fed up with having to pick up her toys and having to be quiet while her older sister was homeschooled. One Sunday after church, Katie told me she and Anders were going to run away from home.

Katie and Anders lived in a housing development next to the Interstate, and when I heard about Katie’s plans, I was frightened. Katie was a very determined little girl, and I could see the two children actually going out on the highway, never to be seen again. I told Katie that if she ever really planned to run away, she should call me first. I told her I would come and get her so she would be safe.

Katie must have taken me seriously and conveyed our conversation to Anders. The next week in church Anders misbehaved and his mother firmly gripped the three-year-old in her arms to carry him out of the sanctuary to scold him. Anders saw me across the room and yelled, “Julia, what’s your phone number?”1901353_10152255488780970_357412837_n

I’ve felt like running away a number of times in the past few weeks. Life gets hard and I would love to grab my husband and run off to some exotic island that no one else knows about. There would be no telephones, no one to bug me, no complaints, no problems to solve, no frustrating people. It would be a place where I am healthy and can breathe easily. But since that isn’t possible, I had to look at my life and figure out what to do about the pressure I was feeling. I realized that I had a bad attitude and it colored everything that affected me, making all the problems and frustrations even worse.

I came across a quote from Charles Swindoll: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, then successes, than what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearances, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church or a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice, every day, regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

The problem with running away is that I would take myself, and if I didn’t change my attitudes, the beautiful island would have the same challenges as my life here does. I guess I’ll stay home and try to develop a grateful spirit and work on getting my sense of humor back. Maybe attitude really is everything.

Bible Thought for the Day:

Eph. 3:14-21
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Dear El-Shaddai, the All-Powerful God,
How can I thank you enough for loving me? On days when I feel so discouraged and my failures and the failures of others are magnified in my mind, I feel so stressed. I need to dwell on your love, relax and trust in Your wisdom and power. Please strengthen me today, encourage my heart. Father-God, I need a hug from You, I need to see in some way the vastness of Your love for me. Open my eyes to see beyond my frustration, to see that You are here with all Your power and glory, doing wonderful things in and around me in spite of how I feel.

Change my heart, O God. Help me to live with expectancy instead of hopelessness. Fill me to overflowing with Your presence so I can know that I am not wandering without purpose but living in Your plan with Your favor. How grateful I am that you are my God, a God who loves me and is constantly working on my behalf, doing greater things than I can imagine. I love You.

Amen

Abundance and Variety

yellowA few years ago, our daughter and her family accompanied us to North Dakota. My grandson, then three-years old, drew a picture with yellow scribbles all over the page. “This is a picture of North Dakota,” he said showing it to me. “There’s so much wheat you can’t tell one piece from another.”

I had that same sense of abundance the first year we lived in Oregon. There was fruit everywhere and I thought it was my personal duty to make sure no berry or piece of fruit went unused! We still had some fruit I dehydrated that summer, fourteen years later, floating around in my freezer. It didn’t take me long to realize that there was no way we could eat all the food I froze, dried or canned before the next batch of fresh food began to grow. I had simply wasted time and energy trying to save it all.

And Oregon has more than one kind of fruit. There are cherries, apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, pears. . .and the list goes on. Abundance and variety–that’s what life is made of.

So why do we so often get stuck in ruts, doing the same things in the same way? Life could be interesting, but we let it be boring. How many times do we serve the same meals when there’s an endless variety of foods available? Why do we visit the same places, do the same things, talk to the same people? There is an unlimited potpourri of things to see and do, and millions of people to meet, but too often we settle for what’s familiar.

What would happen if we lived with a sense of abundance and variety? We could eat our meals at the table, in front of the fireplace, on the floor for an indoor picnic. Or if we were really desperate for change, we could engage our imaginations and, with our children, we could eat, sitting on a bed–pretending we’re in a row boat. We could go for walks in places we’ve never walked, drive a different route every time we go to visit grandparents. One day a week we could celebrate a different country, serving ethnic foods or planning activities common in that particular culture. We could step out of our comfort zones and talk to someone new or invite people into our home who have never been there. We could try a new restaurant, wear a different style clothing or sport a new hairdo.

As a child, if I told my mother I was bored, she always said, “Only boring people get bored.” She wanted me to understand there was an unending variety of things to do. There were books to read (and to write), crafts to make, people to get to know, hobbies to pursue. If I looked hard enough, she knew I’d find something to pique my interest. Mom didn’t let us sit around watching television. We had to be involved in life. How thankful I am that my mother enjoyed living.

I hope those who know me can tell I believe life is fun. And since I alone am in charge of whether or not I’m bored, I choose abundance and variety. What about you?

Bible thought for the day:
James 1:17
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Dear Father-God,
When I look around me at all you have made I am overwhelmed. As I contemplate the vastness of the universe and read in your Word that You measure it all by a span of Your fingers, I feel very small and insignificant. I see the abundance and variety You placed in creation and wonder why I would matter in the scheme of nature and history. Yet, in the middle of it all, You whisper in my ear, “I love you.” And much greater than the abundance of the gifts You’ve given, You gave Your Son as a  sacrifice for my sin so I could be free to respond to you and whisper back, “Father-God, I love you, too.”

You keep on giving. Your Word says that You have no variation or shadow. You don’t change like the moon, sometimes large, sometimes small, depending on whether You have turned away from me or are facing me. You are always the same and never live in the shadows. You are always present in me. I always have your full attention. And Lord, opening the windows of the heavens (the hugest of all things in the universe!) You pour out uncountable blessings on me. Give me eyes to see what You are pouring into my life and give me a thankful heart.

Amen

God’s Wonderful Person

My daughter found her two year old in his “naughty spot”–the place he went to hide when he is doing something he knows he shouldn’t be doing–like sneaking candy or playing with his older brother’s toys. CC was sitting there with a purple marker, which wasDSCN1260 missing a lid, and saying “I color on nothing.” Jennifer searched all over and could see not see any thing amiss until she changed his diaper. He had a beautiful purple stomach.

It reminded me of an incident just before Jennifer’s wedding. Our friend Kim was altering Jen’s wedding dress at her home. Kim’s two year old was being far too quiet so she investigated. She walked into the work/playroom and found Molly sitting on the floor less than two feet from the wedding dress. Molly had climbed up on a dresser, taken down the black paint and proceeded to paint her legs, arms and face. When Molly saw her mom she waved the paint brush and said, “Black paint, Mommy.”

Kim quietly asked her husband to carefully grab Molly while she rescued the dress. Fortunately, all the paint was on the two-year-old and none on the gown.

Why is it that we seem to be born wanting to change how we look or who we are? It only gets worse as we grow up. I spoke to several Mother of Preschoolers groups over the years about how well we fit into our personalities and how we can learn to live with who we are.
I told them that I was “terror child” growing up. I had a terrible temper and would hold my breath until I became unconscious just to get my own way. Sometimes in the middle of the battle I would realize I really didn’t want what I was demanding, but because I had started to fight for it, I felt I must not only finish, but win. My poor parents had to put up with so much from me. Even my extended family benefited from my tantrums. In fact, after David and I were married, one of my uncles told David, “I’m glad you married her. You’re the only one I know who can control her!”

I used to pray and ask God to take away my temper because I didn’t want to always blow up. It didn’t help. The climax came when I told a friend’s mom off in front of the church youth group. What made it even more terrible was that my father was the church’s new pastor and my friend’s mother was the wife of the head deacon. In front of everyone I yelled at her “What are you try to do, run this argument like you try to run the church?”
After the youth group incident I began to ask God in earnest to change me, I felt him say, “Julia, I gave you your temper as a gift. Learn how to use it.”

What a shocking idea! I came to realize that a temper is a wonderful thing. When something is wrong in a situation, I can sense it early. I then have a choice. I can ignore the feeling and wait until the circumstance is unbearable and blow up or I can back up and take an objective look to see what is wrong. When that happens, the problem can be disarmed, actions can be changed or I can intercede for the right thing to be done. Having a personality that senses problems also helps me reach for justice and reconciliation. It doesn’t hurt that I also have a bent to be a problem solver.

For years I looked at myself as a mistake God had made. I thought I was flawed and had been wrapped up in a terrible package. Understanding that I was perfectly put together and that there was a purpose for the blend of personality and temperament I had, changed my life. I am different than anyone else, but I am not flawed. I have been wonderfully made.

Some of my greatest victories in life have been in working with children to get them to see themselves as a gift. A boy came into one of my preschool classes after having been punished many times for getting angry. I taught him that anger is a gift and he learned to recognize it and deal well with his anger. One day a girl in our class threw a fit about something. She screamed and kicked and threw things. The young boy came over to me and whispered in my ear “She should have seen it coming and just stamped her foot.”
Whether we try to change ourselves with markers and paint or try to recreate ourselves, nothing will work until we first accept our personality as a gift. As we realize that we aren’t a mistake, that we are perfectly created, it becomes easier to learn to use our gifts and become that wonderful person God planned for us to be.

Six Goals for the New Year

“Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands,  and step out into the invincible future with Him.”

This quote from Oswald Chambers got my mind churning this morning. I hate New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never kept one of them. The only exception is one year when I made resolutions to not lose weight, not become more disciplined and not to change much in my life. However, after reading Chambers, I was reminded of Philippians 3:13-14 “. . .one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This led me to, not make resolutions, but to set some goals for the New Year. I came up with six goals: Choose to forget, Reach forward, Press for the prize, Look up, Except the miraculous, and Be thankful.

Goal Number One–Choose to forget: Joseph has always been one of my heroes but especially this year as we’ve faced what have seemed insurmountable challenges. His statement to his brothers “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” has been a huge challenge for me as I’ve struggled to forgive some huge hurts over the past few months. Joseph was able to reach forgiveness, and a clue to how he came to that point is given to us in the name of his first born son. He named him Manasseh, which means “to forget” because he said, “God has made me forget all the trouble and all my father’s household “ (Genesis 41:51). Jesus also urged us not to look at the past when He said “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”(Luke 9:62). As the New Year dawns, we have a fresh opportunity to stop looking back and to turn our eyes toward the faithfulness of God, which as Jeremiah tells us in Lamentations 3:22-24 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, Therefore, I have hope in Him.”

Goal Number Two–Reach forward: The only way to advance is to move forward. As we run this race of life, the Apostle Paul tells us how to do it. He said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). The way we go forward is to press on to maturity in Christ and leave the junk behind.

Goal Number Three–Press for the prize: Paul tells us not just to reach forward, but to do it in a way that allows us to reach our goals. And as I press for the prize, I have realized I have no strength of my own. This has been a year of weakness as we’ve discovered I have a serious lung disease and my strength is very depleted. The New Year enters to a house almost empty of furniture with piles of boxes, one room for those going to a spring garage sale and one room that are headed for a truck that will take us across the country to a totally new life. But as we press forward, we understand and depend on the fact that God is our strength and when we lean into Him we can advance toward the finish line. After all, 2 Corinthians 2:14 tells us, to give thanks to God “who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” That place could be Oregon or it may be in our new home in New York.

Goal Number Four–Look up: When you run a race, if you watch your feet, you never know where you’ll end up—in a ditch, stumbling over a rock, or missing a turn in the running_silroad. This year, I’ve made a goal to look up, not just to see where I’m going, but to keep alert to what God is doing so I can join Him in whatever He wants to do. Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). If my eyes are on my feet, I miss seeing the people God places in my life and I fail to be a part of what God wants to do through me. I’m determined not to let that happen.

Goal Number Five–Expect the miraculous: As I have struggled with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis this year, I’ve begun to say, “I’m breathing by grace, living in the hope of the miraculous.” There is no cure for this very aggressive disease unless God steps in and heals me. When the disciples wondered about the impossibility of coming to a point of salvation, Mark 10:27 tells us that Jesus looked at them and said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” God can do whatever He knows is necessary to accomplish His purposes, so this year I am determined to watch for miracles.

 Thankfulness is not an option for those of us who follow Jesus Christ. Author Ann Voskamp notes in her book One Thousand Gifts that miracles in Scripture are preceded by thanksgiving. A verse that God used to make a huge difference in my life while I was still in high school is Colossians 3:17 which says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” As we live in gratitude, we give God space to work in, through and around us.

Join me in leaving the broken, irreversible past in God’s loving hands, and stepping out into the invincible future with Him.