Kind of feels like we’re in a slip of mass hysteria. We’ll remember it by the Toilet Paper Commemorative 2020. But did you know that over 40,000 people die from car accidents per year in the United States, more than 95 people per day? It might behoove us to practice safer, kinder, focused, and more patient driving practices as opposed to mindlessly ripping the road up as if we’re in a video game and can’t get hurt or hurt others. Yet, today, panic over a certain illness has taken precedence as fear spreads fear among humans. Maybe we’ve watched one too many viral-zombie apocalypse movies—I don’t know, but there can be moments where the observational reaction is suffocating.
So as I was experiencing one of those high-anxiety moments the other day, I stepped outside on my back porch, looked to the skies and earth, and was struck at the normalcy of nature. It breathes, “All’s well here; life goes on greatly and without concern.” Birds frolic in the sky dotted with clouds moved by a breeze, as cheerful songs trill and chirp from those happy little beaks; dogs trot along, their tongues hanging in joyful slobber; rabbits are getting frisky; and the deer still tiptoe to the silver stream lapping refreshing water to quench a moment of thirst. Then they all move on their way to wherever they go and do what they do. These things of nature, they don’t worry about tomorrow. As the Word says—and the Word is life—tomorrow will take care of itself.
So, sure, maybe we humans take reasonable precautions, just as we should when getting behind the steering wheel with our incredibly well-washed hands. But maybe at this time we should strive more to do as the following scripture tells us. We go about our business taking one day at a time, our souls seeking after the Father, the only true balm, the only real soother, our only pure provider when the world has gone mad.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Being human today means you can hardly do, speak, or blink anything without making waves. So the waves will come: small ones, large ones, and the inbetweeners. But one must persist, unwaveringly, in the turbulent surf by exhibiting kindness, love, and integrity. It’s hard being human. A gentle answer turns away wrath...? (Proverbs 15:1). Okay. But if somebody is especially wrathful, a tsunami, then maybe we just gently turn away. Find another spot in which to wade.
*Image by Patricia Alexandre from Pixabay
How can God love humanity like he does when we are so unlovable?
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”— Ephesians 3:18-19
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, because every morning is like starting afresh and I strive to do the best I can each day. But I’ll often receive a scriptural theme that blankets the coming year. For 2020, it’s Psalm 63:3-4: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift my hands."
Too often, it seems the urge during prayer or reflection is self-centered. That is: focus on self, do something good for self, be my better self, etc. But the more challenging life gets—and it can get pretty stinky—the more I’m certain Self can’t help with squat. 2020 will be like all the other years before it in that our days will have its difficulties. We might experience great or little change, promotions or loss—whatever it is—the only thing steadfast and better than life is the Lord’s love. So, I figure, no matter what, if we focus on that, his love, and do the best we can with what he has given us, praising him through the beautiful weather and the storms, we’ll be more than all right. And at the end of the year, if we’ve scaled a few mountains it’s because he got us there and we can look back and enjoy the view knowing he’s got this, ordaining the steps of the journey. He’s got us and we’ve got him. Breathe. Happy New Year.
For the first time, I’d experienced a debilitating writer’s block. Part of the problem was that I had too many things going at once. Spread in different directions, digging into numerous genres and projects, I was suddenly staring at the computer, numb, with no flow, zero movement. It’s as if I’d lost focus and motivation.
Meanwhile, several acquaintances asked what my current work in progress was, so I shared about my writing block dilemma. A good friend put a question to me bluntly, said, "In terms of writing, Tessa, if you died today, what would you want to be remembered for?" And just like that I gave him my answer. He said, "Then stop wasting time and get to work."
That verbal smack in the face was exactly what I needed (thank you very much). A reminder, a single push sharpened my focus, renewed clarity of purpose and aim when time is valuable.
This honing perspective proves a good application if you’re struggling with any vocational motivation, really. Use it as a kick-start. If you died today, what would you want to be remembered for?
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”—Colossians 3:23
The older I become, as the days sweep by, and the world expropriates the loud-clanging cymbals to make its stand, fiery causes left and right, the more I realize this verse is for the wise:
“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Several times, recently, I’ve been asked: “Why not share some pictures of your son on Facebook?” While I had in the past and still might do so on an infrequent occasion, I simply don’t wish to share my daily life with the entire world. To be a “friend” on social media means that we could have some things in common, might follow each other due to career paths, special interest groups, etc. But truth be told, a small percentage are people I truly know, are related to, or trust with my most precious treasure, my family.
I love this life, the diverse concepts, and the interesting people in it. It’s fun to connect! We can learn a thing or two about and from each other. But I’m not going to splatter much news on the internet about my family, or when I or my son sneezes.
Here’s something that humorously puts it into perspective. A friend shared the following with me, so I’m sharing it with you in the rare case you haven’t already seen it. Things posted on social media have a way of circulating in ways of which you might not even be aware – so, be wary! I’ve discovered some of my own author profile pictures having been unknowingly copied and used for certain non-writing advertising sites in other countries. (Regarding our children, we should be especially vigilant). So here I am sharing this popular short passage for which I don’t even know whom to give proper credit. I thank the “nameless” author for proving my point.
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE of FACEBOOK
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. So every day, I go along the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, and what I will do after; I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. AND IT WORKS! I already have 3 people following me: 2 police officers and a psychiatrist!
A love/hate relationship, that’s what I have with my smartphone. I love that I can access a library of books and music wherever I go. I love certain apps from the convenient GPS to a metronome. I even favor the alarm clock feature. And there’s a certain level of security with a smartphone. If you get stuck, virtually anything is one call or swipe away.
I hate that I've come to carry my smartphone from the downstairs to the upstairs, room to room. When I realized that leaving the device behind made me apprehensive I decided to go dark for a few days. Yes that’s right, I turned it off and shoved it aside. You know what happened? I plugged into my writing better, met a deadline faster, etc., without multilevel distractions. I had clarity of mind, focus, and the environment held peace. Later in the day I acted kinder, with more patience. And I slept well without the bombardment of texts that I've known to continue to 1 AM. I remember the day when it was considered inappropriate to makes calls or visits after 9 PM. Does text etiquette exist? I wouldn't know.
Maybe this course of action wasn't such a good idea in its entirety, because I did happen to miss a few impromptu engagements. But, I don’t know, it seemed some detachment was needed.
Hello again, world! I've come back to you, to the crazy, hectic, and always a tap-call-or-buzz away by the power of a button. It’s me and my smartphone again. Together we love/hate. Although, I've since come to believe that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder…and healthier…and maybe I shouldn't depend on a device so much, or be at communication’s beck and call without a little therapeutic solitude now and again.
I like being still. I like solitude. But I like them on my own terms. Having finished a two week mandatory rest due to a back injury I couldn't decide which was worse, the pain or the fixed inactivity. Drove “restless me” a bit crazy.
Ergonomics a “back” factor as well, the suggestion to sit balanced on an exercise ball for limited computer sessions to write and meet freelancing deadlines made me feel strangely disconnected. What kind of circus is this?
Fortunate in that I had managed to remain injury free throughout my previous years of dance, this whole thing I’m experiencing now, a sprain stemmed from a developed condition prevalent among older dancers, is weird.
My nature is to plow into interests rather than ease. When I had recently decided to return to dance I plowed. When will I become a graduate of the nagging KISS principle? Now I face several months of therapy before I can venture back to dance activities (harrumph). In a fit of rebellion I had wanted to deny the back condition, plug my fingers into my ears and sing, “LaLaLa-I-Can’t-Hear-You-LaLaLa.” Except, physical stipulations speak louder; my body won’t allow the revolt. What I’m learning here – what I've had to learn before – is that there are periods in life when one must exercise patience. Not only exercise but embrace. There is beauty in being still, but you have to truly be still – mind, body, spirit – to perceive it.
“Adopt the pace of nature; patience is her virtue.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Be still, and know that I am God.”—Psalm 46:10
When you discover that somebody duped you in a deal, it’s easy to want to grill the other party, seize what should be yours, to balance the imbalanced by taking whatever measures necessary. But when you’re a person of faith, you might need to look at it in a different light. Sometimes choosing to be the good, honest person means washing your hands of the situation, to walk away with a clean conscience and leave the imposed fallout on the other party’s head. Even if what has transpired is unfair to you and “letting go” means financial sacrifice or loss. It’s a delicate line.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16
As these things go, I am growing ever shrewder. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. For that, I thank the duper. Wisdom is hard earned but priceless. Never make the same mistake twice.