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.
I couldn't sleep. I guess my nerves were on edge. I felt unsettled about the condition of the world, the state of society, a broken political climate becoming sicker at an alarming rate. Peace, kindness, understanding…forgiveness; a culture without blatant double standards. Where had they gone? When had everything become so complicated within and without? Had a veil covered my vision all along and the unfavorable things existed yet were hidden from my eyes? Or have things, on the whole, truly made a turn for an all-time low?
Before sunrise I stepped outside of the house, consumed with restless thoughts, believing that a bit of fresh air might be good. Under the blanket of a night sky, I glanced up and was struck by the brilliance of the stars. Then it dawned on me that it had been a very long time since I had observed the stars. It used to be a bit of a pastime. What even happened to that diversion? Maybe the change occurred in me, went unnoticed. I had forgotten to appreciate the simple things.
I stood there outdoors, inhaling deeply over and again—I couldn't get enough!—and admired the infinite space, the sparkling lights, each a kind of promise, a reminder that out there, the heavens, is so much greater than anything in my little realm. The Maker of those stars is in control. If he can create and handle all of that and more, he can help me manage the issues of today - issues that seem transitory in the greater scheme of life. A gaze at the stars left me with the profound wish to return to the simple things. How effortless, and yet how beautiful and healing…one upward glance.
I like change. I like to try new things. Often in life, I heed the advice of respected advisors, following many counseled moves. This is golden! Sometimes though, I want to explore all on my own with blinders to the
peripheral world. Where I can reflect alone, move untouched, and survey
uninterrupted. Some of what I thought of as little trinkets along those paths of discovery proved valuable nuggets of treasure—even those that have
challenged greatly. One never knows what is beyond until your feet take you
there; one step after the other with an unremitting focus on what’s straight
ahead. We live. We learn. We gain wisdom.