It’s not about me

Last night I started The Purpose Driven Life as part of Lent devotional. Rick Warren suggests that you mark up the book and use it as a place to meditate on the things discussed in each chapter. While I can’t bring myself to do that, I thought I might use my blog as the place to process these thoughts. That way, I can pass the book along to a friend if they are interested when I’m done- and won’t feel bad for having marked it up so badly.

At the end of each day there is a summary, which I think I’ll include and then I’ll contemplate it’s meaning.

Day 1: Thinking about my purpose

Point to ponder: It’s not about me.

Verse to remember: “Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.” Colossians 1:16b (The Message)

Question to Consider: In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really living for God, not myself?

I almost feel like the point to ponder ‘It’s not about me‘ would better serve as a mantra than a temporary point to ponder. I feel like in some ways it is much bigger than a thought you consider for a day, but is rather something you need to constantly be telling yourself. I’m not saying to abandon all selfish pursuits because I think that those are incredibly valuable tools, but what I mean is that I think it’s important to focus more on the questions of what does God have planned for me, than what do I want to do with my life.

When an opportunity passes you by I think it’s important to contemplate whether it is something God might be asking of you. I can’t really figure out how to make this more tangible and easy to grasp. I guess it means that God created you with a purpose for your life in mind, and some choices you get to make, and others were set out by Him. So in addition to doing things that will enrich your life you need to be on the lookout for those things that you can do to please God.  

I think that in this day and age, where so many twenty-something’s are leaving college with the impression that they can have exactly their dream job, and to settle for nothing less, it’s hard to not become self-focused. It’s hard to not consider yourself first because we did grow up in a day and age where we got trophies for everything, where we were told daily how unique and precious we are, and where we are told to dream big. There is nothing wrong with any of those things except for that we were never taught how to put living for God first. Again, this is something that I find somewhat hard to reflect on because I feel like it’s just something you need to remind yourself daily, but I did want to try and contemplate it a little more deeply.

Let me know if you have any thoughts, I really would love to hear them.

 

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God Let’s Us Make U-Turns

This blog wasn’t intended to solely be about my spiritual growth, but as a part of making myself a happier person I did decide I wanted to work on it, and thus it’s getting shared a lot. This morning at church our pastor said something that really sunk in with me. “We believe in a God who allows U-Turns.”

I had to take a moment to think about what he meant by this. Basically what he was saying was that our God knows we make mistakes, but every day is a day to start over. Yes, people do make bad decisions, really bad decisions, but they can come back from that. 

Before he had gotten to his “point” – which was that God allows U-turns he’d been talking about things like adultery, murder, addiction, and other “big ticket” sins. And I found myself thinking on a certain situation I’d been witness to and wondering, well how does that person live with themselves. I can understand that life moves on and so do people, but as a Christian how can that person not feel like God is “mad at them.” Or more than that, when they go to church and hear the preacher speaks on their sin (in general), how do they not just feel red-faced and shamed? Not that I would want them to, but how do they not feel that way

And then it kind of all clicked. They don’t have to. People do make mistakes. They can even make really bad mistakes, but it doesn’t have to define them as a person, they can move on from them. That is the power of forgiveness and God’s grace. 

That’s a tough concept to swallow.

It is very much my gut instinct that those who have harmed us, or who have done blatantly wrong things, should have to suffer a reciprocal hardship. It’s not even that we really want bad things to happen in the world, it’s just that we’re almost looking for a sense of justice. As if to say that something terrible happening to a person who harmed us would make us feel better about the whole thing. The thing is, it’s a wasted thought. Even if something bad did happen to that person, it doesn’t really make us feel better. 

When you hear that Jesus died on the cross so that we might all be forgiven for our sins, you kind of take that for what is is. You think about it in the sense that if I judge, or if I miss an opportunity to witness, that I will be forgiven for my sin. I think it’s a whole different thing to be able to see that Jesus died to forgive others of their sins. And that you really do get to start over fresh with him each and every minute of every day. 

I think it greatly helps in the process of learning to forgive others to know that God has already forgiven them. When you find yourself thinking, how do they live with themselves, you can get caught up in that and stuck on that. You really do just want to know how they can go on with their life after doing something so heinous. But the thing is, it’s just a mistake. If people never made them pencils wouldn’t come with erasers. When you drill down on it and can allow yourself that they were just mistakes they made, or even a series of mistakes it helps. When you can understand that they can live with themselves because God forgives you for mistakes, it helps. 

I’m not sure if this post is going to make sense to anyone beyond myself. I just found the simple reminder that “God allows U-Turns” to be incredibly germane to one of my biggest areas of weakness. Hopefully though, this reminder, that God allows U-Turns will be helpful to someone who does need help forgiving either them-self or someone else.  

Scripture Challenge

Part of being a Christian is reading the bible and learning how to work the messages and lessons into your every day life. After reading a friend’s blog post (http://lamerediaries.blogspot.com) I decided to try something new. I went to Bible Gateway to read their Daily Verse (most websites have them, and I know my YouVersion App has one).

Today’s verse is oddly one of the most over-used and cliched verses out there. It reads the following:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV

So what can I take away from this message to make my life better and more fulfilling here on earth? I take the following lessons.

Love is patient. I need to remember that everyone has lived a different life than mine. Just because something makes sense to me or just because I would do things some way doesn’t mean that another persons choices are wrong. I need to be patient with others (as I would want them to be with me). 

Love is kind. Love means not holding or saying a bad word against people. This is very hard for me. I like to tell people what is wrong with my day or how I’ve been wronged (“Can you believe the person who I’m working with showed up an HOUR late today?”). The problem with that is that if you focus on the negative you’ll only see the negative. Also, being mad at someone or thinking not kind things is only going to negatively affect the way I’m feeling.

It does not boast. I’m generally not a boastful person so this is fairly easy for me to understand and apply. Basically, do not brag or show off the wonderful things in your life. Be happy, express your happiness. However, do not do it in an attempt to make other people feel inferior about what they have.

It does not dishonor others. Love in some ways can apply to the work you do or even the strangers you meet in every day life. Do not dishonor others means treat everyone with respect and as Jesus would have. There’s an expression somewhere along the lines of Be the Christian Message you want people to see. I know that’s not exactly what it says but basically act in such a Christian way that people who are new to the faith don’t need a bible to know what Jesus teaches.

It is not self-seeking. The Bible tells us to act in a way that will honor and please God. It is important for me, and everyone, to remember that when you make decisions in your life you need to make them bearing in mind what God would want you to do, not what you would want to do. If you don’t know how to react in a certain circumstance, you can always go ask God for guidance.

It is not easily angered. This is similar to patience. Be appeasing and don’t look for reasons to find fault in others. The expression “Be slow to anger and quick to forgive” is one that echos the sentiment of this phrase.

It keeps no record of wrongs. This goes back to something I read in Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” she says she built a better marriage on the concept of quitting with the score cards. Love isn’t about who has done what for whom, or who messed up and how. Forgiveness means just that, forgiveness. If the Heavenly Father is not keeping tabs on each and every sin you commit (thank goodness the list would certainly be long) then why should you treat others, especially those that you love, the same way.

What do you think? What practices do you use to help you become and stay a better Christian?