Friday, October 25, 2013

Relish the Moments

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Philippians 4:8 

As I've mentioned in prior blogs, I despise this time of year.  In pondering why, I realize that one major reason for my lackluster attitude towards autumn is that my husband, Matt, begins a rigorous schedule of nightly meetings for work.  Through the months of late October til mid-April, he is usually gone at least one night a week.  My husband works about 55-hours a week not including these night meetings, his six to nine business trips per year, or the fair amount of work he does at home. I also calculated that I only see him about 52-hours a week (again, without the night meetings, the business trips, and the homework).  Add to that the fact that I'm gone two to three nights a week for my music commitments--my worship team rehearsal at church, my other band's rehearsal, and perhaps a couple gigs for that band per month.  So the time Matt and I have together is not at all balanced with our work.  No wonder I hate fall and winter.

It is truly sad to realize how much of our lives we spend working and sleeping.  We really don't have much time with those we love or to make an impact in their lives.  It has been determined that we sleep one-third of our lives.  If we are working more than half the time we are awake, there isn't much left--and we haven't even talked about household chores and errands, which are certainly work!  Maybe it is because I am "in" my forties now, but I think about time a great deal.  It is both sad and hilarious for me to realize that in my twenties and thirties, I fretted about money.  Now, time is the bigger issue for me!  I prayerfully try to make the best use of mine in order to have as much time as possible for enjoying those I love.  But how can we make the most of the very little time we do have with others?  

When we are with those we love or anyone whom God has placed in our lives, we need to shut-off the rest of the world and just enjoy them.  Being present in mind and spirit, and not just in body, is crucial if we're going to truly relish the moments we've been given with others.  You cannot make an impact in any one's life if they are just a side-note to yours.  On the flip-side, we also have to stop thinking we can be, "bosom buddies," with every single person that comes into our lives.  There are seasonal friendships, phone-friendships, church-only friendships, work-only friendships, and even once-a-year friendships.  This is good and fine--we can't be all things to all people, and if we try, we will fail at being anything to anyone.  We have to be willing to adjust our minimal time with the changing demands in our lives.  We also have to be willing to allow others the space to do the same. There is a hierarchy for prioritizing people in our life given directly in Scriptures--God comes first, your spouse is second, your kids are third, your parents are fourth, your church is fifth, and from there it gets pretty fuzzy.  But if these five are not in-line or others are making demands that will require you to fudge on those five, stand firm.  Your time is limited and your energy is even more limited.  If you are trying to relish too many moments with too many people, you will end-up relishing no moments.

Whether I am with Matt, my band-mates, my church-mates, my family, my friends, my nail salon tech, my hairdresser, or whoever it may be--I think the verse above is key.  When we are with others we need to always focus on them and the good stuff.  We need to always be honest.  We need to share loveliness.  We need to speak fairly, do justly, and give good report.  We need to appreciate both who they are and who God has made them to be.  We need to truly listen and yet be willing to share.  We need to just have fun and laugh--a lot.  We need to recall the past and reflect on the funny and great times we have shared with them.  We need to give value and share joy for the great things happening in their life now.  We need to look back at where we have been with them and what God has done in their life and ours.  We need to care about them and their stuff more than we do ourselves and our own stuff.  We need to realize it isn't an accident that they are in our life at this time.  We need to just bask in the gift of life with these people we love and with whom we share our very limited time. 

I don't want to be on my deathbed one day regretting that I worked too much.  I also don't want to get to the end of my life and regret that I worried and focused on the negative things too much, or on too many things, instead of relishing pure and beautiful moments with those I love.  We need to stop expecting others to fill voids and meet expectations only God can fill and meet--and we need to stop trying to do that for others.  God didn't give us people so we could get stuff from them or control them.  He gave us each other to teach us how to love.  The time we have in life is unknown, valuable, and a gift of enjoyment from God Himself.  The people God has placed within that allotted time, who have remained through thick and thin, are also valuable and rare gifts meant for relishing.  Time and special people--I praise God today for both. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Exception to the Rule is one of the great rules of life. It is a norm upon which you can count.  A great many songs and commentaries have been written about change.  We have all heard the old, clich├ęd quotes: "Nothing stays the same," and, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  Regardless of which you believe to be truer, change is a topic to which we can all relate.  No one is immune to the changing seasons of life or exempt from the changes those seasons bring.  I happen to believe there are actually three things you can count on in life:  death, taxes, and change.

You could discuss change with a wide-variety of people and get a wide-range of responses.  Some folks thrive on change, feeling a renewed sense of purpose and refreshment to their spirit when it occurs.  They view it as an opportunity for growth and a chance to solve new problems in pliable and exciting ways.  Others dread it like a common cold.  They have more of the, "if-it-isn't-broken-why-are-we-changing-it," mentality.  To these people, change typically brings initial, overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and perhaps even fear.  God has definitely wired us all uniquely and given us individual strengths and weaknesses.  Furthermore, life has more than likely taught these two different groups of people very different things where change is concerned.  This demands understanding by each group and a recognition that some of us are better suited for change than others, just as some of us are better equipped to bounce a basketball than manage a checkbook.

I would fall in the latter group of people and change (I can also manage a checkbook a lot better than play basketball, so I guess I fall in the latter of both above comparisons).  To me, change is typically a nuisance and an interruption.  It feels like I just get used to the way things are in life and I have to start all over again.  Depending on the specific type of change, it can feel that adjusting to it is a colossal waste of energy and time.  Now I am not talking about trying a new food, vacationing to a new destination, or rearranging the furniture in your living room.  Those are simple and fun changes that most of us do enjoy.  I am talking about the kinds of change that require major adjustment, deep thought, or new problem-solving tactics.  During those seasons, it can be difficult to let go of the familiar and add unfamiliar things that the new change requires.  When you are a person who tends to cling to people and things a bit too tightly, there can be some grief involved.  There is always loss felt when something common or comfortable in life is now missing.

So how does a non-change person survive the constant changes life demands?  For starters, we must look to the steadfast, unwavering love, grace, and mercy of God our Father.  God's Word tells us plainly that He never changes--He is timeless.  In James 1:17, we read, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows."  We can also stand firm on the lasting Word of the Lord.  In Isaiah 40:8, we read, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.”  Because God's Word is sound, ageless, and true, we can always look to it for wisdom and guidance in times of change.  We may face broken promises and fickle, dishonest manipulations by others, but God always keeps His promises and He loves us eternally.  In Deuteronomy 7:9, we read, "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments."  Furthermore, we can trust in the unchanging love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who like His Father, " the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8).

Perhaps you read these verses and think, "Yeah...well, things are different today, so how does this apply to me?" Well, friend, God's Word says that, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun, " (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  God's unchanging love and eternal Word are as applicable and reliable today as they were in the very beginning.  The problems and challenges people faced thousands of years ago may have looked differently on the surface than ours do today--but they are essentially the same.  God's Son, Jesus Christ, is the One immovable presence in our lives Who we can count on for everything and Who we can trust to always be there.  Change in people and life are the rule--but God is the great exception.  Amen.