Tag Archives: perspective

Hanging On To the Good Times

Good TImes

This week Nan went through a surgery and while she was at the hospital my 93-year old father was admitted to another hospital for rapidly failing health. Yes, in the same day. Although Nan’s has turned out to be successful, I don’t expect it to be the same for my father. These are times when all the past squabbles mean nothing and the happy memories are cherished. This is one of them.

But the lesson to be learned here is to anticipate a day like this, and put the things you do today into perspective. Whatever you create in the here and now is what you will have to look back on. And you never know when “that day” will come.

We had prayerfully anticipated a good outcome for Nan’s surgery although there were some unknowns. But as anyone who has had a hospital procedure knows, you sign a lot of paperwork that reminds you of the scary reality – there is always a risk of things going badly.

Over my lifetime I have let anxiety rule some of my choices. I have not done things that would have created good memories for Nan and me. And because of my sinful nature I have created some bad ones, too. As I sat in the hospital waiting for the surgery to be finished I thought: “What if this was it? What if there were no more memories to be made?”

I think it is human nature to believe that you will always have enough time to do what you would want to do. But it’s a lie. You can miss it. Circumstances change. Health and energy fades. The years get away from you while you raise kids and go to work.

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 6:2

This isn’t a justification for going out and blowing all your money or abandoning all your restraints. Most of what is important will fall into other categories. It’s about investing your time wisely. It’s about being kind in your relationships. It’s about taking vacations and talking to each other rather than staring at your smart phone or computer. It’s about not accepting overtime just so you can buy more “stuff”.

I had an offer from someone to sit with me at the hospital. That meant a lot. That’s what true friendship looks like. Our church encourages building that kind of community and those kinds of relationships. Even the hard times can be good times if you don’t face them alone.

So what are the good times you want to hang on to?

As I get older some of the ones I used to think were good times are now regretful memories. We all have a past, so perhaps you are like me. These days I am more concerned with building significant or eternal ones. How about you?

Loopholes

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In Christian circles we often talk about legalism or “living under the law” vs. “living under grace”.

Those who have been hurt, but have not fully embraced forgiveness, are often looking for justice. It is understandable from a human perspective. Then there is another side to the equation – those, because of their wrongdoings, who are trying to escape justice and receive mercy, or better yet, grace. That too is an understandable position.

  • Justice is getting what you deserve
  • Mercy is not getting bad things that you deserve (punishment or retribution)
  • Grace is getting good things that you absolutely do not deserve (unearned favor)

I really admire those who search the scriptures diligently so that they can fully follow God in the way they conduct themselves in life and relationships. But there is another way that scriptures can be used as well – as a rationalization to punish, control or avoid. This is where loopholes come into the picture.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a loophole as:

  1. An error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it.
  2. A means of escape; especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.

Are you looking for loopholes in the scripture to justify your wrong desires or behaviors?

In definition #2 above it clearly states that there is an intent in statutes or laws that is to be understood and followed. This is what law abiding or good-hearted people seek to incorporate into their personal life script. (For purposes of this discussion I am not talking about occasions where man’s laws and God’s laws are in conflict).

  • When seeking justice do you ignore the scriptures that call for forgiveness, mercy, turning the other cheek (and many more) in favor of “an eye for an eye”?
  • When trying to justify immoral sexual behaviors do you minutely examine words like “fornication” or “purity” or others hoping that God’s intent for us as Christians has been incorrectly interpreted by the church for centuries?
  • When wanting to blame, shame, criticize or control someone do you quote scriptures that speak about ‘iron sharpening iron” or “faithful are the wounds of a friend” or “confronting sin”? Are you truly concerned for them, or are you really trying to exercise power over them?

The Bible tells us that God is concerned about our hearts out of love for us. When our hearts aren’t right, our lives and our world is not right. Matters of justice are tricky and best left for God to deal with. It is said that we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. So, are you most interested in the “letter of the law” or “the intent of the law”?

Loopholes are our way of trying to return power and control to ourselves (leaning on our own understanding) instead of trusting that God’s ways are good.

Check Your Attitude

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I was reading an article online that had some helpful tips for parents desiring to encourage their kids develop some good habits for financial success. It talked about the habits of the wealthy vs. those of the poor. It was solid researched stuff and should have been welcomed by any parent wanting to give their child a leg up. What saddened and frankly shocked me a bit was the quantity of negative and angry comments that followed. Most of the comments were from people rationalizing their personal failures. They completely missed the intent of the article.

It was obvious that these people were blind to the attitudes that kept them stuck and the real possibility that they could be passed on to their children as well. They embraced hopelessness and helplessness instead of possibilities.

As an employer, I tried to avoid hiring people who were angry or negative. They were the ones that were most likely to get in conflict with other employees, alienate customers and blame others for their lack of advancement. I always chose attitude over aptitude. If they had a good attitude they were usually teachable. That was the problem with many of the comments that I read in the above mentioned article. They demonstrated an unwillingness to listen and learn. For whatever reason they would rather see themselves as powerless victims of an unknown and unseen enemy, or worse yet they looked for something or someone outside of themselves to blame.

Although the article was neither condemning nor shaming I suppose it was inevitable that some would have feelings of failure triggered simply by the subject. That can’t be avoided. But fortunately there were also other comments that indicated that the author was successful in communicating his positive intention. These are the people that will benefit. They understand that the right kind of knowledge is powerful as a change agent.

I have observed this phenomenon in couples as well.

When couples who are having struggles have a generally positive attitude they are likely to get better with time. They expect the difficulties to be temporary, and work toward that goal. Those that do not expect things to get better usually reach their goals too.

What sets apart the successful couples from the stuck ones is often their ability to receive constructive criticism. Successful people consider the input and thank you for it whereas the less successful become defensive and angry, especially when the input is given by their partners. It is not easy to hear about our shortcomings – we all would prefer to be praised for our strengths and hear encouraging words. But we grow when we incorporate helpful criticism.

It all depends on our attitude.