Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some Steps for Taming Monkeys

This is a funny (enjoy a laugh)...

...but this little meme is an important indicator for keeping the soul growing, as opposed to decaying (as we learned last week). So, keep reading.

I was born a natural "half-glass-empty-girl." If there's a negative to be found, I can pinpoint it with tremendous accuracy...and, probably be the first to see it. I used to claim that I was a "realist." That made me feel a bit better, but the truth is that this was just an excuse. If there were such a thing as a "Negativity Olympics," I would hold the gold; although, I would not stand on the dais with pride.

Ok. Another funny. That glass is a picture of me...and Bay. That has been our life. He, always the optimist. Me, the pessimist. The world is filled with both. Yet, statistics show that the optimists tend to live longer...and those who do, live more fully, enjoying life to the very end (I read this in the online version of The Journal of Gerontology - I know, a nerd)!

I believe this to be true. The other thing I believe to be true is that 

It's a matter of learning perspective. So, I try to fill my life with half-full-friends. Thirteen months ago, I lost one of those friends. She had the nerve to walk across the stage of life, grab her diploma, and graduate to heaven after a battle with cancer. Optimism can't cure cancer. It sure can help you in the fight, though. My good friend had a saying (her daughter, son-in-love, and I were talking about it this morning, in fact), 

"This too will pass. In the meantime, let's get busy!" 

She did. All the way to the pearly gates. Her life was a thing to behold....and, to imitate. 

What I learned from my friend is that there is a real premium on having a positive, affirmative, view of life. As an older mentor, and my biggest cheerleader, she taught me that I can change by taming the wild monkeys that jump around in my thought life. Seriously, my mind is very much like being in the African bush on most days. The monkeys screech and swing from tree to tree, and very seldom sleep. 

It's a biblical truth. We transform our lives by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2). We develop the mind of Christ that is in us (1  Corinthians 2:16), and we teach ourselves to have the same mind-set (attitude) that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Yes, it's work (I know what you glass-half-empty's are thinking); but, it can actually be fun work. Much like looking at wrinkles and finding something to be thankful for about's true, they really don't hurt (!), and...they are a great reminder of the life-we've-lived-that's-behind-us (aka: experience that's led to wisdom). 

Part of taming the monkeys is reaching out for help to get out of old mental ruts. Remember this truth?

💖 Find mentors (like my friend) who teach us how to see life differently, instruct us in the ways of "paying attention" to things we might never see otherwise.

💖 Discover that good heart raising, strength-training, exercise is crucial for changing our cortisol levels (stress & depression inducing) to the helpful increase of endorphins (stress & depression reducing) - thank you WebMD.  In fact, my gerontology research has shown that as we age, we better realize that a good mix of exercise, EVERY DAY (but one) of the week, needs to be considered our JOB!

💖 Attend to a wise sleep schedule (as much as one possibly can), meaning going to bed at a regular time and rising at a set time. Following a regular activity-reducing-pattern every night, which tells us that it's time to sleep.

💖 Incorporate rest and play in our schedule as a means of living full... Rest, I know about, after my study a couple years ago on joy, but I never realized how important play was. Then I read Mark Buchanan's book, The Rest of God. Buchanan says this when he discusses what is missing from Sabbathing-well,

"What's missing is a theology of play." 

He's right. Nothing helps us clear our minds like a day of play! Christians have become enslaved to chronos-time. We've totally forgotten about kairos-time. Creating events. Making memories. Really living in the middle of life. Playing allows us to break free from the chains of a heavy taskmaster, and  change our thinking.

💖 I'll add one more thing - the MOST IMPORTANT. Preach to ourselves. Repeat often, just as David did, biblical truths, affirmations, life-altering Scripture. The Word is the one great replacer of the negative monkeys (words) that race from limb to limb in the mind. It's a tool of greatest importance. 

The younger we are, the better it is to develop these positive habits now, for changing our mind-set. It really is hard to teach "old dogs, new tricks." That's not a lie. I may have to work a bit harder to become a glass-half-full-girl, but I long to do better. Someone once told me that as I age, I will either grow better or bitter. I see that is certain. I know which I choose. So...

"This too will pass. In the meantime, let's get busy!"

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Here's to Not Being Fully Grown!

There are times I wish I had gotten my PhD. I think, probably, I would have found it helpful in some arenas.

For example, as our team was repacking all the items to head to Cuba (we had to divide up our "goody-gifts" among us), one of the members asked me to help her change the combination on her suitcase lock. 
We had the instructions in-hand. 
They came complete with pictures. 
Both of us read the instructions. Both of us looked at the pictures. 
It looked easy enough; but, alas... 
Many minutes later, we slapped our heads, and clapped our hands. Got it! 
That night, I think a PhD would have helped. 

It's how I've felt about the lack of life-instruction for aging well. 
Not many Christian authors have engaged in instructive and thorough mapping of this part of the journey. 
Maybe I should have gotten a doctorate in Gerontology, with my dissertation on God's perspective. 
I didn't, though.
The thought that I might need awareness never crossed my mind.
I've always done life as it happened, with a nod at the future-to-come, as if we'd meet at some point down the road, but I didn't care to be introduced in the present.
"Why borrow trouble?" seems to have been my life motto...until now.
So here I am, blindly entering this world of "ziqna and seba," and asking the Lord to open my eyes to His teaching on the subject. 
But I want to do the last leg of this journey called life to the fullest. 
I've had my eyes opened to some who have, as well as some who haven't. 
The difference leaves my jaw on the floor.

This week I read this promise in Psalm 25:14(a):


The Lord's loyal followers receive His guidance... (NET)

He's doing just that for me. I don't need a PhD. I have the Spirit of the Living Lord, who gives me the mind of Christ.

So, here's a recap of what I've learned so far.
God has a purpose for our lives, even into old age and gray hairs.
He is still dreaming big dreams for our lives. Still imagining and creating the direction of our days...
That purpose never wanes.
He promises us that He will "carry us," His presence will be with us, all the way to the end.
That means He empowers us to do what He wants us to accomplish.
However, there's an "if," a "condition" to the promise.
We are to be good stewards of our "spirit, soul, and body."

Theologians argue over those three words - trichotomism or dichotomism (is man triune in nature or dual in nature?). 
Right now, I don't really care.
I just know that I'm to do all I can to care for my whole being.
It's that simple!
That's what 1 Thessalonians 5:23 -24 says to me.

It says to me that I am responsible for this entire temple that houses the Spirit:

So after wrestling through some deeper theology-questions this week, here’s where the Lord settled it with me on the mat:

I was to set some goals that answer this question-

Goals that involve growth in my whole-self: spiritually (first and foremost), mentally, emotionally, occupationally, environmentally, socially, and, yes, physically. The Lord has challenged me in His sweet, soft, tender, and unassuming way to start small and do-able.

Find Five. Those were the words that He whispered to my soul. I don’t know why five. I can’t even be sure it was His voice. But, just in case…that’s what I spent time doing this week.

I’ve picked five ways, straight and simple, to keep growing.
Because if I’m not growing, the opposite will become true: I’ll decay.
There really is no such thing as “stagnant.”
If I’m not doing one, I’m going the other direction.
This is the one thing I’ve learned about “ziqna and seba” from the few authors who do map out growing older.

So.... Here's to Not Being Fully Grown Yet!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Aging Grace & Living Loved

The week before heading to Cuba, I sprinted Way-Up-North to speak for a women's conference at a church in the Toronto area.
It was spur of the moment.
The event hadn't been on my calendar.
I hadn't been on their calendar, either, for that matter.
The scheduled speaker had to cancel due to an unplanned visit to the hospital with pneumonia.
So all of us re-arranged our schedules, even though I'm confident it was all part of God's plan.
He wasn't surprised.

I put together a new series to fit the already-planned theme: God's Call.
Then I sort of blew in, blew up, blew out, in a 32-hour turnaround.
I loved the women.
I love sharing life.
I love speaking Jesus.
But then, by now, I think you know that...

This, too, had been a part of God's-creative-imagination for me.
A surprise gift...with an added bonus.
The Lord took me all the way to Canada to learn a little "ziqna and seba" lesson...
Such thoughtfulness on His part!
Such a perfect way to say, "I love you."

After I'd finished my third speaking session on that particular Saturday, I had the privilege of meeting
twin sisters.

These fun, outgoing women had been instrumental in obtaining the intended-speaker (which I did not hold against them, thus making me a second choice). As we conversed and laughed together (as well, they presented me with the sweetest hand-crocheted-prayer-shawl, which I have on as I type), these gals told me about their mother. Mom had just recently passed, and her home-going was celebrated with obvious grace and beauty. These ladies had been blessed with a terrific spiritual heritage. Mom was a well-loved, godly woman, who lived life to share Jesus with all who intersected her world. As they talked, the sisters shared one thing that jumped out and grabbed my heart. Mom had told them all:

I'm not afraid to die; it's just that I love living! 

As a follow up to this, at her life-celebration, her grandson added:

"...and, gramma lived love!"

What a testimony for doing this thing called "ziqna and seba" with grace! What a story to emphasize how we are to "keep/guard our spirits" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). This mom had learned an important life-lesson and passed it on to all she met.

First truth: I must fully comprehend, fully KNOW-WITH-CONFIDENCE how greatly loved I am.

I am loved.

This is basic Christianity 101.
God loves me.
He loved me enough to John 3:16-me!

He sent His son who died on my behalf.
Because I am a messed-up-sinner, I needed a Messiah.
So, Jesus came to my rescue.
To pay the penalty my sin deserved.
He swallowed up my death.
Victoriously conquered the grave.
Rose gift me new life (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God demonstrated His love in this, while I was still a sinner, Christ Jesus died on my behalf.
Romans 5:8

Yes, I am loved.
You are loved.
Why do I ever doubt it?
Why do you ever doubt it?
We do, you know. And, it shows.
It shows when I don't follow up with the second side of the coin to the knowledge of being so greatly loved.

When I grasp this truth, it spills over.
There is no fear in death. Hebrews 2:14-15.
Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18.

So, I love to live...and I have a want-to to live it to the fullest capacity.
I raise my crowned-head (after all, I am a child of the Most-High-King-of-Kings), and stand tall as the royalty I've become (John 1:12).

In other words (second truth): I live-loved!
When I live-loved, I turn around and live love!

To the extent I know I am loved, I show love. 

Here's the first key to creating space for God to faithfully work out 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (see last week) in our lives. This is part of His road map for aging with grace.

Know your God.
Live in His love (put that crown on your head every morning!).
Walk confidently in your Christ-given identity (not self-identity or self-confidence - two totally different animals) - live loved.
Then, live love!

Even to your old age and gray hairs, you will be "kept blameless." He who is faithful will see to it.


Thank you, Joy and Japhia for sharing your mom's story. I hope it was OK to pass it on! (Picture me with a small smile that begs forgiveness for not asking you first.)