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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

 My six-year-old computer was slowly dying. Even after deleting all unnecessary programs and files and using the system clean up tools, it was still intolerably pokey. It took so long to warm up that, after hitting the “on” button, I could make a bed, empty the dishwasher, and take a five-minute nap before it was completely loaded and functional. It was time to do some comparison shopping. Comparison is beneficial when purchasing a new computer; in real life circumstances, comparison can often either make us feel defeated or prideful.

It all begins early. The two-year-old child gets a new baby brother. Suddenly, he compares the time Mommy and Daddy spend with him to time spent with the baby and life seems grossly unfair.

The five-year-old wants a battery-operated Barbie car just like her friend down the block. She feels deprived when her mommy says they can’t afford it.

The ten-year-old compares his clumsy effort at soccer and he feels defeated because he wants to be like his teammate who scores big at every game. The skilled teammate shows haughtiness and considers himself a notch above the other members.

Miss Popular Preppie, who runs the Eighth Grade click, gets puffed up when she compares her charm and good looks to plain Peggy with the acne and stringy hair.

The high school senior feels cheated as he compares his buddy’s brand new Mustang to his rusted out truck with a whole in the muffler.

The young mother compares her special needs son, who struggles with homework until 10:00 p.m. to her sister’s boy who gets straight “As” and barely cracks a textbook at night.

And, she asks, “How did we get so blessed?”

The single woman flaunts her freedom as she compares herself to the married woman with six kids; the married woman envies the freedom of her single friend.

Older adults compare their illnesses, financial status, and the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren. Whether measuring something better or worse against our own situation, comparison is a joy robber.

The truth is that, in comparing, we only get a tiny snapshot view which reveals very little. First impressions often lie. Once years ago, I was the victim of an unfair comparison. Stopping at a grocery store dressed in a suit after a hard nine-hour day at work, my goal was to get in and out of the store rapidly, make a quick dinner at home, and get to an evening meeting.

There was only one checkout lane in operation and I was third in line with two others in back of me. A young gentleman opened the next lane and I thought he looked directly at me as he said,

“Can I help you over here?”

As I headed over to the next lane the lady in front of me, who was about to be served by the clerk in our lane, jumped ahead of me. With fire in her eyes and in a loud store-wide voice she yelled…

“Just because you are dressed in a three-piece suit, you think you get to go first?”

Her judgment and her snapshot view of me were based solely on my attire. Little did she know that, inwardly, I was falling apart. That day, my business had lost a major contract and personally I was in the midst of a mental-health crises with my daughter. To this womanGreener Grass syndrome, the grass looked greener in my life compared to hers, but she had merely a snapshot view.

A friend of mine, Nancy Anderson, wrote the book Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome-How to grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage. In the book she explains how she nearly destroyed her marriage by comparing her husband to a male co-worker. She liked the attention received from this new guy and compared it to the criticism and control she felt from her husband. The grass looked greener but it really wasn’t. By the grace of God through the good advice of her earthly father, she came to her senses. Fortunately, in the end, her marriage was restored and her joy returned.

Thankfulness and gratitude can heal the soul sickness of comparison. Being content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in results in a joyful and peace-filled life.

When the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence, it’s time to fertilize and water our own grass!

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Studying chemistry with my granddaughter this past year was much like learning a foreign language; one I deemed useless. I regularly asked two questions: “Why would I need to learn about the elements on the periodic table? And, how will I ever use chemistry for any practical purposes?”

Toward the end of the school year, we studied nuclear energy including the chemical elements of the sun. The energy produced by the sun occurs because of a nuclear fusion, combining hydrogen elements that produce helium. This fusion causes the temperature of the sun’s surface to be about 10,340 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our sun will continue to fuse helium with other heavier elements until it literally burns itself osun-update-1ut or runs out of fuel. When the hydrogen fuel in the core of the sun is used up, the burning will spread outwardly toward the surface of the sun. This will cause the surface temperature of the earth to rise from about 68°F to 167°F and the increased radiation will have a devastating effect. The oceans will evaporate and our planet will become a stark, lifeless desert.

Scientists believe that, so far, the sun has used up about half of its hydrogen fuel, but most think the hydrogen in the sun will last for another 5 billion years. Both creationists and evolutionists agree on the chemical processes of the elements in the sun, although there is major disagreement on the age and longevity of the sun.

Soon after finishing the chemistry unit on nuclear energy, I read these words from 2 Peter in my morning devotional:

“But THE DAY OF THE LORD will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a ROAR; the ELEMENTS will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10)

Several words and phrases from this verse suddenly had new meaning for me. Chemistry came alive on the pages of my Bible.

The first word that struck me was “elements,” since the elements on the periodic table were very much a part of chemistry class. Simon Peter wrote this epistle sometime between AD 185 and 253. In it, he refers to the “elements.” It was not until 1869 that scientists compiled the periodic table, naming and ordering the elements. Yet 1600 years earlier, Peter wrote about them in this epistle. Except by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, how did Peter understand the chemical elements of nature back in the second century?

Secondly, the phrase “the day of the Lord” caused me to take pause. Here Peter does not specifically name the number of years it will take for the sun to run out of hydrogen and explode. This event is not determined by a scientific timetable of 5 billion years. Scripture tells us it will happen on the “day of the Lord” when God pushes the button. However, both science and the Bible agree that it is definitely going to occur.

Thirdly, Peter states: “the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” These words also agree with science because we know that the earth cannot survive without the sun. However, according to scriptures, there will one day be a new heaven and a new earth.

Finally, Peter states: “The heavens will disappear with a roar.” The King James Bible calls it “a great noise,” which translates in the Greek language as a hissing and a crackling sound. The crackling sound was also confirmed in a scientific experiment when the atomic bomb was tested in the Nevada dessert. Reporters noted that the release of atomic energy made a loud whirling and crackling noise.

Therefore, we see that the Bible establishes from the beginning what humanity learns much later. Throughout the ages, God has consistently revealed to us the truths of His creation. We might be tempted to think that we have discovered scientific knowledge through our own cleaver minds; however, the Spirit of God has already revealed all truth through the Bible.

Now I understand that chemistry is not a useless language after all. Chemistry, created by God, agrees with His Word. What a privilege it is to know intimately the Creator of all things including chemistry!

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Wood, Hay, Straw

wood hay stubble 2

The culture tells me I am way beyond the age of raising a teenager, especially one with disabilities. Nevertheless, His calling humbles me and causes me to depend on a God who loves and cares for me in every circumstance.

For the first time in my life, I am becoming more aware that if God calls me to do something, He will equip me to do it, regardless of my ability or inability. Therefore, it becomes an adventure and every morning I pray, “Lord, what are You and I going to accomplish together today?”

In my younger days, I had energy and frivolous ideology. I did not feel compelled to ask God for physical, emotional, or mental strength. Consequently, I gained a reputation for achievement. However, I built my house of accomplishment on my own strength and pride.

Pride is the sin of making “me” my own god. This leads me to examine how much of my work was built on a foundation of wood, hay, and straw destined only for the fire.

Now that I must depend on God for strength to complete His calling, I carefully weigh the cost and consequence of every endeavor. Before rushing into needless ventures, I often inquire of the One who knows best, “Is this necessary?” “Does this have eternal value?” or, “Is this Your perfect plan?”

As a result, in my weakness, God has become strong. In my foolishness, he has become wise.

At any age, there is still time to build our ministry on a solid foundation, one that will stand the test of fire, namely Jesus.

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Near my home, there is a lake surrounded by an incredible meandering walking and biking trail. Trees and wildlife are in abundance and restful swinging benches overlook the water at many junctures.

Each season presents its unique breathtaking colors and scents. The last few weeks, have brought a sense of awakening and new hope as I’ve watched the pussy willows pop. I can smell the grass as it begins to show green through brown.

In the summer, when the wind is at bay, the lake is like a huge sheet of glass. Anglers sit patiently in their rowboats near the shores in anticipation of snaring their next bass, crappie, or sunfish. Wildflowers freely grow on the banks and bloom from May through August.

Fall 3

Autumn is my favorite time to walk the trail. On a sunny fall day, there is no better place to enjoy God’s spectacular beauty as displayed in His creation. The colors range from the reds and browns of the oak leaves to the golden hues of the poplar, elm, and wild grapevine leaves. Sumac, which is barely noticeable in the spring and summer, bursts into fire-like flames of red, gold, and orange. The air is pungent with a rich earthy smell of nature about to die once again.

The lake attracts the hardiest of Minnesota residents in the winter. They dress in several layers of insulated clothing and set up tents on the frozen water to fish through holes they have drilled in the ice. Some winters the ice can be as much as three feet deep. After a fresh snowfall, the trail is a velvety white wonderland.

Winter 2

Life is on hold whenever I walk through this glorious place. However, even as I breathe in every sight, sound, and scent of the seasons, I am keenly aware that, at any moment, Minnesota weather can suddenly change without warning. How reminiscent this is of my life. For a season, I can experience amazing joy, hope, and serenity. Then suddenly, without warning, a circumstance brings an unwelcome chill, a dark shadow.

Those of us who live with someone who is chronically mentally or physically ill know that, at any moment, the scene can change from sunny and peaceful to dark and desperate. There will always be less than perfect situations just around the bend, but why should we let that rob us of our present joy?

Much like my coveted walk around the lake, when I bring every thought captive to the beauty before me, I must learn to guard my heart against dreaded future possibilities. I must endeavor to experience fully my present joy and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

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ME FIRST

As a child, you may remember receiving an ice cream cone on a sweltering summer day. ice cream conesJumping up and down in excitement with the other children, you probably shouted “me first,” anticipating the sweet pleasure of a refreshing treat.

Perhaps, you recall anxiously waiting to be chosen for a baseball team at recess. The two captains took turns picking their favorites. Competition was fierce and they each wanted to get the strongest athletes for their team. To attract attention, you vigorously waved your arms and screamed, “Pick me, pick me, “I’m a good hitter, I’m a fast runner.”

“Me first” thinking is typical for a child. “Others first” comes later with maturity.

Strangely though as I matured, “me first” did a total switch on me. It rapidly turned into doing the hard stuff — the stuff for which no one waved their arms and jumped up and down yelling “me first.”

I wish I could say that when my babies cried to be fed in the night I always turned to my husband and said “me first.”

Nor, have I always wanted to say “me first” when a friend needed to be driven to an appointment or was without a babysitter for her children.

Surely, I cannot tell you that I always considered my own faults (“me first”) before finding fault in others and I have often given advice freely without heeding it myself first.

On the other hand, I sometimes find “me first” thinking to be entirely appropriate and even wise…

First responders are taught “me first” safety rules. They learn that when they assist accident victims, they must first check the scene to determine if it is safe for them to enter. Mamed responders are of no help to victims.

Young mothers must take care of themselves first so they can meet the needs of their children. As a seventy-two year old grandmother raising an energetic teenager, I tire easily. Just yesterday, I had to say “me first” and take a nap rather than going to the mall.

“Me first” thinking can have both positive and negative implications. Nevertheless, what is most meaningful to me is when my Creator beckons me each morning and says, “ME FIRST.”

“But, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

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Dorothy Ruppert Blog

Three friends and I went to a conference. Our destination was The Cove, a beautiful retreat center built by Billy and Ruth Graham in the hills of North Carolina. We visited several interesting sites on the way to and from the conference.

Because the journey from Minnesota to North Carolina was too far to complete in one day, we made several overnight stops. A motel we stayed at on the trip home had a peculiar motif.

Everywhere throughout the motel complex, there were inoperative clocks – in the guest rooms, the pool area, the front lobby, the halls, and the breakfast room. Clocks were portrayed in graphic prints, etched in stone, and in tabletop ornaments, but the most obvious was a huge four-foot wide clock in the center of a coffee table covered with glass in the front lobby.

The most riveting feature of all the clocks was that in…

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Joy is a spiritual state of well being. It is an assurance that God is in control, an inner source of delight regardless of circumstances. Happiness is an emotional state of well being, which is mostly determined by circumstances. Both joy and happiness are gifts, but joy takes precedence over happiness because joy is sustaining, while happiness is fleeting.

Nevertheless, joy often comes through pain and sorrow, something I would rather avoid. Psalm 30:5b tells us that: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,”

sunrise

Here are a few things that have brought me joy…

Losing a thirty-nine year old daughter was painful. Now, almost five years later, I find joy in knowing that she no longer suffers from a mental illness. I have a joyful assurance that she resides in heaven.

After my daughter’s death, my husband and brought her two children, ages 16 and 10, into our household. Death had seemingly robbed us of our retirement years. Our friends were skeptical of our decision to raise young children in our sixties and seventies, but we traded temporary happiness for sustaining joy and we have no regrets. Radical obedience produces joy.

I once prayed for a long time for a friend to find Jesus. When I saw hopeful signs of genuine change in my friend, I was happy; when my friend regressed, I was sad. I was on the roller coaster of life with them, but at some point, I finally understood that only God could retrieve, rescue, and restore the heart of my friend. When I rested in His will, His joy became my strength. After twenty-five years, God answered my prayer — my friend found the way to Jesus.

Sometimes I become discouraged when my live-in grandchildren misbehave. I focus on my failures and unrealistic expectations instead of God’s work in their lives. However, when I see them comfort another child or place their allowance in the collection basket at church or help an elderly neighbor, joy fills my heart.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Nehemiah 4:17

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