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Reflections

morningHave you ever been in awe of a reflection? The beauty of what is before you is remarkable in itself, then multiplied as reflected in the water below. It can be breathtaking and held in your mind for a long time.

What about your own reflection? Sometimes we are surprised as we look at our reflections in the mirror, finding something we didn’t expect that causes us to adjust our appearance. A quick glance is all it takes to realize things aren’t quite right.

As water reflects the face,
    so one’s life reflects the heart.
                          Proverbs 27:19 

The same can be said as we consider what our lives reflect. When people look at our actions and hear the words we speak are they seeing the reflection of the Lord’s love and mercy or instead the burdens of the day weighing us down or causing us to react in our human strength and wisdom?

As you go through your day and catch your reflection in a mirror or other surface take a moment to examine the reflection of your heart as well as your appearance. Sometimes a quick glance is all it takes to whisper a quick prayer, adjust your attitude and ensure you are reflecting the heart of God.

blessings and peace to you today!
Paula

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Joy In January?

We’ve just come through “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year”. It is a time when we sing of “Joy To The World” and “Love and joy come to you…” It seems people are more cheerful and joy is not hard to find. It is a very special time of year.

Then comes…banner_januaryIn my part of the United States that means cold. And snow. And gray. When the calendar flips to January my mind and emotions seem to flip a switch from the joy of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays to the dread of weeks – no, months of cold and snow and gray, drab days.

I’m sounding like a real downer aren’t I?

Unfortunately that’s what happens to me when January comes around. And I don’t like it.

This year I wonder, “could there be joy in January?”

Is it possible to find true joy in the midst of the dreary days? I don’t mean just a feeling of happiness but true, deep-down, a bad day can’t rob me of joy! I am determined to find it.

My first idea was to consider what robs us of joy. I mean, if we seem to have it other times of the year and then ‘lose’ it something(s) must be getting in the way, right? Here are some things I have discovered in my own life that rob me of it joy:

1. Attitude/Mental Focus – I believe we have a choice about what we allow to impact our day. Choosing to be positive does make a difference in how we emerge from a situation, even when it’s not ideal. At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, what we allow to stick around in our heads and hearts will determine the direction we go. Consider this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

The truth is we will be presented with challenges. We are not always going to be happy about them or welcome them into our day. That is the reality of life. The key is what we choose to concentrate on when we walk away from those challenges. If we allow negative comments or minor mistakes to get under our skin and overwhelm our thoughts we will begin to see even the good things though cloudy glasses.

I came to this conclusion on my drive home from an especially chaotic and negative day at work. I found myself reviewing segments of the day over and over in my head and with each segment reliving the frustrations, emotions and chaos. I began to pray as I drove and God revealed to me that I needed to let go. Each of the situations I was reliving was over. It didn’t matter if a patient was nasty to me on the phone or the entire office was feeling overwhelmed and negative. These isolated incidents were frustrating but they were just that – incidents. They were not an on-going challenge to be solved or problem to be reconciled. I could choose to allow them to impact my attitude or choose to let go and focus on more positive things.

Choosing to dwell on past negativity will cause us to carry those emotions into the future and rob us of joy.

choose-joy_complete-collection

2. Physical Factors – Working in an orthopaedic office I have learned much about how in injury or pain in one area of our bodies affects other areas as well. God created our bodies intricately and designed each part to work together…physical, mental and spiritual. When physical factors in our body are out of whack so to speak it can impact other areas, stealing our joy. Here are three that I’ve noticed impacting my joy:

  • Sleep – we all know how a lack of sleep impacts our immune system and our ability to function properly but until recently I didn’t realize how much it impacts my mood. Our brains become foggy when we don’t get adequate sleep and our emotions are more sensitive. Here are links to a couple of studies you can check out:
    Harvard Universityhttp://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
    Psychology Todayhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201308/all-night-the-effects-sleep-loss-mood
    This is an area I still struggle with. Finding balance between activity and turning the world and my thoughts off in order to get enough rest can be a challenge for me. Reminding myself how it impacts my outlook on life and my search for joy is helping.
  • Water – In my quest to become physically healthier I have learned health experts encourage us to drink enough water. As I pay more attention to water I realize how much it feeds my brain and how well I think. There are studies on this as well:Men’s Healthhttp://www.menshealth.com/health/fastest-way-improve-mood
    WebMDhttp://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120120/even-mild-dehydration-may-cause-emotional-physical-problems

    I’m not suggesting water will solve our problems or automatically inject our lives with joy but staying well hydrated may clear our heads enough to find more joy all around us instead of having to wade through a foggy head.

  • Exercise – This is the hardest time of year for me to get exercise in. Morning is my favorite time to exercise and it’s cold in the house in the mornings. It’s a challenge to get up and change my clothes to get in a work-out to start my day. But when I do, my day starts right! Of course there are studies on this as well, telling how our endorphins (body’s natural opiates, designed to relieve stress and enhance pleasure) clear our heads and improve our mood.WebMd – http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
    While morning is the best time for me it may not be the best time for you and I don’t think the time of day matters. It seems that exercising any time of the day will make a difference not only to our physical health but to our moods as well.

    I am not a medical professional and depend on doctors and medical studies to teach me more about how  my body, mind and emotions work together. But here I share with you my experiences and give you some things to consider to clear your head, making room for more joy.

3.  Outward vs. Inward Focus – The more time I spend inside my home the more I risk my focus turning inward as well. In the winter I struggle with not wanting to venture out into the cold for activities, therefore spending less time face-to-face with people, enjoying their company and serving others. I find my thoughts turn inward as well, usually on things that are negative about my life, body, etc. etc.

This is an area I have to be careful of and must make sure I’m not becoming a hermit once January hits. With the internet communities available there can be more personal interaction than 5 or 10 years ago but sitting in front of the computer can cause less desirable influences as well.

For me it is important to force myself to balance activities outside my home with those inside my home. When I am inside balancing ways to focus on others with cuddling up with a blanket, book and hot cocoa is vital. Making gifts for others helps me focus on them instead of myself. Spending time praying for others, writing a note (sending through snail mail or e-mail) to encourage or cheer another are a couple other ways I can turn my focus outward when I am feeling stuck inside.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share with you more about what I am discovering about joy in my life. Hopefully it will inspire you to find more joy in January – and throughout the year!

blessings, peace, and JOY to you!
Paula

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A List of Consequences

Newton’s third law of motion states:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

He was, of course talking about physics and forces; the push-pull concept. What goes up must come down.

summer 2

When humans are involved the reaction is not always equal. Sometimes we feel the consequence for action is too severe. Other times our reaction to the actions of someone else is extreme. When emotions get involved our instantaneous  reactions can be so severe we wish we could take them back. We even find consequences to our reactions!

However, consequences are not always bad.

In the gospels we find a list of consequences in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount:

1. When we are poor in spirit,
   we gain the kingdom of heaven.

As we become more interested in holiness – in what the Holy Spirit desires for us we will be rewarded with eternity in God’s perfect Heaven.

2. When we mourn,
   we will be comforted.

God’s heart breaks for us when we mourn. Not only when bad things happen in our lives, but when we mourn over our wrong attitudes and actions, or when we mourn for others’ misfortune and a world that doesn’t know the love of God. He will comfort us and strengthen us to go on and shows us how we can make a difference in our world.

 3. When we are meek,
    we will inherit the earth.

Our society would have us believe that the strongest and most forceful people are the most influential and will go the farthest in this world. That is the opposite of God’s plan. As we follow Jesus’ example of being meek and putting the needs of others ahead of our own desires we will gain influence that money can’t buy not only in God’s kingdom but here on earth as well.

 4. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   we will be filled.

It is the desire of God’s heart for us to be like Him. When we desire honesty, integrity and goodness we will be filled with blessings beyond measure. As it says in Luke 6:38:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

5. When we are merciful,
    we will be shown mercy.

Our human tendencies are to treat others the way we are treated – to do unto others the way they do to us. But God’s kingdom is the opposite of this. Matthew 7:12 tells us:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…

Showing mercy, not retaliation is God’s desire for us. As we show mercy to others we will be shown mercy and goodness in return.

6. When we are pure in heart,
   we will see God.

Ah to be pure in heart all the time. I long to never think the wrong think or act or speak badly towards anyone. While that is my desire sin gets in the way. But when the desire of our hearts is to be pure and when we come before the Lord with confession, repentance and crave His will in our lives we will see all that He has for us and will be rewarded with a glimpse of His kingdom.

7. When we act as peacemakers,
    we will be called children of God.

Holding our tongues, allowing someone else to have their way, being the neutral buffer in the middle of a disagreement – all of these things help keep the peace. People will notice when we are peaceful in the middle of a tumultuous world and ask us about our actions. Then we can point others to God, our Father and perhaps see them become children of God as well.

8. When we are persecuted because of righteousness,
    we are given the kingdom of heaven.

No one likes to be made fun of for being different. When we act righteous in a world where people revel in sinful ways we most likely will be. In extreme cases persecution may even lead to death. We may not see the reward for living right here on earth but one day will be given the reward of the kingdom of Heaven.

This is a tall order, a list we cannot achieve on our own. But through the Spirit of God and His power we will see glimpses of perfection and the consequences will always be positive!

Blessings and peace to you,
Paula

 

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Blessings and Curses

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praising and cursing.
My friends this should not be.
Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
                                                            James 3:9-10

 

I am a thinker — sometimes to a fault I guess. This passage helps me realize that sometimes I “think out loud” regarding a person and his or her actions. Perhaps I am frustrated or just don’t understand how/why they can act a certain way. I don’t mean malice against them.

But how does this “talk” sound to someone who hears it?

Does it sound as though I am speaking against a person…cursing them in a sense?

How many times would it be better to keep my mouth shut?

Quick to listen James 1-19

I have discovered that at times keeping my mouth shut will help diffuse a situation even when others around us are being critical. I find that offering an alternate opinion often actually adds fuel to the fire of complaining and criticizing. Listening to someone complain and not responding, or diverting the conversation in another direction will often stop the negativity.

Scripture also tells us

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…
1 Thessalonians 5:11

If we concentrate on finding the good in others it doesn’t mean that we will never be frustrated with people or situations we encounter. It does however give us a different perspective and keep us from being outwardly critical. We will find that the atmosphere around us becomes less negative and more peaceful.

We will also find that as we are less outwardly critical we become more inwardly peaceful and positive as well. Our minds will begin to automatically think less negatively and more peacefully as we practice the presence of Christ within us.

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
                                                         2 Corinthians 10:5b

We can’t do this in our own power. It involves daily…sometimes hourly calling on the Holy Spirit to give us power that is not within our own human nature. His presence in our lives is what allows us to live peacefully in a world full of negativity.

It is what this world is hungry for, even if they don’t know it!!

As people encounter this peace they may question where it comes from. This opens opportunities to talk about Jesus with them!

I invite you to give this a try today and through the coming week. Begin to think about how little comments mean more than we give them credit for. And remember what it feels like when you receive a compliment or kind word. Even small kindnesses can add up to big blessings!

Blessings & peace to you as you bless others!!
Paula

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What Happened To Compassion?

Our world is filled with cynicism, busy-ness and ‘me first’ mentality. We are a people quick to judge and quick to become annoyed. How many times do we see someone fall down and we laugh and continue on our way? Or gossip about someone different from us behind their back?

make fun of

Our “news”casts are filled with sensational stories of people cheating on their spouses and doing outrageous stunts at the expense of others. Stories of kindness and compassion rarely show the sensationalism to make the cut.

As I write this I am convicted of conforming.

I am guilty too often of becoming part of this fast-paced world of “me first”.

How many times does a conversation include mention of a concern or hurt and I choose to skip over it and move forward as to not get drawn into more details? Am I in too big a hurry to get on to my own agenda instead of having compassion on a friend or a stranger?

Do I find amusement when something goes wrong for someone else?
Do I chuckle instead of lending a helping hand?
Not always, but perhaps too often.

Jesus calls us to have compassion for each other:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12

This is something He modeled for us throughout His ministry on earth:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes.
Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:34

Jesus was a busy man. He had people to reach and disciples to teach. But over and over we see Him model for us compassion as he stops to spend time with someone hurting, sad or in need of compassion.

It didn’t cost Him anything but His time, and often the results were eternal!

As we go into this weekend may we follow Jesus’ example of compassion.

compassion hands

I pray that each of us will not be too busy to give our time and lend an ear to someone who needs a touch from someone who cares. Watch for opportunities as you go through your days.

You could be the peace in someone’s puzzle today!

blessings and peace to you!
Paula

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Habits Are Hard

Happy 2014 no verse

It’s the time of year for resolutions. As 2014 dawns do you find yourself resolving to change things in this brand new year? I’ve been thinking about resolutions and how they are closely related to our habits. We resolve to lose weight, save more money, be kinder to those around us…there are so many common resolutions.

So we begin the year with good intentions and dive head-first into all the things we feel we need to change.

And then most of us fall on our faces a few weeks later.

fall face

But WHY?

Because our resolutions are directly related to our habits. And habits are hard.

Old/Bad habits are hard to break

New/Better habits are hard to make.

It’s really not as easy as writing something down on paper and declaring you will do it. It is said that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 21 days to break a habit. Intention and practice are required just like when we learn a new skill or hobby. Most of us could not pick up knitting needles and make a scarf in a couple of hours but experienced knitters can. Without winning the lottery or receiving a big inheritance people must work at building up a savings account. It comes by practicing restraint and saying “no” when we’d like to say yes more often.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43:18-19

The good news is we can change. We just need to remember to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run. Setting the right goals are important and we’ll discuss that in the next post. But if you’re anxious to get started on a few you’ve already set remember these tips:

  • Ease into something new. If you don’t exercise regularly don’t attempt to get up every morning and work out for an hour. Start with 3 or 4 days of exercise and when you’ve conquered that add another day or two.
  • When/if you mess up just pick up where you left off. Don’t throw in the towel in February because you haven’t done as well as you hoped. Looking back to see SOME progress is better than no progress at all because you gave up partway through.
  • Find someone to cheer you on. You don’t have to broadcast your goals/desires/resolutions for everyone if you don’t want to, but having someone to cheer you on and keep you on track can be essential for success. We should all have a cheerleader as well as a drill sergeant and a shoulder to cry on.

Happy New Year to you all! I pray this year holds more blessings than you can count.

Are you making resolutions this year? If so, will you share them with us?

In my next post we’ll look at setting goals and planning for the year ahead.

blessings and peace to you!
Paula

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Reluctant Thankfulness

I chuckle when I see or hear the phrase, “It’s the time of year to be thankful.”

Of course we should be thankful all year-long, but with Thanksgiving around the corner our focus bends towards being thankful more than other times of the year. As Black Friday sales press in on us from every side concentrating on thankfulness brings into focus what we have more than what we have not.

cornucopia

I’m wondering, though. Does your thankfulness ever come reluctantly?

We are human and our lives are sometimes laced with circumstances where it isn’t always easy to be thankful. Our family’s festivities will be mixed with sadness as we are without a very special uncle who went to Heaven earlier this year. Maybe you face a similar situation or something even more difficult.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 The apostle Paul encourages us to

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

That’s a pretty tall order!

In fact it’s easy for me to read this and see it as impossible. How can people be happy all the time and never grumble about circumstances we are in? If I don’t always rejoice and pray or have trouble giving thanks am I outside of God’s will for my life?

Let’s look at this verse with perspective.

I believe God doesn’t ask us to be thankful for all circumstances, but as the verse says, be thankful in all circumstances.The reality is that it is difficult to be thankful for some things. God knows this. However in the midst of the difficulty we always have something worthy of thanks.

This request is much easier when we follow what precedes the instruction…pray continually. When we pray and put ourselves in God’s hands we will find a strength we didn’t know we had and joy hiding in unexpected places.

If your thankfulness comes reluctantly this year, or if you’re struggling to be thankful at all, please be encouraged and seek God’s strength to get you through. If you need some earthly encouragement please let me know. I would be honored to stand with you in prayer.

Would you have a story of thankfulness to share with us today? We would be encouraged by the experiences of others.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with love and peace, and blessings galore.
Paula