By Kim Stokely –
I’m convinced that within me is an “obsession gene.” For the most part, this gene lies dormant within my DNA, but every couple of years, like some mutant cicada, it reawakens and consumes my mind.
When I was a child, the obsessions would center on a certain book or television show. It’s all I could think or talk about for weeks. When my husband and I married 25 years ago, my mother gave us a Nintendo 64 system for our first Christmas together. Fortunately my husband was on shift work, or my non-stop game playing through the night might have caused him to rethink his marriage vows.
Over the past twenty years I’ve become obsessed with different video games. Once, it was saving the citizens of Naboo from an Imperial take-over. My family staged an intervention when I suspected a flock of birds was actually a fleet of tie-fighters. Then there was the time I became consumed with the goal of becoming a Rollercoaster Tycoon. I even had the kids pray for the victims of a terrible crash in one of my imaginary theme parks.
As I get older, the obsessions seem to be fewer and far between. There were the brief addictions to Pet Society and Angry Birds, but it’s been quite a while since the last one.
So imagine my husband’s surprise when he saw that frightening, yet familiar, sparkle in my eyes after I returned home from a craft night with the ladies from my church.
“Oh, no.” He grabbed my shoulders. “What is it this time?”
His brows furrowed. “Knitting?”
I nodded. “Scarves! Look!” I held up the half-completed, first attempt, at a sashay scarf. The silver thread in the yarn sparkled in the kitchen light. My mind was transfixed.
Since that night, some four weeks ago, I’ve knit a myriad of the twirling pieces of neckwear. Like zucchini from a summer time garden, the scarves keep appearing. I’ve begun handing them out to strangers in the street. I don’t know how long this obsession is going to last, but my husband hopes it’ll end soon before I spend all of our retirement money on yarn.
God wants us to be that consumed with Him. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). It’s hard, in this world of distractions, to maintain that kind of focus on God. But if I can have that kind of concentration for a video game or craft project, I know that it is possible. It’ll take a commitment to His word and to prayer. But it is something to which we all should strive.
By Rhonda Rhea –
I hear if you put a Whitman’s Sampler under your pillow, the cavity fairy will bring you…a $200 invoice from your dentist. If you try it, you should know that while the midnight snacking is awesome, there most likely will be some time in the chair in your future. On the other hand, you’ll probably be smiling all the way to the dentist.
Personally, I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to fight tooth decay while also utilizing my time more efficiently. Like this morning I’m putting toothpaste in my breakfast cereal. Gotta love a hearty bowl of dental hygiene in the morning. Four out of five dentists still think it’s a little weird.
There’s nothing wrong with utilizing our time well. But life is not really all about utilizing our time. It’s more about surrendering it. And not just a “sampling.” We’re using time well when we’re loving Him with all of it. And when we’re remembering His love for us. Even when life is cavity-filled or riddled with every other kind of difficulty, it’s good to remember that His love is ever sure and steady.
There’s great strength in a keen awareness of His great love. There’s great strength in loving Him with abandon. Difficulties can cause us to feel weak and fragile. They can make the future look dark and scary. But understanding His love for us and operating in loving surrender to Him gives us a different outlook on the future. We can smile. Whether or not those dentists agree.
The virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 is a great example: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future” (verse 25 NASB). This woman is strong—she “wears” that strength—and smiles at what’s ahead.
Resting in the love of God, relying on Him, strengthens us to the point we don’t have to fear difficulties. “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” (Psalm 112:1, 7-8 ESV).
Ah, there’s that key to a great smile. It’s not in what we do or don’t eat. It’s not in when or how we brush. A heart that’s firmly, steadily trusting in the Lord is one that can smile at the future, even in the face of problems. Those troubles don’t have to fill our lives with fear. Everything truly vital for life is perfectly secure. “The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side” (Psalm 121:5 HCSB).
I’d much rather spend my time relying and resting in the Lord, not fearing and fretting over any old difficulties. It’s true, I can always find a smile there. I can lie down at night, I can sleep peacefully. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust” (Psalm 4:8 AMP).
Sleeping with a smile. Nevermind any lumps under the pillow. Though you’ll want to keep in mind that sleeping with chocolate under your pillow at night can lead to cavities in the day. And for the record, also ants.
By Rhonda Rhea –
Big things come in small packages. I think the person who said that sat beside me in my high school geometry class. Even though I was really bad at geometry, I would never copy off that guy’s paper. Because that would be very wrong, yes. But also because the answer would also likely be very wrong.
Let’s be real. As much as I tried, I could never make myself care what “Y” equaled. Congruently (see what I did there?), I don’t care what size the package is. Just as long as the package is for me. I love it when the delivery truck pulls into my driveway. A friend mentioned the other day that she gets so much more out of sending a package to someone else than she does from receiving a gift herself. I plastered a smile on my face and nodded like I understood but I’m ready to be honest now: she doesn’t get me at all. And if she ever does get me, I’m convinced she’ll be a little appalled.
I was reminded recently of something even more appalling. Did you know that various studies indicate that 60 to 70% of our twenty-somethings—even those who were very active in church during their growing up years—stop attending church before they hit 30? Not a few of them. Not some of them. Most of them. That’s beyond appalling. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
When it comes right down to it, we don’t get to choose on behalf of the next generation. It’s not really a “package deal.” Each one will make his own choice to follow Christ or to walk away.
We can’t choose for them. But we can make sure we train them. We can continually speak the Gospel into the lives of the young people we’re around. Without a true saving knowledge of Christ, they take nothing solid into adulthood—nothing real to build their lives on. They need truth.
Training others in how to walk out a solid faith will always build up the church. Paul talked about it in Ephesians 4:12 when he spoke of training saints “in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,” (HCSB). We can tell them with our words and we can show them by our example how to love Jesus and love people in His name, passionately working for the Lord. We’re told that the people who get that will “no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit (vs.14 HCSB).
The truth in love. It’s what every generation needs. “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15 HCSB). As we give it out and live it out, we’re not only helping others grow, we’re growing in Christ ourselves. It’s better than merely receiving. It’s bigger than just giving. It’s the total package! You can copy my answer on that one.
As for my packages here at home, I’ve come up with my own theorems and formulas on that. Looks like I’ll probably always be at least a little appalling.
By Dawn Wilson –
A popular retro refrigerator magnet proclaims, “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” From the looks of my house, I’m not wasting any time!
No, the truth is, everyone wastes time. A motivational video by performance artist Ze Frank used jelly beans to show the essence of time in our lives.
He used data from the American Time Use Survey (Department of Labor). The video’s narrator says the average American has approximately 28,835 days of life. A pile of jelly beans represented those days. A man extracted first one, then 364 candies for the first year of life. Then, 5,575 jelly beans represented the first 15 years from childhood to the threshold of adulthood.
The question was, what do we do with the remainder of our time?
Sleep equals 8,477 days; and eating, drinking and food preparation comes to 1,635. Work takes up 3,202 days, and we travel for 1,099 days. We watch television (or entertainment) 2,676 days. We spend another 1,576 days doing chores, tending to pets and shopping. Another 564 days, we care for friends and family. We spend 671 days grooming, bathing and visiting the bathroom.
We’re involved in community and religious activities or duties, charities, and taking classes for 720 days.
What’s left? Time “for laughing, swimming, making art, going on hikes, text messages, reading, checking Facebook, playing softball, maybe even teaching yourself how to play the guitar.”
But then the thought-provoking questions: “How much of (that remaining time) do you think you’ve already used up? If you only had half of it, what would you do differently? What about half of that? … What if you just had one more day?”
As a Christian, I’ve thought a lot about wasted versus purposeful living. I don’t think we’ll know we’re wasting life unless we consider what it means not to waste it.
In Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper wrote, “God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying His supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
It sounds like the opening words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Enjoying God and displaying His supreme excellence are both crucial. Expressing joy without concern for God’s glory fails to give Him the honor He is due. We were created for His glory in all things (Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
By Dawn Wilson –
I love Dragonspeak technology. Except when I hate it. I speak into my headset and words “magically” appear on my computer screen. But not always the words I want.
Some examples: Instead of “distinguishes,” I found “to sting wishes;” instead of “philosophers,” I got “Phil law suffers;” and “Eureka” ended up “You reek uh.”
My dog Roscoe sits on a platform by the window next to my desk. He barks at everything outside: a dog, a mailman, a leaf flying by. He doesn’t understand that every “Bark. Bark. Bark” ends up as “Wart. Wart. Wart” on my monitor.
Dragonspeak is so sensitive, every time I stop talking I see the word “whew” on my screen. It’s recording my breathing!
I’m making adjustments and trying to train Dragonspeak to behave, because sometimes I don’t catch misspelled words in important documents. My boss recently returned an email: “Can you make some corrections here?” Ugh. I missed some.
Conversational misunderstandings happen all the time in relationships. Comedians’ repertoires often include stories about spouses who misunderstand each other. Couples need to clarify sometimes: “Did you really say what I think you said?”
Poor communication can cause chaos in an otherwise good relationship.
One day I yelled a question to my hubby from the kitchen. Back in the study, he really couldn’t hear me well, but he shot back an answer anyway. We were both satisfied that we’d been heard—until later when we realized we didn’t understand each other at all. And it cost us!
Over the years, we’ve established important communication guidelines, mostly because of our miscommunication!
1. Plan what you’re going to say, even if it only takes a minute, so you can say it clearly and concisely.
2. Consider whether it’s a good time to speak. Will the person be receptive, or is he or she preoccupied right now? Multitasking won’t help the process. Stop what you’re doing, and wait for him or her to stop. Or come back later.
3. When you do speak, be sure you have the person’s full attention, eye-to-eye.
4. Tell the person what you’re going to say. Then say it. (And repeat, if necessary.)
5. Wait for a response. No fly-by comments, spouting something and then leaving the room.
6. When it’s your turn to listen, be respectful. Don’t interrupt and don’t complete the other person’s sentences. That’s rude.
7. Finally, paraphrase what the person said. Make sure you heard correctly before moving on in the conversation or in your activities.
God cares about communication too. He wants us to know His purposes and expectations.
Too often, we enter our “Quiet Time” with Him distracted and hurried. We say a quick prayer, grab a verse or two and we’re on our way. But is there true communication? Is it just the saying and reading of words?
We need to focus our thinking, stop multitasking—even good, important things—and seek the Lord for a fresh awareness of His presence (Jeremiah 29:12-13) where we can speak our hearts and truly listen to Him! Our prayer might be, “Your Face, Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8 NIV).
God understands what we’re saying and thinking, but He also wants us to understand Him. We need to “search the scriptures” until we understand God’sheart. He so wants to teach us.
I’m truly thankful God speaks to us. And I’m so glad the scriptures aren’t like my Dragonspeak.