Becoming Complete

“The church is Christ’s body. It is filled with him. He makes everything complete in every way.”  Ephesians 1:23

Most of us have days when we just feel at odds with our bodies, our families, our partners, our lives, our worlds.  The days that no matter how many people are around us we still feel lonely or like we don’t fit in.  Some people wonder if they were born in the wrong era or culture.  It’s OK to search for where you fit in, it’s healthy to want to belong and feel loved.  The problem comes in when you turn to drugs or alcohol to make up for that lost feeling, mostly because they will never do what you want them to.

The good news is that God has a plan for your completion, for filling that gaping hole in your life.  Part of it is spending time with like-minded people. The other part is finding and living the purpose He has for you here on earth.  When you accept the purpose and passion He has put in your life you’ll begin the journey to living a fulfilling and complete life.  Feeling complete is different for each of us.  Some feel fulfilled being at home with kids, others work in high energy jobs, others are fulfilled writing books.  The biggest responsibility and opportunity in your life is discovering and doing that which makes you feel complete.

But as I said, what you do is only part of that completion.  The other part is your spiritual heart that must be cared for as well.  We’re more than just people going about doing people things.  We have this other part to us, the part that makes us feel guilty when we do something wrong, that warms us when we see cute fuzzy animals, that hurts when we see others suffering.  As intangible as it may be, it’s an unshakeable part of who we are.

This week as you meet the challenges and opportunities in your life, be courageous and step forward with the knowledge that you are part of something bigger.  Something that is ready to support you as soon as you as.  Something that will make and keep you strong even through the toughest of days.  It’s there for each of us in our time of need, we just have to reach out and accept it.

Unlocking Blessings

“Gratitude is an opener of locked-up blessings.” Marianne Williamson

I love how every year without fail the leaves change colors on the trees where I live.  How each year they go from rather uniform green to a multitude of colors; colors that make us think warm drinks, apple pie and nights by the fire.  It amazes me that in those little green leaves lies the power to transform into all these amazing colors.  I don’t know how the leaves always know exactly when to turn, but they seem to know without fail each and every year.  Somehow something clicks or shifts in each and every leaf to make the transformation begin from green to colors.

We’ve got that built in transformation tool too.  It’s called gratitude.  When we make it a regular part of our lives and days to be grateful, to express gratitude and to welcome other people’s thankgsivings into our lives we have the keys to unlock many gifts and opportunities.  When we recognize the good stuff that’s around us, it’s easier for us to accept the other good stuff coming our way.  When we focus on just the stuff that’s going wrong, the stuff we don’t like or the stuff that’s not working, we block out any opportunities that could be ours.

But not only is a regular gratitude practice good for your life, it’s good for those who you interact with.  I don’t know anyone who says “I like nasty, miserable people!” and really means it.  Most people like to meet and interact with those who are friendly and personable, and when you’re busy being thankful for things, it’s easier to be friendly than when you’re grumpy and thinking about all that’s going wrong.

Take time this week to examine your life and the lock box that is your attitude.  Are you open to the great stuff that could come your way, or are you stuck in the past dealing with trash?

Words of Life

“We want to tell you about the Word that gives life—the one who existed before the world began.” 1 John 1:1

You may have heard the song “Words” by Hawk Nelson.  It reminds us that our words have power.  Think back to when you were a child.  I’m sure you can remember some of the hurtful things that were said to or about you, even if you weren’t supposed to hear them.  We all make mistakes and say things that we shouldn’t, things that do hurt people.  We also think things about ourselves that hurt us.  When we go over and over a failure in our heads considering all angles and options, the words we think can hurt us too, maybe even more than the original situation.

Which is why what John 1:1 reveals is so important: words can give life too.  They don’t just have to break down, criticize or be; they are powerful tools that we can use for good.  When you’re able to catch that nasty comment, when you’re able to hold back your anger, you’re stopping the hurt.  But when you’re able to compliment someone, when you’re able to share an encouraging word, when you’re able to express gratitude, you’re putting the power back in words as God meant them to be.

You may never be as outspoken as Billy Graham or Mother Teresa and tell millions about the Words that give true, eternal, life.  But you can choose to use words in your daily life, in all your interactions, that are of love, hope, and peace, rather than hate, hurt and misery.

Words have been around since the dawn of time, and everyone has been challenged to use them wisely or waste them.  What will you do with your words this week?

Silence Speaks

“In the silence of the heart God speaks” Mother Teresa

It’s not easy to find a quiet place to be, whether at home or on the road, there are always others around or an electronic device within reach that can bring people to us.  Even in the early hours of the morning when things used to be quiet people are now up and about, on the road and busy doing things.  Where has the quiet gone?

You see, the thing about quiet that we’re not as willing to accept or welcome is that it gives our insides a chance to reveal what’s going on.  It means we would have to recognize our emotions.  It means that we would have time to consider our actions. It means that we might think about what we’re doing versus our purpose and what our heart calls us to.  These are all things that can be uncomfortable to us if we haven’t been in touch with our heart in a long time.

But if you really want a fulfilling life it’s essential to spend some time each day in silence, just sitting and being.  Some people do traditional meditation, some take bubble baths, others sit on their back porch or in a quiet local park with a cup of tea or coffee.  It’s in those moments that we can discover the truth about our restlessness, find the peace to continue another day, and find the guidance we desperately seek.

If you’re wondering where God, where the answers in the universe, where the truth about your life is, consider how much time you spend each day being quiet.  Make time each day to be quiet and check in with yourself, the universe and God.  It will help you be more centered, more relaxed, more inspired, more successful and make more confident decisions.  What’s your favorite way to have quiet time?

Only with God’s Grace

Grace is a topic that always fascinates me.  It’s one I’ve written many devotionals and blog posts on as well as taught many youth group lessons.  It’s one of those topics that never fully reveals itself, and there’s always something new to learn.  What is grace anyway?  A really simple definition is “God’s mercy and goodness to us.”  It doesn’t really describe the whole package, but it’s a start.

Hebrews 4:16 says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Grace is that unknown factor, that last second touchdown, that surprisingly answerable question on a math test, that free drink from the person in front of you in line, that delay on a deadline, that forgiveness when none is deserved.  It can’t be predicted or expected, but without it hope would have much less impact or relevance.  Not to mention that each of us need mercy and blessings in our lives almost on a daily basis.

The awesome thing is that God is there ready for us when we need help.  Maybe we won’t get the exact answer we were looking for or be freed of consequences, but whenever we need that peace that passes all understanding it’s waiting for us just a prayer away.  We all have those dark-night-of-the-soul days too where the only thing that can pull us out is a touch from God.  The next time you’ve screwed up, or just don’t know what to do, don’t worry, you can get through this challenge too, just lean on God’s grace.

Success and Responsibility

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.  You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny.”  Albert Ellis

I think that this is one of the keys to, of all things, success.  Most people don’t become successful accidentally, instead there are specific actions they’ve taken to get to the success they have, usually first and foremost making the decision to be responsible for their lives and their actions.  One of the best feelings in the world is the feeling of empowerment when you choose to be in control of your future to the very best of your ability.  100% control is of course a myth, but it is possible to control your life and situations to a certain extent; usually enough to successfully accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

If you think about Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, both of these individuals faced problems and challenges, but the difference between the average person in their situations and them, was that these individuals chose to react in the way that they did to their situations.  They chose the path they did because they understood that even if they didn’t cause or weren’t responsible for the situations they found themselves in, the best thing they could do was take the road they did.  It wasn’t about fame, fortune or popularity, it was about doing the purpose-driven thing that felt right for their lives.

When we’re faced with the responsibilities of life, or even the garbage that seems to build up, we have the choice of how we’re going to respond too.  We can take those situations and improve our futures, or we can suffer needlessly.  Improving our futures may take some work, but it’s always worth it in the end.  Let’s make tomorrow the start of the best years of your life.

Gifts, Actions, and Responsibility

“The Apostles said to them, “It would not be right for us to give up our work of teaching God’s word in order to be in charge of getting food to people.””  Acts 6:2

To understand this verse and get to our topic today we need a little context: when the Christian church was in its infancy after Jesus was on earth the people who had worked closest with Jesus (the Apostles) were in charge of everything.  But as the church grew the Apostles quickly realized they couldn’t do it all and started to delegate responsibilities.   They took advantage of others with good leadership ability or who showed potential and were willing to serve God and put them in positions of authority to tackle some of the tasks that didn’t have to be done by the top leaders, like food distribution to the poor as seen in this verse in Acts 6.  It’s an important task to be sure, but not one that had to be done by those at the top of the organization.

The same remains true for us today: we each have different gifts that can be used within the Church as well as in our towns, our jobs, and even with strangers.  However, not only do we not always use our gifts, sometimes we deliberately don’t use our gifts to help others.  Think about the number of stores you’ve been in where the employees were barely civil to you, and the businesses you’ve been in where you were welcomed.  Sometimes these employees are trained to treat you well, other times they’re just acting as they naturally would and treating you well.  And of course there are the stores where you’re astonished someone that rude or unhelpful could be hired and paid to work there.

The bottom line is as people we’re responsible for how we treat others, whether we’re helpful, kind, loving, accepting, rude, selfish, or angry, and we all have a choice as to if we accept that responsibility or don’t.  And sometimes we’ll do better at following our choice to be responsible than others, everyone has the occasional bad day or human moment.

This week I challenge you to not only use your strengths wisely, but also partner up with those around you to make the world a better place inside the church and around the world.