The Elusive Contentment

Definition of contentment

1the quality or state of being contented

Definition of contented: feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation a contented smile. They lived a contented life.

We just finished a sermon series at church called “Chasing Carrots.” The series focused on the things we chase after, thinking they will make us happy and contented. It was thought provoking and challenging.

Today as I was on Facebook reading posts of my friends, I was reminded of the fact that we look for so many things in our lives to fulfill us. As I was reading I recognized the frustrations, sorrows, joys, and everyday challenges of life. But a couple of posts I read really made me think about the things we search for in life.

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You of All People

Today I was reading a scripture that leaped out at me in a way it never had before. Maybe it is because I have been reading a lot of headlines, twitter feeds, and Facebook posts. Maybe it is just that I am tired, both mentally and physically.  Or maybe it was because God was speaking to me through His word, like He never fails to do.

I can imagine God looking down on us from the Heavenly throne, with a heart that is heavy. I can imagine Jesus Christ, shaking His head and weeping copious tears for His church, His bride, His body. We Americans who call ourselves Christian are losing our way and becoming more and more like the people he came to set free. We are becoming legalistic, self-righteous, political, and judgmental.

Before you start calling me out, please understand that I do realize there are Christians out there who love and serve Jesus with all of their heart. I hear their voices and see their acts of service and their love for God. I know there are Christ followers out there who have compassion for the unlovable, the poor, the orphans, and the widows. There are servants who speak the truth of God and live it out daily.

But what I see a whole lot more of is people like me. Continue reading

Welcome Home!

This morning when I opened my facebook, I saw a picture of my friend’s parents when they were much younger. The news was both heartbreaking and joy making. Nita Hargrave had gone home to her heavenly father and to those who had reached heaven before her, including her husband.

My heart aches for her children and grandchildren who will miss her dearly. But my heart also rejoices for them — because they have the privilege and joy of knowing she loved God and them with all of her heart.

I met the Hargrave family when I was a young 17-year-old college student. I roomed with their daughter, Debby, for many of my young adult years. I do not think they will ever know the full impact they had on my life. Continue reading

A Jar of OIive Oil

“Ordinary People – Extraordinary God.” That is the tag line for my website. Today as I was doing my morning devotion, I thought about what it means to be ordinary. Because quite frankly, the longer I live, the more I realize no one is “ordinary.” Each person has their own unique abilities and gifts, their own unique personalities, their own unique stories, and their own unique challenges and joys.

But so many people consider themselves ordinary. Even people I know who are highly talented and motivated, often look at themselves through a lens that shows them as ordinary or even lacking.

I believe that is when God can shine the brightest. When we may be at our lowest, or when we see our lack, that is the time that God can take our weakness and show his strength. Continue reading

Dear Church Secretary

Week One

Dear Church Secretary,

I am so excited to hear that we have a new church secretary and want to be one of the first to welcome you on board. You will find that our church is loving and caring and we want you to feel like part of a family here. If you ever need anything, please feel free to call. My number is in the church directory. Welcome. Mrs. A

Week Two

Dear Church Secretary,

I am sure that after your first week you are starting to get settled in. You are doing a fine job, dear. I just want to mention one little thing, however. You need to make sure you are double checking the names when you type them. I noticed that you misspelled Caryn Jones’ name. It is spelled CARYN not KAREN like you put it in the bulletin. I am sure you will get the hang of things soon. If I can be any help, please let me know. Mrs. A.

Week Three

Dear Church Secretary,

I understand that there are many announcements that need to go in the newsletter, but I have to say I was extremely disappointed in my announcement regarding the VBS meeting. Continue reading

A Defining Day

On May 16, 1981, I woke up with a great sense of excitement and a little bit of apprehension. It was cloudy and rainy, but I did not let that dampen my anticipation of the day. In some ways it seemed like I had waited a lifetime for this day, but in others it seemed wonderfully new.

As I showered and  dressed, I realized that my whole life was about to change. No longer would my decisions impact only me, they would impact us. No longer would I be able to take off and go somewhere without a thought for telling someone where I was going. No longer would I eat toaster pastries for supper and consider that a meal.

A little voice inside my head said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” No. Wait. Continue reading

What Lies Beneath

Over Thanksgiving I ventured to Dallas to see my son and his family and my car was rear ended as I was sitting at a stop light waiting for the green light. I was hit hard enough to hit my head against the head rest rather forcefully, but when I got out and looked at the bumper of my car I was pleasantly surprised that it did not seem so bad. The car that hit me did not fare quite as well and had to be towed because the radiator was rapidly losing coolant.

On Monday I took my car to the repair shop anticipating being able to pick it up in a few days. Today I called and was dismayed to hear that there was way more damage to the car than initially estimated. When they took the bumper cover off, the damage was easily seen. I knew the trunk had big gaps on both sides, but the trunk and the steel body on both back panels had significant bends in them. So I wait while the insurance adjuster comes to take a look at the final damage and negotiates a new price for the repairs.

After I hung up from talking with the owner of the body shop, I thought how much like life this incident was. Sometimes we do not recognize the untreated wounds that are lying beneath the outside facade, until we peel back the protective layers we have used. Continue reading

Hallmark Moments

Think Hallmark movies are corny? You may be right but they may be truer to life than you think.

I confess. I watch Hallmark movies and right now the Christmas movies are out in full force. I have a friend who also watches Hallmark movies and I wait in anticipation of her pithy comments on each show. Here are just a few: “Tonight’s Hallmark tally: 2 more dead parents, 1 divorced and absent father. Mamas, don’t let your kids grow up to star in Hallmark movies.”Forty-five minutes in and the wife of the main character is dead. Seriously, why isn’t the funeral home the center of activity in these small towns? ” “Tuned in late for tonight’s Hallmark Christmas movie premiere. Never fear: we have one dead mother. The love interest really should be an undertaker.”

While I laugh at her comments and agree that most of the movies are just rewrites with different characters, the fact is, there is something that keeps people coming back to watch them. That is probably the improbable but happy endings and the thought that maybe, just maybe, no matter how bad life gets, there is hope. Continue reading

A Little Odor

Saturday morning I left my home to run some errands and when I came back and walked in the kitchen area, I noticed an unpleasant odor, not unlike that of a potato starting to rot. Investigating further, I decided that the odor was probably from the bag of potatoes in my pantry. They had been sitting in there long enough to start sprouting, and not looking any further, I threw them away. The odor lingered, but I assumed that it would dissipate fairly quickly now that the potatoes were gone. But it is a funny thing about odors. Sometimes when you are in them long enough, you do not even smell them anymore.

Sunday morning I left for church and when I returned home once again a slightly foul stench greeted me. Continue reading

Be a Difference Maker

We have them all around us–the lonely, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised, the bullied and the bullies. Sometimes they are almost invisible. Teachers see them every day at their schools, but there is not enough time nor enough resources to reach each one individually.

We see the patterns of individuals who isolate themselves from others, who have obsessions with violent video games, who have not been taught positive ways to deal with anger, grief, pain, and loneliness. And yet, we still do not recognize the signs until it is too late to save them and others from their own poor judgments. Continue reading