And now, for the thrilling conclusion…here is the second part of 12 for 2012.
7. Be Difficult to Offend.
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” ~Winnie the Pooh
I found this Winnie the Pooh quote a few years ago but like much great wisdom–it’s taken a while to really set in. So generally speaking I tend to ere on giving people the benefit of the doubt; so even when they are rude and self-centered, I make excuses for them saying ‘oh perhaps they just had a piece of fluff in their ear.’ Or at least that’s what I used to do. However, I think I realized this a few years ago, and promptly decided that I should start becoming more easily offended. That’ll show ’em. But it didn’t show anyone anything, except for me. And unfortunately it did draw to my personal attention the number of times I haven’t given people my full attention, not because I was trying to be mean, rude or indifferent, but just because I too had a small piece of fluff in my ear. And so I made an intentional decision. No, I don’t plan on being a doormat to others, but as a way of extending the same grace that I so frequently need, I have decided to be patient with others, as a precautionary measure against misinterpreted fluff…because you don’t always know. And because being offended doesn’t really hurt anyone as much as it hurts you.
8. Not Why, but How.
I like to have answers, and have things figured out as much as the next person. But this year I realized that sometimes my ‘why’ questions were sending me into the land of the crazy-making and joyless fitzles. I remember hearing this lady once, talk about having cancer. It really made an impression on me. Someone asked her ‘don’t you ask God, why?’ and she told them that ‘the question isn’t why, but always how? How can God be glorified in this?’ That really got to me. I think this year I realized something about the why question and why it’s important. I think it’s because the place where we ask ‘why’ is the place right down in the center of our deepest aches. It’s the place where whatever we put our faith in is really brought into question. When we say why, what we’re really acknowledging is that life isn’t fair, and since it not, can God be good? Can life be good? So I am working on something personally regarding my why questions. When I find myself in the middle of the unfair, I have decided that I will notice it’s unfairness sitting there, being in my life. But that’s all it is, just my bit of the unfair. I’m not going to fall into a fit trying to figure out why my life is unfair in that way, and not going the way other people’s lives are, or the way I thought it would or the way I think it should. Most of all, I refuse to let ‘why’ deteriorate the foundation of my faith or my belief that God is, and that God is good. Life isn’t fair, but my ten cents, for what’s worth? Don’t let your joy slip away, while you meanwhile go nuts trying to find a reason, within a frequently unreasonable world. Stop focusing on the why, and focus instead on how to live the most loving authentic life possible.
9. I am the disciple Jesus Loves
I’ve always liked the disciple John. Lots of people relate to Peter. I like Peter, sometimes I even relate to Peter. However, as one co-worker put it, ‘I’m the kind of person who takes a step back, before I take a step forward.’ (Another, less kindly, just called it being passive. Ugh for being blunt.) But either way, I tend to lack that impulsive, act/speak without thinking trend that Peter was so well known for. (Not that I never get my foot stuck in my mouth… but it’s not my default mode.) John was the disciple I’ve more frequently related to. He has his own problems, his own failings, but he’s loyal, and you usually find him close by his friends, even if he’s not in the middle of the action. I like that about John. He also writes one of the most eloquent passages in the New Testament (John 1) and penned one of the most boggling books of the Bible (Revelation.) A dreamer, a writer, and a loyal friend. All things I admire. One of the things I’d never really noticed before though, is that in the book of John (which was written by John) he refers to himself as ‘the disciple Jesus Loves.’ Joyce Meyer gave a teaching on that this fall. It’s as though by the time he’s writing the book he’s not out to prove anything–he’s just receiving. I, the disciple Jesus loves. It’s amazing what a difference knowing we’re loved means. When you know that you’re loved, you can stop trying to prove things. You don’t have to be what you’re not, or be afraid, or be alone. Things that were impossible, become possible in love. And so I’ve added this idea to my morning affirmations. Yes, if you grew up in church you sang it a hundred times ‘Jesus loves me’ but do you actually believe that? And if you did, what difference would it make to know that someone actually deeply, unconditionally, and ferociously loves you? What if you could start each morning knowing without a doubt, I am loved.
10. This too Shall Pass.
This was one of my mum’s favorite things to say to me when I was a teenager. I’d be in the midst of a hormonal, teenage, meltdown and she would just look at me all calm and serene and say, ‘this too shall pass.’ It would make me so angry. I didn’t WANT it to pass…I wanted the problem (whatever that was) to be solved. The funny thing is, that just like the vegetables she used to make me eat, that I hated at the time, and now crave as comfort food? Likewise I now find myself using this very saying to comfort myself. Sometimes you don’t want things to change, but they will. And sometimes you think they’ll never change, but guess what? They will. Whatever it is, it’s going to come, and go and be a memory someday. You can stress yourself out, you can go crazy, you can have a melt down, or you can walk serene, happy, confident, enjoying the ride–either way you play one thing won’t change–whatever it is, good or bad, will pass. The only difference will be in how you enjoy the ride. It’s helpful for me to remember this–to enjoy all the good stuff, because it won’t be here forever (rejoice, today), but also to keep it as a light at the end of the tunnel, and put the bad stuff in prospective. No matter how big the ache, the world is temporary, life is temporary. This too, shall pass.
11. Raise Your Ebenezer
This is a practice I started last year, but I got the idea a few years back when I finally got around to looking up what ‘Ebenezer’ actually means. (It doesn’t always pertain to Scrooge as it turns out). I ran onto the word in the book of Samuel. Long story shortened, the Israelites fight a battle, win and to honor the Lord they put a huge stone there, a stone of remembrance and name it Ebenezer. It literally means, ‘stone of help.’ Last winter, I was reflecting on my life towards the end of the year, and getting a little down and so I decided to make a list of all the good stuff that had happened. The list wasn’t too shabby actually (despite how I felt about the year when I started writing the list), and so in he process I started to realize the value of making my own little Ebenezer’s in my life. The thing is, sometimes I forget. I forget how things worked out for good, and the close calls that didn’t turn out bad. I think it’s really important to have things in my life that remind me of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, the victory’s I’ve had, and frankly put, the good stuff. I need to put up more stones of remembrance, to remind me that I have had good help along the way, and I’ve never fallen alone. I hope that in the coming year, I can get a little better at ‘raising my Ebenezer’ and putting up ‘stones’ to remember my times of blessing.
12. Do Something Beautiful for God
When I was thirteen the movie Braveheart came out. It was the first R rated movie that I actually remember watching, but my parents thought it was noteworthy enough in message that they let me watch. There’s this pretty famous line where William Wallace says, ‘every man dies, not every man truly lives.’ I think about that every once in a while, and sometimes it stress it me out. I know I’m going to die someday–and most of the time I don’t really feel that scared about dieing, but the thing that keeps me up at night in worry is that I might flunk the living part. There are so many things I want to do, and so many dreams I have, and so many big, crazy, amazing, adventures I want to take. And what if I don’t get to them? What if I don’t truly life? Then last spring I ran unto another quote by Mother Teresa, she said that we should do something beautiful for God. I really liked it. It’s so simple sounding. So I got to thinking, I think all the big stuff is fantastic, and I think it’s part of the the ‘truly living.’ But I think the thing that distinguishes an exquisite, well-lived, truly lived life, from a mediocre existence is actually quite simple. It’s not doing something big or crazy, but it’s doing the little things well, thus crafting your very life into something beautiful before God. You leave things better then you found them, you choose life, you tell people you love them, you live presently; starting in the littlest details of life, you live beautifully, as unto God, and that radiates into every corner of your existence. If you’re doing that, then I think in my opinion, and probably William would agree, you truly are alive.
So, that wraps up my New Years thoughts. I hope this year proves to be one of the really good ones. Happiest of New Year wishes from me to you.