Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthday 101

Last Saturday evening I attended a birthday party for a grand, old lady, celebrating her 101st birthday. As you can imagine, there were many toasts, speeches and well wishes for the birthday girl. And as can be expected, people were asking her: “What is your secret of your long life?” And Rosa’s response was always: “I don’t know...”

It was amusing to hear the questions asked of Rosa: what did she do to live so long and look much younger than her years? What are the foods she loves and eats? Is she vegetarian? Did she smoke or drink alcohol?

People discussed among themselves what they thought would give long life: the foods we eat, the consuming of alcohol or not, meditation, Bible reading and prayer, honesty and simplicity of mind. Wisely, Rosa did not claim right living, no smoking of tobacco, no consuming of alcohol and the usual verbiage concerning longevity.

This lady, who has seen her great-great grandchildren looks like a person 80 years of age for the most and, by God’s grace, she looks at television without glasses, keeps an intelligent conversation and has survived colon cancer just five years ago.

What makes one person live to the age of 101 and beyond, usually surviving illness, sorrow and difficult times, while others are dying at a much younger age? I have seen people who were ill, in the jaws of death, spat out again for another lease of life. I have seen people who seemed well and just went to bed and never got up again. All of this is a mystery, too much closed for us to unlock.

Concerning old age: despite the usual aches and pains, there are some benefits to old age, for example, many are the life lessons learned and most issues of life are not needed to be speculated upon any more. Too, many elderly folk enjoy watching their family grow, keeping tally of the grand children and great-grandchildren with a sense of self-fulfilment

What is the mystery of old age? What is the mystery of life as a whole? Each of us is a mystery—-our birth, life-existence and death are all parts of the one grand mystery called life that we experience day by day. And hinting at the fullness and mystery of life, Jesus taught that “there is more to life than the things we possess...” (Luke 12:15). This indicates that there is much we do not know about life.

All life is a mystery. In the song “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” Rida Johnson Young wrote that she found the mystery of life and knew the secret of it all. The song is as follows:

Ah! sweet mystery of life, at last I've found thee;
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
All the longing, striving, seeking, waiting, yearning,
The burning hopes, the joys and idle tears that fall!
For 'tis love, and love alone, the world is seeking;And 'tis love, and love alone, that can repay;
Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all of living,
For it is love alone that rules for aye!

NOTE: The song “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” was written by Rida Johnson Young and set to music by Victor Herbert.

What is the secret of life? There is no known secret of life—-especially long life. If that were so then there would have to be a secret to a short existence. And no one knows anything about those two occurrences. From the moment we enter this land of the living, our passport is stamped for departure at some time, whether we are aware of that time or not.

The secret and mystery of it all are in our Creator’s mind and hands, and His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dealing With Procrastination

Did you ever have an important task to do and kept avoiding it? Maybe it was a letter to be written, a phone call to be made or any of the multiple tasks that confront us, day by day. Or it might have been certain steps you needed to take in order to achieve a goal. However, whatever it was, you just kept putting it off till another time with seeming justifiable reasons and excuses, not realizing that procrastination had gotten a hold on you.

Procrastination is one of the commonest deceptions we allow into our lives, complete with its veils and fa├žades for us to hide behind. We procrastinate in many ways, for example, leaving a task undone up to the last minute, avoiding a task completely, doing insignificant tasks rather than what we should be doing, beginning a necessary task and quickly moving off to something else that sabotages our attention.

Often, when we put off major tasks we feel guilty and compensate for our actions by doing minor tasks that could easily wait for another time. This attitude somehow gives us a sense of usefulness, but is the battle won? This is a neat trick we do to ourselves to make us feel productive but the fact is that the main thing to be done still goes undone.

A medieval sage has said: “Defer not till the evening what the morning will accomplish.” And this wise admonishment still stands today, concerning anything from day to day chores to achieving fulfillment of your personal desires and goals.

Procrastination is a learned attitude: an organized delay tactic, and as such, we can learn to overcome it. When we find ourselves doing any of the above we need to be inquiring of ourselves as to the reason for our attitude.

Procrastination often works under the guise of caution or carefulness, yet it is the result of double mindedness and can become habitual. It is a defense mechanism, so strong and natural to us at times, that we cannot identify it for what it is. However, there are often deeper psychological reasons for habitually putting things off which can be fear, guilt, just plain indifference or other issues.

At James 1:8, the Scriptures say: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And when we examine procrastination, we see that it fits this Scripture for it is from a mind beset with too many conflicting issues at hand.

We see too, that procrastination is a type of rebellion and habitual procrastinators are persons plagued by inner conflicts, continually struggling with double sided opinions, usually over simple matters. One part of their minds says: “Go...” and another part says: “What if I go...then ...” and a litany of negative responses arise.

We all procrastinate at times. Yet, the important thing to observe is how habitual it is, how intense it is, and how we deal with it. Sometimes, we lag in our duties and chores, thinking they are too cumbersome, but thank goodness, when we discipline ourselves, often we do those tasks faster and better than we ever could have thought possible.

How can we overcome habitual procrastination? Here are some practical suggestions:

First, recognize the most important tasks at hand, then recognize your habitual inner self-talk about them. Did you ever notice that often, we actually speak our procrastination into manifestation by making statements like these: “I find it so hard to do this or that task.” “No matter how hard I try, I never can begin doing the things I want to do before twelve o’clock every day...” “I cannot seem to find the time to do this or that task...”

Make a list of things to be done with the most important ones first. A helpful idea is to set down dates and times by which they are to be done. And the classic idea of setting realistic goals stands forever.

When we correct our negative inner self-talk and spoken words, we would find that most of the battle is won. Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When dealing with procrastination, two vital practices are developing discipline and creating a sense of completion or closure. Therefore, plan your work and work your plan. If your task is a big one, break it down into workable portions and move through those portions, one at a time. Then discipline yourself to complete one task before going to another. It might be surprising to find how easy it is to get your tasks done when you work at them in small, organized steps.

Last, but not least, examine the situation to see if you need help and seek help if you need it. Too often, we try to do more than we really need to.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Overcoming Fear

We cannot deny that fear is one of our fundamental human traits, and every day, we are confronted by many situations that prove this. For example, there is the fear of losing our jobs, our homes, our memory, our lives and much more, and truly, we have little or no control over any of those issues. Our only control in the matter is our choice to take initiative and go to God in prayer.

Fear enslaves our souls, causing us to doubt God’s lovingkindness and anticipate evil tidings. However, at 2 Timothy 1:7, the Scriptures teach that God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This indicates that God does not want us to live in soul-crippling situations but to come to Him with our troubling concerns and trust Him to work things out.

Nevertheless, there are some justifiable fears we face, for example, the fear of an oncoming vehicle while attempting to cross the street, wild animals approaching us, and devastations like earthquakes and storms, just to name a few. But we can overcome overwhelming feelings of fear such as timidity in standing up for our rights, losing our livelihood, contracting illness and disease, and the outcome of troubling issues in our lives.

Are you living in fear of some kind? Maybe there is a serious challenge in your life and you are afraid that things will not work out favourably to you. Maybe you are afraid of the paths your children are choosing, thinking it can only bring destruction and hurt. It may be any of the many fears we face day by day. Here is a helpful solution: become very quiet and analyze the situation. Then inquire of yourself the true reason for your fear, which most likely, is totally unjustified, and go to God.

How can you overcome fear? Firstly, by recognizing the truth that God did not give His children the spirit of fear, and anything He did not give is not of Him, therefore fear is an enemy to your soul, and you can reject its seeming power over you. Secondly, by recognizing God the Father and Jesus, His Son as being totally free from fear, and affirming the truth of your oneness with them according to Jesus' prayer in John 17:21-23. Thirdly, by releasing your fears to God in communion and prayer, and trusting Him not only for deliverance from fear but also the perfect outworking of the issue at hand.

As we grow in the grace of God, we come to realize more deeply that fear is a deception out of the kingdom of darkness meant to keep our minds off God. And as children of God, we learn to daily affirm our position in Him, put on His whole armour against the kingdom of darkness and walk in the Kingdom of light.

Dear God, help me to realize the truth that greater is your power and love in me than anything in the world, and grant me the wisdom and strength to speak it. Amen.

SCRIPTURE HELPS: John 12:30-32; 1 John 4:4; Ephesians 6:13-18.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: My heavenly Father did not give me a spirit of fear but of power and love, and sound mind. Greater is the power of the Spirit of God in me than he that is in the world.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fret Not Yourself

Among our many human weaknesses, one of the most outstanding is fretting or complaining. A clear example of this is seen in the account of the children of Israel as they journeyed from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. They were limited in their thinking and behaviour and complained about everything: lack of food, water and physical comforts.

A fretful attitude shows either forgetfulness of the faithfulness of God or a lack of knowledge and belief in His promises and transforming power. However, by God's grace, a fretful attitude can be overcome with prayer and spiritual discipline.

The Scriptures reveal that God hates complaining but loves praises and “inhabits the praises of His people.” And there are always many blessings in our lives we can praise God for.

Are you a fretful person? Here is a little exercise. Spend some quiet time with yourself and speak firmly to yourself as though you are speaking to someone else:

“Every time I find myself fretting and complaining about the things I want and have not yet seen manifested, I shall count it as a sign that I need to recognize the truth that my God is daily loading me with benefits. And I shall pause and count my blessings and thank and praise God for them. I shall praise Him for every cell, every muscle, and every tissue in my body. I shall praise Him for His life coursing through me being. I shall praise Him for the spirit of power, love and sound mind He has given me. I shall praise Him for His love, His mercy and His goodness that endureth forever...”

The next time you become fretful, the Spirit of God will remind you of your spiritual exercise. Then seize the moment to bring that exercise into actuality by praising Him for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do in your life, and fretfulness will diminish as darkness does when light presents itself.

Heavenly Father, help me to recognize your benefits in my life and be thankful for them. Amen.

SCRIPTURE HELPS: Exodus 14:11; Psalm 37:1,7,8; Psalm 68:19; Isaiah 29:24.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: God is daily loading me with benefits and is worthy of my praise.