Build up, not tear down

Recently several recent Christian blog posts left me more sad than happy. They contain fault-finding of other believers who they think are wrong in one way or another: individuals, groups, whole churches. How is that edifying to the body of Christ? Here’s something to think about:

“The Wise Old Man” (originally received in a FWD email, anonymous sender)
Date: 10-18-07
Subject: FW: The Wise Old Man

The Wise Old Man

A man of 92 years, short, very well-presented, who takes great care in his appearance, is moving into an old people’s home today. His wife of 90 has recently died, and he is obliged to leave his home. After waiting several hours in the retirement home lobby, he gently smiles as he is told that his room is ready.

As he slowly walks to the elevator, using his cane, I describe his small room to him, including the sheet hung at the window which serves as a curtain. “I like it very much,” he says, with the enthusiasm of an 8 year old boy who has just been given a new puppy.

“Sir, you haven’t even seen the room yet, hang on a moment, we are almost there.”

“That has nothing to do with it,” he replies. “Happiness is something I choose in advance.

“Whether or not I like the room does not depend on the furniture, or the decor – rather it depends on how I decide to see it. It is already decided in my mind that I like my room. It is a decision I take every morning when I wake up.

“I can choose. I can spend my day in bed enumerating all the difficulties that I have with the parts of my body that no longer work very well, or I can get up and give thanks to heaven for those parts that are still in working order.

Every day is a gift, and as long as I can open my eyes, I will focus on the new day, and all the happy memories that I have built up during my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw in later life what you have deposited along the way.”

So, my advice to you is to deposit all the happiness you can in your bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my account with happy memories, which I am still continuing to fill.

Remember these simple guidelines for happiness:
1. Free your heart from hate.
2. Free your mind from worry.
3. Live simple.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

If you have been blessed by this message, send it to your loved ones and your friends. It is the way we touch each other with simple truths that spread goodness in the world. Who knows, a miracle may happen as a result…

Have a blessed day!!

Yeah, sure, but how do you DO that

I’m still re-reading the book of Philippians, jotting down thoughts and questions as I go. Eventually I’ll put them in order, but for now I’m selecting passages that have had a special impact on my life. Like this one –

Thinking“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 KJV)

Think on these things… and just how, exactly, do you DO that, I wondered?

Minutiae can overwhelm our life, if we let it. Tiny fragments of time in a normal day, tiny moments of planning, carrying out, performing mundane tasks and chores that don’t even require coherent thought.

That doesn’t mean these things are nonessential or unimportant. You have to think about that kind of stuff, just to survive.

But worry, fear, or anxiety over them will grow and grow, if we think on these things in the wrong context. Believe me, I know that from experience.

But here’s a clue. I discovered that “think on” in Philippians 4:8 doesn’t mean just have a thought or idea. Thoughts come and go. That’s not what this means – this means focusing on, really considering something.

The root Greek word is “logizomai.” Our word logic comes from this. Definitions include to compute, calculate, take into account; consider, weigh, meditate on; suppose, deem, judge; reason, conclude; to determine, purpose, and decide.

What kinds of things run through your mind on a typical day? Such things as:

Job / career / education – your own, spouse’s, children’s
Finances / savings / retirement
Family / friends / neighbors / acquaintances
Health / diet / exercise / checkups / medical care
Chores / duties / responsibilities / errands
Home / car / belongings
Entertainment / sports / hobbies

So, can you get through a day without thinking about work? or breakfast? or paying bills? No.

But you can refuse a negative knee-jerk reaction when some thoughts crop up. Start a new habit. Respond, not just react.

Counter irritating, worrisome or fearful thoughts with other kinds of thought.

Like those in Philippians 4:8. Each one of them can be linked to some attribute of Jesus, Father God or the Holy Spirit, to their work or to their words.

The Amplified version reads “For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].”  I like that.

Fix your mind, even if just for a few moments, on something that is:

  • True – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
  • Honest, worthy of reverence, honorable, seemly – Jesus through and through.
  • Just – I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
  • Pure – Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (Luke 23:4)
  • Lovely and loveable – Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
  • Of good report, kind, winsome and gracious – And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. (Mark 3:8)
  • Virtue, excellence – And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. (Luke 18:19) He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. (John 14:9)
  • Worthy of praise – And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace (praise), the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:37-40)

So here’s a practical way to do it – ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to combat fear, worry or anxiety-causing thoughts. Ask him to enable you to do it. Even annoyance, irritation, frustration, aggravation, can spiral out of control when you’re under pressure and cause guilt and anxiety later. He can teach you how to respond – not react – when that happens.

It takes practice, but that’s how you learned to walk, or ride a bicycle, or do math. You keep at it until it this becomes a new habit, replacing the old one.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14)