Learning to Control my Feelings – part one

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” –Zig Ziglar

Yesterday was Administrative Professionals Day. I had an email waiting for me when I got in to work from my former boss, Betsy, who now works at another college, and I got pretty choked up. She has always been very thoughtful and made me feel appreciated. There were a few us in my department who came in to flowers from her on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes, like on Administrative Professionals Day and the first day of each new semester, she bought them, but she picked a lot of them from her own garden (including a pretty, bright yellow flower she grows that smells like chocolate. Seriously. Is there a more perfect flower for a girl?). Of all the ones she brought in my favorites were always the hydrangeas though. I still have the last one she brought in for me before she left last August.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” –Melody Beattie

Anyway, I never heard a peep from my current boss and, I’m ashamed to admit, that stung more than a little. Yes, it’s true. I’m not perfect. (Surprise!) Truthfully I struggle with wanting to be appreciated and recognized for my contributions like many other people, so I kept thinking (quite a few times) that it would have been nice if my boss had even just sent an email saying “Happy Administrative Professionals Day!” I guess Betsy spoiled me. I honestly didn’t expect flowers from my current boss though. Since her office is in a different building, mine is not the face she sees sitting outside her office every morning (still, I’m one of her admins). But again, just some acknowledgement of the day would have made me smile.

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” –John Milton

However, last night when a bunch of negative thoughts flooded in again, it hit me that thinking these things was making me feel down and negative. I don’t like that. There are plenty of things to feel negatively about in this world, but creating negativity is something I try hard not to do. Yet that’s exactly what I was doing. So I talked to God about it and He made me realize a few things. First, like a gardener tending her vegetable garden, I was fertilizing these feelings by entertaining and repeating the thoughts, and this was making the sad and negative feelings grow. Second, He reminded me that I have no right to place expectations like that on someone anyway, but even more so when they don’t know anything about it. How silly and self-centered is that? The woman isn’t a mind reader for pete’s sake. Plus I don’t know what else is going on in her life right now, so how inconsiderate is it of me to expect that she should remember the day? It was one of those “walk a mile in another’s moccasins” moments. Third, it’s not her responsibility to make me smile; and fourth, although I hadn’t actually said, “I’m offended by this” that’s how I was starting to feel. An offense is an “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult” and that’s how I was viewing it – almost as an insult – so it would have taken no time at all for this to blossom into a full-blown offense. But then God reminded me of something else: being offended, or insulted, is a choice. I was choosing to let it bother me. I don’t think we can help it when thoughts just jump into our heads but we can certainly choose whether to entertain or reject them, and I was giving these thoughts importance by entertaining them. So I made the decision right then to reject any further negative thoughts about this. However I don’t think it’s enough to merely stop thinking about negative stuff – I need to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones – with truth.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NASB)

When I read this verse, the word “these” is emphasized in my mind. “…dwell on THESE things” as opposed to dwelling on negative thoughts that a) most likely aren’t even true, and b) are making me feel bad. God is telling us here that we have a choice as to what we think about. He’s not talking about living in denial, rather focusing, or dwelling, on good over evil.

Stated very simply:

“Where the mind goes, the man follows.” –Joyce Meyer

So instead of focusing on my hurt feelings, entertaining the (untrue) thoughts that my boss doesn’t care and I’m not appreciated, I chose to focus on the truth about her: she’s friendly, personable, kind, caring, doesn’t micromanage, she really listens and makes me feel like the most important person in the world at that moment when I’m talking to her about something, and she has expressed appreciation for things I’ve done many times in the past.  Why do I need a special day for her to let me know she appreciates me? Given the choice I’d rather have a boss who appreciates me all year. And while she doesn’t give me flowers like Betsy did, she verbalizes her appreciation. So today is a new day and I’m choosing to thank God for the fact that I not only have a job, but that I have a job I enjoy, working with wonderful people, and for a woman I genuinely like and respect. And you know what? I feel thankful, lighthearted, and joyful today. Thank you, Lord!

“Your joy is yours to have; choose it.” –Dean Shannon

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Following Christ

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 – NASB)

I’ve been doing some reading, praying, and reflecting on what it means to follow Christ.

 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6 – NASB)

The Greek word “to follow” in the verse above (Luke 9:23) literally means “to mimic” or “to imitate.” God is not asking us to follow a list of rules, rather, He wants us to follow – or imitate – Christ Himself. He wants us to walk – to live our lives – in the same way He did. “Christian” means “little Christ,” and like children follow in their parents’ footsteps, so God want us to follow in (or more literally – walk in) His footsteps.

To give you a hokey metaphor, let’s say I need to cross a massive field in the dark and it’s very windy and covered with over a foot of heavy snow. If Jesus has already gone ahead of me and broken a path then the quickest, most effective, and efficient way of crossing the field would be to walk in his footsteps, right? I mean it makes sense to me; rather than going through the arduous, unnecessary, and even potentially dangerous task of breaking my own path, if I’m stepping exactly where He stepped I don’t need to worry about whatever may be buried under the snow – impossible to see. So walking in His footsteps is not only the quickest, most efficient way of crossing the field – it’s also the safest.

Life can be that way, can’t it? Like trudging across a snow covered field on a windy night. We can’t see what’s coming, the wind can keep us off balance, and we can’t even tell if our next step will be solid, if we’ll step into a hole, or worse, find it’s not a field at all – but a lake that hasn’t had time to freeze enough to hold our weight (eek!). But God knows what’s ahead of us and the safest, best way for us to cross the field of life (yes, it’s hokey, but it serves to make my point).

I like what John Gill says in his commentary on 1 John 2:6: (as written in the NIV – “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”) “The “as” is not a note of equality, but of likeness; for it cannot be thought that saints should walk in that degree of perfection, in humility, patience, love, and in the exercise of every other grace, and in the discharge of duty, as Christ did; only that they should copy after him, and make his obedience and life the rule of theirs.”

Think about that. God wants us to make Christ’s obedience and life the rule of ours. The rule – not the exception.

Wow.

Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. When He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was arrested, He asked God to “take this cup from Me.” He sweat drops of blood at the mere thought of what He knew He would have to endure. And YET…after He asked the Father to spare Him that agony, He also said “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” He absolutely did not want to go through everything He did, but was obedient regardless – doing what His Father asked of Him – to the point of enduring a lengthy, brutal, agonizingly painful death. Knowing this I have to ask myself, am I this obedient to God? Are you? I know I (very!) frequently fall pretty short (as I’m sure you do as well), but this is what He requires of those who claim to follow Him, so although I know perfection is not attainable on this side of Heaven, I love Him so I will never stop trying to get better at this following in obedience thing.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.‘” (John 8:12 – NASB)

I was always afraid of the dark as a kid, and even though I’m not ‘afraid’ of it (per se) anymore it can still be unsettling when I can’t see what’s around me. I am one who really likes to be aware of my surroundings so this verse really resonates with me. I am so thankful that I don’t walk in darkness anymore because I have Jesus, the light of the world, to light my way.

Do you?

Where You Lead, I Will Follow

So I’m posting this a few months late, but better late than never, right? My words for the year have been as follows:

2011 was my year of grace.

2012 was my year of hope.

2013 was my year of love.

2014 was my year of trust.

2015 was my year of faith.

2016 was my year of surrender.

and my word for 2017 is “follow.”

I’ve gotta tell ya’, I had a bit of an issue with that last one at first. My initial reaction was surprise and then I got a little prickly and defensive because quite honestly I have followed God in obedience when what He was asking of me didn’t make any sense whatsoever from a human standpoint. I have chosen to stand completely alone with Him when it went against the advice of every single person who knew and loved me. So it’s not like I don’t know how to follow God, but just like His mercies are new every morning I’m guessing His lessons are too – He’s taking me to new depths of following Him I guess. So continuing last year’s theme a bit, I’m surrendering my preconceived ideas and I’m sitting back and letting Him take the lead.

“Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead” –(Gilmore Girls theme song chorus)

*****

Come and Follow

“Me and Andrew, we’d been fishin’
The best part of last night
We’d caught nothin’ for all our tryin’
Come the mornin’, and the light–
Then I saw Him, out a little ways from the land
He started teachin’ all the people
And they listened there in silence on the sand.

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.

When He’d ended all His teaching
He turned around and spoke again to me
He said, “Simon, row out father–
Drop your nets once again into the sea
I said, “Master, we’ve been workin’
Since the sundown yesterday
But one more time, I’ll throw them over
Just because it’s You who say.

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.

Now James and John, they’re both my witnesses
To the truth in what I’ve told
How our nets were filled to bursting
More than both our boats could ever hold
And I fell down there before Him
Cring, “Leave me, Lord — I’m full of sin!”
He said, “Simon, don’t be frightened,
Follow Me and you will learn to fish for men. ”

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.” –Come and Follow, Don Francisco