Sunday, February 24, 2019

Welcome to My World


People = Personal Environments
Welcome to my world is a catchy phrase, but welcome to my environment might be more accurate.

Each of us is a personal environment. People around us live in it.

For example, an older sibling may tell the younger, “Mom’s tired, so don’t bother her.” Or office staff may warn of the boss’s mood by saying, “Stay out of Dick’s way today!”

We are the personal setting for our environment. Our setting includes things like attitude, responsiveness, sense of self, concern for others, word choices and core values.

I grew up with a popular song that said, “No man is an island.” We are actually born into relationships. It starts with family, expands to friends, and enlarges to a great number of co-workers and acquaintances.

Some People Connect More Than Others 
Have you noticed how some people seem to have an abundance of positive relationships, and others not so many? Some people exude openness, others seem quite closed. I know which I would rather approach, and I’m sure you do, too.

The environment you carry with you makes a difference. Not one of us has a perfect life, so a bad day is no excuse for a prickly personality.

One of the people I admired most in my college years was like a second mom to me. I could talk to her anytime, about anything. Though working full time as a single mom to support two children, she always had time to be an encourager or brighten the day with her sense of humor.

I never knew what great challenges she faced in life until I became friends with her sister years later. “Mom” had plenty of reasons to close herself off, but she never did. I, for one, am grateful.

It’s interesting how some of the busiest people can still be very approachable. Here's a great example.

St. Mark wrote of a time when Jesus and his disciples had so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat. Jesus decided it was time to get away for some rest.

They got in a boat and headed for a quiet place, but people had seen them leaving and ran to the landing spot. Once again, they were faced with a crowd.

They were hungry for more teaching, but as Jesus responded, his disciples said, “It’s getting late. Send the people away so they can get something to eat.”

Jesus, full of compassion for the people, also saw this as a teaching moment for the disciples. He challenged them to feed the people. It’s the story of the Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand. Read it for yourself in Mark 6:30-44.

Be Wise -- Be Balanced
Compassion always includes an expansion or extension of self. Compassionate people make this world a better place.

Just remember to keep balance in your personal environment. There’s a time to engage, and a time to rest.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Inside Out


Purple and White Tulips
I had a lovely surprise yesterday. The doorbell rang and I heard a truck drive away. When I opened the door, I found a tall green box. Inside was a beautiful collection of purple and white tulips.

Fresh flowers are fun to arrange. Most of my bouquets have been natural flowers and greenery, but I once had a memorable arrangement of daisies and carnations that had been artificially colored.

After arranging yellow, lavender and fuchsia to my satisfaction, I tied a gold ribbon around the neck of the vase. It was too big for my table so I set it in the living room.

Most of the flowers looked good a week later, but the water was pink-toned. I took the vase to the kitchen, pulled out the flowers and poured the water into a smaller vase.

Discarding the flowers that had wilted, I shortened the stems on those still full of life. Now I had a smaller, but still colorful, arrangement. I set it on the kitchen table.

The next morning my husband asked, “Why is the water pink?”

Color from the Inside Out
“The purples were artificially colored,” I replied. “Dye was put into the water and the flowers absorbed it through their stems up into the petals. Now the color is seeping out.”

As I stared at the vase, I thought we’re no different from the flowers. What we take in, we give out.

For example, it’s hard to give out positive thoughts if our mind is filled with negative ones. And a spirit of cooperation will never seep out of a person who has not soaked up skills needed to be a team player.

Love becomes discolored in a heart full of jealousy, and generosity will never come flowing out of a heart saturated with selfishness.

Living inside out is as easy as this: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).

 When I was in the office world that concept was applied to computers as garbage in---garbage out.
What Seeps Out of Your Heart?

It’s been said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

What’s inside of us will eventually seep out.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Personal Puzzles


My niece can do puzzles of twenty-five hundred to three thousand pieces in about four days. I used to try to find a major challenge for her each Christmas. When she completed every one, I finally gave up.

Puzzles Have Many Pieces
One day I bought a puzzle at a thrift store thinking I’d give jigsaw puzzles another chance. I emptied the pieces out on a table and started sorting.

My niece had said she starts by sorting straight edges and matching colors. I followed her advice and got about three-fourths of the outer edges in place. It was a satisfying to feeling to get that far.

Working on the puzzle now and then, I often referred to the box cover for clues. I tried working a few sections of color at a time but after a few days I’d made limited progress.

I hate to admit it, but this puzzle had only one-hundred pieces. I finally boxed it up and donated it back to the thrift store.

Instead of feeling frustrated, I decided to face the truth. I like puzzles, but only those on paper. I’m in total agreement with 2 Corinthians 10:12 which says comparing ourselves with one another is not wise. I enjoy my booklets of Word Search or the comparison of two pictures to find the changes.

Puzzles Require Time
Human beings are puzzles, too, to themselves, their parents and others. Every generation has learned that it takes a while to put the pieces of our understanding together.

Mary and Joseph were returning home after the Passover Feast in Jerusalem when they became totally puzzled. Jesus was not with their group. As concerned parents, they frantically retraced their steps (Luke 2:41-52).

Relieved to find him in the temple interacting with the teachers, they still asked for accountability. “Why have you treated us like this? We’ve been anxiously searching for you.”

When they heard his answer, they were puzzled. Jesus said, “Why were you searching? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

The same scriptures tell us Jesus returned home and grew in four basic areas of life: (1) Wisdom--mentally, (2) Stature--physically, (3) In favor with God--spiritually, and (4) In favor with people—socially.

His personal puzzle took time to put together, just as ours does. But there comes a point of maturity in everyone’s life when they leave home to share their personal puzzle with the world.

Each Life Has Its Own Challenges
As challenging as jigsaw puzzles may be, real-life puzzles are even more so. There is hope for solutions, however. Philippians 1:6 says . . . He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.

God has never found a life puzzle He could not complete or solve. Would you like some help with your personal puzzle? Just ask.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Stick With the Bunch


A Banana Bunch
I’m always on the lookout for a witticism to ponder, or a quote to remember. This is a recent find: It’s the banana that gets away from the bunch that gets peeled---we need each other.

Does that resonate with you? It does me, for several reasons.

I  always knew I had a nice bunch of neighbors, but while being a caregiver the past two years they really kept me hanging in there.

Neighbors Are Near
Here's how we connected: (1) one lady picked up my mail, (2) one man helped get my husband into the house after ER visits, (3) another hauled my trash to the dumpster, (4) several brought meals or treats, (5) one man drove my car in for tire repair, (6) several sat with my husband so I could get a break, and (7) a carpenter built needed ramps.

I was blessed to be part of the bunch.

To Be Alone Is To Be Vulnerable 
We can always choose to strike out alone, but Solomon said, “With humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). I like to hang out with friends. I learn a lot as they share ways they have handled life’s challenges.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: God comforts us in our troubles so we can comfort others in trouble with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

You may think others in the bunch have more to offer than you, but your experience is as valuable as that of any other.

Body Parts Work Together
Be a blessing in the bunch.

There's another important bunch---your body parts! I love the way First Corinthians 12:12-26 goes into great detail on this.

Just because a body part does not feel like it belongs, it's still a part of the body. God took great care in creating a totality of parts. Who has never experienced a time when one part of their body was hurting and the rest of the body suffered with it?

Stay in the Bunch
The same is true of relationships. Being connected to a group or bunch of people can be frustrating at times; we will not always see eye to eye. But love and forgiveness keep the body parts functioning in a healthy manner.

When we have something to celebrate, our bunch celebrates with us. When we have suffered a loss, they join in our sorrow with expressions of love and prayers for our comfort.

I don’t know about you, but one thing for me is certain: I want to stick with the bunch!