Discontentment is a cruel voice.

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Discontentment is a cruel voice.

  • She speaks to us with whispers of ambition. You are unfilled unless you achieve more.
  • She speaks to us with fits of unfairness. You are the victim.  You deserve better.
  • She speaks to us with stares of comparison. You are better than that person.
  • She speaks to us with cackles of emptiness. This is all you get in life.
  • She speaks to us with woos of escape. Get your mind off your misery by running away.
  • She speaks to us with fingers of accusation. It is the government’s fault.

Discontentment is most certainly a cruel voice.  She takes us down dark paths of depression.

I have experienced these moments of discontentment.  I am confident you have as well.

Discontentment is a symptom of the human condition.  Fulfillment is severely hindered as a result of the fall.  We have moments of contentment yet they quickly disappear once the compliment, achievement, or purchase fades.  Sin does that to us.  It points out what we don’t have.

Yet, it does not have to be the case.  Christ came to provide fulfillment – the abundant life we so long for.  Christ died to fill the sinful longings for more in our hearts.  Christ came to give a foretaste of glory where we would have no wants.

You might be thinking, “I know Christ.  How come I still feel discontent?  It is because we continue to have broken bodies with conflicted desires while living in a broken society that pursues temporary gratification.  This reality can break us or give us hope.  We can succumb to the disappointment or we seize the opportunity to choose the fulfillment in Christ realizing it requires a daily decision this side of heaven.  It is a process.  It is a choice.

Contentment is a freeing voice.

  • She speaks to us with blessing. Look at what you do have rather than what you do not have.
  • She speaks to us with grace. Life is hard but it does not crush you.
  • She speaks to us with celebration. Affirm life’s successes:  yours and those of others.
  • She speaks to us with privilege. Life is a gift.  Enjoy it.
  • She speaks to us with joy. Shrug off life’s disappointments so they don’t rob you of joy.
  • She speaks to us with lightness. Take life as it comes rather than what we want it to be.

Discontentment is a cruel voice.  However, it is not the only voice.

 

 

 

I am tired of the political process.

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I am tired of the political process.

I cannot imagine another six months of this negativity.  It is hard to watch the repeated slams at the other party’s candidate.  The negative ads are sure to be in force this year.  In fact, it seems quite clear that the candidates do not need a well-polished ad to deliver their message but rather simply a microphone.  It is no wonder that the electorate is quite pessimistic when it comes to political engagement.

The campaign promises are nothing new.  Better healthcare.  Lower taxes.  Free tuition.  Secure borders.  More jobs.  Improved education.  These are similar to previous year’s campaigns.  Choose a year and you will find identical statements.

The pundits will articulate that there are few commonalities between the candidates.  “There are clear differences when it comes to each political party.  Be informed and vote wisely.”  This is true.  And it is not true.

It is true that there are distinct perspectives on how to improve our country.  Each candidate has a different vision for our nation.  However there is one clear commonality.  The common thread for every candidate is the promise of a more secure, prosperous lifestyle now.  It is the notion that we should be comfortable, secure, and prosperous today.  It is the promise of immediacy.

This message is very attractive to our culture.  We are impatient.  Lines are bothersome.  Waits are annoyances.  Multitasking is the rage and expectation.  We want things now without delay.  This is true for all areas of our life, especially when it comes to national concerns.  The common thread in each political candidate’s message is the promise of immediate improvement in life.

As a Christian I find myself sucked into this debate like any other person.  I too want life to be improved.  I am concerned about education and jobs.  Security is something that is important to me, especially when it comes to schools.  And if we can get it now, great!  Yet, I wonder if I should be more cautious when it comes to these promises.  I wonder if my focus should be more measured.

I have become increasingly aware of the future oriented perspective of Jesus.  At times, He improved people’s conditions on the spot, e.g. He healed someone.  However, on most occasions He looked to the distant future.  He directed our attention to the treasures of heaven rather the earth.  He talked of new bodies that do not decay beyond the grave.  He encouraged us with visions of a sinless life once these broken bodies are shed.

He encouraged attitudes of perseverance, patience, and longsuffering.  These are perspectives that challenge immediacy.  Grace is learned rather than simply received.  Hope is embodied through perseverance not wrapped around an entitlement.  Joy is cultivated in the midst of pain not in the absence of it.

Christ came to provide something that transcends the immediate.  In the midst of the political discourse, we should remember this.  Our hearts should not be taken with the allure of empty promises that cannot ultimately deliver the longed for improvements in life.  We should look to the One who can.

Character shines in moments of difficulty

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Character is revealed in unplanned moments of crises.

My mom visited us this past weekend for Mother’s Day.  Friday morning we quickly left the house in order to get my son to school.  On the way to the car, my mom’s foot caught the edge of our driveway.  She lost her footing causing her to severely twist her ankle.  She lost her balance and fell on the driveway.  After some assessment, we determined it best to go to the emergency room.  After some tests, it was determined she broke her ankle.  Plans quickly changed.  To rest the ankle, she was confined for the most part to a wheelchair.  Rather than sleeping in the downstairs bedroom, she slept in my daughter’s room on the main floor, bumping Ashleigh to the upstairs.  Adjustments were made to the weekend schedule and accommodations were made to ensure she could begin the recovery process.

My mom took the injury in stride.  She was a trooper as we went to the track meet.  On Saturday, she insisted on taking the kids to the theater as previously planned.  She approached the weekend with flexibility and a positive attitude.  I was proud of her.  I was also proud of my kids.  I had known that my kids have good hearts.  However, this past weekend revealed to us more of their character.  They stepped up to the plate with this injury.  At the track meet, my son joyously embraced the task of pushing the wheelchair.  He did so without complaint.  In fact, there were times she used the walker.  In those moments, he questioned whether or not she should be doing so.  “Should you not be using the walker” he would ask.  On Sunday, my daughter pushed her grandmother around the church so she could say hi to people and grab some snacks after worship service.  She slept on the upstairs floor without a hint of inconvenience.  Throughout the weekend, they were extraordinarily helpful.  To our delight, we did not have to ask them to do so.  As parents, we were very proud of them.  We know our kids extremely well.  Yet, we learned something about their character this weekend that we would not have seen apart from this unplanned moment of crisis.

We want to believe that we will respond a particular way if a crisis happens.  How would we respond if we received devastating news?  What would we do if we see someone in need while we were rushing out of the store?  What would we say if a friend called us desperate for some comfort?  To be honest, we don’t know how we would respond until we are confronted in the moment with that crisis.  It is then that our character is revealed.  In those moments, we find out what is truly important to us.  We find out our level of grace and patience.  We discover our true self.  Crises are moments of self-awareness – to discover who we truly are.

More so, character cannot be turned on like a light switch.  We cannot live concerned only about ourselves then expect to serve others when a crisis occurs.  Character is nurtured through every day actions – in the moments where there is no crisis.  Crisis simply reveals what has already been cultivated in our hearts.  To best prepare for the unplanned moments requires daily, visible expressions of who we want to be.

This is what God wants in our lives.  He desires to form our attitudes and actions internally and daily so that godly character shines in moments of difficulty.

Spiritual HIT Training

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One of the hardest things to schedule is exercise.  For the last three years, my wife and I have enjoyed working out together.  Ok, enjoy might be a strong word as who really likes getting up three days a week at 6 am to squeeze in some cardiovascular work.  Yet, this is the only time we have found consistently conducive to our schedule.  Other times have been filled with family, work, or church responsibilities.  So, we find ourselves rolling out of bed, throwing on some clothes, and doing jumping jacks even though we are barely awake.

In order to squeeze it into our schedule, we do a HIT (high intensity training) workout.  It is tailored made for us as A-type people.  Twenty-five minutes of high energy, non-stop exercise.  I thought I was going to die the first time I tried it.  The instructor is yelling at you.  She is telling you to make it count.  I honestly believe she doubles as a drill sergeant for the military.  Our son thinks she is nuts.  Truth be told, it is a great workout.  I am in the best shape I have been in in years.

The news recently reported the benefits of HIT workouts.  Studies have shown that thirty minutes of intensive training a week equals the cardiovascular benefit of one hundred and fifty minutes of moderate exercise.  The health experts were emphasizing the health advantages of just a little bit of focused training.  Time should not be excuse.  All it takes is thirty minutes!

Our spiritual lives can learn from this.  We dabble around with God throughout the week.  A short prayer here.  Thinking about the sermon there.  Reading a verse once every few days.  Flip to the Christian radio station for a couple of minutes.  Half read an inspirational devotional.  It all adds up to a lot of moderate spiritual training.

What if we engaged in some spiritual HIT training instead?  What if we carved out thirty minutes a week to get serious about God?  What if we sat down and intensely poured out our hearts to our Heavenly Father?  What if we read that verse with true reflection and meditation?  What if we got serious about confessing our sins?  What if we put down the phone, blocked out the noise, and sat in the presence of God?

The benefits would be immediately realized.

Thirty minutes a week.  Certainly we can set aside what equals to one sitcom.  Spiritual HIT training is doable.  It is effective.  And it is most certainly transformative.