Heaven is a choice

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In this photo, there is only one road to choose from to get through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.  In life, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation with only one way out.  Most of the time, however, we are making choices all the day long.  For example, I go to the store, choose various kinds of food, bring it home and put it all in my pantry.  Of course, what I bought was a choice.  Later on, when I go looking for something to eat, what do I pick out?  If day after day I pick marshmallows and candy bars, pretty soon I’m going to be sick.  In the long run if I continue making the same choices, my body will be depleted of its energy since I have chosen not to give it anything with any trace of nutrients in it.  My body would be running on empty and I would pay the consequences of my choices with ill health, which would in turn lead to my eventual demise.

It’s the same with my choices for both my behavior and my attitude.  When I was young, my parents chose many things for me in their role of guardianship over me.  When I grew up, my boss made some of those choices for me, but it was my choice to submit to them.  Once I am an adult, just as I choose what goes into my mouth, I also choose what my physical body does.  My heart tells my brain what it desires and my brain tells my tongue what to say, and my hands what to do.  That leads me to the main choice that no one can control but me.  It’s my heart’s attitude.  My attitude is entirely my own.  No one can dictate to me how I should look at something.  So, no matter what the situation, I can always choose to look at it as coming from God and know that it is for my good.  I can always choose a good attitude.

Every day my heart is making choices.  Let it choose righteousness, truth and love.  Day by day, as we make our choices in the seemingly small details of our lives, we are choosing heaven.

Different, but working together!

Men have such an amazing ability to focus on one thing at a time.  It is their strength.  I’ve written about it before (1/20/13).  However, at the time I first wrote about it, I didn’t add to it the perspective of how the strength of women is to see all of the potential results of their own actions and the actions of others.  These two very different strengths ought to compliment one another, but sometimes they come into sharp contrast with the troubling result of starting an argument.

What happened around here this morning is a great example of how these abilities could try to divide us.  This morning, my husband and I were going to go to a Bible study meeting.  We usually bring a large pot of coffee along with us for the participants.  Before we left, he wanted to wash up some of the dishes that were in the sink.  However, it was starting to get late and I was thinking of the repercussions of being late.  He was focused on finishing the dishes.  Maybe you’re already seeing where this is headed.  He picked up the rather large filter for the coffee pot and said that he was going to get rid of the grounds.  I asked him not to.  I had two reasons for that, both of which seemed valid to me and both of which seemed difficult to explain to him on the spur of the moment.  I thought that it was getting late and I wanted him to finish with the dishes already so we could leave and also, the grounds were still hot and I didn’t want him to put them on my outdoor plants while they were still hot.

While those thoughts were still percolating in my brain, he was already reacting, complaining that I always tell him not to do this, not to do that.  We carried on in silence for a while until a little light bulb went off revealing what had just happened.  Like a man, he was completely focused on getting those pesky dishes done, convinced that he was making me happy by doing it.  At the same time, my brain was visualizing all of the ramifications of him continuing with the dishes while time was moving on and of what would result from him throwing the hot grounds on my beloved plants.  He was doing what men do best, focusing, and I was thinking like a woman.

Men and women both have their innate strengths.  If we can recognize them for what they are, we can work together and become a stronger couple instead of reacting and resenting one another for being different.  Men need to be able to focus intently on what they’re doing.  It helps them to do a great job.  And women need to be able to think of all the possibilities of what might happen because of their actions.  Their precautionary wisdom keeps us from doing too much damage to ourselves.  Using our talents and working together, we are really strong.  In the case of what happened this morning, once we talked about it, we could each see what the other was doing and laugh at ourselves a bit, all the while appreciating each other for our differences.  Vive la différence!

A simple hike leads to this stunning panorama

I’ve changed the picture at the top of my page.  There is a little story behind the photo.  Recently, my husband and i went camping for a week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We love hiking but at the outset of our vacation our hiking legs usually need an upgrade.  On the first day, we went on a lovely and not too demanding hike to the top of Mount Willard.  The view from the top is outstanding and I recommend it highly.  The second day we went to Arethusa Falls.  It was about as demanding as the first day’s hike and the beauty of the falls was incredible.  On the third day, we just began hiking without really knowing our destination, but God knew where we were going.  After about an hour and a half of hiking we had to choose: continue upwards to the summit of Mount Jackson or head downwards to see another falls?  Well, we prefer to do our hard work of upward climbing first, so we headed up.

The description of the “moderately difficult” climb did not prepare us for the rest of the hike up the mountain.  It was NOT moderate, at least not in my definition of the word.  Very near the end, we met a man with a young boy coming down and the man encouraged us to go on because, as he said, “It’s only a few minutes to the top.”  I thought, “If a kid can do it, I can too.”  Hehe.  Those few minutes necessitated scrambling over enormous boulders with only a few small branches on the sides to hang onto.  But then … we reached the top.  John went first and told me to try to make it.  He said it would be worth it.  At the top was a panorama perhaps a hundred times more beautiful than the picture you see at the top of my page.  There were no trees, so you could see 360 degrees around.  Mount Washington rose in the distance and the valley that we had come from meandered much further below us than I had imagined.  We took a lot of pictures and gaped in awe of God’s creation that remains so beautiful in spite of what man has done to it.  The wind began to whistle and the clouds foretold a possible change in the weather and so we had to tear ourselves away from that gorgeous spot.  I think that it will always remain in my mind as the most amazing and beautiful view I have ever seen, the view of a lifetime.

A simple hike on a normal day.  We started out, not knowing where we were going.  Life is like that.  We start out not knowing our path or where it will lead us, but we keep on climbing.  I would like to encourage everyone out there to keep on climbing.  Choose the way up.  It may be difficult, even more difficult than you had anticipated, but when you get to the top, the view will be more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.  God can show you things in this life that will stay with you forever.  Those views will encourage you through the hard times and lead you onward.  Take the risk.  God is so worth it.  He is the summit of all summits, the panorama of all panoramas.

 

COMMITMENT

 

Recently, my students were learning how to revise an essay in my evening ESL reading/writing class.  A few sentences in the introduction of the revised final draft that we were studying in the book caught my attention.  “A generation ago, it was common for workers to stay at their place of employment for years and years.  When it was time for these employees to retire, companies would offer a generous pension package and, sometimes, a token of appreciation, such as a watch, keychain, or other trinket.  Oh, how times have changed.  Nowadays, people – especially younger workers – jump from job to job like bees fly from flower to flower to pollinate.”  (Great Writing: Great Essays 4, Cengage Learning, 2014)  We continued reading as the essay went on to explain the reasons people have for quitting their jobs.  However, my eyes and mind remained focused on the ideas and images evoked by those descriptive words, ideas about the subject of commitment.

My own father worked at GMC for many years and retired exactly as described above.  He had a nice party where they gave him a fine watch and a very nice pension package.  He was rewarded for his dependableness and his loyalty and his retirement package helped him to live a comfortable life for many years.  In contrast to his traditional life, it seems to me that nowadays people are not content to be in one job.  They are always looking for something better, something bigger, something with better pay, more benefits, or more prestige.  High profile CEO’s and sports team managers flit from team to team or from corporation to corporation just like the busy bees in the essay that my students read.  University presidents stay at one university just long enough to make a name for themselves before they start a search for something better.  They appear to be loyal at the time that they are at the university, but they are on a career path for themselves, not for the university.

No one blames any of these career people for jumping ship.  The sole exception seems to be when sports figures leave one team for another one that offers them a better package.  The fans blame them for leaving the home team and may even boo them when they come back to the hometown for a game against their former team mates.  The booing may last for a while, but before long that sports figure is replaced by another favorite in the hearts of the fans.  It makes you wonder though.  With so many prominent examples of professionals doing “what’s right for themselves,” how can young people understand the importance of loyalty or of a commitment?

Furthermore, the lack of loyalty in a sports figure or a university president or on the job is just a scratch on the surface of modern society.  What happens when there is no commitment or loyalty in a friendship or in a marriage?  In the United States, many friendships don’t seem to last very long.  Even in marriage, the idea of commitment is on the wane.  Couples come together for a time, but when difficulties arise, their love diminishes and they lose their interest in maintaining the relationship.  Before too long, they find “something better” and move on with their lives.

However, commitment and loyalty are qualities that are desperately needed today.  They are not simply old-fashioned qualities for a generation that is quickly disappearing.  It occurred to me recently that the importance of commitment cannot be negated.  In this life, we all are made up of both emotions and principles.  Emotions are as fleeting as the wind.  They sweep in like a summer breeze and inspire us with all kinds of wonderful feelings and ideas.  We think that these intense feelings will last forever, not realizing that life’s situations will change just as assuredly as the weather and as our situations change, so also do the feelings that accompany them.  For one minute we are on cloud nine and the next we can hardly remember what it felt like to float so high in the stratosphere.  Emotions inspire us, give us courage and make us take giant leaps of faith, but they can never hold us.  In a relationship, when we no longer feel the intensity of our first feelings, the emotional “high” of falling in love, will we “fall out of love” with the person we are with?  Will we forget what we ever even liked about the person?

That is why we need commitment.  We make commitments based on those lofty feelings.  We jump into relationships or marriage because we know what it is to feel on top of the world.  We enter into something that we say is for the long haul, but do we have what it takes to hang on to it?  A true commitment is the faith to hold us through.  It is the anchor that we hold on to when the current gets too swift and knocks us off of our feet.  Life is such that difficulties will inevitably come.  Everyone is subject to difficulties.  If someone has no difficulties, they must not truly be alive.  Some of the troubles that pop up in our lives seem but a moment, but others linger and pester us for years and years.  What does a person hang onto that has no faith?  More and more, we see people around us that are drowning.  They flounder and flail their arms and cry out for help.  Some get angry and act out on their anger in horrible ways that become the next day’s headlines.  They have no anchor.  They would like to make a commitment, but they have no faith.  There is nothing there for them to hang onto when trials come along.  In their relationships, they don’t even see the point of hanging on.

Commitment, on the other hand, hangs on in troubled times.  Commitment knows that troubles cannot last forever.  Faith holds on when everything around it is just a blur, at times not even remembering why it is holding on.  It just knows that it must hang on.  Everything we know and hold dear can crumble, but faith stands strong.  One day, when the situation finally changes and the summer breeze returns and the tender feelings fill our hearts again, then that faith finally receives its reward.  The emotions that once were strong are stronger still.  The person him/herself could not have ever imagined that the original loving emotion could somehow one day be doubled in sweetness, but now finds that it is so.

Reading the Bible in one year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A wonderful new website to help us read through the Bible in one year!  Very nice that the mayor of a small town in Texas would like to promote the Bible this year.  What a great way to begin this new year!

http://www.thebible2014.com