Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's Important to You?

by Sylvia Gaston

Decisions, decisions, decisions. We make thousands of them each day – big and small.

Who will care for my children should I die unexpectedly? What should I eat for dinner? Should I have a child now? Does this shirt go with these pants?

We make decisions that are significant and insignificant; important and routine; life-changing and mundane.

Some research suggests that we make a staggering 35,000 decisions a day. Children make only about 3,000. Ah, to be a child again.

How to you make your decisions? Do you give them detailed thought and time before deciding? Or are you a snap decision maker? Do you consult wise people or do online research? Do you pray before deciding?

I believe that, in order to make wise decisions, we must first decide what is really important to us. That will then dictate how much time, research, prayer should go into each one.

Is it super important to my life which gas station or brand of milk I choose? No. Is who I marry or who I become important to my life? Yes!

Here’s something to consider. What are the most important things in your life? In the grand scheme of things, what means the most to you? It isn’t necessarily the same for all. For me, it’s my husband, kids, friends, conduct/character – basically, the ones I love and why I exist.

In deciding where to spend my time and decision-making, it makes sense to dash past the unimportant and focus on the meaningful. Am I doing that? Am I spending time and building up the ones I love? Am I a good, contributing, compassionate, and giving human being? Does this make my life successful and worthwhile? (pregnant pause here)

In this culture, where we reward and revere the accomplished, the beautiful, the wealthy…are we defining success accurately? My definition of success has drastically changed in the past 15 years. I no longer crave fame, possessions, power. I long for meaning. I now desire meaningful relationships and making a positive impact on the world around me. That may not bring me worldly recognition, notoriety, and riches. But, that’s what has become the most important to me.
Once we define what’s really important, THAT’S where we need to spend our time and focus. That’s where we need to heavily weigh our decisions in the hope that we will create a life worth living.

Speaking of a life worth living, what about the most important decision of all? We must each decide where we will spend our life after this one. The Bibles tells us in John 17:3 (ESV) “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

God teaches us that this life on earth is but a mist in contrast to forever. Where will you spend forever?  THAT’S a decision on which we should all deem extremely important and spend much time, research and lot and lots of prayer. 

What’s important to you?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

To Be Honest

by Candace Cortez

When I need a change of pace or scenery, I often try to find a place to work outside of the office. Coffee shops, diners, even a park if I don’t need WIFI. Sometimes this change of pace pays off and I am focused and productive. Sometimes I place my ear buds in my ears and get right to work. Sometimes, I forget to turn music on and I am sitting with my ear buds in my ears, and I can still hear all of the conversations around me. To be honest, I kinda love when this happens. Call me a creeper, but I love to feel the presence of community and I am curious about how people relate to each other and what topics matter and make relationships happen.   

I was sitting earbuds in when a couple was obviously on a first or maybe a second date. I have overheard a breakup. There have been friend fights and even some friend counseling. Mothers of young children get together and talk the challenges and tricks to being a parent. Conference calls, Skype sessions with mom, and even job interviews, all overheard at the table next to me.

Some folks people watch. I suppose you can say I people listen.

One of the most beautiful things I have heard is a group of friends, who have obviously been friends for some time, discussing the tough stuff. Religion, politics, social issues and marriage issues just to name a few. The most interesting part was not the topics of discussion, but how many opposing perspectives and strong opinions were represented within that social circle. A few were very Anti-President Trump, while a couple others highly supported our President and his decisions. One couple were involved in a specific denomination at church, while a few others had some strikingly different thoughts about practicing worship. A few of them had older children who were struggling and there was a lot of different types of advice given that actually contradicted each other, from tough love to total support.

These are big deals for a lot of people, and I have found that many relationships struggle to be honest when the topics present differences in opinions.

These very same topics are often the cause of many arguments on both social media and in other conversation venues. These individuals had found a way to be totally honest with each other without offending each other. I believe that extra element was love.

To be totally honest with someone, we risk exposing cracks in our relationship and in the character of others. This risk has created a general silence in so many relationships. The other option is to just not say anything if we disagree or see something in our loved ones that needs to be addressed. We sometimes make assumptions and instead of asking for clarity, we walk around with unknown misconceptions in our hearts. Sometimes we just need to ask the tough questions. We need to challenge our thoughts about tough topics. We need to hold each other accountable. To do this, we need honest AND love.

Not once did Jesus ever lie, by omission or otherwise. He also didn’t shy away from the things about life and relationship that were hard. The way the tough things like “go and sin no more” was received, was perfect love. 

Our love is not perfect. But it gets a bit closer with honesty with the people in our circle. Talk about the tough stuff! Share who you are. Give space for others to do the same.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Go Back to the Beginning

by Andrew Cromwell

I love the movie The Princess Bride. If you’ve never seen it, it is a comedic take on a fairytale love story set in the time of knights and maidens and kings and queens. Apart from having a great cast including Billy Crystal and Andre the Giant in unforgettable supporting roles, it is full of witty one-liners and clever repartee (how’s that for my word of the day?).

At one point a character in the movie, Inigo Montoya, who is played by Mandy Pantkin, remembers that his friend Vizzini had told him to “go back to the beginning.” For those of you who have seen the movie, I cannot resist quoting the line exactly, for you will surely hear Inigo’s voice and accent: “I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have.”

This moment of revelation leads Inigo to exactly the place he needed to be. He had lost all hope of redemption but his decision to go back to the beginning is the thing that made the difference. Of course, in the way of all fairy tales, things worked together in just the way they are supposed to and Inigo won the victory he so desperately needed.

In case you haven’t noticed, your life is not a fairy tale. Neither is mine. But that doesn’t mean there are no good lessons for us to apply from our favorite fairy tale stories. And this one is no different. Sometimes you just need to go back to the beginning.

I don’t know where you are at in life. But I imagine that there are some areas that you wish you could just hit the restart button. Maybe it’s a relationship that soured or a job gone sideways. Or maybe you have wandered far, far away from God.

I can’t offer you a restart button that will erase all of your past, but I do know that you can go back to the beginning and have a new start. To go back to the beginning means going back to the time and place where you knew the ground was solid, to that time before you got off track. It was the moment where hope was alive in your heart and your vision of the future was bright. The Bible talks about that moment when our hearts were alive with our first love — before we soiled it and spoiled it.

You can go back to that. Or if you feel like you’ve never had that, you can go there for the first time. Most everyone knows that this past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. It signalled the start of the season of Lent. Lent is a six week period when many Christians go back to the beginning. They set their hearts towards Jesus once again. They fast and pray. They rededicate themselves to following Him with their whole heart. They prepare themselves so that they can see His purposes in their lives.

You may never have practiced Lent. You may not be a Christian. But you may know that you need a new start. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are tired and weary and I will give you rest.” Now, that’s a beginning! 

Wherever you are today, perhaps it is time to go back to the beginning. To get yourself close to Father God. To rededicate yourself to Him and to the things He wants for your life. And if you don’t know where to begin, just start with a conversation with Him.