Saturday, January 27, 2018

480 Minutes

by Sylvia Gaston

Four hundred eighty minutes. That’s it! That’s all we have to operate with each day.

In any given 24-hour day, we are given 1440 minutes. Sleeping takes up about 480 minutes and work takes up about 480 minutes. That leaves us with a measly 480 minutes a day to live within!! Are you kidding me?

At the beginning of each year, I typically reflect on how I have spent the past year and how I plan to spend the next one. It’s a great time to think about whether or not I’m happy about the way I spent my time.  If I’m not, it’s a time to make some changes.

My friend, Gracie, recently posted this…
“So I've been thinking a lot about time. We're given only so much of it and it passes so quickly...Frankly, I'm wasting it. I spend so much time doing meaningless things. I need to step away from things that distract my attention and really, really focus on what I have and appreciate…God, my husband, my children, relationships - and just pour into them. With that being said, I've decided it’s time (lol) that social media and I break up -  maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. Not sure yet. This girl is about to go make some time count in her life.”

My best resource for wisdom in my life is God’s Word. The Bible has a lot to say about time.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 37:5 tells us, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says, “There is a season for everything, and a time for every event under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted.”

So here I sit with 480 minutes at my disposal each day. Some of that time is used up for necessary (yet evil) things like laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning and driving. And, if I’m being honest, some of my minutes are squandered away on television and the Internet.

In what ways are you squandering your time? Are you held hostage by social media or television or something else?

Here are some shifts in my life that I am implementing to make the best use of my 480 minutes:
  • Less TV, more gym time (3-4 days a week – this is a 2-fer because I also get   to spend time with my friend and workout partner, Lee)
  • Read non-fiction books in addition to the fiction that I love
  • Take an online course to keep my mind sharp and my knowledge expanding
  • If I add a new TV program to my DVR, I must remove one (I also do this with my closet – 1 new item in = 1 item must go)
  • Once a week, work on 1 home improvement item so that they don’t stack up
But, more importantly, I am looking at everything I do – every minute I spend – verrry carefully to see if it is worth doing. Is it a waste? Is it meaningful?

Before I do any of these things, however, I am FIRST going to ask God how He wants me to spend my time. He certainly knows what’s best for me…and for you.

What are you doing with your 480 minutes? How about adding a visit to the church of your choice in there somewhere? Or set aside some daily time to pray and hear from God about how He thinks you should be spending your time?

It’s 2018, neighbors!! Go make some time count in your life!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Love Your Neighbor

by Tim Howard

When asked about various commandments – Jesus responded by saying: “The most important commandment is this: ‘… The Lord your God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

A person’s passion for God will be revealed through his or her compassion for people. I’ve discovered that I’m better prepared to love people when I have first given myself to loving God in the way He deserves and desires.

In the Bible, the New Testament records 50 plus scriptures that include the phrase “One Another!” Here’s a sampling: “Be devoted to one another” ”Honor one another above yourselves.”  “Accept one another” “Care for each other.” “Serve one another.”  “Don’t judge one another.”  “Be patient with one another.”   “Forgive each other.”  “Encourage one another.” “Confess your sins to one another.”  “Pray for one anther.” And the list goes on… When we combine these statements; love takes on a deeper meaning.

There’s a twist, however. Jesus said:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…”

This statement wasn’t new in the sense that it had never been spoken before but it was new because it was founded upon and motivated by something totally different. In the Old Testament this commandment was based upon the Law. It was something required and mandated. Something you had to do – ought to do and should do. As good as that may be, the new commandment Jesus gave was based upon gratitude and thankfulness not duty. People could extend mercy, grace and kindness not because it was mandated but because they were recipients of Gods mercy, grace and kindness.  In other words: We love people because we have been loved – Not merely because it is the right thing to do.

Loving people God’s way will always be challenging.

Jesus said it’s easy to love people who are lovable. Anyone can do that! But what about the people, who complain, criticize, whine, talk too much and don’t listen? What about the sarcastic, cynical, crude and intolerant? Here’s where you need an extra dose of grace. It’s not as easy as you may think!

Jesus even said:
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!

You might be saying to yourself the same thing I’ve said to myself many times – I can’t do that! That’s the truth! That’s why we need Jesus! You first need to love God and then you can be empowered to love people His way. 

What might happen in 2018 if we all take this commandment to heart? What if our love becomes more than a feeling that is rooted in the emotions? What will happen if we really accept one another - serve one another - stop judging one another and forgive each other? Let’s give it a try in 2018!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Just Wait

by Candace Cortez

I have two kids. They are marvelous little humans who consistently show me new things about myself, about life, and about God. They are growing up, which I am daily appreciative of. But I do feel like my mommy heart is missing phases we have just graduated from even though I am always looking forward to the next stage. It’s a weird place to be but I think a lot of parents can understand that tension with me…right?

They have reached the days when they are relatively tech independent and can control our tablets, phones, and gaming consoles without assistance from me or my husband. This is both a relief and a fresh worry. (Yay parent controls!) The other day, while my son was enjoying his last day of winter break binging, I noticed he was keeping the Xbox controller turned on even after he began his episode. Frustrated at this frivolity, and realizing why I am constantly being berated for batteries, I told him to turn it off. He obeyed, but then I noticed the same controller back on around 8 minutes later. Que mom rage. Yes, I get there quickly sometimes. I decided to wait with the verbal reprimands and observe further to see why he was determined to send me shopping for AAs. That’s when I noticed it. When an episode of a program ends, Netflix gives you a certain amount of time to decide if you want to switch programs. At the end of that time, it just begins the next episode for you. Pretty convenient if you ask me. However, not convenient enough for my nine-year-old. He was keeping the controller on to press “begin next episode” instead of waiting for the 14 seconds that Netflix allotted. He could not wait the 14 seconds! What?! This kid.

I see this inability or unwillingness to wait in so many areas of life. It seems that we are creating systems that help us be more efficientwhile surrendering some of the very tools that create patience. In trying to teach my own family the power of patience, of waiting without complaining, I find myself purposely denying them the easy and immediate in order for them to build up those patience muscles.

Right now, I am currently in prayer for several big things happening in my life. I feel that same desire to just skip to the answer, the resolution, the healing, the growth moment now. I too, need to grow my patience muscles. I need to learn to just wait. Wait on the Lord, wait on my growth process, wait on people to learn how instead of just doing it myself. Patience is hard. But if we can just wait, sometimes that’s where we find the Lord’s voice.

Waiting creates anticipation, an awareness, a focus that we may not experience in the moment of possession. Once we have what we want, we are onto the next.

My heart for myself this year is to know God more than ever before. Yes, I want to get healthier, spend wiser, and read more books. But the beat of my heart is to know God for real, not just of Him or a second-hand account of Him. For me, I know this means I need to wait. Take it slow. Knowing God takes time. A lifetime actually. We can spend our entire lifetime pursuing God and still discover more of who He is. If we lose the ability to exercise patience, we may miss this. We may give up after we know a few Bible stories, or have a few mountain top experiences during worship and turn to something that doesn’t take as much effort. 

Just wait. Keep searching for who and how He is. There’s more to discover.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Again

by Andrew Cromwell

We’re obsessed with the new. We love new cars, new HDTVs, new phones, and new opportunities. And here we are at the beginning of the new year, and we will collectively reflect on the new changes we need in order to make our life better. We will resolve to start new habits, build new relationships (and revitalize old ones), and get new bodies (or at least try and work on the ones we are stuck in). 

Why are we so in love with the new? 

I think it is because we all know deep down inside that something is wrong about the way things get old. And I’m not talking just about old bodies, but old everything. Everything in this world over time, becomes scratched, stained, and scarred. 

Shiny new cars become oxidized, high-miled heaps. 
Bright new TVs become faded and fuzzy.
Wicked fast and beautiful cell phones become slow and cracked.

And lest we forget, young, thin bodies become old and fat. 
New love becomes tired and predictable.
Inspired dreams become broken and forgotten.

This makes us sad! And it should.

Because we were made for the new. That’s why our heart cries out for it.

At the end of time as we know it, the Apostle John tells us that Jesus will declare that He will make all things new again. It is at this moment that everything that is wrong with the world will be made right, once and for all. Jesus will bring things back into the order for which everything was originally designed.

But until that day, your and my heart still cries out for the new. We have an unshakeable knowing that things in our life can and should be better. We believe they should be new again.

At the beginning of this new year, let me encourage you not to listen to the talking heads that will make a big deal out of all the new year’s resolutions that will be broken before we get to February. Don’t listen to your family and friends that remind you of your past attempts to change. And especially don’t pay attention to your own failed history (we’ve all got one). 

Instead, reach out for the new! Hold on to hope. Start a new habit, learn a new skill, and build a new future.