Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Squeeze Principle

by Tim Howard

When I was a small boy I hated naps with a passion. My mother’s love for naps, however, greatly exceeded my hatred and I was doomed to take one each and every day.  I think her love for them was rooted in the fact that she got a break from me.  If the truth were known, it may have been her favorite time of the day!   I recall one afternoon waking up from one of those naps and within a few minutes, my mom told me to go back to bed.  Curious as to why, I asked for a reason (in a demanding tone) and she said, “Because you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  That didn’t make sense to me but I soon learned she was talking about my attitude. 

A person’s attitude is connected to his or her focus and perception of life. In my specific case, I hated naps and a bad attitude manifested itself.  One man calls it the ‘Squeeze’ principle. It’s when the pressures of life try to squeeze your hope, joy, and peace out of you. The pressures do not create the attitude - only reveal it! 

In Acts 16:22 –25, Paul and Silas were having a challenging day.  They were being squeezed!  They had been preaching the Gospel in Philippi and the crowd was attacking them.  They were ultimately beaten and thrown into prison.  About midnight, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  As I read this narrative, I asked myself: “Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?”  They have been stripped, imprisoned, put in stocks, and now they’re singing. Not to mention they had done no crime.

I would have expected this verse to read that Paul and Silas were having a pity party and complaining at midnight or blaming God and others for their current dilemma.  The truth, however, is that these two men simply focused on God and not their current situation. Their focus and perception created a positive attitude while others listened intently.

A positive attitude in the midst of dark times will influence people greatly.  Don’t forget the greatest impact of your life will often come at the time of greatest pain.  Maybe you’re being squeezed right now.  How are you handling it?  Are you reacting, blaming and criticizing? Or are you responding, focusing on the future and trusting God?

When life squeezes you – God wants to build your character!

To build character you don’t need to get up on the other side of the bed! You need to:

1. Have the right values.
One educator said: "Teaching kids to count is wonderful, but teaching them what counts is best."

2. Do the right thing.
People of character know there is no right way to do the wrong thing. If you start something wrong, you'll end wrong. You've got to do the right thing.

3. Be the right kind of person.
When you walk humbly, live a lifestyle of giving, do acts of kindness and consider others before yourself. You are the right kind of person.

4. Have the right attitude.
Someone said that your attitude will determine your altitude! 

By the way… I have learned to love naps.  I wish I could take one each and every day.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Living Under The Sun

by Tim Howard

Ever go into a store or visit a coffee shop and upon entering you’re asked by one of the employees – ‘How are You Doing?’ We all have! Who hasn’t been told by a sales clerk, a personal attendant or some other representative to ‘Have a nice day’ upon leaving – Even if it’s 6 pm and the day is behind us!

Phrases like this are commonplace and are usually asked or spoken with no genuine desire to ascertain the truth. They are just mind-less statements full of niceties and pleasantries.

As a disclaimer: I too, find myself asking rhetorical questions that don’t require an answer and make statements that aren’t rooted in genuine concern.

When I do, however, broach the subject of ‘wellbeing’ with a person and ask the question –
'How are you doing?' with sincerity, I’m amazed to hear this phrase more often than ever before. “I’m Tired!”

We live in a decade of tiredness! Speaking with a friend recently – she was describing the challenges of raising a grandchild. I chimed in by saying: “ I can relate!” Having my grandson living with us and being a part of the ongoing process of development can be exhausting. I found myself saying to this person: “ People tell me that children keep you young but mine just keeps me tired’

Weariness is epidemic! People are worn out, exhausted, fatigued, dog-tired, frazzled and too often live on the edge of burnout. In view of this, it may be helpful to know that weariness is not a product of Hard Work. Working too hard does not create weariness – Working too hard on the things that don’t really matter – causes this condition.

Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes said: When you give yourself to things ‘Under the Sun’ – things that are temporal and fleeting without any real connection to those things ‘Above the Sun’ – things that are eternal, You will experience weariness!

That may be the rationale that prompted The Apostle Paul to gives this admonition: Col. 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Jesus even said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… “ 

The real answer to weariness is found when you connect the temporal to the eternal – The things that are ‘Above!’ produce lasting ramifications and are eternal because they are connected to Jesus – who is eternal.

When this happens – our life ‘Under the Sun’ is redefined by those things ‘Above the Sun.’ Meaning, purpose, hope, joy, and strength begin to dispel and replace weariness and fatigue. Our lives receive a resurrection of sorts!

So… How are you doing? Seriously! Are you focused on things under the sun? Is life all about ‘now’ and just trying to survive. Are the earthly things and challenges capturing your full attention? Have you lost sight of the ‘Big Picture? 

Maybe a glance upward will restore a better perspective. When you focus on things ‘Above the Sun’ you open the door for God to do a long-lasting positive change in your life. My family has experienced this first hand. Yes, we still get tired from work but have discovered we can go from strength to strength when we build a life on things above the Sun. Ps 84:5-7