Don’t Be Stupid

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I read a quote that was posted on Facebook the other day. That’s not unusual, as there are at least 30 quotes posted there every day. But I would rank this quote as one of my all time favorites: “Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes things happen because you’re stupid and make bad decisions.”

As a Christian, I base most of my life’s “happenings” on divine orchestration. I do believe that God has a plan for my life and that He will see it through, no matter what I do to the contrary. God gives purpose to my life and I believe that purpose fuels my desire to accomplish things while I am still here.

There are some who say that Christians use their God as a crutch. I have to agree with those people, because sometimes it is true. I lean on my faith in God to help me travel on this journey of life. I lean on His word, His power, His intercession, His grace. Over and over I depend on God. The old spiritual song “Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms,” tells the story in detail. So why the big secret?

I know that the people who criticize us Christians for leaning on a crutch are actually saying that we make excuses. When things are going well in our lives, we say “praise God!” When things are going not so well we say “God is testing me today!” or “Lord, help me through this trial.”

But, personally, I don’t believe that God tests us as much as people state. To quote the quote, “sometimes things happen because you’re stupid and make bad decisions.”

I don’t think of myself as a stupid person. I know that I am not, because my IQ has been tested several times and I always score well above the average. But, I have had some stupid moments in my life and have made poor decisions. I don’t blame God for them, I accept them as mine.

When I was teenager and had just bought a new car (well, it was new to me), I made the stupid decision to take it for a little spin. It was winter, there was snow on the ground, and it was at night. I didn’t tell my parents where I was going, for I figured I’d just go up the road a little ways and come back home.

I drove two miles from the house when I pulled off of the road to turn the car around. Unfortunately I ran into too much snow and the car got stuck. No matter what I did to rock that Buick, it would not budge out of the snow. Now I was only 2 miles from home, sitting in the dark, and over heating the car!

The car started rumbling as it was overheating. I got out and walked up to a house (people that I knew of, so they weren’t complete strangers) and knocked on their door. There were no cell phones in those days ! I called my Mom, who was more than a little mad at me for not telling her I was going anywhere. Ten minutes later my Uncle Don and my father arrived to get the car out of the snow. But the damage had been done and the overheating had caused a gasket to blow. Now I had a new car that needed repairs!

I could blame God for all of that. Why did He let me drive that car in the first place? If He has divine knowledge, surely He knew that I was going to do a stupid thing. He could have saved me from embarrassment and car repair bills.

But, come on. I was the one who made the decision to drive that night. I was the one who got behind the wheel and spun that car out of the driveway and up the road. I like to believe that God did help me and protected me from further destruction. But He didn’t stop me from going. That was my choice.

There’s a difference between being God’s children and being God’s puppets. We, as human beings, are different from any other species on this planet. I like to say that we are “human spiritual beings.” We have a brain that thinks and a spirit that feels. When God created man, He could have just made the puppets, and we’d be fine with that. Actually, some would probably prefer that life. How nice would it be to actually be doing God’s will at all times? It sure would make some things a lot easier, for both God and man!

But instead of being His puppets, God gave man the freedom to choose. That free will is what makes us different from each other, and so exciting for the Creator to observe! Being a child of God gives us the unconditional love of a parent, but it’s our choice as to what to do with that love.

In my opinion, deciding to be a parent rather than a puppeteer was a risky decision for God. I’m not sure that I would have made the same choice. But God basically said “I choose you, with all of your imperfections and decision making abilities.” And then He trusted that we would choose Him. How awesome a concept is that?

So we choose Him and still have to make decisions about the rest of our lives. And, yes, sometimes we have stupid moments and make bad decisions. But, our Father knows this about us. He gives us His grace, His mercy, and so many other things that we ask of Him. Most of the time we ask Him for those things AFTER our dumb decisions.

And just like the parent that He is, God helps us despite our poor choices. My parents didn’t stop loving me because I was dumb one night and drove the car into snow that I couldn’t get out of. Oh, believe me, I was talked to about it, and very sternly. After all, there are consequences to all of the decisions we make.

What is my point for this blog?

Simply this: don’t blame God for your choices.

Live your life as His child, strive to be that good and loving offspring. Make Him proud that you were created in His likeness, with the freedom to choose. Try to make good decisions and not stupid ones. Always cling to Him when you realize the bad choice was made. Lean on those everlasting arms.

And when people criticize you for your faith, you can agree with them to some extent, knowing that your “crutch” is not an excuse.

 

 

Thinking on the Treadmill – It’s A Generational Thing

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I was walking on the treadmill tonight, listening to some old tunes on the mp3 player, when a song came on that made me think. I usually don’t like to think while exercising, because I like to reserve that time to clear my head, not fill it. But tonight was different. The singer finished his song, then spoke about Psalm 102. And so I let my mind consider the words….

The Psalm begins with the title, “a prayer of an overwhelmed saint.”

How many of us have felt overwhelmed at times? We think that we will never be able to accomplish all that needs to be done. Or we feel that life has dealt us so much, and we question “how much more can I take?” It is good to know that we are not alone in those situations. People from generation to generation have gone through similar situations. They have persevered, and so shall we.

Life brings change. That’s one thing I have learned through my journey. Some change is good, some not so good. As I get older, I realize that some things that I depended on have also changed. For instance, five years ago the walk on the treadmill would have been easy. Tonight, not so much. Fifteen years ago I would not have imagined myself living back in my hometown again. Yet, here I am.

And still through the ups and downs, the changes that come and go, there has been one constant in my life: my belief in the existence of a loving God. This belief was instilled in me as a young girl, as I witnessed my grandmother praying for our family. I wonder what she would think or say all of these years later, as I continue to follow her example.

In psalm 102 it states “this will be written for a generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.”

And those were the words I was thinking on as I walked on the treadmill tonight. Things do change in this life. But one constant remains, and that is the Lord. From generation to generation, He continues. The same God of my grandmother, my mom, me, and now the God of my grand nieces and grand nephews, remains.

I find it interesting that the psalm started out as a lament from an “overwhelmed saint,” who came to the conclusion that, through it all, God remains. And here I am, thousands of years later, drawing the same conclusion! How awesome is that? We think we are so different from people of the past, but really, deep down inside, we are all the same.

“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure…..the children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.” (Psalm 102:25-28).

Just from my grandmother to my grand niece and nephews is 5 generations, and still our God remains faithful. He still provides, He still cares for us, and His love will continue on.  May we all realize the significance of the words of the psalmist. Whether exercising on a treadmill, or dealing with the “treadmill” of life, there is always One on whom we can depend. Over and over and over again.

Some pretty good thoughts to have while exercising, don’t you think?

 

Olive and Frank (part two)

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In my previous post I wrote about my mother’s Aunt Olive, and her husband Frank. During the summer months when I was in my late teens, I used to spend time with them after mowing their lawn each week. The conversations, which turned into bible studies, often gave me something to think about until the next time I visited with them.

Frank was in his nineties, and always had bits of wisdom to share with me. He talked often about reading the Bible. One day I asked if he read it every day. “Yes,” he said.

“How can you read that every day for all of these years?” I asked.

“Every day I learn something new,” he said. I didn’t understand how a person could read the same words over so many years (I had guessed at least 70 years) and not get bored.

“The Bible says that ‘God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path,” Frank continued. “Each day I get a new perspective on things in His word.”

Over the years I have often thought of Frank and that lesson he taught me so many years ago. I have grown to understand what he meant, as I too have read the same scriptures but have gotten a different meaning out of them. As the seasons of my life change, so do my needs in life. God somehow uses the same words to give me exactly what I need to understand, no matter what the season is.

It was so appropriate (co-incidence? I don’t think so) that today in church I heard a sermon very close to that lesson from Frank. The Reverend was speaking about growth. More specifically, that even if we have been Christians for many years, we still need to grow. We need to move in our faith, reaching for new directions, new and better understanding of God’s principle for our lives. As the Reverend spoke, my thoughts turned to Frank.

Frank understood about growing in faith. He knew that sometimes as Christians, we get stagnant in our walk. We let the same old thing be the same old thing. We read the same scriptures and think of the same meanings. But Frank got it. He was able to move past the obstacles that keep us in the same place in our spirituality. Frank continued to grow every day, even as he got on in age, when most people “retire” from such things.

Olive and Frank were spiritual mentors for me, in a time of my life when big changes were occurring. I was getting ready to head off to college in Florida, almost 2000 miles away from my home. I had big dreams and plans for my life back then. Saying goodbye to Olive and Frank was hard for me. Even though we never said it out loud, the three of us knew that I may not see them again.

They wrote to me while I was away at college, typed on a typewriter because their penmanship had gotten so poor. And soon afterward they both had to be placed in a nursing home, where they eventually passed on. They had married “late in life” according to most people’s definition (Olive was 67 and Frank was in his seventies), yet even so, God blessed them with long life so that they could enjoy it together. Frank was 104 when he went to meet his Creator.

The other day I was looking through a box of old pictures, and I came upon a letter that they had written to me. I don’t remember receiving it, but I am so glad that I saved it. What a treasure to find after all of this time. The words still ring true to me today. Words of wisdom from two very special people in my life, who I am able to honor through this blog 27 years later.

Here it is:

“June six, nineteen hundred and eighty-four.

Dear Little ‘Cindy:’

You are now standing upon the threshold of a new and beautiful career and it depends upon yourself to make it a happy and successful one — but only if you place all of your trust and confidence in Jesus, who loves you as no one else in the whole world can love you.

If you can do His work and be pleasing to Him, then you have already conquered life’s challenges and need have no fear of any undertaking so long as you do everything to please Him…..to please this world is impossible, and furthermore, the world should not enter into your career, you will find it a harsh and cruel world at times, but just keep hold of Jesus’ hand and you will conquer.

I wish I had more time to tell you all about the volumes of things you will encounter — some good and some very harsh, but so long as you do not forget to see Jesus in all things and do the will of God, you will never fail nor be hurt.

I would like to write volumes more, but time won’t permit, so God bless you, Dear, and best of luck.” — Olive and Frank.

There was also a post script:

“Always keep in mind God loves you (underlined). I do not need to tell you to always be the dear, sweet girl that you are!” — Olive.

Of course when I read that letter, after so much time had passed, the tears were unavoidable. My journey through this life so far has brought me to many places. Just as Olive and Frank wrote, the world has been “harsh” at times. But I still rely on the faith that the three of us spoke about during our visits. I still see Frank holding his Bible, and hear Olive’s sweet voice speaking to me about God’s love versus the “cruel” world.

“Each day brings something new,” Frank would say.

A lesson for life. May we all continue to learn it.

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