Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rules of the House

Growing up, I hated the rules of the house. Make your bed, clean your room, no phone after 8pm, Sundays with family. Ugh.

I remember rebelling against the rules, just because. I had no real reason except I didn’t want to follow them.  They didn’t make sense. They didn’t apply to me. I was my own person. 

That attitude worked for me when I left the house. I could make my own rules. Make my bed? Ha! Nope. Let the dishes pile in the sink? Why not! 

What didn’t work so well was other people's responses.  One roommate piled all my dirty dishes on my bed. She said she didn’t mind them but she needed to make room to wash hers. I had to rethink my plan. Maybe my rules infringed on others. 

Over time, I’ve come to realize the same thing with God’s rules. (Yes, I rebelled against those for a while too!) Perhaps they were designed with me in mind. Instead of believing they were made to hold me back, I took on the notion that just maybe they intended to strengthen me, boost me, and comfort me. 

God poked me big time with the recent news story: Stressed?Do Someone Else a Favor. 

Americans,cooperation,diversity,Earth,globes,hands,holding,international,North America,teamwork,unity,world peace,people,conceptsThe premise of the research was that, “…When you focus your attention on someone else's wellbeing, it actually reduces your own stress levels. As a result, that curbs the negative impact that stress can have on health, says lead study author Michael Poulin, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo.”

So the Golden Rule applies after all? Who knew?

God did. Jesus came and taught us the Eternal plan by laying forth the ground work with The Sermon on the Mount, the Greatest Commandment and the Judgment of the Nations (Matt 5, Matt 22, & Matt 25). 

“Whatever you do for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40)

(And once he laid the ground work, he laid down his life. That sacrifice leaves me in awe every time I contemplate it.)

Now I begin to understand there is something even more foundational that our Father is trying to teach us with that ground work . He was educating us on how we were made. Yes, in His image, but something more profound in the fabric of creation. 

God designed us for community, for each other and for Him. Random acts of kindness are not so random. They are designed to help us help each other and in doing that we help ourselves. There is a circular connectivity, a “coming around” so to speak that enables all of us to reach beyond ourselves. 

I know many people who choose to live a solitary existence. Every now and then, they let someone in, but it’s very calculated and is usually accompanied by a self-made wall they have deemed necessary for their own protection. 

My mother used to comment, “They don’t know what they’re missing.”

Now I understand that wisdom with a whole new vision. 

Walls are built to protect. They safeguard those who’ve been hurt, lost or neglected. But eventually those walls become a prison and the owner wishes for escape. 

This is where God’s plan comes in. When we help others and do it on a consistent basis we help ourselves. We choose to live the healthy plan of circular love that God designed for us. 

Isn’t it fascinating that our Father chooses such quiet ways to reach out to us, to love us? Isn’t it fascinating that it takes us so long to get it? 

Maybe the “House Rules” really aren’t so bad after all…

I’m just thankful that God doesn’t leave my “dirty dishes” on my bed. I’d be in a world of hurt.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When to Pick a Flower…According to God

Life imitates nature. Nature teaches life lessons. Nature reflects God. 

Flowers are no exception. With Valentine’s Day this month, beautiful flowers are in every store. They symbolize love for another, attraction for another, and they are given to show affection. 
How then do you pick a flower? Well, for those of us in winter right now, the picking has been done for us! However, it’s good to know when to pick flowers from their environment so we can enjoy them to their fullest extent.

"Choose flowers that are just coming into full bloom for picking. If you pick the flowers before this, there is a risk that they will be too immature to open their buds. And if they’re picked well into bloom or towards the end of blooming, they’ll fade fast on display in just water. Older blooms will drop petals and pollen everywhere, creating a mess in your house."

Recently I talked with a young person who was struggling with a loss of a friend in a car accident. She also just before lost another friend to cancer. She is having a hard time understanding how God works because she and so many people prayed for her friend with cancer and the girl still died. Why does God allow those things? It’s so unfair.

It is difficult sometimes for us to see the big picture and to remember that there is something after this life. The loss of a loved one has caused more than one person I know to turn completely away from God, blaming Him (to the point of denying His existence) for allowing it to happen. 

I’ve heard the phrase, “This life is not to be coveted.” That is hard to wrap our heads around, but it doesn’t make it less true. 

In many books, including Heaven Is For Real, the person experiencing the life after life moment does not want to come back. They have found a completely different world, a completely different life so rich, so comforting, that it is sometimes painful to come back to this restricted 3D existence of pain and loss.

St. Therese of Lisieux had this to say, “Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away from the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
...And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden…Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”

So we are all flowers. And God picks us when we are the most beautiful to Him, the time when we are closest to Him. For some, this time is early on, for others, it is much later. But the important thing to remember is that God will pick us when we are ready. Instead of looking at death as a tragedy, we need to see it as a victory. 

When my grandmother was wheelchair bound after living 90 years on her own, she started to despair. No longer could she take care of herself. She relied on others and this was a constant heartache for her. At one point, she started to think God had forgotten her. What she didn’t realize is that in those last days, when she had to rely on others, she converted many souls to God through her example of prayerful suffering. Those people still remember her today. God took her at her best.

God never forgets us and He picks us at our peak…just as He picks the flowers of the fields.