Satisfaction

Wednesday’s Word: Comfort

 

  “Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance.  I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.  Instead, I am content and at peace.  As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.”  Psalm 131:1-2

 

All the peace and comfort of a child nestled in its mother’s arms is available to us.  The price?  Our pride and arrogance.

 

“I can be right or I can be happy,” as the saying goes. Although an honest exchange of ideas can be mutually enlightening, arrogance shifts discussions into heated disputes.  Is verbal victory worth the price?  Why surrender our serenity over a needless contest of egos?

 

Over-reaching ambition, motivated by pride or arrogance, can also drive away our peace of mind.  I once accepted a promotion to a position I detested and was ill suited to perform, because the title sounded impressive.  A cloud of gloom surrounded me for several months until I finally came to my senses. I returned to my previous job – where I worked effectively and happily for many years.

 

When our egos stay right-sized, we fit comfortably in God’s loving embrace.

 

Prayer:  Lord, let me rest secure in Your loving wisdom so that I have no need to cling to my pride.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How is pride blocking your peace of mind today?

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Service


 

Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. And if someone asks you why you are doing that, say that the Master needs it and will send it back at once.”  Mark 1:1b-3

 

Who returned the colt? Jesus gave his word that he would send the colt back at once. Who got the job of bringing it back? The people in Jerusalem gave Jesus a red carpet welcome, the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade. Jesus’ followers got to enjoy the enthusiastic reception—all except for the disciple who had to take the colt back to its owner.

 

Somebody had to leave the festivities and make his way, donkey in tow, back to the little hick town where nothing was happening. I wonder how that disciple felt. Did anybody notice he was gone? Did he get any credit? Did he realize that his service was a sermon? It demonstrated that Jesus keeps his word and that God is to be trusted.

 

We all have opportunities to serve. Often, those opportunities are behind the scenes. We don’t have to be religious leaders, eloquent speakers, or charismatic personalities to carry God’s message. How we do our daily tasks speak volumes about what it means to follow Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. Respect and consideration for others silently carry the message of God’s love. Service, no matter how lackluster, helps spread the Good News, whether or not we get credit.

 

Prayer: Lord, grant us willingness to do your will, whether or not we’re in the spotlight.

 

Reflection: Who is working behind the scenes in your life today? Why not thank them for their service.

 

Wednesday’s Word: Blessings

iStock_000003550839XSmallCome and listen, all who honor God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. Psalm 66: 16

 

If we wanted to tell others what God has done for us, where would we begin? We should probably start by telling ourselves. Want to try it?

 

You might make a timeline. Turn a blank piece of paper so the widest part runs horizontally. About half-way down the page, draw a line from left to right across the entire sheet to represent your life from birth to the present.

 

Beginning with your earliest recollection from childhood, write the milestones or other significant memories in chronological order. Note the happy events on top of the line; note the hard times underneath the line.

 

Continue to review your life through your school years, your teens, early adulthood, and so on, noting both positive and negative times up through today.

 

Review your list. The blessings on top of the line may give you plenty to share when telling others what God has done for you, but don’t stop there.

 

Think about the items beneath the line. What got you through those challenges? The support and love of other people? That’s a blessing. The strength and willingness to keep plugging along when you felt like giving up or running away? That’s a blessing. An inspiring word or phrase you read or heard in a song at just the right moment? That’s a blessing, too. You get the idea.

 

Maybe the blessings that come in the midst of our pain are the sweetest. I’ve been richly blessed with family, friends, career, and more, but the consolations I treasure most are the times God met me in my sorrow, fear, grief, and desperation. I know for sure that God’s blessings got me through those struggles because in those dark times I had absolutely no resources of my own.

 

C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures…but shouts in our pain.” When has God whispered or shouted to you?

 

Prayer: Loving God, open our eyes to all your blessings.

 

Reflection: What has God done for you?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Gratitude

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Be grateful for the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family… Deuteronomy 26: 11

 

Counting our blessings can change our attitudes and enrich our lives.

 

When a tractor trailer hit my car I ended up painfully bedridden for months. It was horrible. Would I want to go through it again? Never! Am I grateful that I did? Absolutely!  I’m not denying the pain and challenges, but they couldn’t keep God from operating in my life. When I remembered to look for the good, I felt better.

  • The accident struck just after I’d gotten in shape by working out. Had my muscles not been so toned, the internal damage to my body would have been much worse.
  • I got to see my husband in a new light as he stepped up to take over my household responsibilities while I was incapacitated.
  • Being out of work, I had plenty of extra time to meditate and pray. I’m grateful that God didn’t reject my prayers even though, in a way, I was praying because “I had nothing better to do.”
  • Insurance and disability benefits helped cover the loss of my paycheck.
  • I was forced to stop micro-managing my teenage daughter. It was a bumpy road, but we both learned things we needed to learn. Our relationship ended up being healthier for it.
  • I found out my self-worth doesn’t dependent on how much I accomplish. Like everyone else, I have worth simply because God loved me into existence.

 

God works for our best interest in life’s pleasures and in its challenges. We don’t have to deny our pain. We also don’t have to let it stop us from being grateful.

 

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to your blessings.

 

Reflection: What good things can you thank God for today?

Wednesday’s Word: Comparisons

iStock_000003550839XSmallYou should each judge your own conduct. If it is good, then you can be proud of what you yourself have done, without having to compare it with what someone else has done. Galatians 6: 4

 

Comparing ourselves to others is a lose/lose situation. Tempting as it might be to prop up a fragile ego when we seem ahead, it’s a set-up for vanity and looking down on others. On the other hand, if others seem more talented or accomplished, we open ourselves to envy, resentment, or feelings of inadequacy. What have we got to gain except a false sense of superiority or inferiority? Why bother? Life is not a contest.

 

That doesn’t mean we can’t shine. If we focus on what we are doing and we’re doing our best, we can feel good about ourselves. We can take healthy pride in our best efforts and their results. We can be grateful for the abilities we’ve been blessed with and the opportunities to use them. It doesn’t matter how that stacks up against someone else’s gifts or accomplishments. Besides, there’s never a level playing field. We are all individuals with different physical traits, backgrounds, opportunities. Why compare?

 

What’s stopping us from feeling good about ourselves? If what we’ve done is good, it’s good. Other people’s achievements can’t take away the goodness of our efforts. Other people’s lack of achievement can’t make our efforts any better than they are.

 

Judging our own conduct keeps us grounded in reality and focused on what we have control over—ourselves. That sounds like freedom to me.

 

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for my abilities. Help me focus on using them as you want me to today.

 

Reflection: What have you done today that you can feel good about?

Wednesday’s Word: Self-worth

iStock_000003550839XSmallNow remember what you were, my friends, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. 1 Corinthians 1:26

 

God has a knack for picking ambassadors who aren’t all that significant in the world’s opinion. He often works through the ones who tend to be over-looked. Jesus himself is “the stone the builders rejected as worthless.”

 

Worldly success—whatever that might mean—is not one of God’s criteria. Think of David, the shepherd boy who killed a giant with a sling and eventually became King. Or Peter, the uneducated fisherman Jesus chose to lead his church. St. Francis of Assisi was born into wealth, but he didn’t become useful to God or anyone else until he abandoned his social rank. And who would have thought a wizened little religious sister from an obscure town in Macedonia could impact the world the way Mother Teresa did?

 

What about us? Not wise? Or influential? Not on any Top Ten lists? That’s okay. God created us with our individual uniqueness for a reason. He calls us to be who we are. We have value because God loved us into existence. If we surrender to His plan for our lives, who know how he will use us? We can trust His plan.

 

Prayer: My Creator, who I am to you is who I am.

 

Reflection: How does it feel to be valuable in God’s eyes?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Invitations

iStock_000003550839XSmallI tell you all that none of those who were invited will taste my dinner! Luke 14:24

 

What did a jilted bride do when the groom broke their engagement a week before the wedding? She invited the homeless and guests of a local food bank to attend the feast at the reception hall. Despite her sorrow, she brought joy to those who have little to celebrate. I’ll bet her generosity helped her feel good on some level.

 

How like the parable in Luke’s gospel. Why won’t the invited guests taste the dinner? They didn’t want to go. They had something better to do than go to a banquet. Their excuses sound pretty lame. Who would rather work (try out his oxen) or check out real estate instead of going to a party? Another guest excused himself because he just got married. Who would think so little of his host to assume his new bride wouldn’t be welcome?

 

But their unwillingness to celebrate didn’t stop the party from happening. The host found other guests. He welcomed not only the poor and disabled, but pretty much anybody else he could find that wanted to come. God’s generosity is not thwarted by our refusal to accept it. Why would beggars, invalids, and other last minute invitees accept? Maybe what they had—or didn’t have—made what they were being offered look too good to pass up.

 

The things that kept the first string guests from attending were possessions and a brand new relationship. How do we let our possessions, our work, our romances, get in the way of accepting the goodness God wants to offer us? So often we get what we think we want and still feel let down. Why do we see time with God or time sharing His love in service to others as an obligation? Did you ever do something you felt called to do and feel good about yourself? Did you ever experience the joy of camaraderie in working with others? Did you ever lose yourself and forget your problems by getting caught up in something outside your own plans? We weren’t meant to live in isolation. Sharing creates a nourishing banquet for our hearts.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me say yes to you.

 

Reflection: What have you got better to do today than accept God’s invitation?

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Invitations

iStock_000003550839XSmallI tell you all that none of those who were invited will taste my dinner! Luke 14: 24

 

Why won’t they taste the dinner? Because they didn’t want to. They were invited, but they all had something better to do than go to a banquet. (See Luke14: 16-21) One wanted to work with his new farm animals. One wanted to check out some new real estate. Who would rather work or evaluate investment property than go to a party? Another just got married. Could he possibly have thought his new bride wouldn’t be welcome, too? Who could think so little of his generous host?

 

The A-listers brush off didn’t stop the party from happening. The host in the parable welcomed other guests: not only the poor and disabled, but pretty much anybody else who wanted to what he had to offer. . Why would beggars, invalids, and who-knows-what random mix of last minute invitees accept? Maybe what they had, or didn’t have, made the offer way too good to pass up. After all, the things that kept the original guests from attending were possessions and a brand new relationship.

 

God’s generosity is not thwarted by our refusal to accept it. Who loses out when we say, “No, thanks,” to God? We do. How do we let our possessions, our work, our romances, get in the way of accepting the goodness God wants to offer us? Do we focus so much on work, new toys, or the excitement of new relationships that we have no time or energy for celebrating God’s love feast?

 

Maybe it doesn’t seem like God’s inviting us to a celebration. What if spending time with God or sharing His love in service seems more like an obligation? Did you ever have the experience of doing something you felt called to do and being filled with satisfaction? Or experience the joy of camaraderie in working together for something outside of yourself and your own plans? We weren’t meant to live in isolation. Sharing fellowship makes any experience a banquet of love.

 

I heard on the news recently that when her fiancé broke their engagement one week before the wedding, the jilted bride invited the homeless to attend the non-refundable reception at the banquet hall. Her own sorrow turned to joy, at least on some level. Caught up in her own saga, how easily she could have overlooked the needs of others, and who would blame her? Instead she opened her eyes and heart, accepted God’s invitation to do the loving thing, and shard in His love feast.

 

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to your invitation.

 

Reflection: What is God inviting you to today? Have you got anything better to do than accept?

Wednesday’s Words: Food for the Soul

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“My food,” Jesus said to them, “is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.” John 4: 34

 

Jesus stopped by a well to rest while his disciples went on to buy food. During this rest period, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman. Their conversation changed her life and the lives of the townspeople she brought back to meet him. When the disciples returned and urged Jesus to eat, he explained that he had been nourished by sharing the truth of God’s love with those who needed it.

 

I had my first taste of that kind of nourishment years ago, when I was working full time. One day, I found myself with an unexpected hour of free time before I had to pick my daughter up at school. I didn’t know what to do with this precious windfall. Beginning a new chapter in my spiritual journey, I decided to pray and ask God what he wanted me to do with the extra time. I felt a strong nudge to go to my daughter’s second grade classroom even though school was still in session. The urge was completely out of character for me, but very persistent. I reasoned that I had asked God for direction and received an answer, so I’d better act on it. Feeling shy and nervous, I walked in to the classroom anyway, smiled, and asked if I could help. The teacher, my daughter, her classmates were all surprised, but no more surprised than I was myself. Following the teacher’s instructions, I began helping the children with their lessons.

 

As it turns out, an hour or so earlier, the teacher had received a phone call about a family member who had taken ill. Although she still was running her class, the teacher was understandably concerned. An extra pair of adult hands in the classroom that afternoon was just the thing. I know, because the teacher told me all this after class was dismissed. I could not have felt more energized and nourished, all because I asked to know God’s will for me for that day and did the work he gave me to do. I didn’t convert a town, but I made a difference in at least two lives that day.

 

Prayer: Lord, show me what you want me to do today and give me the willingness to do it.

 

Reflection: What might God have planned for you today?

Wednesday’s Word: Gifts

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Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. 1 Peter 4:10

 

What’s your special gift? Sometimes it’s hard to answer that question. Maybe we were brought up to think acknowledging our talents wasn’t being humble and so we learned to deny our abilities—at least in front of others. Belittling ourselves is NOT humility, it’s another form of egotism, keeping ourselves the center of our focus. Besides, there’s a difference between recognizing our gifts and thinking those gifts put us in some special level of worthiness.

 

Gifts are given to share. When I was a kid, money was tight at our house. We always got a few things for Christmas, but often our gifts were games like Chinese checkers or Clue. We had to share those gifts to enjoy them. What’s the point of playing Chinese checkers by yourself? St. Peter tells us the point of the gifts that we’re given is not to show others how wonderful we are. Neither are we supposed to hide them, convinced of our inadequacy compared to the talents of others.

 

Maybe we’re good at sports, or math, or multi-tasking. Maybe we have musical talent, or a knack for putting people at ease, or seeing both sides of an issue. Whatever it is, it’s a gift. Maybe we’ve worked hard to develop that gift, but even willingness and perseverance are gifts. Not using our gifts is no better than showing off or bragging about them.

 

When we are focusing on others and not on ourselves, we don’t have to be afraid we’ll mess up or what we have to offer won’t be good enough. It’s not about us. It’s about passing on what we’ve been given for the good of others. Besides, we usually like doing what we’re good at, so the joy we pass on comes back to us as a sense of satisfaction, competence, and pleasure. What are you waiting for?

 

Prayer: Lord, help me see the gifts you’ve given me and guide me in using them.

 

Reflection: What are you doing with your gifts today?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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