Category Archives: Personal Growth

cause I’m a person and I choose to grow

How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily? (part one)

Day lily
Image via Wikipedia

Certain Bible verses stump me.  They pose a thought or idea my mind cannot fully grasp.  Over time some of them have become clearer with practice, persistence and patience.  These are some of those verses:

“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”  Matthew 6:28-30

The first time I read those words, I pursed my eyebrows together and thought, “What on earth is this talking about?  How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”

I didn’t get it.

I couldn’t fathom how God would cloth a person as easily as he decorates a flower, it’s so much more complicated than photosynthesis, right?  I mean there are styles to consider and fit.

I could easily spend an hour in any given store trying on item after item and wind up not buying a thing.  How would God carry out such a feat?

I’ve spoken with many people about how they assume I shouldn’t take scripture literally.  They’d tell me it’s an example of God’s strength and capacity, not His fabrication methods.

But in other parts of scripture, He’s darn literal.  I mean Jesus didn’t figuratively die on a cross, He really sacrificed Himself.  Peter didn’t figuratively deny knowing Him, he outlined it in detail.  So, what if God truly desires to cloth us?

I never imagined I’d be testing this, but God does invite testing in one arena.  Our money.

In other stuff, He repeated points out, not to test the Him, but monetarily He says, “Go ahead.”  Actually, He put it this way:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be  food in My house, and test Me now in this,‘ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not  open for you the windows of heaven and  pour out for you a blessing until  it overflows.” Malachi 3:10

Now that’s a lofty promise onto which we often attach our own expectations.  We think He might give us more money, and He might.  We imagine He could grant us a better job, and He might.  But often, we get so concerned with our own capacity to make a buck and pay off our own debts, we fail to put Him to the test.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about this test, but for today:

My choice today:

Trust God enough to take a risk for Him.

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Where does it mention cannibalism in the Bible?

James Eating Bread
Image by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha via Flickr

What if you walked into the movie “Tangled” and heard the line, “Frying pans, who knew?”  You might assume the movie is a kids cooking show and leave.  You would miss the story of an innocent girl successfully defending herself with a frying pan and finding deep inner courage.

That’s what happens when we read parts of scripture without knowing or connecting to the whole.

First impressions:

I knew someone who decided to pick up a Bible and read only the book of Ezekiel.  Why that section caught his attention, I’ll never know.  This prophetic book has some outrageous imagery, which I cannot yet fully understand.

He found himself stunned and decided the entire Bible was absurd.  How sad he had no one to guide him at this vital corner of his life.

Due to the depth of info found in this humble book, people spend their whole lives searching to discover its mysteries.  No matter how long we’ve studied, we need to surround ourselves with people who’ve known God and His story longer.  It doesn’t guarantee perfection (which is found in only in Christ), but it provides a guide for the road ahead.

Fellow hikers:

In the same way, those of us who’ve been on the road (that is reading scripture and living it) longer need to be brave enough to share our experience.

I went hiking with some friends in our local mountains.  Another group passed us on their return trip.  As we crossed one another, the second group shared, “Be careful, we saw a snake ahead.”

Rattle snakes often sun themselves in the morning hours on desert, mountain trails.  We decided to heed their advice, found a walking stick, and banged the ground as we walked.  In retrospect, we probably appeared stupid to anyone with binoculars aimed our direction,  but we didn’t care.

We aimed our eyes down and remained alert.  Then, we saw a head peek out from some bushes near the trail.  Because of our awareness, we easily startled the snake, waited for it to pass and continued our hike.  Without the warning of others, our morning activity could have ended differently.

But, cannibalism?

One section of scripture could be seen as Christ calling for cannibalism.  This section would make no sense to my very literal 7-year-old.  I wonder what would happen if someone picked up a Bible and flipped to this page without ever seeing the rest or seeking guidance.

Many parts of scripture say what they mean and mean what they say like, “Don’t commit murder.”  Sounds clear, right?

Other portions need more story to explain. Like one line from a movie, these verses tell part but not all.  The Bible is full of moments where it compares hunger and thirst to our desire for God.  The psalms says,

“As a deer pants for water, my soul longs for you.”

For people who lived predominantly on bread and water, these things defined their ability to live.  Israel’s history shows the need for bread.  For example, when they wandered in the desert, God provided bread from the sky (called manna).

God sustained them in a miraculous way.  Bread had great history for them.  God also provided water from them in outrageously unexplainable ways.

Jesus knew the history and used it to redefine bread.He called himself the Bread of Life.

He also knew the need for sacrifice.  The Israelite experience involved real blood sacrifice.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we do it too. How do you think we get meat?

With our eyes open and our ears ready, we can read the verses below and see more than what is written.  We see a sacrificial love and willingness to give all for those He loved.

   I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” John 6:48-56

Can you see how someone might assume cannibalism ?

My choice today:

Devour God’s word and seek guidance  from others who have munched more than me.

Have Bible verses ever thrown you?  Share what you thought and where you read it (if possible).

What do Andre the Giant, pit bulls, and bees have in common?

From the days of Tri-X 400: Classic wrestling ...
Image via Wikipedia

In fifth grade, I stood 4 foot, 5 inches. One of my closest friends, Lorenda, grew well over 5 foot 7 inches. I spent nights at her home,we giggled together, played and even carpooled. I really loved spending time with her.

It was easy to forget she was the biggest girl in our school, because she was my friend. If other kids didn’t her, they might be intimidated.

The same could be said for Andre the Giant, pit bulls and bees.

Andre the Giant

He found the limelight as a wrestling superstar standing 7 feet tall and weighing 520 lbs. The mere mention of his name sent chills through his WWWF competitors. From 1971 through 1984, he remained undefeated. Today, he’s listed in the WWF Hall of Fame.

And yet, he’s also called the gentle giant. Across the internet, we find stories of how he loved to pay for dinner when he went to restaurants. People found him enchanting. In the bonus features found on The Princess Bride DVD, his costars share their admiration of the big guy. Robin Wright Penn told how he used his huge hand to help keep her warm on cold shooting days by placing it on top of her head like a hat.

You can read more stories of his gentleness on the official Andre the Giant website.

Pit bulls

by freedigitalphotos.net

Want a dog with an intimidating reputation? The pit bull stands alone.

Read the news and you’ll find pit bull stories of attacks on people and dog fighting. We associate them with fierce toughness.

But there’s a soft and tender side to this maligned bully.

According to www.DogBreedInfo.com,”The American Pit Bull Terrier is a good-natured, amusing, extremely loyal and affectionate family pet, which is good with children and adults.”

Bees

by freedigitalphoto.net

People fear bees or bee stings for multiple reasons: pain, allergy, unpredictability, etc.  For those
with a severe allergy, we’re talking life and death.

Stick one bee in a room, and you’ve found a great equalizer. Young and old, small or tall, skinny or muscled or fat, almost everyone jumps or
freaks out in some way if a bee lands on their arm.

But we need bees. If we want food, we want them and their pollen carrying legs working their hearts out daily.

Hundreds of plants need bee intervention to produce food. According to New Agriculturalist Online, “Bees pollinate about one-sixth of the world’s flowering plant species and some 400 of its agricultural plants.”

One of the owners of Bennett’s Honey Farm in Fillmore, Ca, Ann Bennett, shared with me how often they sting her. I felt shocked, but she confidently made me aware that it helped to build her immunity not just to stings but other things as well. It didn’t bother her a bit.

Like going to the doctor for our vaccinations, even the sting serves a value.

Because she enjoys her bees so much, located inside their little honey store sits a clear, glass panel exposing a real hive to any observational types. Visitors view the inner workings of the beehive with fascination. She knows that hive well and befriends it.

As a honey lover, I happily receive the gifts they give too.

What do these three have in common?

Reputation. The reasonable human being would feel fear if they found themselves face to face with any of those items listed above.

And yet, each of those items stands as a true friend to those who know them well. For the close friend,they bring joy, confidence, and beneficial return.

In the same way, I enjoyed being friends with Lorenda and forgot about the differences in our stature because of our friendship.

Why it matters

The same happens to lovers or fearers of God.

Some people who love God and have befriended Him have become so close to His beauty, they forget His power. Others catch glimpses of His power, but have no desire or understanding of how He longs to befriend them.

We see and know His power because of Bible verses like this:

“The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.” Nahum 1:5

or this:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 1:7

But we see and know His kindness and love because of verses like this:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

My choice today:

Embrace God as my friend, while recognizing and appreciating His strength.

What about you?  Are you a lover or fearer of God? When you think about Him, what aspects of His character do you most embrace?

 

Problems?

Rubber band ball (this is a new version as the...
Image via Wikipedia

How can we deal with them? How do we heal them? Where is that magic button when we want it?

We stare at them, complain about them, beat up ourselves or others, and sometimes we cry.

Repetition, react, rethink, or redirect.  These are the choices we face.

When we find ourselves trapped by repetition, blink.  Open our eyes to see. Doing the same thing, the same way produces the same results.

What if we react.  Something flies in the window, we take a swing.  We wrap our problems in a cloth ball, wrap a rubber band around them, toss them in the back yard and shoot them with a pellet gun.  Chances are it won’t make a dent or it could worsen the problem.

We could attempt to rethink the problem, but our thinker feels like a tube T.V. in HD land.  One doesn’t become the other simply because of desire.

What if we stop, lift hands, turn around, look at something new. Redirect.  Give ourselves a time out.  When our choices don’t work, we feel stuck.  Swimming in the mud guarantees muscle fatique.  If we look at the problems of others, our issues become less vital.  If we spend time with others, our frustrations find a place to serve and deliver.  If we seek a different type of guidance, we may find the answers we need.

My choice today:

Pause.  Focus on something else.

10 ways to face our choices

Funny Face Friday #2
Image by Tony… via Flickr

When I moved to the big city, I became very aware that within one hour I could do practically anything under the sun.  One hour or less to the beach, one hour or less to the mountains, theaters, major artistic venues, clubs, restaurants, museums, etc.  I became overwhelmed with all the choices at hand.

Whether we hide in a corner or go for a rodeo ride, the choice ultimately sits at our feet and stares up expectantly.  That’s why this blog began.  A simple spot to think through one choice at a time.

As a person of faith (that would be Christian faith), I think all our choices affect or reflect our faith.  But we can’t always see it.  We don’t want to see it sometimes.

Then life smacks us around, and we find ourselves spread out on the floor (literally or figuratively).  All those choices glare into our ankles willing us to make a move.  What do we do?

When faith hits the fan, our choices matter…let’s take time to see the choices.

Be part of this story.  We pause for a moment each week day to think through or share with a friend one simple choice.  That’s enough for one day, don’t you think?

Choices on facing our choices:

1. The random pick and go approach.

2.  Hide and assume they’ll go away, while they grow like weeds who’ve been fed fertilizer.

3.  Write out our thoughts each day and take note of choices we make, for better or worse.

4.  Learn from great choice thinkers like Max Lucado, Jon Acuff,  or Seth Godin.

5.  Choose to receive this blog’s newsletter and think through one choice at a time.  (Write your email in the upper right-hand corner)

6.  Share your point of view by commenting online to our daily choices.

7.  Follow Paula on Twitter by clicking here.

8.  Friend Paula on Facebook by clicking here.

9.  Put Paula in one of your circles on Google+ here.

10. Close this window and move on. 

If you’re seeking perfection in counsel, this isn’t the place for you.  Here, we walk forward, occasionally stumble and look toward the One, True God whose perfection surpasses our imaginations.  If you seek challenge and strength for your spiritual and cranial tissues, then you’ve arrived on good ground.

My choice today:

Open the doors and greet the neighbors. 

“Hi, welcome to my blog.”

Top choices for July

Red computer mouse
Image via Wikipedia

As you know, each post contains a choice for the day.  Looking at the choices which you read the most, these posts stood out from the crowd.  You can click the link, if you missed it the first time.  If you think these choices matter and can help someone you know, pass them on.

1.  Warning on pointless arguments, someone always gets stabbed

2.  Go ahead, bite the shark

3.  What lense are you using?

4.  6 reasons to see Cars 2

5.  Dancing in the daylight

6.  How do you find peace?

7.  Lessons from the garden: An unexpected guide to family growth (part 2)

8.  5 ways to make your marriage a team sport

9.  Superfood for the spirit

10.  Lessons from the garden: an unexpected guide to family growth

Thank you, dear friends, for taking the time with me to think through each one.

My choice today:

Celebrate successes.

What lense are you using?

I’ve started to learn how to improve my photography because of a website called Digital Photography School.  Each week I receive an email with a weekly photographic assignment.  This week’s task involves perspectives.

Instead of taking pictures while standing upright, the task of the week includes searching for unusual angles on everyday things.  On the website, many people submitted their beautiful photos and I felt inspired.   My hunt began.

My oldest daughter takes these challenges with me.  We motivate one another to think broadly and search for unusual photographic angles.

This approach to photos also applies to life. 

Instead of staring into our problems head-on, what if we pause and attempt to think differently. 

As parents, we tend to repeat the same patterns of discipline and reward on our children, even though the response we receive doesn’t match what we want.  On the job hunt, many people have experienced rejection where once acceptance met them.  In dating or marital relationships,  taking an alternate approach could also prove helpful. 

Adjusting our photographic lense involves sitting or standing or even lying down while looking at the same subject.  In life, we do this by trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.  What would they tell us?  We can even invite others into our story.  What if we ask what they would do or what they see from their perspective?  They could be helpful or not, but we’ll never know if we don’t ask. 

Check out how my daughter and I approached photos of the same light from differing directions.  The difference lies in our individual perspectives.  Each holds its own beauty, but I wouldn’t be open her angle, if she weren’t invited to share.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

My choice today:

Re-aim the lense of my life, seek a new perspective.

Dust off the dreams and take flight

Mainland Air Cessna 152 ZK-FCQ practising touc...
Image via Wikipedia

Some dreams happily reside in the sleepy space which occupies our mind in the early morning hours.  They like it there and should stay.  Dreams like becoming a 4 foot 5 inch line backer for the Dallas cowboys.  For safety sake, it belongs in the bed.

But there are reachable dreams.  Dreams which only fear or limited thought hold back.

As the tough guys in the movie”Tangled state, “I had a dream, once.”

Years ago, I dreamt of flying a plane myself.  It seemed silly to seek out.  Was was the point?  I didn’t want to become a professional pilot, but the thought of soaring on the clouds sounded fun.  I told myself to forget about it, until…

A friend of mine heard my dream.  She loved making dreams happen.  She bought me a solo flight with an instructor as a birthday present.  And, out of courtesy, I went.

It’s a precarious thing to chase dreams.

The day I flew, I had a cold.  It affected my inner ear.  I sat in a Cessna 152 within inches of the instructor/pilot.  We circled the Phoenix area, and then it happened.  I puked.

Yup, vomited all over myself and a total stranger within the space of a three-foot circle.  Little known fact, small planes don’t carry vomit bags.  I wanted to hurl out the window, but it doesn’t roll down like the ones in a car and in retrospect that’s probably good.  Who wants to have human discharge pummeling toward their head from 2000 feet in the air?

One would think my dream ended there.  Nope.

Apart from the nausea thing, I found it fun.  I realized I could do it.  As a single chick, it didn’t cost too much.  I had free time, and come on, it was flying.

Following my explosive regurgitation, I sought a different flying school (where they didn’t know I was a puker) and started lessons.  Once a week, I’d learn the physics of flying, climbed in the plane and literally soared.  The vomit ceased and fun clicked in.

I became a certified pilot in 1993.  Since that time, I haven’t flown a bunch, but the experience lingers.  The dream became possible, chaseable and realizable.  If a vomiting nut like me can learn to fly a plane, with God’s help, anything is possible?

It was God’s grace and wisdom which helped me succeed, because I know He made me smarter and more capable than I previously demonstrated.  He allowed me to carry out a dream.

You can too.

Ways to make your dreams happen:

1.  Voice them to others.  Until you do, they don’t start to take on a real shape.

2.  Be willing to hurl.  It happened to the girl in Princess Diaries, and it could happen to you.

3.  Take steps toward your dream.  Sign up for a class, call an employer, register for a conference.  Whatever the next step is, take it.

4.  Trust God for guidance and strength on the journey.  Did I mention I got lost in the air on my first solo flight?  God’s patience and guidance were huge.  I’ll leave that story for another blog entry.

5.  Be willing to let go if it doesn’t work.  Other dreams I’ve had and how they’ve been dashed:  become a veterinarian (but I’m allergic to animals), dance in a ballet (I’m totally uncoordinated), sing professionally (I don’t actually like music enough).

6.  Soar when it’s time to soar.  One of the best experiences I’ve had in a plane was flying above fireworks on the fourth of July.  The uniqueness of that experience won’t ever be repeated.  It was a blast.

By the way, I still didn’t become a professional pilot, nor do I want to become one.  Knowing I did it was enough. 

Scripturally speaking, God granted people like Joseph a dream of what would come.  Sometimes, the dream is exciting, like the idea of people bowing down to him, including his parents.  Sometimes, it’s sad, like when he had to tell Pharoah a famine was coming.  But God does use dreams to help us live within His grace.

With all that said, I have a new dream I’d like to voice to you.  Create a new blog.  Because of this dream, I’ll be writing less here in preparation for what is being built there.  As the new blog launch approaches, I’ll share more.

If you are a prayer person, please pray for this new venture.

My choice today:

Step into the dream plane and take off. 

Superfood for the spirit

lamb stew with leeks, lentils, yellow (heirloo...
Image via Wikipedia

Magazines and newspapers declare new superfoods annually. We read the benefits of everything from berries to dark chocolate.  Each amazing foodstuff holds great value for the body, but what about the spirit?

The mouth opens and intakes items to better build the body, but what feeds the spirit?

Instead of plucking the perfect item from a tree or vine, let’s consider this spiritual superfood a recipe.

Like a juicy stew, the flavors join together to create an intense mental meal. This combination will strengthen and build your spirit.  But beware, substitutions or alterations weaken the fortitude of this super supper.

What we think flows into our being and thoroughly shapes our spirit. It feeds us.  Here’s the recipe as found in Philippians 4:8:

Super-thought Stew 

2 cups of truth (Not my truth or your truth but the truth.  As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”) 

1 cube of nobility (It implies having higher principles and consistently adhering to them.)

a sprinkle of right thinking (Ecclesiastes tells us, ‘Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” With that in mind, right thinking depends on God’s thinking.)

1 1/2 tbsp. purity (aka. Clean, modest, blameless, sinless thought…in other words, what Jesus would do). 

3 oz. of loveliness (That which inspires love.  Read the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13–patience, kind, not envious, etc.)

a drop of admirable actions (Actions inspiring approval, reverence, or affection. )

Blend until smooth and creamy to create excellent and praise worthy thoughts. 

Warning:  This precise combination produces spiritual strength and takes time to perfect.  The more you make it the better it gets. When in doubt speak with the Master Chef who created the stew.  He directs the eager student to the best ingredients every time. 


 

Go ahead, bite the shark!

A great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico....
Image via Wikipedia

Have you heard the old expression, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”?

Clearly, a dog in Australia knows it well.

If you’ve seen a shark and a dog beside one another, no matter what the dog’s size, it’s obvious the shark’s mouth holds more teeth, expands bigger, and it’s not worth encountering.  Don’t tell that to the dog in a recent viral video entitled, “Dog has ride on a shark”. 

No one told him he couldn’t do it, so he did it.  That simple.

Maybe you feel like a dog in a world of sharks.  Do you find yourself nervously swimming expecting to get bit at any time?  What if you looked at your situation from a different light.

You’ve got money troubles and need wisdom and cash.  Or, relationships stress you out, and you feel like your stuck in a slimy pit with slippery walls and no rope.  Or, your kids hit your batty button daily, you scream your head off, feel guilty, wish it could stop, but it doesn’t, and the roller coaster continues.  Feel stuck?

You sense you’ve been given a tiny mouth, and your swimming in the vast ocean with sharks who could and probably will swallow you whole at any time. 

King Hezekiah knew that feeling.  A powerful army from the country of Assyria invaded the land of Judah.  He and his people were under siege and it seemed hopeless.  The king of that country shouted taunts, made fun of God, professed his ability and power (which he clearly and successfully held in his hand).  Here’s Hezekiah’s response to the sharks in his ocean: 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” 2 Chronicles 32:7 and 8a  Read the story by clicking here.

The situation felt perilous and stressful.  It didn’t make sense to have hope, but they did.  They trusted God in spite of evidence to the contrary, and they won.

The news preaches doom and gloom, our pocket books dwindle, our homes or cars break, why shouldn’t we give up?

Because all this stuff is merely an “arm of flesh”, it has no strength by itself.  God grants strength where He wants it, and He is much more capable than we can imagine.  He takes our tiny canine bicuspids and grants us courage and skill we never knew we had.

You think you’re just a dog and the world is full of sharks?  Take inspiration from a dog who knows he’s got more fight in him than the sharks swimming by his feet.  Go ahead, bite the shark.

My choice today:

View my abilities through God’s eyes, not mine.