Posts Tagged ‘Contentment’


A poverty-stricken woman was found on Christmas Day eating a dinner that consisted of a piece of bread and a small fish. A visiting friend was pitying her because of her poverty.  The old woman with face aglow, replied, “Poverty? Dear heart, don’t you see that the Lord has created the land and sea to feed me this blessed Christmas Day?” This woman owned the earth, though she ate only bread and herring for Christmas dinner.

So where does that type of gratitude come from? Like any other attitude this one comes from what’s on the inside of a person.  So, what is on the inside of a person who has an attitude of gratitude? What’s in the heart and mind of a person that keeps overflowing in “thank-you’s” to people and to God for the gift of life? I know there are more but let me suggest a few that I’ve observed.

#1 There is an understanding that the doorway to gratitude does not hang on the hinge of good circumstances.

People with this attitude believe that it’s possible to do exactly what the Bible says: Give thanks in all circumstances [good, bad or ugly], for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

They don’t believe the lie that life has to be on the upswing before they can be satisfied. Even in the middle of the most difficult situations they truly believe they can find something to rejoice over.

I have a friend on Facebook named Kebo.  I kind of hope he doesn’t read this blog because I didn’t get permission to use him as an illustration.  Kebo is one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met.  You never see him writing things like, “Ugh, it’s Monday again.”  He never uses one of those frowny colon-slash-opening parentheses icons.

I really look forward to reading Kebo’s posts on Facebook because they are always uplifting.  I want to be like him when I grow up. He seems to live with the attitude that he has everything he needs to be joyful regardless of the circumstances.

 Do you believe that about your life? That you have everything you need – right now – to be joyful? That’s the key to an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna approach that says “well, let’s just close our eyes and pretend that everything is ok even when it’s not.” I’m talking about a realistic approach that freely admits that “the situation is not good right now, but I can find something to appreciate about it, and I choose to make that my focus.”  I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do but it is the healthiest way to live.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joshua Becker of becomingaminimalist.

 

“Only in quiet waters do thing mirror themselves undistorted.  Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius

It’s no secret that we are bombarded everyday with countless messages. In America alone, advertising is a $412 billion/year industry that is constantly telling us what to watch, where to go, and what to purchase. Their messages fill our televisions, radios, computers, newspapers, magazines, and morning commutes. Industry gladly spends this money because they know that over time, they will shape our minds, hearts, and spending habits. Add all of the political pundits and experts filling our airwaves telling us how we should think… and it becomes increasingly clear that we are bombarded nearly every moment of our lives with messages that others want us to hear and believe.

All of these messages inevitably begin to shape our lives. Our heart and mind is indeed influenced by the messages that enter through our eyes and ears. And our life is slowly whittled away and re-formed by the loudest voices that get through (it’s no reason they are shouting so loud for our attention).

Whether you are pursuing a “less is more” lifestyle or just trying to find more health and fulfillment in your life, you will find countless benefits from embracing a discipline of solitude.

Solitude provides opportunity to rediscover our lives. By ”electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time,” we are able to remove the shaping influence of others and recenter our hearts on our deepest values. We are able to evaluate the assumptions, claims, and messages of our culture. Often times, we realize that these shaping forces have been incorrect all along. And we have lost our lives because of them.

Consider that when we embrace solitude…

  • We intentionally remove the influence of others for period of time.
  • We intentionally remove the expectations of others.
  • We are able to hear our own heart speak.
  • We find rest and refreshment.
  • We discover that others can live without us.
  • We find that the world does not rest on our shoulders.
  • We can adequately reflect on our past and chart our future.
  • We break the cycle of busyness in our lives.
  • We become better equipped to show patience with others.
  • We feed our souls.

While anyone can practice solitude at any given time by just finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found these tips to be particularly helpful in developing a discipline of concentrated solitude:

  1. Give yourself enough time. If you are just starting, try 30 minutes. Typically, the first 15 minutes are filled with a busy mind still running fast. But after about 15 minutes, your mind will slow down enough to offer you deep reflection. And the longer you give it, the deeper it will go.
  2. Schedule time. If you are just hoping for an extra 30-45 minutes to show up in your day for solitude, it’ll never come. Time for solitude must be desired, scheduled, and created.
  3. Find a calm location. Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.
  4. Take as little as possible with you.
  5. Just allow your mind to wander. There are no set rules concerning what you should be thinking about. Just let your mind wander. As I mentioned, it will skip around at the very beginning. But eventually, your mind will settle in on something that your heart has been trying to tell you all along.
  6. Don’t quit just because you don’t like what you find. The journey into our heart is not always a pretty one. Sometimes when we start pulling back the layers of our heart and realize our deepest motivations, we don’t like what we see. This can be difficult for some and cause even more to stop altogether. But, don’t. A richer, fuller life is just around the corner.
  7. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. While solitude is different than napping, if you consistently find yourself falling asleep during these quiet periods, your mind may be trying to tell you something. And you should probably listen.
  8. Pray. If you are spiritual, certainly use this time to connect with God. If you are not spiritual, solitude just may put you more in touch with God if you are open to it. Because God often speaks with a small voice that is drowned out by the world’s noise, we can’t hear it until we intentionally listen for it.

Give solitude a chance. You’ve got nothing to lose. And your life to gain back.


Several times this week I have talked with people who are dissatisfied with the current state of their spiritual life.  I will take a chance here to suggest that many more of us, if we are honest can relate.  Concern over our spiritual condition is not enough to change the situation.  I am sharing with you an outline of what I shared with the people I spoke to this week.  I believe it is a good plan to get one moving toward a rich, rewarding spiritual life.  Not because it is from me but because it is biblical.

1. SORT IT OUT.

Take an honest assessment of your life. Are you happy with your life or do you want a better life?

2. TOSS IT OUT.

It’s time to toss out the garbage. It is here that you need to ask yourself what in your life is building you up and what is bringing you down. Are you aware of the fact that the Bible teaches that you can add value to your life by taking some things away?

Think about your own life. What clutters your soul? You can add value by throwing off your old life.

Ephesians 4:21-23 Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.  Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.

It’s time to get rid of some things. Get rid of the old, embrace a new way of living. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that when we put our faith in Him, He gives us a brand new start. That’s our next point.

3. START IT OUT.

Romans 6:4b (NLT) … And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

With Christ, you can have a fresh start, a new life. Your sins can be forgiven. Your past can be absolved. You can be made new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

4. ESTABLISH NEW PRIORITIES.

If you are going to grow in your faith, you have to re-order your life. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. Like a garden, you have plant seeds, water them, fertilize them and eventually you will see growth. This may require you to make some tough decisions. You will need to stop letting other people and culture determine the direction of your life.  Many times the best is crowded out by the good.  You need to give serious attention to what is most important on your priority list.  If you don’t, others will.

5. PASS ALONG THE BLESSING.

Be a friend. Share your good fortune and your faith. For some of us, the greatest thing that we can do is simply forgive those who have hurt us. Christ forgives you and he wants you to forgive those who have hurt you.

Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologizes or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Eventually the truth will come out. You do your part and put everything else in God’s hand.

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I ended yesterday’s blog writing that I would pick up today with a look at the causes of a mid-life crisis.  As I began thinking about the causes I realized that it could be summed up in one word: EMPTINESS;  Or at least a sense of emptiness.  It is that gnawing feeling that there is something out there better than what I have experienced to this point in my life. 

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who, despite his reputation for being the wisest man to ever live, had what seems to be a mid-life crisis; see if Solomon’s pattern doesn’t sound familiar. Like most people, Solomon wanted certain things out of life: happiness, love, success, and meaning. And like many young adults, his search for truth and meaning directed his attention to the study of philosophy.

He read the great writers of the day and contemplated the great historical ideologies. He pitted one world view against the other and dissected them all. He studied the prevailing explanations for the purpose of life, and when he had thoroughly examined all the textbooks and theories and arguments of the day, he concluded…  “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Eccle. 2:17

He’s not saying that philosophy has no value, but the wisest man in the world (which is how the Bible describes Solomon) took philosophy as far as it can be taken and concluded that he will never find ultimate soul satisfaction in the pages of a book or in another man’s opinion of the meaning of life. “It’s like chasing the wind,” he says.

He crossed philosophy off his list and turned his attention to self-indulgence and self-gratification. Ecclesiastes 2 reveals how Solomon pulled all the stops in pleasure seeking. He drank only the best wine, he built gardens and parks and ponds in order to surround himself with beauty and splendor; he hired the best musicians in the world to perform for him at his request; he assembled harems of beautiful young women so that he could live out his sexual fantasies. He sums it up by saying… “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:10

He tried philosophy, he tried pleasure, and next, he tried possessions. He built mansions for himself–one took 13 years to build that had precious stones in the foundation walls. He accumulated large herds and planted the forests and vineyards. He collected art and treasures from all over the world. In spite of all he was able to accumulate, he came to the conclusion that it is all meaningless.

Next, he poured himself into his work. It wasn’t long before he realized that this too was meaningless. He said, So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?  Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NLT)

For the next ten chapters of this book, Solomon discusses his search of happiness, love, success, and meaning–yet that gnawing sense of something missing would not go away.

I began by summing up the cause of mid-life crisis with one world, emptiness.  Let me end with a one word cure for mid-life crisis:  CONTENTMENT.  Take a little while each day to stop looking over in the neighbor’s yard at how much greener his or her grass is and enjoy your own.  Besides, the greenest spot in my yard is over the septic tank and drain field!  What does that tell you?

In the end, Solomon experienced the ultimate benefit of a mid-life quest. His search for “something more” took him down several dead end paths, and he finally realized what was missing. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the wisest man in the world came to this conclusion: Fear God, keep his commandments; this is the whole duty of man.

The most important discovery you can make, at mid-life or any time of life, is that the meaning of life can be found in a relationship with God–fearing him and keeping his commandments.

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A few years back USA Today quoted Dr. Michael Jazwinski of the LSU Medical Center as saying, “some people who are now living may still be alive 400 years from now.” In his study, one hundred top aging experts were interviewed and many believe that “based on the expectation of manipulating a manageable number of human genes that control aging, 400 to 700 year life spans may be possible in few decades.”

Who knows how I will feel about this at ninety-nine, but I’m just not sure I really want to live that long. I’ve got crow’s feet, I wake up with a sore back, and I can’t remember where I put my glasses half the time and I make about seven trips to the bathroom each night.  Imagine what kind of shape I’ll be in on my 400th birthday. If I died at the age of 400 they certainly wouldn’t let me donate my body to science. They wouldn’t even let me donate my body to science fiction.

Did you know that in the year 1900, the average life expectancy in this country was only 47 years? Today it is 75 years, which, statistically, puts the “mid” point in life at about 37-38 years of age. Generally speaking “mid-life” covers the years between 35-50, give or take a few. In fact, if you’re wondering whether or not you’ve reached middle age, here’s a few guidelines. Mid-life is…

…when you stop criticizing the older generation and start criticizing the younger generation.

…when you’re sitting at home on Saturday night, the phone rings, and you hope that it isn’t for you.

…when you’re more interested in how long your car will last than how fast it will go.

…when you begin saying things like, “When I was your age…”

…when the one telling you to slow down is a doctor, not a policeman.

During this mid-life time there is a phenomenon called a mid-life crisis that often strikes people as they pass through this particular season of life. First of all, let’s look at…

TIP #1. What is a mid-life crisis?

One morning I was walking around before the Sunday service meeting new people. I approached a young lady, maybe 20 years old, and said, “Hi. Is this is your first time here?” She said, “Yes it is.” I said, “Glad you’re here. My name is Billy Ready.” She said, “Nice to meet you,” then looked at my picture on the wall of pastors, then looked back at me and said, “Oh you’re the pastor? I didn’t recognize you from the picture. You’ve aged.” I graciously smiled, thanked her, and hobbled to my seat. If I wasn’t quite at the point of crisis, her remark pushed me over the edge.

I recently read of a survey of “40 somethings” that was conducted. One of the questions I was “What is a mid-life crisis?” Here are some of their answers.

“It’s realizing that your life is half over and you haven’t accomplished enough–not enough money saved, no outstanding career accomplishments…may you’re not the winner you always though you would be.”

A man who said he feels he’s currently experiencing a mid-life crisis wrote, “I find myself starting to think about all the decisions I’ve made in my life and if I made the right ones. Is there still time to fix the mistakes? Or is there no turning back now?”

Another person described a mid-life crisis this way, “It’s a point in your life when you realize that your youth has passed and you begin to feel regrets about your past and fears about your future.”

Someone else wrote, “It’s when you ask yourself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I don’t even really feel grown up and yet I’m already old.” (Here’s one I can still relate to!)

Mid-life is that period between 35 and 50 and it is inevitable. You can’t avoid mid-life anymore than you can avoid adolescence. If you live long enough, it’s a passage you will go through. However, a mid-life crisis is not inevitable. Some people enter and pass through mid-life without any trouble at all. Others find the transition to be very unsettling. Regardless, the undeniable fact is that between the ages of 35 and 50, changes do take place…

  • Physically–less energy, graying hair, health problems.
  • Vocationally–you’re likely to reach the peak of your professional life, and you have to accept the fact that this is far up the ladder as you may ever go.
  • Relationally–your children get older, they move away, you may even find yourself caring for your aging parents, and statistically the chances of going through a divorce increase.
  • Financially–as you close in on retirement you may not be as comfortable financially as you thought you would be at this point.

When a person has two or three of these stresses occurring at the same time, well, mid-life can easily turn into a mid-life crisis.

Here’s a stereo-typical mid-life crisis scenario: a man in his early forties–bald, got a bit of a belly, stuck in a job he doesn’t like, going nowhere in his marriage, up to his neck in debt, and completely “locked-in” to his place in life–goes to his 25 year high-school reunion and suddenly begins to evaluate his life. He says, “My life is half-over. At best I’ve got maybe another 30 years left. I’ve worked my fingers to the bone and lived at a hectic pace, and what do I have to show for it? Why am I so unfulfilled? What is the meaning and purpose of it all?”

When we’re young we feel invincible, but one day reality comes crashing in on us and we realize that we’re not getting any younger and that life is slipping away from us. The disillusionment can be devastating.

Tomorrow I want to pick up with what causes Mid-Life Crisis.  Let me do something that I don’t do often enough,  thank the people who have poured this information into my life.  I am nowhere near smart enough to think these tips up on my own.  You know who you are (and may be wondering if I ever have an original idea!).  Thanks.

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 If I were to give you a test and ask you to fill in the blank: “What one word would best summarize the whole marriage relationship? ______________.”  What word would you write?

Key #5:  Commitment

For most of us that word would be the word “love.”  I think a better word would be “commitment.”  Any two people given the right circumstances, the right environment could develop romantic, loving feelings toward each other.  But that’s not really at the heart of marriage.  In fact, the difference between marriage and just living together is commitment.  God expects us to keep that commitment.  In Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, we find these very strong words, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, ‘So make sure you don’t break your promise to be faithful to your mate.’”  

Divorce is a reality in our world and there are many, many people in our inside and outside of the church who have been through the painful experience of divorce.  Thank God for His grace and His forgiveness.  But let’s be honest.  It’s not God’s ideal.  You will never build strong, intimate marriage relationship when divorce is an option.  There are many people who secretly carry around this little escape hatch.  In their minds they think, “If it gets really hard or things don’t go like I thought or if I get really unhappy I’ve got this little key to the escape hatch that will always allow me a way out.”  I actually had a person who was a leader in his church tell me that God told him to divorce his first wife and marry another.  He said that he was unhappy in his marriage and God wanted him to be happy and enjoy life. 

So let me encourage you.  If you’re married, if you’re reading this, throw away that key.  Don’t leave yourself that escape hatch.  Don’t leave yourself that option.  When you said, “Till death do us part,” that was a lifelong commitment.  Don’t leave it as an option. 

There are some people who have the attitude, “If I could just get out…  If I could just be with that person…  If I could just get this kind of relationship…” the whole idea of the grass is always greener over there.  The grass is greener where you water it.  And it starts with your commitment.  No matter where you are right now stay committed.   Seek godly counseling.  God’s main goal for you is not your happiness it is your holiness.  He wants you to have joy and to be complete in him. 

Larke and I went to a marriage conference in Atlanta some years ago.  I don’t remember who was leading it but I do remember a very helpful instruction he gave to the men.  He said, “Men, divorce every other woman on earth but your wife.”  Now that is one divorce I think God would approve of!  This is good advice for both spouses.

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5) BE SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU HAVE (Luke 3:14)

 Do you know what the problem is with greed? There is no limit on it! As soon as you reach one level you have to climb to the next rung, and sooner or later you reach the top to find out there is nothing at the top except a long slide down the other side of the ladder. Do you really think that you can find satisfaction in things? The answer is, “No”.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (NLT)Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!

Money and desire for stuff can consume us. We have been convinced that happiness is just one more purchase away. Our whole society is based upon that premise, and our marketing is geared towards it.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT) Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

When you and I learn the secret of contentment, it is at that moment we begin to experience true peace in life. To start being content try the following:

  • Make a list of your possessions.
  • Refuse to compare yourself to others.
  • Give away something you value a lot
  • Choose to live on less than you are comfortable with rather than more than you make!
  • Remember – ultimately everything you have is a gift from God!

 I want to illustrate this with a clipping I kept from a 1994 issue of OUR DAILY BREAD:

 Lazy Fisherman

Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked.

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”

“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.

“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.

When you and I learn to be content with what we have we can learn to enjoy what we have. We can enjoy life, our work, our home, and our car, whatever we have.

  • Always be content with WHAT YOU HAVE, but never with WHAT YOU ARE.

To be productive with our lives we have to get to the point where we roll up our sleeves and become difference makers. We are either busy people or busy bodies – the choice is up to each one of us.

2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 (NLT)Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people—no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.

This applies to work, church, family. Have you ever noticed that those who whine to most are often those who do the least? Why is that? Because

  • If you are ROWING the boat you don’t have time to ROCK the boat!

 If you find yourself being critical of others more often than encouraging, then you are probably not working as hard as you could be in the areas that you are responsible for. Start implementing these 5 principle and see what happens!

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