FRESH START

WARNING:  This is a no-edit zone…

These are tumultuous times.  Everything and everyone is in an uproar over something or many things.  If it isn’t hurricanes on the coast, it’s hurricanes on Wall Street and in Washington.

We look at this, and too often see only the bad.  There’s plenty of it and since bad news sells, that’s what we hear most, so this comes as little surprise.  It is however an unbalanced view and one that, if we don’t guard our minds, can drive us into despair.

As believers, we know that regardless of worldly influences, God is in control.  We know that there is purpose and reason and that evil done to cause harm, He can turn for good.

We also know that this conversion process is two-part.  We do our part, God does His–and He is respectful of our free will.

This is the best reason to guard our minds.  If we focus on doom and gloom, God will respect it as our wish.  If we focus on solutions and finding value or good in the opportunities brought to light, then He’ll respect that.

So the question becomes, What do we want respected?

You can look at the economy and see a lot of people have been hurt.  I’m no exception.  A dear friend asked me the other day if I’d been hurt by the stock market challenges.  I replied that the best I can figure at the moment, I’ll have to work ten years after I die before I can retire.

Now, you might think that’s a bad thing, and it is.  But what if instead, you think about it differently?  Okay, so retirement and traveling is a pipe dream now.  Honestly, it was just something to look forward to, not a passion, but maybe for others it is a passion.  So for the sake of illustration, let’s say it was a passion and I’m bitterly disappointed about this.

I have two choices:
1. I can stay disappointed and live the rest of my life bitter.
2. I can look for something good and enjoy the rest of my life.

Staying bitter holds no appeal for all the obvious reasons.  Dissatisfaction and discontent leads to a life of regret and disillusion until it’s too late to have a life to live.  So I’ll take the looking for something good route.

Sounds easy, this choice.  But it’s hard to find something good in losing a lifetime of savings that is evidence of years of hard work.  But that’s on a physical level, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s a small share of eternity.  So it’s wise to shift to a big-picture look on a broader canvas.

It’s in that broader canvas that I–that we all–can find something good.

Shifting focus, I ask, what will I do during these years I thought I’d be retired?  What new purpose(s) will I adopt?  What deeper purpose on my current purpose can I now reach for?  What can I do now that I would not have been able to do before?  What new dreams do I now have time and the motivation to pursue?

Looking ahead, I see opportunity, potential to continue to grow and be a positive influence.  I see hope and I’m enthused.  Actually, looking ahead, I’m excited.

Yes, there will be hard times.  Yes, there are wrongs that need correcting.  Yes, we do have a lot of work to do in every area imaginable.  Entity upon entity failed, and they all need to be fixed.  It won’t all be pleasant.  It won’t all be fun.  It won’t all be easy.

But let’s face it.  In these areas, we’ve been lax and apathetic.  Anything neglected is always going to need repair.  We get to be a part of those repairs.  We have a voice in deciding how they are repaired.

We get an opportunity to renew ourselves and to define or redefine our purpose.  To really think about what we want to do with this “found” time.  And we face all this knowing that God is  with us and He’ll respect our focus and free will.

And maybe, once the shock passes and the fear settles, we will see that in these troubling events we have also been blessed with a divine gift:

The chance for a fresh start.

I’m going to embrace this chance.  Grab that chance with both hands and hang onto the hope and promise it holds.  I’m going to be grateful for it, because I know that in seeing this opportunity, for me, God has already turned the intended harm to a good thing.

The beauty of it is that for a long time I’ve worried that as a nation we were on the wrong road.  Morals and values and ethics were sliding down that slick slope at warp speed.  I don’t wish this meltdown had happened, but it has; it’s here, and that’s that.  Now, we get a chance to think about where we’ve been and where we are and to decide if that’s where we want to be and if we’re heading in the direction we really want to go.

Collectively, we’ve suffered a gaping wound.  Collectively, we can let bitterness keep the wound open and seeping (and suffer the infection that comes with it) or we can heal by focusing on what good can come from this.  We know we’ll gain wisdom from knowing what got us here and what we learn on reshaping our futures.

We can have faith and focus on our personal and collective fresh starts.

Blessings,

Vicki

c2008, Vicki Hinze

MOCKING GOD

WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…

WARNING:  This is a no-edit zone…

In the last years, we’ve seen God under attack in the U.S. and we’ve seen the decline that has come with it in ethical standards, morals, and social mores.  We have grown so accustomed to it that we too often expect corruption and greed and rudeness and a pervasive sense of entitlement where we once expected respect, honor, dignity and grace.

Some blame an inflated sense of, well, sensibilities that’s often couched in terms like “politically correct.”  Some blame apathy.  Some blame a decline in the family unit.  For the first time, we are a nation of more single parent families than married couple families.

There’s probably truth in all of it.  But there’s more.  The few mockers have grown to many because mocking God has become a fevered ambition pursued with passion.  Doubt it?  When a political candidate can make a negative remark about God and be ignored, it’s proof.  Remember that this is happening here, in a country where a short time ago a candidate not believing in God was unthinkable and one being Catholic (Kennedy) created serious flack.  That says a lot about where we’ve gone on this.

Attacks have come from many sides.  And a very recent one uses the guise of humor.  Make a movie, make it “funny,” and as its central point, mock God.

That’s part and parcel of freedom of choice and freedom of religion.

Believers find it offensive but feel helpless to do anything about it.  And yet there is something that can be done and it is effective.  When you view a movie, you support it.  When you don’t, it doesn’t generate revenue.  Let’s face it, moviemakers like other businesses, are in the business to generate income.  No money, no movies.

We underestimate our purchasing power and the ability that we have to express our opinions in what we do and do not support.  We too have personal choices, and while I would never presume to make a choice for anyone other than myself, I will share that I will not contribute a penny to anything (not just movies, but anything) that I believe mocks God.

It’s a personal policy.  A matter of principle.  You want to mock, that’s your choice.  Contributing to your support while you do it, that’s my choice, and I choose not to do it.

I’m worried about us.  Truly worried.  It’s as if we’re asleep at the wheel and taking for granted that we’ll always be free and able to make choices.  But those things aren’t rights they’re privileges earned by those who came before us.  They are treasures, the legacies they’ve passed on to us, and frankly, we’re neglecting to nurture and care for them.  When that happens, as we’ve seen throughout history, they fade and falter and disappear.  If that happens, what legacy do we pass on to our children?  To our grandchildren?

The danger is real and evident, but we are not without hope.  Embracing our beliefs and expressing our intolerance through clear, direct and non-violent means that are impossible to “spin” no matter how valiant an effort is attempted, we can crawl out of this downward spiral and alter our paths.

If you make a CD on infanticide or a movie mocking God or write a book encouraging youths to kill their parents, that’s your choice.  Not buying any of them, and not supporting you in your efforts is my choice.

So I guess what’s on my mind this morning is what is your choice?  Are you weary of seeing God mocked?

If you haven’t paused in a while, please do and think about it….

Blessings,

Vicki

c2008, Vicki Hinze

WISDOM & STRENGTH: TOUGH TIMES REQUIRE TOUGH SKIN & TOUGH CHOICES

WISDOM & STRENGTH
TOUGH TIMES REQUIRE TOUGH SKIN, TOUGH CHOICES AND COURAGE
By Vicki Hinze, ©2008

As a nation, we face a significant challenge. It is seated in years of corruption and greed and living beyond our means.

One recently said, “The party is over.” The problem is many of us weren’t invited to the party. We don’t drink, we didn’t party, but the hangover has been dumped on us to suffer.

This fires our tempers, of course, but even more importantly, it sets us to thinking. Yes, we have our share of those who are not fiscally responsible and those supposedly serving us who are not. But many of us are responsible, so why is this happening to us?

I remember once in first grade when a student did something they shouldn’t have done. Because that person wouldn’t fess up and take personal responsibility, all of us had to write lines. Twenty-five of them, which is enormous when you’re a brand new writer. The teacher said, “When the guilty don’t do the right thing, the ‘good’ have to suffer for the ‘bad’.”

That was true then, and it’s apparently true now. We’re living it.

So on a spiritual level, the question changes radically for believers. We know that God is with us. That He will never abandon us. That he is our fortress and strength. And that if we follow His laws, putting Him first in our lives, then we will rest under His wing, sheltered and find rest. We also know that if we believe and do these things He will heal our land.

Many do believe. But many in this nation worship power and money and it corrupts them. Greed corrupts.

This raises a lot of questions in my mind, beginning on the spiritual front. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen; we do, expressing our free will. But we do live with collective consequences, and the collective consequences coming now are going to be hard to stomach.

Yet even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And because it is, we take solace in knowing that God turns things bad or harmful to us for good.

That’s pretty hard for many to take from concept to real life.

TURNING BAD FOR GOOD
GOD IN ACTION

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28 (KJV)

 

We’ve all been victims in one sense or another–unfair attacks, betrayal, bias, false accusations; the list is endless. But it’s important to remember the long-term impact of those situations.

Typically, the truth is revealed. Sometimes it takes a while, but it gets out. Sometimes it negatively impacts us short-term but puts us in a position we wouldn’t have been in that allows something good or better to come into our lives. Often we discover that these trials by fire forge our own ethics and strongly impact our decision to not do those things to others.

We take positions, stands, are slower to judge and quicker to be open-minded to discover the truth, which evil and greed often attempts to obscure.

It’s important to look back at our own lives and ask when we grew most as human beings. Was it during easy times or tough times? When we were soaring or trudging through mud?

What events had the greatest impact on our lives? Which ones insisted we look within and determine the person we wanted to be–or to not be? Which did us the most long-term good?

By long-term, I mean forever. Eternity. Not just this day or week or month or decade.

So we’re facing a bitter pill that’s knocking us to our knees. And many of us think the people who caused the problems can’t be part of a true, real and lasting solution because they’re not accepting responsibility for their actions or even acknowledging that they did anything wrong. One reader said to me yesterday, “The nuts are running the asylum.”

Perhaps a bit more colorful than I would have put it, but there is truth in it. Of course, one must look beneath the spin to see it.

Spin never removes truth. Even when buried, it remains intact.

So we look at the truth and we see a hard road ahead for all of us.  Does that mean we’re doomed or forsaken?  Absolutely not.  It means we and what we believe in are under attack and we’re about to get a look at who we are.

It takes a lot of heat to temper steel.  It takes a lot of heat to temper people, too.  And we’re about to feel the fire.

Some in our nation have been raised with a “you owe me” attitude or “give me” entitlement attitude.  Some think that not having an iPod or TV in every room is having it tough.  Those that have had it really tough will say, “Welcome to my world.”

The thing is hard times bring about change.  In attitudes, in belief systems, in character.

Are the next couple of years going to be easy?  No.  Are they going to be fun?  No.  Are they going to test us?  Yes.  All of us.

For those

who do not rely on God, it’s going to be a miserable few years.  Some will rise to the challenge.  Many won’t because they are relying solely on themselves or others to bail them out.

For those who do rely on God, it might be tough, but they will endure with the certainty that nothing will confront them that they can’t handle.  Tough times, yes.  Hard decisions, yes.  But they know that God is with them through those challenges, and when they fall, He’ll pick them up.  When they falter, He’ll make their paths straight.  When they can’t, He can—and will.

During tim
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalms 23:4 (KJV)
es of crisis, many who previously gave faith little thought think about it a lot.  They are in pain, suffering, and seek relief.

Sometimes God grants it—grace.

At other times, having a broader perspective, He sees opportunities for growth and better resolutions than we see, and so we endure longer.  That’s when faith is tested.  We who believe, rely on Him.  Trust Him.  Not only when relief comes but when it doesn’t.

Like steel, we are tempered.  If we choose, we gain strength and wisdom from our experiences.  If we choose, we begin or rediscover or maintain or make stronger our relationship with God.

It’s important to remember that even during times of challenge, God doesn’t impose on our free will.  He gave it to us, and he honors that gift.

From personal experience in coping with challenges and hard times, I know that some reactions to challenges are more effective at dealing with them than are others.   A few insights:

When you’re knocked to your knees, you get the heart of matters.  Often you pray for deliverance.  That’s human.  You’re hurt, down, and you want out.  But I’ve learned that  every challenge carries opportunity and value.  Humility defeats arrogance.  Receiving injustice makes you eager to not make others victims of injustice.  When you’ve suffered, you gain empathy not just sympathy.  Your compassion is real and heart-felt not an unknown abstract supposition.

Those are very important lessons.  Ones that aren’t fun to learn but that have lasting value.  So maybe rather than praying for deliverance, we should pray for other, more valuable things:

Like expressing gratitude that God is with us and we’re not going through these tough times on our own.

Like asking for His guidance.  If our own radar was great, we wouldn’t be in a fix.  His is perfect.  We need only trust it.

Like asking for the wisdom and strength to endure what we must to gain what He wishes us to gain during these hard times.

To ask that He give us what we need to do what we must do, and the courage to do it.

The fortitude to accept setbacks and failures as pathways to better solutions.

Discernment to seek and see truth and not be victims to smoke and mirrors or diversions that cloud our vision.

To place ourselves in His care, willingly following His lead to fulfill His purpose for us versus our own wishes and desires.

None of us like hard times and challenges.  None of us, given a choice, like taking on the burdens of others—particularly when we’ve tried hard to not acquire unessential burdens of our own.

But in times such as these, we are all called on do our part.  That part isn’t just for our own good or the good of one other person, but for the greater good of a nation of people.

Doing that isn’t reinventing the wheel.  We need only look to Jesus for an example.  He came, he gave, he did good works for those who asked and believed.  We collectively killed him for it and even as He was dying, He asked that we be spared retribution for it because we didn’t know what we were doing.

Not knowing what we’re doing  or not paying attention to what others were doing got our nation into this fix.  We’re eager to blame, eager to find someone upon whom we can dump our anger.  That’s the human being in us.  But Jesus asked God to forgive us and then he died.  And ever since he has acted as a bridge between us and God.  He didn’t hate us.  He claimed us, anyway.

There’s much to be learned there that can aid and assist us in overcoming our challenges.  His life was on the line and He was not delivered.  He was tested and tempered and taught us key lessons and invaluable coping skills that are as applicable to us and our challenges today as they were to Him in those days.  He taught us much about trust and strength and wisdom.  Much to give us comfort and solace and the courage to face what comes.

The question is whether or not we have the wisdom to learn it.❖

WISDOM & STRENGTH   © Vicki Hinze, 2008

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