Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

blur-businesswoman-caucasian-941555Many of us are worriers. I am. I can fret about anything.   My worry habit comes from having spent large parts of my life dealing with people who were unpredictable (Unpredictable in a bad way. Not in the “I am going to throw Meerabelle a surprise party” fun kind of way.) As a result, over the years, I developed a habit of worrying about what screwed up thing could happen next. I suspect I am not alone. Many of us worry as a coping mechanism in order to deal with the unstable people in our lives.

I now am married to a man who is as stable as they come. He is a rock. So, my life, to a certain extent, is very predictable. Yes, unexpected things happen to us. But neither he nor I are the cause. The unpredictable things that happen to us occur because we have to deal with other people or life circumstances generally.

So, I am giving up the worry habit. The problem with worrying is this: It is a complete waste of time.  We only worry about things over which we have no control. If we had control over the situation, we wouldn’t worry about it. We would get up and do something about it. So, worrying is just wasted time.

Below are some approaches to being free from worry. Consider applying them in your own life and break that worry habit!

Ignore the Complaints of Others: If someone comes to you with a problem, you can do two things for them. You can encourage them and give them advice as to how to solve their problem. Or, you can solve their problem for them. That’s it. There are no other options.

I know people say, “You can be a listening ear.” That is ridiculous. What is the purpose of listening to someone complain about a problem that they have no desire to solve? There are people who get paid to do that – therapists. The rest of us are here to either give advice or help.

When we listen to someone complain who doesn’t want to change their situation, we end up worrying about them. And that is wasted time. Don’t worry about people who want to live in their own mess. You can’t control other people, so don’t worry about the problems that they don’t wish to solve.

Don’t Concern Yourself with the Opinions of Others: Worrying about whether other people like you or approve of you is a massive waste of time. I have found that you can be kind and generous to people, and they can still come up with a reason not to like you. Folks have their issues, which often have nothing to do with you.

You cannot control other people’s opinions of you. You can only control your own actions. So, hold yourself to a high standard. Act in a manner that allows you to feel good about yourself.

For instance, I don’t worry about whether or not my boss likes me. She is a terrific person, so, of course, I would be delighted if she liked me and appreciated my work. But I cannot control her opinion of me. All I can do is work hard at my job and treat her in a respectful manner. But I don’t worry about her opinion of me because that is out of my control.

Don’t worry about whether or not people like you. That is not something that you can control. Instead, do your best and like yourself!

Prepare for the Future. Don’t Worry About It: There is no sense worrying about the future. So many things can happen in the future that you could never predict. And the problems that you are worrying about today ultimately may never happen. The future is unknown, so there is no sense in worrying about it.

However, while worrying about the future is a waste of time, preparing for it is not a waste. Every day is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a great future. For instance, the care you give your body today through a healthy diet and exercise will pay off exponentially when you are older.

For example, in our church, we have a number of elderly people. Some are in their 90s and are in top physical shape. They are perfectly lucid and drive to church on their own. However, some are in their 70s and 80s and due to mistreating their bodies, they can no longer drive and their mobility is limited. They are paying for past mistakes due to a lifetime of poor diet, limited exercise and bad habits. Your good health habits of today will pay off in spades in the future as you get older.

We should also prepare for the future with respect to our finances. There is nothing wrong with spending money today on vacations or things that you might enjoy. But in order to prepare for the future, money has to be saved, as well. Financial emergencies are a lot less stressful when there is a nest egg available. Similarly, retirement is not a matter of worry when you have money saved to enjoy the Golden Years.

Join me in breaking the worry habit. Worry is nothing but wasted time. Instead, focus your mental energies on improving yourself and enjoying your life. That is time well spent.

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Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 25:39

The quote above is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest. It is incredibly powerful.   So often, in church, we like to pretend that Jesus gladly accepted his fate. We like to turn Jesus into a superhero who bravely and gladly went to die a brutal death on the cross. We strip him of his humanity so that we can feel more comfortable when we look at the cross above our sanctuary altar.

But the quote from Matthew paints a very different story. Jesus is not a superhero. He is a human being who, with his face on the ground, is begging God to give him a different fate. In short, he doesn’t want to die.

And why would he? At this point in the gospel, Jesus is in his thirties. He has a successful, life-changing ministry. He is healing people who are blind or diseased. He has friends, men and women who he loves and who love him. Yes, he is bucking the establishment by upsetting the Pharisees, but he is at the top of his game. Why does his life have to end now?

So, Jesus reasonably begs God, “Take this cup from me.” Save me from this fate. Have you ever wanted to fall with your face on the ground and beg God, “Take this cup from me”? Most of us, at one time or another have pleaded, “God, don’t make me go through this.”

I have felt that way more than once. When my husband was on life support, and no one could guarantee that he would survive, I pleaded with God. I effectively said, “God, take this cup from me.” Save my husband. And He did. My husband lived. Of course, we went through the challenges of a long recovery during which, for a period of time, he couldn’t walk or talk. But the cup was taken from me.

However, there have been times in my life when God did not spare me. I begged, and God did not change my situation. In hindsight, I can see that God did not change my circumstances because He had a different plan for my life. But at the time, I felt very frustrated.

As I get older, I am become more and more sure that God has a specific plan for each and every one of us. And unfortunately, He sometimes does not take the cup of pain, sorrow or disappointment from us. Sometimes, we go through things that are very unfair. But I also know God wants us to fulfill his plan for our lives, and He is not going to allow an unfair circumstance to keep us from achieving our purpose in life.

The key is to look at the rest of Jesus’ plea to God. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus accepted that God might not intercede on His behalf and spare him the fate of the crucifixion. Jesus knew that God, in His infinite wisdom, had a plan for his life. And in God’s hands, Jesus’ short 33-year life has been the most impactful life in all of human history.

Sometimes we are not spared. The cup is not taken from us. I don’t know why. What I do know is that if we accept God’s direction for our lives, He can do great things for us and through us.

It is important to remember that our acceptance should not be grudging. Rather, we need to work toward having such trust in God that if something bad occurs, we know that God can transform that bad thing into something very good. When we have that kind of faith, nothing can undermine our confidence that all will be well.

And that is the blessing of accepting God’s direction for our lives. When we accept His direction, we can know without a doubt that Jeremiah 29:11 is true: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This week, meditate on Jeremiah 29:11. Work towards accepting God’s direction for your life. Trust God. He has a great plan for your life.

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Today we celebrated Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin term “mandatum” meaning to command. So Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ mandate to the disciples after he washed their feet during the last supper.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15

It is fitting that we should end Lent by reflecting on Jesus’ command that we live a life of service to others. This is by far, His most difficult request of us. Serving others does not come naturally to human beings. If you watch children and teenagers, you will see that fact in action. We are born being self-absorbed.

It is only through training that we learn how to serve others. Jesus understood this fact about human nature. He knew that he had to emphasize to the disciples that service to others should be part of spiritual life. And when he washed the disciples’ feet, he gave them a clear visual of what he meant.

Jesus understood that our happiness comes from being in service to other people.  When we serve other people, we make positive connections with them. We feel loving toward the person that we are helping, and they feel cared for by us.

Many folks are sad and frustrated because they don’t serve others.  They are far too focused on themselves. They are too busy wondering why other people aren’t meeting their needs. Serving other people is not on their agenda. They are too busy wondering why other people aren’t doing more for them.

It seems counterintuitive, but serving others is our path to happiness. We were made to be in relationship with others, and our relationships blossom when we serve. For example, my husband and I have a good marriage because we continually serve each other. Not always in grand ways, but typically in the small things. For instance, this afternoon, my husband carried some boxes to the basement for me.  I, in turn, baked his favorite cookies. Not earth-shattering stuff. But our continually serving one another throughout the day makes our relationship run more smoothly.

If my husband sat on the couch at the end of the day and shouted “Where is dinner?” we wouldn’t fare too well. Similarly, if I ate bon bons while he fetched me cups of tea, we would likewise not have a great marriage. Mutual service is what makes our marriages work.

When we serve each other, our world becomes a better place. They say that 84% of the world’s inhabitants have a religious faith. With an approximate world population of 7.7 billion people, that means that 6.4 billion people practice some form of religion. Can you imagine if all of those 6.4 billion religious people did one thing each year to serve a stranger? Our world would look very different, indeed.

I suspect no one would go without food, clothing or shelter (or healthcare for that matter). I suspect that every child would have access to an education. And I suspect that we would live in a much kinder and gentler world than we do right now.

In honor of Maundy Thursday, I would encourage you to reflect on Jesus’ mandate: Serve one another. Know that in serving others, you not only will bless others, but you will make your own life more beautiful, as well.

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I’ve lived almost a half-century on this earth, and it is only now that I truly am becoming the person God created me to be. I don’t think that I am alone. It takes time to become your unique self. It doesn’t happen overnight.

The problem is that we spend large parts of our lives being overly concerned about the needs of other people, when we should be concerned about growing into the person God created us to be. For instance, when we are young, we try to accommodate our parents and their need for us to be a certain way. Then, in our teens and early adulthood, we make adjustments to our interests and personalities so that we can have friends. And if we get married, unless we marry someone very mature, we have to deal with our spouses’ desires for us to be a certain way. However, at some point, most us wake up one morning and say, “Enough.”

Once you have said, “Enough,” that is when your life truly begins. Until then, we waste our time responding to the often very silly needs of other human beings. For example, I know a young lady whose mother used to put immense pressure on her to be thin. She was a high school and college athlete, but that wasn’t enough. She had to be a certain weight for her mother to be satisfied with her. So, this young lady went to extreme and unhealthy measures to satisfy her mother’s need for her to be a certain way. How very, very sad.  At some point, she will hopefully say to her mother, “Enough.”

I know another young lady whose parents put immense pressure on her to get good grades. She is so overwhelmed by the pressure that she sees a therapist. Does that stop her parents from pressuring her? Shockingly, no.  And she is too young to say “Enough” to her parents.

Unfortunately, parents aren’t the only people who make ridiculous demands on us. Friends and spouses do the same. I know an older woman who spent the better part of her adult life working two jobs just so she wouldn’t be home very much. The problem was that if she was home, then she had to deal with her husband’s incessant dissatisfaction with her and with his own life. So, it was easier for her to simply work all the time and avoid him.

If other people are hijacking your life with their needs and ideas about how you should be a different person, tell them, “Enough. Don’t bother me anymore.”

The problem is this: When you change yourself to meet the needs of others, you effectively are ignoring God. God made you in a certain way. He gave you certain personality traits in order for you to accomplish His will on this earth. So, for instance, if someone tells you that you aren’t adventurous enough, my goodness, ignore that person. God made you grounded and stable for a reason.

Or, let’s say that someone told you that you aren’t outgoing enough. Likewise, I believe that God gave you a quieter and gentler nature for a reason. Are you going to change yourself at the request of a flawed human being? Or are you going to be true to the personality and qualities that God gave you? I can assure you that the world has enough noisy people. There is no need to change who you are.

The key to becoming the person God made you to be is to be true to yourself. So, if you like reading books and taking long walks, and all your friends like going to the bars … well, find new friends. Find people who appreciate your quieter nature. And trust that God made you perfectly. He clearly created you to be more contemplative so that you would have insights that others won’t have.

It takes confidence to become the person God created you to be. The world isn’t necessarily going to give you positive feedback when you finally stop accommodating others and start being your true self. However, what the world appreciates and what God appreciates are two very different things. Make a decision as to who you are going to please.

I made the decision a long time ago to use my life to honor God. And that meant being who God made me to be. I will admit that I am quirky. I don’t fit in with regular folks. I don’t drink alcohol because it upsets my stomach. I read lots of books about religion because I find them to be interesting. I would much rather go out for a quiet, elegant dinner with my husband than go to a bar or a large party. I simply have zero interest in being “cool.”

I’ll admit that none of my quirkiness makes me popular.   But I gave up on being popular ages ago. The people who really like and love me have zero interest in changing me. I am more concerned at this stage in my life in being popular with God. And I am most concerned about whether I am fulfilling His purpose for my life.

Are you the person God created you to be? Or have you adapted your personality to suit the needs of your family and friends? The greatest gift that you can give this world is to be yourself. God created you with unique qualities and talents for a reason. Enjoy them! Use them to serve the world.

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