Summer Selfless Fridays

Aren’t Friday nights the best?  I love Friday nights, especially in the summer!  There is nothing that tops the reward of working all week, to come home and enjoy your Friday nights with friends and family around a bonfire and indulge in some great food and a few drinks.  My favorite is when I have people over to my house and then I can spoil my visitors and my family with lots of munchies and other treats.  I love it.

To me this is what is meant by the second most important commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  It’s a time to get with the people that you enjoy after a long hard week of work and relax together.  Such a simple commandment has such a deeper meaning that just hanging around a bonfire with your neighbor.  This commandment in the literal sense is just this, but just like most of the Bible, there are so many levels to these seven little words.

First of all, this doesn’t mean that you are kind to just your neighbor, it means everyone that you come in contact with throughout your day and even life.  This includes that friend from high school that you are still harboring a grudge towards because she made fun of the pimple on your forehead in 11th grade.  This means that mother at day care that might have said something about your child in passing and you took it the wrong way and are secretly hoping that her child grows warts all over their body.  Even the co-worker that drives you crazy day in and day out because the way you see your work and the way they see your work is not the same.  This means EVERYONE.  Not just the people that you enjoy being around—but everyone.

Secondly, loving your neighbor means encouraging people in your life to do the right thing, and not what is going to be the best for you.  It means cheering on your co-worker who might be up for the same promotion as you are.  It means that you are happy for the child who just won the big educational award that your child has been longing for since they started middle school.  Its feeling happiness in your heart for when good things happen to others when you feel like all you get are rough breaks.  Is this hard to do?  Definitely, but if you would be happy if wonderful things came upon yourself, then you have to be happy when it comes upon others.

And finally, it is about being totally unselfish.  When something horrible happens to you and you feel like you were treated badly in a situation, you don’t wallow in self-pity, you find a way to push out the desire to feel sorry for yourself and put a smile on your face anyway.  Maybe your husband hasn’t been the stand-up guy that you have been wanting him to be lately; or a friend hasn’t been there for you when you needed them; maybe your children are taking you for granted and totally exhausting you; and that boss of yours you can never make happy and you feel like giving up.  All these things might make you feel like lying around and sulking about how horrible you have been treated.  Don’t!  Get up and shower these people with kindness.  It comes back to that old saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”  Watch how things in your life turn around by putting everyone above yourself.

I was studying Deuteronomy 28, the very first verse was the one that touched me the most.  It said, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations and the earth.”  This is Moses explaining to his people the blessings that will be brought upon them for following the Lord’s commandments, but the same will happen for you.  Just rise above those selfish feelings that take over your mind and focus your energy on loving your neighbor, which includes everyone in your life.

Friday nights are worth waiting for, and maybe your Friday nights will be even better if you learn to put everyone ahead of yourself all week long?  It might be hopeful thinking, but I know I love to dote on the people in my world and I never want anything in return.  Is this because I am focusing on the second most important commandment?  No!  It was what my mother modeled for me all my life, and I am just lucky enough to enjoy being the way she was.

I’m working hard on being a selfless person, because when you have an incredible mother like mine, who put you ahead of herself all her life, it is an enormous adjustment.  I am reassured by Deuteronomy 28 of all the blessing that I will receive being selfless, which makes the transition easier.  I will be spoiling my children just the way my altruistic mother spoiled me and I hope my children are as proud of me as I am my mom who showed me what it is to love your neighbor like you would love yourself!

Happy Friday everyone!

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Forming Relationships

Have you ever watched the Goldbers?  My family and I enjoy watching this 80s family’s tales unfold that all have a valuable life lesson at the end!  This family is priceless!  I’m not much of a television girl, but this show is on my weekly routine.  If you’ve never seen this show, I highly recommend it.  It is a family from the 80s and the mother, Beverly Goldberg is hilarious.  Maybe I find her character funny because I can relate to her being a crazy mother myself, I don’t know.  I just enjoy her character and she is always going to make me burst out in a full belly laugh.

I watched the Mother’s Day episode and once again it lived up to my expectations!  It wasn’t as centered around mothers as I thought it was going to be.  Part of the show was showing how the father, Murray Goldberg wouldn’t let his youngest son, Eric, attend space camp.  The son set out in a mission to convince his father he had to go, and to stop crushing his dreams.

Eventually it is revealed that his father’s dreams of becoming a ventriloquist were smashed by his father.  Eric visited his father’s father and this story was unveiled.  Eric took the dumby home with him, trying to touch the child still left inside of his father, and try to make the connection how it is history repeating itself.  His father crushed his dreams and now Murray was crushing Eric’s.

Sure enough, this technique works, but not before Mr. Goldberg divulges his disappointing childhood not knowing if his father was going to come home at night.  How his father deserted him most of his life.  How his father never let him do anything.  It broke Eric’s heart and then he became empathetic to the way his father has become.  It broke my heart too.

How many of us harden our hearts towards people that might come off brash or bold?  How many of us form judgment of people before we know what lies beneath the surface of these human bodies?  We all have our stories.  Some might be sadder than others for sure, but everyone has their heartaches and hurdles they have to overcome.  Just like Murray Goldberg, he had a sad story, but he rose above it and left his past behind and became a better father than the father he had.

Mr. Goldberg didn’t form a relationship with his father.  How many of us are like that?  How many of us don’t have a relationship with our Heavenly Father?  I was watching Dr. Oz the other night because a friend of mine informed me he had on Near Death Experiences on his show this day.  One individual experienced the depths of hell after he was shot, but was saved by his great father, whose voice thundered, “It is not your time.”

Why did this man who had a NDE explain he experienced hell?  In his words it was because he didn’t have a relationship with God.  He really didn’t believe that God existed, and so didn’t ever think about God.

We all have to develop a relationship with God.  Make time for him.  Be thankful for everything that we have.  Even if you are in a low part of your life, you still have things to be grateful for.  We can all take time out of our lives, whether it is lying in bed in the morning as you slowly wake up.  Give praise then for the gift of another morning.  Be thankful for the roof over your head, the food you ate and the days that you are still blessed to see the sun rise.

Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

There is a reward for seeking God, and building a relationship with him, just like there is a reward for building a relationship with your own father or mother.  It is the most selfless love there is.  He wants you to be happy, but if he’s not making you happy he is teaching you a lesson.  It might be hard to build a relationship with a person you can’t see, but it has its huge rewards.

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Circumcise Your Heart

My husband and daughter are not morning people!  They enjoy the morning, but not if they have to get out of bed.  They love to lay around and take their time easing into the day instead of jumping up and hitting the floors full force into their day.

My son and I, on the other hand, are total opposites.  We enjoy our mornings and get up quickly to savor them.  I have to admit, it was kind of rotten when my son was young, because he was up super early, but we learned if we put him to bed later at night then his early bird personality was at least bearable.

The other morning, my husband said to me, “I don’t know how you get up an hour early every morning to do your meditation time.”  I just chuckled to myself, and stayed silent, but in my head I was thinking—I don’t know how anyone doesn’t do it.

My meditation time is my time to focus on myself, and how I want to transform myself to become a better person.  It’s a very important time when I make time for God and read his word.  It’s my time to look at myself and figure out what my purpose is in this world.  I live for my meditation time.

The other day studying Deuteronomy 10, one verse really touched me.  Moses was teaching the people that he brought out of Egypt what life should be lived like in the Promised Land, and was reviewing what had happened when he came down the mountain with the two stone tablets with the commandments on them.  Deuteronomy 10:16 states, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” 

Circumcise the foreskin of your heart?  Really?  What do you think they meant when they wrote those words?  To me, I feel like it means to cut away the selfishness that engulfs every one of our hearts.  We have to lift the layers of self-centerness and put everybody’s happiness above our own.  We are human, and we are selfish but it should be our goal to transform our hearts more towards the likeliness of the heart of God.

How many of us actually care more if others are happy over our own happiness?  I know it is easy for me to put my children’s happiness above my own, but other than my children I tend to have a selfish heart.  I’m learning to peel away these layers of my heart to get to the inner core and try to put every person’s happiness above my own, but it is hard work.  If I didn’t make the time every morning to sit and gather my own energy from within and continue to educate myself in God’s word I would find it near impossible.

I sit and think about the person that I used to be, and how self-centered I was and I am ashamed.  Our thoughts and feelings are a reflection of what our true spirits are.  I’m proud to say that I don’t even have as many selfish thoughts anymore since I started meditating on having a good heart and trying to tap into the power of the energy of God inside of me.

Some people, like my husband, may think I am strange, but I think those who don’t take time in the mornings to better themselves are strange.  I’ve always been a huge fan of personal improvement.  I didn’t like reading until I started reading parenting books trying to better myself as a parent and a teacher.  Now, I’m a maniac over reading the Bible, and learning all I can about the power that we have inside of us.

Try circumcising your heart.  Anyone who comes into your world today, think to yourself, how can I make them happy.  Any time you have a negative thought about someone, turn it to a positive.  See the positive in everyone and everything.  Put yourself last in the line of happiness and see how that makes you feel.  That is just step one in the process of circumcising your heart, but once you start peeling off the layers, I guarantee you are going to love it, and might even start giving the first five minutes of your day to saying a prayer of praise for all that you have.

There is a great app called the First Five, check it out, it’s free!  Once you see what five minutes of this does, you will crave more and more and might even end up being strange like me!  Give it a try.  Five minutes is all it takes!

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Pride and Prejudice

I met one of my absolute best friends the summer going into grade 5, at the ball field.  If you know my life at all, it really centers around gymnastics and baseball and this is really where I met many of my close friends.  This particular friend was the same age as me, and our fathers played ball against one another.  We hung out all summer and then come the fall, we turned out to be in the same homeroom class.

This friendship is still holding strong and she is my rock.  I have a bond with her that is strengthened by God, and I am very thankful for her and all her tremendous attributes.  She is the most amazing person I know.  She is everything that the bible verse, Galatians 5:22-23 is.  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  She’s incredible!

We are however not the same denomination and her beliefs and mine don’t always line up.  She is very black and white when it comes to the scripture, and myself, I like to look for the deeper meaning and also think that God is not the judging God that her religion feels that he is.  To me if you are a good person, living in God’s word the best you can, he is going to be his loving self.  Nobody has all the answers, we all sin and we try to better ourselves.  That’s how I roll.  My religion is very open-minded and I love that about it.

Her religion on the other hand is very strict and almost scares people into thinking that their way is the ONLY way to get to heaven.  Maybe they are right and I am wrong, who knows.  Someday I might find out from the depths of Hell, but for now, I love to think the best about everything and everyone!

During the time in my life when I had my first born child, she was my first choice to be the Godmother of my child.  Her religion doesn’t believe in baptizing infants, and so she had to decline my invitation, thinking that her religion would frown upon her for being involved with such a crime as baptizing a child in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  EEEEEK!!!!  Sad, right?

It was shocking at first, but I love this friend and understood her moral struggle and respected her decision.  Another kind friend of mine stepped up and had no issue filling these shoes.  I told my friend that I understood that her religion didn’t honor children the way mine did, and that was fine, but at the same time I did find it strange that a religion would be so judgemental of other religions beliefs.  In my mind, I find it hard to call yourself a Christian, condemning other religions in this manner. In my friend’s defense, she was young and trying to be the best person for God that she could be, and I don’t blame her for that.

I loved reading the book, “Dying to be Me…My Journal From Cancer, Near Death, to True Healing” by Anita Moorjani.  She is a Buddhist and she made it to heaven!  Imagine!  My friend’s religion might be shocked, but I’m not!  There might be still hope for me to get to Heaven after all!

Studying Acts 10, I learned that God had to work in Peter’s heart and soul just like he worked in my friend’s heart and soul.  God broke through to Peter and made it clear that the scripture is not just for the Jews but the Gentiles too.  Acts 10:44 explains, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” 

Years after the baptism of my first child, my friend did apologize for her decision to decline my invitation, and was very remorseful of how she was so close minded, but admitted she was trying to find her way with God.  Of course I never even really thought about it after, and thought she was being silly even apologizing.  This was her belief and I respected her for standing strong on her belief—I didn’t understand why, but respected none-the-less.

I’m glad that she eventually realized that God shows no favoritism, and that she recognized maybe she was being close-minded but was fearful for what God would do to her if she honored my child’s baptism.  That is the great thing about finding your spirituality, and why I have a strong belief that we all have to read the bible for ourselves and not have people form our hearts to be prejudice against other people, religions, race or cultural beliefs.

During Peter’s sermon in Acts 10 he explains that Jesus is Lord of All.  That includes denominations that baptize their babies; that includes different cultures that might have multiple gods they pray to; that includes the other religions who may pray to saints and other people of the Bible!  It’s a crazy way of thinking but being open to the fact that Jesus is Lord of All and loves us all isn’t going to hurt anyone.  We are instructed to love our neighbors, even if they baptize their babies, or do something else you might find is not in your belief system.

Rip the layers of prejudice off your heart and open it up to see how big our God really is and how much love he has to spread around!

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Defense! Defense!

Defense!  Defense!  Defense!  Have you ever been to a basketball game?  I’m sure as you read those words, foot stomps echoed in your memory because everyone at one point of their lives have heard that song.  It is the most frequently sung chant by both teams, in any sport really.  Teams try to defend their net, or territory and make sure their players don’t let the other team to score.

Sports have an incredible amount of lessons that they can teach people of all ages.  It teaches how to work with other people.  It teaches how to deal with disappointment and heart ache.  It teaches parents that they have to let their children experience loss and frustrations.  It teaches parents and athletes how to make sacrifices, because sport takes a lot of time and energy and if you have more than one very involved athlete in a family, it also teaches time management.  The list of what sports teaches is really an entirely different lesson, but what I am trying to get at is that sport is a great tool for many life lessons.

The lesson that I wanted to highlight today is that of defense.  I really feel that we have to think of spirituality in the form of defense.  I really think that God is constantly on the defense for us.  He has set up our world so that we have our own free will to do what we want to choose to do with our lives.  Many times, however, we are given choices.  Choices to do the right thing, or the temptation to do the wrong thing, almost like evil spirits and angelic spirits.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you are taking the wrong path in an area of your life, all of a sudden something or someone shows up to interfere with what you were about to do, or say?  That would be God acting defensively for us.  Trying to stop us.  I know myself, there were many times that I didn’t let these interferences stop me and still made a bad play in my life.  Looking back it is easy to see the hand of God trying to intervene, and then I realize my error.

God is never setting us up to fail, and is always on our defense, whether we make the correct shot and defend our net, it is up to us to make the right play.  Many times we might trip and fall, or shoot and miss, but that doesn’t mean that the game is over.  Pull yourself together, and refocus your energy towards your goal and God will once again help you in the defensive side of the game, making sure that you don’t let that bad play happen again.

The Divine Creator is with us every step of our journey and our game plan is already drawn out for us. He wants us to win!  I’m studying Deuteronomy this month, and in Deuteronomy 20:4, it tells us, “For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’”  Each play can go down the way God is trying to coach us towards, or we can use our own player’s judgment and try to go against the coach’s advice.  Either way, we learn from our choice and move onto the next game of life.  After you go against the coach long enough, you will eventually learn that his defensive strategy is second to none, and you will win every game following his strategies.

I’m not a basketball expert—I honestly, have no idea about the game—but I do know that my son’s coach is very vocal from the sidelines.  Not only is his coach vocal, but his teammates on the bench are always encouraging, and chanting, “DEFENSE!  DEFENSE!”  God is very vocal too, and is the best defensive coach you will ever find.  It just means you have to train yourself to listen to his whispers, learn from your mistakes, and try to follow his lead the next time around.

In the sporting world, there are athletes that coaches refer to as, “uncoachable”.  Are you one of those people?  Are you going to be stubborn and think your way is the best way to play the game?  Are you uncoachable?  Or are you going to let the Great Divine lead you to a sweet victory in this game called life or are you going to try and coach yourself?  Many people try, but eventually they learn the power of the Great Divine!

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The Climb

My daughter was prime age to enjoy the world of Hannah Montana.  Miley Cyrus was pretty precious when she was a childhood star.  I even enjoyed the episodes and it taught some great life lessons.  Miley’s last big hit as Hannah Montana was Hannah Montana The Movie, where she was all grown up and was moving on to bigger and better things.  Miley was trying to make the huge decision if she should reveal her hidden identity and expose the fact that Hannah Montana was really Miley or keep Hannah Montana hidden.

On the way home from school the other day, my daughter, who hasn’t watched this show in years, spoke very wise words to me, and it really got me thinking.  She said, “Mom, you know Miley Cyrus’ song, “The Climb”?  That is what I feel like I am going through, trying to reach all my gymnastics goals.  I looked into her beautiful blue eyes that she inherited from her father, and I melted right there and then.  This 12 year old has taught me so much in her short time on earth and is wise beyond her years.

We both started reminiscing about the song and started to sing the first verse, “I can almost see it. That dream I’m dreaming, but there’s a voice inside my head saying, “You’ll never reach it.” Every step I’m takin’, every move I make feels lost with no direction, my faith is shakin’.  But I, I gotta keep tryin’ gotta keep my head held high.  There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move.  Always gonna be an uphill battle sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.  Ain’t about how fast I get there ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side, it’s the climb.”

I could see how she was relating these words to her dreams on her gymnastics goals, and I am there to help her in any way I can to help her reach these goals.  I am loving what the sport is teaching her about life, because there is always going to be another mountain that you want to make move.  Life is always an uphill battle and we can’t win them all, but that is what makes life so incredible…the climb.

As I reflected on our conversation that day, and thought about how this song also applies to spirituality.  Everyone’s dream is making it to heaven, but then your faith gets shaken by something that happens in your life to make you doubt your beliefs, and you will have that voice inside your head feeding you doubt about all that you’ve learned about spirituality.  You just get over one hurdle that you thought was going to tear apart your world, and life seems to be going great, and then BAM!  You are slapped with another battle that you now have to try and overcome.  It really is nonstop.  Just like Miley Cyrus explains in her beloved lyrics about this song.

I love all the verses in Proverbs!  There is an incredible amount of wisdom squished into one book in the Bible.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I know that I don’t have all the answers, but raising my children has been a rewarding journey.  I can’t save them from hurt or disappointment, nor should I, because this is how they grow and learn.  The same with adults and our spirituality.  We have to get hurt to learn, and as long as love and wisdom are the bases of our family’s mission statement, my children should turn out OK.  As long as love and wisdom is the bases of your spirituality, you should be OK too.

The second verse of “The Climb” continues, “The struggles I’m facing, the chances I’m taking, sometimes might knock me down, but no, I’m not breaking.  I may not know it, but these are the moments that I’m gonna remember most, yeah just gotta keep goin’, and I, I gotta be strong just keep pushing on.”

Miley Cyrus sung very true words, because this is exactly what we have to do!  Keep pushing on.  You may not realize it now, but you will look back in a few years and think that those trails you went through…the climb…were the days that shaped you into you.  Just like my daughter is learning through her sport.  There is heart aching disappointments when things don’t turn out the way we wanted, but in the end you will become a better gymnast, or person because of them.  You just have to keep focusing on the future, and don’t dwell on the disappointments…it’s all about the climb!

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Pro-Active Problems

Pro-active.  Isn’t that a great word?  It’s used in the world of education quite frequently.  We are trying to be pro-active this time of the year to keep on top of the behavior problems that arise because this time of the year students are getting tired of one another, are fed up with school and are ready for their summers to begin.  You would think this would be an easy time of the year, now that the homestretch is in sight, but honestly, it is the worst part of the year.

Being pro-active is a good way to be for any part of your life.  Let’s take marriage for instance.  We have to constantly be pro-active in keeping our marriage fresh and alive.  It is easy to let your marriage take the back burner in life, and neglect it.  We all think that our spouse is happy and life is just busy and getting in the way of your time, but this isn’t always the case.

How many of us put everyone else before our husband, or wife?  I know I’m guilty of putting everyone ahead of my husband.  I just think that his needs aren’t as important as our children’s.  I have life-long friendships that I want to keep alive and have to put energy into keeping them.  I have gymnasts that I coach and I want to help them reach their gymnastics goals.  I have students that I am responsible for and have to help reach their outcomes in the 195 days that I have them.  I have deadlines that I need to reach.

The list of our responsibilities are endless.  Everyone knows the feeling, but how many of us think pro-actively?  How many of us reevaluate our lives frequently so that we can ensure that we are setting our priorities straight?

Being pro-active in our marriage is the first and most important step in our daily living.  Why, you may wonder?  Without a strong marriage, what do we have?  Nothing.  It’s easy to give up on marriages that aren’t going the way we dreamed.  Television, songs, and movies of today are all about promoting adulterous behavior.  Matthew 13:4 explains, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

In today’s society, the importance of marriage is overlooked.  We seem to deem everything more important so you can see why adulterous behavior could happen.  If we are pro-active with our relationships and put some energy into them, this might be preventative.  Just like being pro-active in the classroom and making sure behavior issues don’t have the time to arise, we can do the same with our marriages.  It is more work than letting things roll the way they are rolling but in the end, you will be thankful of your efforts.

A lifetime is a long time to be with one person.  If you don’t put the energy into your marriage, you will have your struggles.  You will have your struggles even with putting energy into it and being pro-active.  Put your own selfishness aside, and make your spouse’s life all that they deserve to have.  Make them your number one priority in your life after God.  That is being pro-active and you will witness your marriage become all that God created it to be.

This isn’t going to be easy.  Juggling life and a marriage is a balancing act that even the greatest of circus performers can’t even handle, but you have to try.  Being pro-active will help make the juggling act easier.

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