Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Art of Contentment

I am currently blogging from Los Angeles, California!

I will do a full update on my trip once I am back in Texas next week, but for now I wanted to share about a sermon Alex and I heard on Sunday morning. I really love his church here and feel like this message spoke strongly to me. The sermon was titled "I Just Want to be Happy" and was part of a series he is giving about finding happiness in a city like Los Angeles. He spoke primarily about the art of contentment and referenced this scripture:

Philippians 4:10-14
"I rejoiced in the Lord greatly
that now at length you have revived your concern for me.
You were indeed concerned for me,
but you had no opportunity.

Not that I am speaking of being in need,
for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low,
and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance,
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,
abundance and need.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble."

This hit home for me for so many reasons, because like so many, I am caught up in playing the "if only" game-- "If only I made more money," "If only I were married," "If only I had this," etc. There should be no "if only's," because our souls will never be satisfied with anything in this world. By playing the "if only" game, we are saying there is something that can satisfy us more than Jesus. That is hard to swallow, but the reality is that the worst possible thing that God can do for us is to give us everything we want. The pastor also spoke about remembering God's providence and to trust Him while we wait. As someone who likes to plan everything, I have a hard time with this. Don't I know what's best for myself and what will make me happy? I realized that I do not. God has never led me astray in my 23 years. Everything has come together for good to give me this wonderful life I have, and I have to continue to trust Him while I wait for things that are to come.

The pastor gave us ten little things to keep in mind when we are trying to achieve the art of contentment. Most of them don't need explanation, but I have given more context on several at the bottom and mixed it with my own thoughts. I plan to print this out and put it on my bathroom mirror as a reminder.

Art of Contentment
1. Better than I deserve
2. Count your blessings
3. Embrace today
4. Think about heaven
5. Think of all those who suffer
6. God is faithful
7. This is possible
8. Admit you need help
9. Contentment is found in Jesus, not "Jesus plus"
10. Draw down today on the gospel

A little background:
1. Better than I deserve. The pastor said he had an old friend whom when asked how he was doing would reply "Better than I deserve." No matter how hard we try, we all fall short of being free from sin. God sent his perfect son to save us all, and therefore, just being given salvation allows us to be better than we deserve. It is easy to forget this among all our trivial daily complaints.
2. Count your blessings. This explains itself, but I try to literally list my blessings in my prayers and thank God.
3. Embrace today. We have no chance to be content during yesterday, and tomorrow is not here yet. We can only be content today.
4. Think about heaven. Our earthly suffering and difficulties will mean nothing when we are in eternal glory with our Savior.
5. Think of all those who suffer. The world is full of people who face daily horrors. Pick up the newspaper, watch a sad movie--you will feel better about your own circumstances.
6. God is faithful. He will provide, we just have to trust him.
7. This is possible. We can achieve the art of contentment.
8. Admit you need help. Sometimes all we can do is cry out to God and ask him to help us.
9. Contentment is found in Jesus, not "Jesus plus." Our greatest heart's desire has to be Jesus, not Jesus plus something else, because that something else is more important to us.
10. Draw down today on the gospel. Focus on the good news and blessings in the present.

How are you doing today? I am better than I deserve.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Memory of September 11, 2001

"When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love." -Love Actually

It was a beautiful day in early September. I remember how gorgeous it was when my mom picked me up from school that day and thinking how the perfect blue sky contrasted with the evil that had taken place.

I remember going to my 2nd period class, where I was an aide to a special needs child, and the teachers showed me briefly on the TV that an airplane had hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Still thinking at this point that it was an accident, I wheeled the student down to the choir room where they listened to the music and informed the choir teacher what had happened. She seemed surprised, but still ignorant of the full situation unfolding, choir class continued as normal.

The details of the rest of my day at school are fuzzy now, ten years later, but I remember slowly learning about multiple planes and coming to the realization that our nation was under attack. If my memory is correct, the school administrators wanted the teachers to keep the televisions off, but we all were still talking about it anyway, wondering what was going on.

When my mom picked me up, I remember her gazing up at that perfect blue sky, completely quiet for once since we live so close to a major airport and they had grounded all air traffic, and saying that things were crazy right now. I sat on my bed, trying to do my math homework and talking to my friend who was worried about a relative at the Pentagon, and realized the world I lived in was suddenly a scary place.

I am actually grateful that I was 13 when these attacks happened, because if I was any younger, I wouldn't have understood or maybe even remembered. And I am thankful that I wasn't any older, because I probably would have been terrified.

The rest of the week, our television was tuned to the news 24/7. I would walk through the living room, my parents sitting on the couch staring at the scenes of destruction as the newscasters talked about body counts, lost loved ones, and the occasional survivor found.

People were afraid to leave their houses, get on an airplane, trust anyone who looked like the terrorists they saw on TV.

Despite this fear, after the attacks, national morale was higher than I have ever seen it in my short life. Patriotism was everywhere. Since we felt we had been blindsided by an evil enemy, we banded together as one strong nation under God who would not be overcome. If we lived in fear, the terrorists had succeeded, and we could not let them get away with it.

Ten years have gone by now, and I am still filled with awe and horror at the images and footage they play from that fateful Tuesday. I just think of the people that got on the subway that morning to go to work who wouldn't be making an evening commute home, the people who boarded a plane not knowing what was about to happen to them, the children whose parents didn't pick them up from school that afternoon, and all the people who lost a loved one or a friend.

We can't change what happened that day. We can pray that those in charge of our national security prevent such horror from happening again, and we can also remember. We should never forget those that lost their lives that day, including those who died trying to save other victims.

There is a reason this country is the land of the free and the home of the brave. The world saw a lot of hate that day, but what stood out more was the sacrifice, compassion, and love that people showed for one another in our darkest hours.