Teachable Moments

What Traveling Can Teach You

I just got back from traveling overseas.  I enjoy the chaos of travel – its unexpected trials, my new best friends that I sit next to on the plane, and the airport food that is twice as expensive but just as satisfying.  I like looking at possible souvenirs I won’t buy and rifling through magazines I would never have time to read in my “everyday” life. I even enjoy the waiting for delayed flights.

When our children were younger, we traveled with them.  We loved showing them new places and teaching them to navigate the airports, unique travel challenges and meeting people who spoke different languages, wore unique clothing and had traditions that had little to do with their “everyday” life.  They even enjoyed waiting for delayed flights with us.

We all learned a lot about ourselves and who we were as family during our travels.  Our trips’ Teachable Moments are our souvenirs that we still enjoy remembering and using today in our “everyday” lives.  These souvenirs bring a wisdom that only comes through travel.

SOUVENIR #1 – Plans Always Go Awry

You can plan; you can obsess; you can detail every second, but I guarantee you, something will go awry.  There is no perfect plan and there are no guarantees. The only one who is perfect and knows the plan is God Himself, “I make known the end from the beginning…” (Isaiah 46:10).  

T.M.:  Having the expectation that the journey of life as well as any travel routes will never end up being what we initially expect is a wise truth to remember, especially when the unexpected arises.  Get ready to be surprised, uncomfortable and interrupted and remember – all of these build character.

SOUVENIR #2 – Picking Your Travel Partners

Not everyone is built for travel.  Some do it much better than others.  Some struggle with the confinement that is inevitable when you are negotiating how to get from point A to point B.  Some hate the amount of time it takes to reach one’s destination, no matter the mode of travel. Some feel edgy thinking of all the other things they could be doing until they reach their destination.  And some HATE figuring out out of all the stuff they own what stuff they need to take with them. These types of worried, anxious individuals who usually expect the worst-case scenario and have no hope that they will enjoy life as they travel make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.  Proverbs is correct when it says “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down” and Proverbs is also correct when it says, “a merry heart makes for a merry countenance”.

T.M.:  Besides packing a toothbrush, pack a good attitude that is hopeful and leans upon God for contentment!

SOUVENIR #3 – Perspective Matters

My husband has said as long as I’ve known him (over 30 years now) that it is not perfection, but the direction of our lives that count.  Focusing too much on having the “perfect” trip or focusing too much on where we are going and not where we are currently at are both perspectives that will kill any decent travel plan.  Focusing too much on any moment of time other than the moment we are currently in is a great waste of time.  I can’t change either the past or future, but I can influence this moment – and since a trip is just a series of moments – it’s wise to make every moment count.  As for considering just “getting there” as the very definition of success, that is a misguided idea that process is inferior to results. It’s just not true – how we get somewhere, what we learn and enjoy as we get there, the relationships we build as we get there – these are all significant in their own right.  

T.M.: Realize the current way being made for you (Isaiah 43:18-19) and celebrate the moment you are in (Romans 14:17).

Dear Reader, if you travel, you have a whole bunch of Teachable Moments that direct your life.  Recognizing what God has taught you and how it informs your life is an invaluable collection of souvenirs. Have you shared with your children what you have learned from life’s journey and specifically, your own travel experiences?  What has God taught you? What Teachable Moments are your souvenirs? Next time you come home from even a day trip, start a conversation with your family that begins with, “On my trip, God taught me….” and let them see how God had been at work within you as you had been away from them.  

May you enjoy picking through your collection of Teachable Moments and giving testimony and thanks to God for each one.

Blessings to you as we travel this life together.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

Whatever…

I remember the first time my little boy looked at me and told me he was worried. He was four years old.  Four! What in the world did a little boy who was in his car seat on his way to the store with his Mom have to worry about?  He let me know that he was worried that we would get lost.. I don’t know how that idea popped into his head, but I asked him if getting lost would be a bad thing and he assured me, “Yes, Mommy, that would be very bad.”  I’m glad I immediately recognized this as a Teachable Moment.

In asking my little guy “why” getting lost would be so very bad, he let me know that getting lost was scary and no one should ever be lost.  My response to him was, “You are feeling worried; you believe that it is a bad thing to get lost. But honey, in our family, if we get lost, we call it an adventure.”  At the time, I didn’t realize how life changing that discussion was, not only for him, but also for me.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” (sayingimages.com). Stress happens to everyone, even our children. We have to help them navigate it. I have no other response to stress, but to tell myself and my children a different truth than the one we’re currently experiencing.  We change “lost” into “going on an adventure.”

Scripture says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8).  No matter the situation that brings stress to life, bring a whatever thought to counter it.

Whatever is the one word in scripture that reflects a totality of commitment to having what we believe transform our everyday experiences; it’s the best response to stress. Don’t run from the tension that results from whatever – instead, press into it with truth.

  • Mary, Jesus’ mother, told the workers at Cana to do “whatever” Jesus told them to do; they were to believe what Jesus said and then do it. Without hesitancy or question.  Wow – Mom – what a tense situation. But – voila – we have Jesus’ first miracle as the wedding planners pressed into their whatever.
  • Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”  My entire day is filled with things to do from brushing my teeth to speaking on the radio.  Whatever it is, in private or in public, my whole Christ-absorbed heart should be fully engaged. In whatever I’m doing, I must try to live my life everyday with my heart on the line, which  brings a purpose and passion to my everyday existence.
  • A favorite “whatever” of min is found in Phil. 1:27. “Whatever” happens, I am always to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of God.  This all-in, all-the-time awareness that I represent my God who died for me before a watching world is stressful, for every believer I imagine.  But, I don’t want to miss one of my whatevers.  I want the world to see my God in me and to show my God how grateful I am for the gospel He has provided.

As I was driving my son to the store that fateful day many years ago, I am grateful that I remembered that whatever we do as a family, we are to do to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).  Whether we get lost or not, and with me as the driver let’s be honest, we could definitely get lost.  But when we admit our tension and respond to it with a whatever thought, we engage our hearts to live a life that shows radical obedience to Christ that is worthy of the gospel and brings glory to God.  Life becomes the adventure God intends for all of us. Tension does not draw us away from God; rather, it is our whatever moment that draws us back to Him.

Dear Reader, what will stress you out today?  Where do you hold tension? Whatever it is, choose a whatever thought (there are 173 verses in scripture that speak to whatever) and turn your tension into an adventure in which God meets you at every turn, whether you get lost along the way or not. Go do it – I know you can!

Blessings to your whatever moments.  I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for each of us and our families today.  

Fondly yours – always, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

The Truth about Habits

As a counselor of over 30 years now, I have a key message that I give to all the families I get to work with, especially those just starting off.  Everyone thrives in an environment of consistent order BUT avoid order becoming a dictator rather than an influencer.

I love the first part of this advice (live a life of orderliness), because I had it taught to me by my precious Mom while growing-up. Also, I’ll confess, I like predictable schedules, organized drawers and the calendar of celebrations I can look forward to.  When I was a young wife many years ago, I loved making a weekly routine; I knew when I cleaned, did the laundry and ran errands. I am not one who enjoys surprises as I would prefer to anticipate events versus have them sprung on me.  AND YET –  the great thing about marriage in my life is I got to challenge this love of routines some 30 years ago and while it is still true that we humans need order to thrive, I have learned when habits are healthy and when they are best put aside.

When Habits Are Healthy

Habits are routines of behavior whether in action or thought that are repeated at regular intervals; you know you have a habit when it is something you think or do that is difficult for you to give-up.  They are predictable and give us a sense of security and order that is key to human wellness. Our God is a God of order and that is reflected in His creation (1 Tim. 2:13), how Paul discipled the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 14:33, 40) and how Titus was encouraged to structure the church on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5).  

Habits are better reflections of a person’s character than independent events.  Look at someone’s pattern over time and you’ll get to know the true person they are – what they value, what their goals are and what they truly love.  Habits are present whether someone is watching or not and will rear their heads especially when we are under stress.

Habits that enable us to honor God’s word in our worship of Him, care for our body and the resources He has given to us, and love others well are wonderful and need to be preserved.  The “habit” of saying “I love you” to any of my family at the end of a phone conversation reflects my value of family and my heart for them. It affirms our relationship and the priority they have in  my life, even if the conversation was difficult.

Determine if your habits are healthy by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do others who see this habit affirm and encourage it as one they would want to emulate?
  • Does this habit draw others toward Christ?
  • Does this habit encourage me to love Jesus more?
  • If this habit of thinking or doing was put-up on the huge screen in Times Square, would I be ashamed?  (ex – if you have a habit of impatience when your children interrupt you, would you want that filmed for all the world to see?)
  • Do you believe God will say, “well done, good and faithful servant”, when all your habits are revealed to Him at the end?

When Habits Are Unhealthy

Anything can be taken to an extreme – even habits.  Either showing a disregard for habits or embracing a compulsive drive toward habits reveal an inflexibility that does not serve anyone well.  Let’s consider the Pharisees. The Pharisees were opponents of Jesus whom Josephus, a first-century scholar of Roman and Jewish origins, described as simple in lifestyle, believing in both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, and while the most accurate interpreters of the law, they held rigid the “chief importance to the observation of those commandments.  

Observance of the law and the law itself became more important than the law-giver, and as such, they missed the appearance of the law-giver (Jesus) when He arrived.  Why? Because Jesus knew the heart of the law and thus, did not always obey it the way the Pharisees thought it “should” be obeyed. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, engaged in conversations across cultural boundaries, and feasted on wine and food with tax collectors and sinners and of course, the Pharisees were appalled by such behavior.  Their religion had become a set of habits, a pattern of life that observed the rules, but had lost the heart of them.

Have your habits become unhealthy? Consider your response to the following to decide.

  • Do you become anxious or even angry when your habits are interrupted?
  • Is the following statement true for you?  “If others do not practice their faith with the exact same behavior or belief I do, I automatically see them as wrong, worldly or immature in their faith.”
  • Does your joy in living for Christ and enjoying His presence depend on what you do?
  • Do you evaluate your godliness on what you do or the fruit of the Spirit?
  • Do people talk more about who you are or what you do?

Dear Reader, life is more both/and living than either/or.  Let us desire to live both an orderly life and one that reflects a character of grace and spiritual fruit.  May what we do never be more important than who we are. May the habits of our life encourage our godly character that values faith over religious works.  May we embrace habits we desire to pass on to our children and are worthy of their imitation and may we break those habits that lead to legalism.

Blessings on you and the habits you embrace – may they lead you to both loving and living out your faith well.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Pursuing Peace in a Stressed-Out World

Comparing research reported by the Pew Research Center (Jan. 3, 2019), Our World in Data website and other credible sources, figuring out the trends of stress, conflict and violence in our world and the much sought-after peace everyone wants becomes confusing.  However, it seems form my observations that the following are commonly held as true:

  • World War 2 took more lives than any other war in history since 1400.
  • After the mid-1990s, Europe has experienced a period of astounding peace
  • Death as a result of battles is declining quickly, and has done so for the last few decades
  • Wars and conflicts overall are becoming less-deadly
  • Statistics need to be understood in light of what kind of conflict we’re describing; example, the Korean war (2 countries in conflict) vs the Rwandan Genocide (2 people-groups within one country) puts numbers in perspective
  • Conflict between individuals are increasing as conflict between people groups decrease

What does this say about our world?  Do these trends indicate that we live in more peaceful times and as such, peace is something we are achieving but don’t realize?  This is the sticky part. The answer is nebulous as we can say both “yes” and “no” to what we learn from data.

Yes, we are becoming more peaceful to some extent.  Between States, Countries, Continents, wars are down; even between people groups, we are finding fewer, if not less deadly in numbers percentage-wise, conflicts.

No, violence is not decreasing significantly if analyzed as what individuals do to individuals (domestic violence) or small groups do to small groups (gangs).  One recent medical research report showed that in 1000 cases analyzed, almost ⅓ of all abuse done to children was done BY children. Domestic violence as reported in 2018 was reported by more than 10 million USA women and men, but there seems to exist a lack of awareness or response in the religious community.  Narcissism is a serious mental illness which has reached epidemic numbers in western countries and 1 out of 3 Evangelical pastors show disturbing signs of this destructive disorder. According to a 2018 report found on Comparitech, a total number of reports for cyberbullying has increased worldwide

What does all this have to do with us?  I’d suggest, the peace that we seek starts with us from an individual perspective.  If we truly do want the Miss America Pageant line, “I want world peace”, to come true for others and ourselves, taking a good look inside and taking responsibility for the resultant choices we make is a first step toward resolving this world of stress and conflict.  If I want to feel peace, know peace and have my children grow up in a world of peace, I need to look in a mirror and at myself first.

How do I go about it?  In over 30 years of counseling, teaching and being a wife/mom, I find 4 areas worthy of personal inventory that could help us strive toward being the peacemaker God calls us to be.  As Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”. (KJV, NIV)

These four areas are Awareness, Adversity, Acceptance and Action.  Coming this Monday, we here at Teachable Moments have created a 28-day, 5-minute-a-day personal challenge called, Pursuing Peace.  We cover in these 4 weeks our first two spheres of influence, Awareness and Adversity.  We have put countless hours and research into bringing together the key issues that impact how we can pursue peace in our stressed-out world, thinking through key concepts from a theological worldview, pulling from scripture, theologians, biographies, authors and other notable sources and all with a dash of fun.  All for you!

Dear Reader, I desire for you a life that embodies Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (NIV) I look forward to preparing my heart and mind to think about how my own self-awareness and my perspective and response to adversity can create in me the feeling of peace and stillness my soul desires as well as a deeper relationship with God who holds for me a peace that passes my common comprehension.  I hope you join me!

Blessings Abundant and always fondly yours, Elizabeth