Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not Quite Enough

The Essence of all advertising is You are Not Quite Enough if you do not have what we are Selling.

As the New Year has rolled over, Missy and I are beginning to focus on that subject that is so difficult at times but is so intertwined in every aspect of our lives: MONEY MANAGEMENT

This year I am trying to not just look at the symptoms:  Impulse Purchases, Those little everyday purchases that compound over time, or just the lack of managing the money that I earn.  This year I am trying to get to the bottom of it.  I am trying to answer the questions:  Why does my spending not reflect my values?  and Why do I buy things that I don't need, don't want or just for all of the wrong reasons?

Part of what I have discovered is that it is not just money.  It is a spiritual issue.

As I walk into a store like The Buckle, the air is filled with a great scent.  That scent of some new cologne draws you deeper into the store.  On the shelves are layers of jeans, leather shoes, and shirts of all different styles and colors.  Some young salesperson walks over in his or her fancy clothes from head to toe, jewelry and a bright smile.  Basically, the whole message that they are trying to give me is:  If you want to be cool or feel good, you need to buy these jeans for 109.99.  If you want to really be cool, you can buy those jeans for 109.99 and add a shirt to go with them for 65.99.

I am not saying a word against stores like The Buckle.  I really like the store and love the way the jeans fit.  The problem happens when I am making purchases because I don't feel good enough with what I have or what I am.  As the advertising industry spends millions and millions of dollars pushing this one message, it is quite clear that it has an effect on most of us.

My focus this year is on CONTENTMENT.  With Jesus, I am enough.  In him is my fulfillment.  There is nothing else in this world that I really need.  Therefore, I can walk through these advertising messages knowing that I don't really need this product to be fulfilled. I have enough when I begin with Jesus.

If I can find this contentment, I think I am well on my way to finding the victories over money management that I am seeking.

*If  you read this  Danny, sorry, but I had to steal the idea from our conversation on Monday evening.  LOL..

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Follow Jesus, Not his Followers

Follow Jesus himself, because if you follow his followers too closely, you may be led astray.

The College Years (18-early 20s) are a very challenging and important part of developing into Adulthood.  When I first packed up and headed off to Wayne State College in the Fall of 1999, I was full of excitement and fear.

I knew no one at the College and am an introvert by nature, so the idea of being in a brand new place, where I would need to make brand new friends, was pretty scary.  Nevertheless, at the time, I felt very strong in my faith.  I had had an important year of spiritual growth in my senior year of high school and was very excited to continue that growth as I started college.

I was convinced that I wanted to find a Bible Study at the Campus where I could find other believers who were as passionate about growing in Christian Faith as I was.  I found a group that met once a week in a room next to the cafeteria on campus.

What I ended up finding was a very legalistic, fundamental Christian group that taught that their strict beliefs were TRUTH and all of the other Christians were wrong.  As I attended the group week after week, my heart began to be filled with Fear, Confusion, Anger and Resentment.  I hated going to the group so much, but I was scared not to go.  They believed that we needed to quit celebrating Christmas with Christmas trees, and begin preaching on the corner of campuses.   "Me, preaching?", I thought.  That just isn't me.  But, they tell me that I need to.

After about 10 weeks, I finally had had enough, and said forget it.  I never went back to the group after that.  I also decided to quit pursuing my faith.  I had stuck my neck out searching for God, and been burned.  I decided from then on out I was going to go through the motions, but that was it.  I totally associated THAT group with God himself, and decided that if that is God, then I don't want anything to do with him on a personal level.

This turning away from God led me into a dark 8 year period of addiction, anxiety, depression, rage, and spiritual bankruptcy.

When I finally came to an end of myself and surrendered again to Jesus, I had a resentment that I needed to deal with.  I sat down with a dear friend and said "Why did God lead me astray back then?  I was passionate about growing closer to him, but I ended up with confusion, anger and resentment.  How could he do that to me?"

My friend looked over at me and said, "Just because you were led astray by a Christian Group does not mean that you were led astray by God himself.  He was there for you the entire time:  Walking you through your pain."

I sorta understood what he was saying and it helped a little bit, but I still resented God for allowing that to happen to me.  I also remained very weary about pursuing a close relationship with God again. 

About 2 years later, I heard something on the radio that gave me the healing that I needed.  Follow Jesus, Not his Followers because his followers are not perfect and they get it wrong sometimes.

From this I have been able to again pursue Jesus, but this time, I am pursuing him on a personal level.  YES, I need to be in fellowship with others, but if I don't agree with a particular group or person, that's alright.  And if I try out a particular Christian Fellowship and I don't agree with a lot of what they teach, I can just choose another one. 

The fact of the matter is:  The Bible is complicated and difficult to understand.  I believe there are a lot of things about the Christian Faith that we were never meant to understand right now.  I do know, however, that if I pursue Jesus personally, setting aside all OPINIONS ABOUT him, then I will never be led astray.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

As You See Me

If only my view of myself on the inside was as clear as it is on the outside as I glance into a bathroom mirror.

When I look at the internal mirror of my heart, it is as if steam fills the bathroom from a hot bath.  The steam gathers as fog on the mirror.  I end up with a blurry view of myself

Often times, I see myself with such contempt.  I look at my failures, my weaknesses and my shortcomings.  I also compare myself to other people and seem to never measure up.  I see the success and confident appearances of others and cannot hardly even look them in the eye.  How can I, with all of my fears, even look at a confident man in the eye. 

At other times, I see myself with such arrogance.  I see myself as the center of the universe and so much more important than my fellow man.  I succeed at something and think that I am the most powerful man on the planet. I look at other people with judgement and pride.  I feel bad for my fellow man because he does this and that.  I look at the speck in my neighbor's eye forgetting the plank in my own.

My prayer to God is:

LET ME SEE ME AS YOU SEE ME.  When you look at me, you see so much potential.  You know who I can be if I stay close to you.  You see my weaknesses, but you see that they can be overcome.  You see my fears, but know that they are no match for your strength.  You love me so dearly, but no more or less than others.  You see me beat myself up sometimes and see right through my inferiority complex.  You can also see through my pride and arrogance and know that they are just a means to hide my fears. 

Lord,  wipe away the fog from my heart and give me your eyes so I can see me for who I am made to be and who I can become.  If I can really see me through your eyes, then I can be used for your purposes instead of wandering around aimlessly in the confusion of my fog.