Time Management

By Janelle Pollard

As a nurse, time management is very important. There are often more tasks to do than it seems I have time for. Generally, what I do in the first 2 hours determines how the next 10 will go. Some mornings, I get right to work, doing full assessments on my patients, filling out their whiteboards, and bringing their early medications with a fresh cup of ice water. Now, I’m ready to take on my next task of charting all that I just did. Because as we nurses know, “if it isn’t charted, it didn’t happen!” If every shift started out this seamlessly, I would never need to stay a single minute late. However, it’s rare that something doesn’t pop up unexpectedly to throw me off my game. A patient rings the call button, “I need my nurse in here right now!” I drop what I’m doing and run to their room, expecting an emergency, only to hear, “I need you to scratch my foot.” Or maybe, upon assessing a patient, I notice her breathing is very labored. She’s more lethargic than an hour ago and her oxygen level has dropped. I stop everything else and this patient becomes my top priority. When all is settled down and she is better, all of my other patients’ medications are going to be late. Now, I’m behind on charting and still need to give insulin before lunch arrives. But what about my lunch? Because now I’m starving and can I even be a good nurse if all I can think about is my growling stomach? Well, it’ll have to wait because my goal has now become to everything without having to stay late.

This is a real world example of what happens in life. If everything could just go according to plan, we would have all the time in the world to prepare for the life after this. But does it ever? That’s a big NOPE. Life gets busy. Each day brings a new challenge or change to our schedule and we constantly have to alter our plans. Priorities shift and sometimes things that are the most important get put on the back-burner because we “just don’t have time today.” But after days and weeks of being on the back-burner, these “priorities” become no more than a small check at the very bottom of a seemingly endless to-do list. This is precisely how the devil wants it to be. A slow fade. If for months or years, we were in the habit of daily Bible study, constantly in prayer throughout our day, and then all of sudden that all changed from one day to the next, it would be very noticeable and we would work hard to get back to our happy and healthy state of equilibrium. But when this occurs over time, it’s less noticeable and sadly, bothers us less.

In healthcare, we talk to patients a lot about preventative measures. We give prophylactic treatments. Keeping you healthy by staying ahead of the problem is almost always better than treating one after it’s already become one. The same goes for us spiritually. How can we prevent this from happening to us? How can we manage our time and our lives so that our top priorities stay at the very top?

  1. Pray about it. Ask God to keep you diligent in your prayer and study. Ask Him to make you more aware of how you are spending your time.
  2. Plan your time. If you don’t already have a planner or some kind of daily agenda, consider it. Write out at the beginning of the week, how you will spend your time and include time each day for Bible study.
  3. Find an accountability partner. If you know someone who is grounded in daily Bible study, consider asking them to be an accountability partner with you. Ask each other each day or each week how their doing in their studies and pray for each other.
  4. Do a Bible study on time management. The Bible has plenty to say on how we spend our time and reading about it will be a great reminder for us! Ecclesiastes and James are a couple that come to mind.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

-Ephesians 5:15-17

Image from Corporate Finance Institute

What Matters in this New Year

By Chelsea Pollard

We’ve experienced some interesting things in the past few years, don’t you think? Some of it has been unpleasant, but I have seen so many good things come out of it. We’ve grown closer to our friends and family. In general, being kind to the strangers all around us! In times of struggle and disaster, helping the community in a very hands on way. Maybe we got caught up in some of the negativity in the beginning, but more and more I’m seeing positivity and the spread of it! At the start of a new year, I like to read over some of my favorite verses. These verses help me in a lot of different ways, and I’d like to share them with you.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father who is full of mercy, the God of all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble so that when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“Don’t worry—I am with you. Don’t be afraid—I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will support you with my right hand that brings victory.” Isaiah 41:10

“You comfort me in my suffering, because your promise gives me new life.” Psalms 119:50

“My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give my sheep eternal life. They will never die, and no one can take them out of my hand. My Father is the one who gave them to me, and he is greater than all. No one can steal my sheep out of his hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in heaven. In Christ, he chose us before the world was made. He chose us in love to be his holy people—people who could stand before him without any fault. And before the world was made, God decided to make us his own children through Jesus Christ. This was what God wanted, and it pleased him to do it. And this brings praise to God because of his wonderful grace. God gave that grace to us freely. He gave us that grace in Christ, the one he loves.” Ephesians 1:3-6

“The Lord is my shepherd. I will always have everything I need. He gives me green pastures to lie in. He leads me by calm pools of water. He restores my strength. He leads me on right paths to show that he is good. Even if I walk through a valley as dark as the grave, I will not be afraid of any danger, because you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me. You prepared a meal for me in front of my enemies. You welcomed me as an honored guest. My cup is full and spilling over. Your goodness and mercy will be with me all my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house a long, long time.” Psalm 23

I want to start out the new year remembering what’s important. Rather, who is important. God’s love for us is so much more than our human brains can imagine.

“The only one who truly loved me to death.”

Inspiring or Draining?

By Kathy Pollard

There are several variations of a quote that goes something like, “People can inspire you or they can drain you…choose wisely.” Sage advice if it’s true that we become like the people we spend the most time with. We need to invest in relationships that will bring out the best in us, and be careful around those whose disagreeable traits could rub off on us.

Don’t you think it’s pretty easy to tell the difference? When I think of those who inspire me, I can rattle off several reasons why. The same goes for those who drain me (that sounds harsh, I know). Here’s how that looks to me:

Inspiring

  • expresses love
  • encourages
  • compliments
  • looks for the positive
  • cheerful disposition
  • instills courage in others
  • sees the good in others
  • expresses gratitude
  • patient
  • smiles
  • warm
  • pays attention
  • brings people together
  • engages
  • tries new things
  • shares
  • speech reflects a Phil. 4:8 mind

Draining

  • complains
  • criticizes
  • points out the negative
  • finds fault
  • fuels drama
  • angers easily
  • impatient
  • gossips
  • self-absorbed
  • always a victim
  • puts others down
  • sarcastic
  • argumentative
  • interrupts
  • moody
  • distracted
  • doesn’t do anything they don’t want to

With as much grace as possible, you can probably think of the people in your circle and see which list they tend to fall under. It’s a fairly easy discernment to make, right?

Okay, having said all that…it wouldn’t be very fair for this quote to be so one-sided. Otherwise it becomes a selfish exercise.

You’re good for me. Let’s hang out.

I’m tired of your constant griping. Buh-bye.

The rest of the quote should be something like, “You can inspire others or you can drain them. Choose wisely.” Perhaps this should be our greater focus. Instead of inspecting the strengths and flaws of others, what if we looked a little closer at ourselves in light of those two lists? Ah, but this is not as easy to discern because I know the excuses behind my complaints and criticisms. I know I’m exhausted, or in the midst of a trial, or disappointed, or having the worst day ever… Whatever the reason, the effect is the same. My attitude impacts those around me. With every encounter, I am defining myself as an inspirer or a drainer, and I am the only one who chooses which it shall be.

I know which one I want to be. How about you? No one’s going to perfectly live out the inspiring list, and I know for a fact that there are some doozies on that drainer list that I need to work on. Let’s commit to bringing out the best in each other, okay?

Happy New Year, friends. 2 Cor. 4:16!

Written on Our Hearts

By Janelle Pollard

Most of my life, I’ve heard that I should be memorizing Scripture. From Bible class teachers, parents, college professors, and more. Some Scriptures you hear and read so much, you don’t have to work to memorize it. You already know it. It’s already written on your heart. And if you’ve used the same Bible for years, you can probably even find exactly which verse you’re looking for not by the book name or chapter, but by the location on the page. There are many places in Scripture that we can find the author encouraging the reader to memorize Scripture. But why? 

“Why is it so important to memorize Scripture if I have access to the Bible at all times?” 

Well, there’s actually more than one answer to that question…

  1. Because God said so. This is one of those answers we probably heard as children. And the principle remains, God is our Father and we must do what He says. Thankfully, the things He says are out of love and give us many blessings. His commands are a blessing! 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

  1. Because of others’ examples:

-Jesus memorized Scripture 

Matthew 21:42- Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

-David memorized Scripture

Psalm 119:11- “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

    3. We don’t know that we will always have easy access to the Bible. 

What if in our lifetime, having a Bible wasn’t legal anymore? Sounds dramatic and probably a little conspiracy theory-ish, but when I was a kid, had you told me that one day, God would be taken out of schools and our country would be run by people who wanted this, I wouldn’t have believed you. But we are living in a world where that is unfortunately becoming the norm. If there is a chance that we could have our Bibles taken and wouldn’t be able to remember what they say without them right in front of us, shouldn’t we be memorizing everything they say and writing them on our hearts so we can always have them as guidance, even if not as physical guides?

  1. That we may not sin against God.

Psalm 37:31 says, “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” And in chapter 119:11, the psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” We should meditate on and memorize Scripture so that we won’t sin against God. If His Word is what we think about more often that what we see on TV or on our phones, we will be a lot more aware of our behaviors and our speech, and our character will be more like God’s. 

But how??

Most people say that are not good at memorization. But I bet you would be surprised at how good you could be if you just stuck with it! Here are a few ways you can try for yourself:

  1. Just the first letters

Something that has worked for me is just writing the first letter of each word. 

For example: Using the verse listed above, Ps. 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” we will just take out the first letter of each word:

IHSUYWIMH,TIMNSAY

P119:11

That way, you can have a little help without seeing the whole word! You can write these letters on post-it notes throughout your house and every time you see them, you must recite the verse out loud. I have even written the letters on my hand before so I can practice throughout the day when not at home.

  1. Bible Memory Apps (just search for this and you will find several options!)
  2. Spiral Index Card Notebook– writing is a great way to learn a verse- and you can quiz yourself with this format!
  3. Dry Erase Board– write the verse out and erase one word at a time, seeing how many times you can recite it, as you take away more and more words.

Scripture Memorization doesn’t have to be dull! There are many ways to commit the Bible to memory and you will be blessed for writing it on your heart! 

Share with us what methods you have used to memorize Scripture!

When the Rubber Meets the Road

By Emily Pollard

We’ve all heard the phrase, “When it rains, it pours.” While there are rare occasions that we might get to focus on a single responsibility or situation, most of our time is spent juggling several simultaneously. When one challenge arises, we expect a few more to come knocking. While this can be overwhelming (a feeling Satan just loves for us to have), these are the times in our life when we find out what we’re really made of. When it seems hardest to make a godly decision, when it seems impossible to know the right answer, when you don’t WANT to do the right thing, when the rubber meets the road, your response reveals the contents of your heart. Over the past few weeks, I have seen fellow Christians, young children, and total strangers whose lives have been turned upside down by tragedy, uncertainty, and harm. In moments like these, we must ask ourselves: When the rubber meets the road, who am I? In His word, God tells us how we can know who we truly are. The following questions paired with scripture help us answer this question for ourselves. 

>>When life gets hard what do I cling to for comfort? 

1. Read Numbers 13:25-14:4… After spying out the land of Canaan, fear turned the Israelites’ hearts back towards Egypt. They had finally set their eyes upon the promised land…but it wasn’t that simple. Canaan was filled with bigger, stronger men than the Israelites. Instead of marching forth in faith to overtake the land, the Israelites’ response was to retreat to their past lives in slavery to Egypt. When life gets hard, do I miss my past life without God?

2. Read Psalm 18:29-31…When David was surrounded by adversity, his gut reaction was to cry out to God. David relied solely on the power, perfection, and precepts of God to pull him through. When life gets hard, is turning to Him my gut reaction?

>>How much can my faith take? 

1.     Read Job 2:9…Job’s wife endured suffering and loss alongside Job, but her faith in God had its limits. Faithfulness to God wasn’t worth the pain. When our faith crumbles, our hope is lost along with it. Job’s wife allowed present sorrows to overshadow her trust in God. At what point does life shake my faith? How much can life dish out before my faith in God’s way and word weakens?

2.     Read Job 2:10…Job kept his faith, knowing that hardships are inevitable. God blesses, but He also disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:6-7).

>>Do I let my own life take away from the good I can do for others? 

1.     Read Phil. 2:3-11… Christ knew the pain, temptation, and ridicule that awaited, yet His heart was not consumed with His own grief. Pain was part of the process. The sole purpose of Jesus’ life was to offer healing, hope, and salvation to others. Our Savior’s earthly hardships never swayed Him from His Heavenly purpose. Do I allow my own stress and difficulties to distract me from lightening the burdens of others?

“Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil and let us see what we are made of.”

– Charles Spurgeon

Worry

By Chelsea Pollard

Arthur Somers Roche said, “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

We define worry as: “a state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.”

Anxious, uncertain, concerned. Does that sound familiar? I find it funny that the definition includes not only actual problems, but potential ones! Anxiety can easily get the best of you, and it’s overwhelming. I’d like to take a look at Matthew 6:25-34 and see what Jesus has to say.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Jesus uses two examples to show how creation is cared for: birds and flowers. Both are fragile and short lived, but they are still taken care of. The birds are fed and the wildflowers grow beautifully, only to be here for a short time. Why are we worried, when we are more valuable to Him?

Verse 27 stands out to me, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” We know that worrying doesn’t help a thing, but it seems to difficult to manage. But, why? He’s got us.

In verse 32, Jesus says: “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” We shouldn’t let our anxieties control us, because we have Him on our side. We should know, that He knows!

He continues to say in verse 33 that if we focus our energy on His church, His family and align our moral standard with His, He will take care of us.

It’s interesting how we can relax on a plane, but not know the pilot. We step onto a plane with the confidence that the pilot knows what he is doing. The pilot will fly you safely to your destination. Why can’t we relax in life knowing that God is in control? He’s here for you, He loves you and wants you to know that you’re taken care of. It really is a comforting thought, as He is the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). Go to Him with your concerns and once you do, let them go.

We often sing “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” and it serves as a great reminder:

“Bring Him your every care, if great or small. Whatever troubles you – oh, bring it all. Bring Him the haunting fears, the nameless dread. Your heart He will relieve, and lift up your head.”

Tips for Dealing with the Winter Blues

By Kathy Pollard

Some people really struggle with feeling blah when darkness descends so much earlier. Here it’s getting dark around 4:30 p.m. so by the time it’s 8:30, it feels much later. It takes some getting used to! If the shorter days are getting you down, try a few of these simple tips and see if they help:

  • Eat some citrus as it starts to get dark. The smell of citrus is a natural mood lifter. Grab a couple of cuties and enjoy the taste of sunshine.
  • Take Vitamin D.
  • Drink more water. You may not feel like drinking cold water when all you want is a hot cup of coffee, but your body really needs it. The last thing you need is to fuddle your brain with dehydration. Plus, your skin will thank you.
  • Get outside for a bit everyday, no matter the weather.
  • Keep moving! You may feel like hunkering down under a blanket but surprise your body by going for a walk or going up and down the stairs a few times. It will warm your muscles, wake up your mind, and is perhaps one of the best things for mental health.
  • Try yoga. Find an instructor on YouTube that you like and just spend 15 minutes stretching your body. You will feel good all over.
  • Cook with lemon and lime. Lots of wholesome foods (like chicken, fish, whole grains, beans, and all kinds of greens) taste wonderful topped with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.
  • Cook with green herbs and warming spices. Not only will they awaken your taste buds but they’re good for you, too.
  • BRIGHTEN someone else’s day. A fun winter challenge could be to lift at least one person each day. Send a thoughtful text or card. Offer sincere compliments to the people you run across. Express appreciation. Do a small act of service. Surprise your spouse in a sweet way. It’s amazing how doing for others is a double blessing. It encourages them and ends up making you feel so good, too.
  • Saturate your soul with SONshine. There are many Bible verses that will cheer you from the inside out. A quick Google search is a great starting point. You can search “Scriptures about light” or “Scriptures about shining.” For example, “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” (Matt. 4:16). You could start your own “SONlight” journal by jotting down a verse each day.
  • Pray. God knows, cares, and always listens.
  • Smile! Besides, everyone looks better when they’re smiling. 🙂
  • Sing. Especially hymns. They’re not just for church and will lift your heart.

For those struggling with clinical depression or anxiety, these tips aren’t meant to take the place of professional care and counseling. But I think they can serve as a little extra TLC to help you get through the challenging winter months.

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My Happiness or Yours?

By Kathy Pollard

I have always been a hugger. Even as a child, I hugged everyone in church. I enjoyed it and naturally assumed that everyone else did, too. A few years ago I learned that some people aren’t crazy about it. In addition to hugging, I have always been a hand-holder during prayers. Whether in worship, fellowship, our home table, or at a restaurant, it was a very natural thing for me to grab the hands of the people next to me. It never dawned on me that some people don’t care for that. I now know that there are many who are so uncomfortable if someone grabs their hand that they can hardly focus on the prayer itself.

I’m ashamed to admit that my initial reaction to these discoveries wasn’t great. My first thought was, “What is wrong with them?” I could hardly fathom the idea of someone not liking a hug because to me, hugs equaled warmth and affection. My second reaction was selfish and resentful. “What about my wants and needs? Surely my soul will shrivel up in such a sterile, non-hugging environment!” And then my pride reared its ugly head. “Fine. See if I ever offer warmth and affection ever again.” After all, I felt a bit foolish. How many people had I hugged through the years without realizing my actions made them uncomfortable? Yes, I let Satan have a heyday with my heart.

How many lessons have I heard (and taught!) about the “others above self” mentality of Philippians 2? Or the kind of love that leads to unity from Romans 12? Or the “love for one another” that Jesus said identifies us as His followers in John 13? Yet there I was wrestling with it all when surprised by another point of view. Apparently it’s all well and good for us to have differences until it affects me personally or calls for me to make a change. I wish I could say that I recognized my self-problem as quickly as it took me to acknowledge it in these couple of paragraphs. But I am grateful for a couple of things I did finally see through the process.

Growth. Learning that there are some who don’t like hugs forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m an introvert and find it way easier to express love, joy, concern, or sympathy through hugs than through words. It also gave me an opportunity to see my unintentional self-centeredness. I realized I have to actually learn about others in order to know how they need to receive love. I need to pay attention to them instead of assuming they think, feel, and act like I do. Imagine that!

Jesus said, “Love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). He had just demonstrated that love through the humble service of foot washing. He said, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (v. 15). He also said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (v. 17). Knowing and doing are two different things. How easy it is to get caught up in our rights and our feelings, to swallow Satan’s lie that our own happiness reigns supreme! But when we do, we make ourselves miserable. Jesus knows what’s best for His body, including each individual part, including me. Focusing on self doesn’t lead to happiness. The blessed life comes from caring more about others. It causes growth, stretching, learning, and experiencing in ways that we can’t when we’re wrapped up in ourselves.

Grace. I learned about the folks who don’t like hand-holding in a social media thread. Someone posted a  question about it and I was amazed at all the comments. My eyes landed on one comment about a woman’s complete discomfort with having her hand held and I thought, “Oh no…I know for a fact that I’ve grabbed her hand during a prayer!”

It took me a while to realize that people have been extending grace to me for a long time. I was in my 40s before I learned that some people don’t like hugs or hand-holding. Why is that? Because no one ever rejected a hug from me or pushed me away or embarrassed me by saying, “I’d rather you not do that.” Even though they didn’t really care for it, they cared for me. That’s just the way I am and so they put up with it, at their own expense. I’m humbled by the realization.

Jesus poured water in the basin and went from one set of dirty feet to another. I put myself in His place as He came upon the feet of Judas. I imagine I would whisper, “Nope,” and move on to the next disciple. But the next disciple is Peter. It blows my mind that Jesus knew they would soon betray Him and deny Him but He knelt down before them anyway. He offered grace in advance. 

I rarely reach for a hand during prayer unless it’s immediate family, and I’m a lot less likely to hug someone when I see them. But you’ll be relieved to know that my soul didn’t shrivel up after all. I’ve learned that people express warmth and affection in lots of different ways, and they’re good ways! I could’ve saved myself some heartache if I had been more like Jesus with grace in advance. Intentional grace. Others will not always understand me and I will not always understand them. But I can determine ahead of time how I will respond when this happens. With love and grace, we can grow through this.

“My happiness or yours” sounds like something that could foster a begrudging mindset. “One of us must lose and so I guess as a Christian I should let you win and have your way.” Satan would love that. There’s no love there or compassion or grace or unity. Just keeping track and keeping score. Jesus taught a different mindset: lay aside yourself for the good of others. And followed that up with His promise, “You will be blessed.”

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Photo cred: Lynn Hite, friend and fellow-hugger

My Happiness or Yours?

By Kathy Pollard

I have always been a hugger. Even as a child, I hugged everyone in church. I enjoyed it and naturally assumed that everyone else did, too. A few years ago I learned that some people aren’t crazy about it. In addition to hugging, I have always been a hand-holder during prayers. Whether in worship, fellowship, our home table, or at a restaurant, it was a very natural thing for me to grab the hands of the people next to me. It never dawned on me that some people don’t care for that. I now know that there are many who are so uncomfortable if someone grabs their hand that they can hardly focus on the prayer itself.

I’m ashamed to admit that my initial reaction to these discoveries wasn’t great. My first thought was, “What is wrong with them?” I could hardly fathom the idea of someone not liking a hug because to me, hugs equaled warmth and affection. My second reaction was selfish and resentful. “What about my wants and needs? Surely my soul will shrivel up in such a sterile, non-hugging environment!” And then my pride reared its ugly head. “Fine. See if I ever offer warmth and affection ever again.” After all, I felt a bit foolish. How many people had I hugged through the years without realizing my actions made them uncomfortable? Yes, I let Satan have a heyday with my heart.

How many lessons have I heard (and taught!) about the “others above self” mentality of Philippians 2? Or the kind of love that leads to unity from Romans 12? Or the “love for one another” that Jesus said identifies us as His followers in John 13? Yet there I was wrestling with it all when surprised by another point of view. Apparently it’s all well and good for us to have differences until it affects me personally or calls for me to make a change. I wish I could say that I recognized my self-problem as quickly as it took me to acknowledge it in these couple of paragraphs. But I am grateful for a couple of things I did finally see through the process.

Growth. Learning that there are some who don’t like hugs forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m an introvert and find it way easier to express love, joy, concern, or sympathy through hugs than through words. It also gave me an opportunity to see my unintentional self-centeredness. I realized I have to actually learn about others in order to know how they need to receive love. I need to pay attention to them instead of assuming they think, feel, and act like I do. Imagine that!

Jesus said, “Love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). He had just demonstrated that love through the humble service of foot washing. He said, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (v. 15). He also said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (v. 17). Knowing and doing are two different things. How easy it is to get caught up in our rights and our feelings, to swallow Satan’s lie that our own happiness reigns supreme! But when we do, we make ourselves miserable. Jesus knows what’s best for His body, including each individual part, including me. Focusing on self doesn’t lead to happiness. The blessed life comes from caring more about others. It causes growth, stretching, learning, and experiencing in ways that we can’t when we’re wrapped up in ourselves.

Grace. I learned about the folks who don’t like hand-holding in a social media thread. Someone posted a  question about it and I was amazed at all the comments. My eyes landed on one comment about a woman’s complete discomfort with having her hand held and I thought, “Oh no…I know for a fact that I’ve grabbed her hand during a prayer!”

It took me a while to realize that people have been extending grace to me for a long time. I was in my 40s before I learned that some people don’t like hugs or hand-holding. Why is that? Because no one ever rejected a hug from me or pushed me away or embarrassed me by saying, “I’d rather you not do that.” Even though they didn’t really care for it, they cared for me. That’s just the way I am and so they put up with it, at their own expense. I’m humbled by the realization.

Jesus poured water in the basin and went from one set of dirty feet to another. I put myself in His place as He came upon the feet of Judas. I imagine I would whisper, “Nope,” and move on to the next disciple. But the next disciple is Peter. It blows my mind that Jesus knew they would soon betray Him and deny Him but He knelt down before them anyway. He offered grace in advance. 

I rarely reach for a hand during prayer unless it’s immediate family, and I’m a lot less likely to hug someone when I see them. But you’ll be relieved to know that my soul didn’t shrivel up after all. I’ve learned that people express warmth and affection in lots of different ways, and they’re good ways! I could’ve saved myself some heartache if I had been more like Jesus with grace in advance. Intentional grace. Others will not always understand me and I will not always understand them. But I can determine ahead of time how I will respond when this happens. With love and grace, we can grow through this.

“My happiness or yours” sounds like something that could foster a begrudging mindset. “One of us must lose and so I guess as a Christian I should let you win and have your way.” Satan would love that. There’s no love there or compassion or grace or unity. Just keeping track and keeping score. Jesus taught a different mindset: lay aside yourself for the good of others. And followed that up with His promise, “You will be blessed.”

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Photo cred: Lynn Hite, friend and fellow-hugger

Dual Citizenship

By Emily Pollard

Civic freedom is a privilege Americans have had for centuries. It is also something many people around the world have never experienced. Throughout history, both free and tyrannical governments have risen and fallen. As Americans, we bask in the glory of our freedom. We exercise our rights. We even take freedom for granted, while citizens of socialist and communist nations long for the freedom we have. When our freedom is threatened, we feel like it’s the end of the world. But the bottom line is, whether living in a free country or an oppressive one, Christians are citizens of a different nation altogether. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” of God’s (1 Pet. 2:9). Paul explains this also in his letter to the Philippian church…

But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”

Philippians 3:20-21

At every turn, we’re bombarded with news of corruption, injustice, and oppression around the world. Fear strikes our hearts at immorality that is accepted and even encouraged. We react with fear because we know our native country to be our homeland, and as the world moves further from Truth, we feel less and less at home. Certainly, Paul knows exactly how this feels as he wrote the book of Philippians in jail after being arrested for sharing Jesus.

            But the beauty of belonging to God’s kingdom is that we have a better home waiting. Through civil unrest or persecution, Christians on earth have an opportunity to live exemplary lives (1 Pet. 2:11-12, 15) and become more like Christ (1 Pet. 2:21-23) through trials. Even more so, in death, the faithful Christian has nothing to lose and everything to gain (1 Cor. 15:53-56). Whether we’re talking about cancel-culture or blatant persecution (both of which happen today), Paul’s message rings true. We must never let the instability of this world overshadow the glory of Heaven. No matter what happens, our homeland is Heaven, and our Ruler is God.

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(Photo credit:  Kellsey Erin Photography)

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