“Why waste your money on what really isn’t food? Why work hard for something that doesn’t satisfy?”— Isaiah 55:2 (CEV).
“I want it.”
“No, you don’t need it.”
“I don’t care. I want it.”
This was the recent exchange I witnessed between a mother and her child before the girl started throwing a tantrum in a local store where I was shopping. The item the child insisted she had to have was inexpensive, one of those cheap toys in the checkout line designed to entice shoppers to part with their money on the spur-of-the-moment.
However, children aren’t the only ones who confuse wants with needs. In an article on bankrate.com, psychotherapist Olivia Mellan discusses how people confuse needs with wants. She says, “A lot of us in wealthy, overspending America are either born or raised with a tremendous sense of entitlement. We say to ourselves, ‘I work hard or, I work at a job I hate—at least I should be able to have a Starbucks coffee every day or eat out for lunch.’ But of course, those are not needs, they’re wants. They’re pleasures.”
Maybe they don’t understand that only God can truly fill that void.
I recall one of my college journalism classes addressing the techniques used by advertisers to sell their products. These methods work because they appeal to our human desires.
Christmas in particular has become synonymous with materialism. According to the National Retail Federation projections, this year Americans will spend more than 600 billion dollars just on Christmas. However, if you’re like most people, the gifts you give and the gifts you receive will be forgotten months later because they never satisfy our deepest need—which is a personal relationship with Jesus.
“Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories”— Isaiah 41:10 (CEV).
As a child, my greatest fear was of the dark. After my mother had tucked my sister and me in for the night, I would often lie awake with the covers pulled up tightly under my chin. I just knew there were monsters or other evil things lurking underneath my bed or behind the closet door waiting to snatch me away. Shadows, intensified by a full moon or the lights of a passing car, would only heighten my fear.
While I outgrew my fear of the dark a long time ago, there are other fears I still cling to: heights, snakes and being dependent on others as I age.
Other people fear flying, public speaking and spiders. Many fear rejection and failure, being alone and commitment. Those who don’t have enough fear they’ll never have enough while those who have wealth are often afraid of losing what they do have.
What matters is — do we believe?
According to Google, the number one fear researched is “fear of death.” This ultimate fear is a normal human reaction. As a child, I feared death. It was the monster hiding underneath my bed that fortunately never materialized. Some people, however, are never able to move beyond this fear, especially those who don’t have the reassurance of an eternal life through accepting Jesus as their Savior. As Christians we do not have to fear death. We know death through Christ Jesus has been conquered.
“Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. ‘If any of you wants to be my follower,’ he told them, ‘you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live. And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process?’” —Mark 8:34-36 (TLB).
Ten years ago this month, God showed me what it really means to live. I had retired from a 30-year teaching career just six months before. Within two months of leaving the public education world behind, God redirected my life’s journey to a different community where I knew very few people.
Before leaving my comfort zone, I had made plans—plans that didn’t involve consulting God. However, as the months passed leading up to my final day of teaching, God got my attention. He had a better plan for my life—a plan to use my gifts and talents for His glory. He had a path for the rest of my life, one I would not have chosen if it had been up to me. However, I listened.
“It’s the paradox of the gospel.”
After relocating to Claremore, God began placing people in my path, people specifically selected for the purpose of keeping me on track with His plan. What if I had ignored the guidance and encouragement from those people, who are now my friends?
What if I had not listened to that still, small voice telling me not to give up? Would I still be writing a weekly column that reaches around the world to places like Ireland, Kenya, Australia, France, Great Britain and many other foreign countries? This was definitely God’s plan, not mine.
“Day by day the Lord observes the good deeds done by godly men, and gives them eternal rewards”— Psalm 37:18 (TLB).
Barefooted and clad in a sheet, the man shuffled across the street. With head down, his demeanor suggested someone who was lost. This photo of humanity had been captured by a Tulsa World photographer and was plastered across the top inside page of a recent Sunday newspaper.
After snapping the photo, the curious photographer wanted to know the rest of the story. Why was this man walking across the street with a sheet around his shoulders? Upon approaching him, the photographer discovered the man had just been released from a criminal justice center early that morning, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts.
There are no limits to God’s amazing grace.
The man had called an ambulance in an attempt to get a night’s hospital stay. In addition to the ambulance, the police showed up. According to the man’s story, authorities then arrived and gave him a sheet to protect him from the cold until he could eat breakfast at a local soup kitchen and food pantry when it opened.
When the photographer first spotted the sheet-clad man, he said, “(It was) incredible for me because of the religious implications, but it was unusual to see a barefoot man walking down the street wrapped in a sheet.”
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one”—Colossians 4:6 (NKJV).
Hello.” No answer. “Anybody there?” More silence. If there had been a button to push, I would have pounded it with my fist. Yes, I was in a hurry. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been eating fast food for breakfast. The cars in the other drive-through lane had arrived after me. What was wrong with the woman taking orders? It was my turn.
I said, “Hello,” again. This time, a male voice answered. “I’m sorry for your wait. What can I get you this morning?”
I ordered an Egg McMuffin then pulled forward to pay for my breakfast. When the young man pulled the window open to take my money, he said, “Since you had to wait so long, I’m going to give you two Egg McMuffins.” He smiled. I didn’t. I wanted to reply with a snarl, “Why don’t you just give me a free one? I don’t need two.” But I didn’t. Instead, I handed him my money and thanked him.
As I drove away, that still, small voice convicted me. Others, like me, were also in a hurry. Yet, my impatience with the woman taking orders had surfaced and my attitude needed an adjustment. In my spirit, I heard, “It’s all about grace.”
We deserved punishment, but God graciously gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
I had not reflected God’s grace toward the people who were serving me. Yes, it is their job. However, they were doing the best they could during the morning rush hour at McDonald’s.
“Listen, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but don’t see
and ears but don’t hear”—Jeremiah 5:21(CEB).
Around age 10, I was diagnosed with extreme nearsightedness and astigmatism. I began wearing eyeglasses, the kind some call “Coke-bottle glasses.” In the 60s, technology hadn’t advanced to the point where people like me could wear glasses so thin you’d never know the extent of someone’s eyesight problems. Mine were serious.
What kind of person are you: spiritually blind or spiritually seeing?
I recall getting my first pair of glasses. After putting them on at the doctor’s office, I arrived home where I exclaimed to my mother, “I didn’t know our kitchen floor had spots.” The vinyl tile was dark green with flecks of black and white. Before corrective lenses, I couldn’t see the tiny specks. The detail with which I could now see expanded my world.
Of course, I didn’t really like wearing glasses. I had no choice since my eyesight was so poor. I suffered the same taunts as most youngsters who begin to wear glasses, with the most familiar one being “four-eyes.” Throughout the years, I tried different types of contact lenses. My allergies led to discomfort. I decided it wasn’t worth it.
“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living. Let’s return to the Lord”—Lamentations 3:40(NIRV).
Yuck! How long had it been? I didn’t know, but I knew it was long overdue.
When I found myself in the mood to do some serious housework, I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning my refrigerator. While I had kept up with wiping down the inside surfaces I could see, I wasn’t excited about tackling what I knew was probably a mess in the hidden places.
If you’ve ever cleaned a refrigerator, you know what I’m talking about. Those spills you wiped off of the shelves made their way to the bottom underneath the veggie and fruit drawers. Maybe you planned to get to it later but forgot. Maybe, like me, you’re a procrastinator.
I was filled with insecurities, doubts and secrets.
How often do we procrastinate when it comes to doing things we’d rather avoid? I know I’m guilty. In the past, I very seldom put things off. It just wasn’t in my nature. However, as I have embraced each birthday, I’ve started to examine what is important. Evidently, I’ve decided cleaning out the deep recesses of my refrigerator is not a high priority.
Before Jesus got ahold of this woman, I could tell you my priorities didn’t line up with His. Instead, I was more concerned about how things appeared on the outside. For example, my house was always clean, so clean you could have eaten off the floors most days. My now-grown sons can tell you I wasn’t the easiest mother to live with when it came to keeping our house clean.