What Do You Do When You’re Alone?

“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.” ― Paulo Coelho

As I thought about it the other day, living alone for the first time in my life has created all kinds of new options and realizations:

  1. Extra time to think about lists of what you can now do while living alone!
  2. It’s okay to walk around without your pants on
  3. You don’t have to make dinner, you can actually eat meals whenever you want, or not at all
  4. Every mess in the house has only one culprit
  5. The TV is okay company, I leave it on, but usually have to watch a program several times to understand what’s going on – I’m not paying enough attention the first time
  6. You never run out of hot water – although I did, had to have the water heater replaced
  7. It’s okay to leave the door open when going to the bathroom
  8. When you’re alone you (with no pets) you do more out loud talking to yourself, at least I do – even in parking lots, at the store and while waiting in line. I have to be more careful though. You can imagine.
  9. There isn’t anyone else who’s going to pick that up
  10. I’m not always certain that what I’m wearing matches

“There is a wilderness we walk alone
However well-companioned”
― Stephen Vincent Benét

When the internet and cell phone were introduced into our society, the boundaries between work and home began to fall. We are busier because of technology. It has not liberated us as was promised.

Cell phone addiction strikes at a very young age and even begins to alter your brain. Many of the leading innovators in technology, people who invent Apps for example, won’t let their own children have cell phones!

As we get older, we will spend more of our time alone. But what will we do with this time alone?

I don’t think you’re ever going to make much progress if you don’t consistently spend time alone. But not just in seclusion. Alone and thoughtful about yourself, others and the situation. It’s going to take a long time. Your whole life. But in the noisy chaos that invades each moment, you’ll never find who you really are and what needs to happen until you (1) put down that phone, (2) walk out on the routines that trap you, and (3) unpack all the fear, frustration and dreams that are crammed into your soul.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.  – James 4:8

Time For A Resolution Or Two

It’s 2020, the future seems right around the corner. What did people in the past predict about the world we now live in?

  • In a lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1911, a surgeon by the name of Richard Clement Lucas made a curious prediction: that the “useless outer toes” will become used less and less, so that “man might become a one-toed race.” “This Little Piggy” would get a whole lot shorter!
  • The RAND Corporation predicted that by the year 2020 it may be possible to breed intelligent species of animals, such as apes, that will be capable of performing manual labor.
  • Robots are the typical prediction for the future—and technically, we do sort of have robots now. But global trends expert Ariane Van de Ven had some bigger ideas for 2020. She explained “there will be more robots used as therapists, companions, assistants, and even friends to help people in their everyday,” according to The Next Web.

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.” ― Charles M. Sheldon

Have you given up making New Year resolutions? This seems like a significant year. What should be on your list (if you were to make one?)

I read on the bottle that V8 has three servings of vegetables. I’m going to drink a can each day. Maybe the spicy variety tastes better?

It wasn’t very sturdy upholstery to start with, but when you’ve worn out your chair in front of the TV it’s time to get up off your rear and move more!

I’ve already started getting rid of possessions that I don’t need or use.

Wonder if I can stick with just one of these three months from now?

Your resolutions for 2020 may not work if:

  1. You make them too big – start with smaller bites (eat that elephant one bite at a time)
  2. Your resolutions are too vague, “2020 is the year of getting healthier” – what does that mean or look like? Think of something specific that you change, start there and then soon after, pick something else.
  3. Sometimes we let other people make our resolutions for us, we try to keep them happy, but our own heart/will isn’t really in it. Only goals and changes that you desire stand a chance of actually coming about.

Let me suggest a wonderful resolution that I’ve been working on the past several months. Not so much to fix my life so that I live problem free, but to stop worry so much about all the problems I do face. I’m not living my life alone. I’m never going to live problem free. But maybe I can reduce the worry and stress. Think about this as a resolution for 2020:

Stop Worrying So Much

Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

What I’ve been learning is not how to avoid the cares of life or to make them go away. Instead how to stop worrying about them. They are inevitable. I think that’s why in this teaching from Jesus he uses examples that everyone has to face every single day; eating, drinking and putting on your pants. I think what he’s teaching me is that my worrying about the cares of life doesn’t really accomplish anything but making me more miserable.

So, over the past several months, as my life has been in a kind of collapse I’ve been learning to not worry. Here’s what I think has helped:

  1. Knowing and experiencing the fact that I’m not alone. The cares of life haven’t gone away, but I’m surrounded by lots of people who love me, pray for me and bear me up when needed. Just knowing this removes so much of the constant anxiety that eats away at the spirit.
  2. What always helps is to honestly look back at my past. When I see that my life lived near to God has always been a time of far less worry, it helps manage today’s fears. I’ve been here before. I’ve lived to tell a story of success. I’ve not avoided the dark days, but I’ve gotten through them with God’s help.
  3. The need to have complete control over my life is an illusion and a waste of energy. There’s too much out there that just can’t be controlled. Ever find it necessary get somewhere in a hurry on a late Friday afternoon in Houston?  The better plan is to control yourself – love God, love others. Control what you can as best you can – you.

“What is the New Year but the perfect place to live out what we learned in the old year?” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

What did you learn in 2019? What do you need to learn in 2020?

 

 

Why Do We Pray?

“When life caves in, you do not need reasons – you need comfort. You do not need some answers – you need someone. And Jesus does not come to us with an explanation, He comes with Himself.” – Bob Benson

Why do we pray? There are many answers to this question. On most we could all agree. Still, I think there are some reasons that are hidden and secret, known only to God.

Here is my start at addressing some of the reasons why I think we pray, why I pray, why God has called all of us to pray.

We pray because we are alone and powerless.

We have all drifted away with our busy lives and then a crisis strikes. There is so much we can fix on our own. These may not be perfect solutions but they are ours. Then something strikes at us that’s just too much. Our self-sufficiency cannot protect us. Most of us want answers right away. An easy and painless solution that will solve the looming threat. Don’t you?

Instead, what we need is a nearness to the living God. The great distraction is the search for a fix. Unfortunately, it is an endless quest, to find answers to problems for a life that keeps coming unraveled. Isn’t there a way to live and experience less aloneness and accomplish more?

For apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

Here Jesus is teaching about the vine and the branches. He is the source of our life and we are to live attached to him, branching out from him, growing out of his will and way.

  1. It seems that we are meant to be doing something with our lives, something that matters.
  2. The plan all along has been to be with God, to live a life that is always in fellowship with him.
  3. To live apart is a disaster, not just a preference (life choice). Read the rest of the parable. Do you smell smoke?
  4. When we pray, we are joined with God – our heart, mind and soul. We all need to live a daily life of prayer so that we will be less prone to wander away from our Heavenly Father.

Our aloneness isn’t the cause of our inner struggles, it’s the effect of living separated from God. What are you doing, thinking, worrying, planning, auto-piloting, judging, failing, reaching? Why are we living any aspect of our lives apart from God?

I doubt most of us consciously make decisions to wander away from our relationship with God. Instead, I think we get distracted by the cares of life. Fast-paced living sets my spiritual attention into an automatic mode. Rituals and routines lose their meaning and purpose. Sometimes I look up and wonder about all the miles and sights that I’ve missed. My attention and soul was somewhere else. What about you?

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10

Apart from walking with Jesus each day, you cannot live the rich and satisfying life that he intends for you to live now.  You cannot live in fellowship with God unless you are living in a conversational and transformational relationship. You have to be on speaking terms. You have to realize that things are never going to stop changing. This is an essential reminder that I must look in the eye each day.

Look at what Paul wrote about a life lived in fellowship with God:

“When I think of all this (God’s mysterious plan), I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul had to remain conscious of what God had, was and will do in His great plan. That consciousness on his part was a constant reminder that he was never alone and God’s transformative power was always at work.

Lasting transformation isn’t going to happen on my own. No matter how many self-help books I buy at the airport. We all need a supernatural relationship. Living near to God matters. Living away from him is a fully furnished house you walk around in all alone at night.

But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. – Psalm 73:28

Where is Jesus When You Need Him?

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“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”  ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

We can’t live very long and avoid the disasters that await around the corners. Sometimes they hit us quick and leave before we can even get our breath. Some catastrophes seem to hang on and take up residence.

I think I can face almost anything when I have someone else right there beside me. It’s brutal when I have to walk that road all alone. I have read about the lives of others and experienced for myself times when I’ve felt like I’ve even been left alone by God. I think most people feel like this at times. This is when we get to push out on our faith and see how well it floats.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” – Hebrews 11:1

Sometimes my faith starts to sink because I’m too often looking at the world around me, the situations I’ve stumbled into, the tribulation that fell on my head and I’m seeing it all with the eyes of my heart and not the eyes of my soul. Then I read an encounter like this and I’m ready to pick up that shield again…

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”  But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  – Luke 22:31-34

We spend so much attention on the failure of Peter. Perhaps because it sounds so familiar. We have so much hope, yet our flesh is still so weak.

But look at what Jesus told his friend he had been doing for him. Pleading in prayer for him. Praying for his faith to withstand the bitter and heartbreaking experience of personal failure. Peter will soon commit an act of betrayl he can’t even imagine at this point in time. He will publicly turn his back on his dearest friend.

Where is Jesus when we need him, when we falter and fail? When everything we thought we could count on was ripped away? Even when we lose every drop of faith we ever had and walk away into the cold night? Where is he? He is pleading in prayer.

He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.  – Hebrews 7:25