I am not the center

Looking Up

 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. – Psalm 51:15, NIV

I was watching the Big Ten Network (don’t all good Nebraska wives do this on a Saturday night? Good thing I like football.), and the special feature snagged my attention. I mean really hooked my interest with one kid speaking.

“I’m blessed to wake up every morning.” The camera followed Shane Wynn of Indiana out of the locker room as his voice came over the tape. “Why not make it a good day?”

Wow. Out of the mouth of babes. (I so can’t believe I’m writing that about a college kid. Sheesh. Just last night, I told my hubby that the Cowboy’s coach looked too young to be coaching. So did Jay Gruden of the Washington Redskins, for that matter. I’m going to find another bottle of hair dye. And some wrinkle cream.).

Back to the point. Attitude. Fresh, clean, exuberant attitude. That’s what Shane Wynn has.

Love. It. And, honestly, envy it a little bit. I’ve been stuck in a downer recently—my first thought in the morning has been, “why does morning have to come so early?” Yikes. What a way to start a whole new, unmarked day, right?

I did some looking yesterday, via google—I google everything. I was researching how to overcome pessimism. It’s possible, right? I hope. Several articles popped up on my screen, and I clicked on a few to see what Prevention Magazine and BHG have to say on the matter. You know, it was interesting. While I didn’t agree with all the advice, a pattern emerged that sunk into my skull.

Pessimistic people—negative people—focus on themselves. In everything, the focus lands on their belly-button, so to speak.

Ouch. Yeah, ouch.

God has this cure for self-centered living. It’s called looking up. God-centeredness. In Experiencing God Henry Blackaby writes,

“To live a God-centered life, you must focus your life on God’s purposes, not your own plans. You must seek to see from God’s viewpoint, rather than from your own distorted human viewpoint.”

I can’t focus on me and on God at the same time. I’m going to have to choose. And since I don’t like the sourness accumulating in my soul, I’m choosing Him. Me-centeredness isn’t working, so starting today, I’m looking up.

How about you? Will you look up with me?

I am not the center

“The World Does Not Revolve Around You”

Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle – is not from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.  I John 1:15-17

Lust. It’s not a pretty word.  And most often, we think of it as sexual longing.  But that’s only one facet.  We lust for many things that have nothing to do with a roll in the hay.

We lust for lovely homes and fashionable decorations. We lust for lucrative jobs and titles to match them. We lust for the best school districts and highest academic honors.  We lust for the spotlight and for leisure and for shiny new cars, for boats and toys and jewelry galore. We want what we want, really badly. We put ourselves on the throne of our own lives, and maybe even try for the throne of our neighbors’ lives, too.

All of that is passing away. And when it does, the only thing that will matter is the only thing that really ever mattered – God Himself.

My wise mother often told me, “The world does not revolve around you.” She understood human nature so well. All that longing occurs when I put myself in the center of my universe and begin to believe that everything really is about me.  I begin to believe that I deserve that object, that honor, or that life situation, just because I want it.

And that’s why I chose this topic for this week. I’ve slipped recently.  While I haven’t desired everything I listed above, I have begun to focus on what I want and take my focus off of God.

The one who does God’s will remains forever. The one who seeks His kingdom above her own comfort remains forever. The one who is willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of Christ’s mission remains forever.  The one who is willing to suffer so that God’s word will reach those who have never heard – she will remain forever.

And in the end, it won’t matter at all what kind of house she lived in or how many pairs of shoes she owned.

I am not the center

Unselfish only in His strength

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 HCSB

I’d had a long day. I was exhausted, and he was filling my aching head with 13-year-old boy noises – silly, repetitive songs and raspberries.  From my point of view, this was incredibly annoying, and so I felt perfectly justified in snapping at him.  It felt good to speak sharply, to let him know exactly how his actions were affecting me.  He should be more respectful of me than to mindlessly make noise when I was tired!

But, with my verbal dagger, my son’s smile faded and his shoulders slumped. He walked out of the room, and I realized I had lost a chance to enjoy a few moments of fading childhood with my boy.  I was too focused on myself – my tiredness, my annoyance – to think how my words would affect him, make him feel.

Of course he forgave me, and even today, he’s up to the same antics. But the point isn’t that I had a poor mothering moment. The point is that I had a me-centered moment, and that happens far too often, especially as I relate to those closest to me.  If I am in the midst of the argument, I think of how hurt I am and how right I am – not on how my words may be hurting the one I’ve squared off against.  Even if I’m not arguing, I am often trying to figure out how to arrange my life to satisfy myself instead of how to arrange it to meet the needs of those around me.

And Jen was so right in yesterday’s post. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we sinful humans rise above our innate selfishness.  When I am filled with the Spirit of the One who sacrificed Himself for me, I can and do put the interests of others before my own.

But it is a daily – no, a moment-by-moment – choice to do so, to yield to God’s power, to put myself under His authority. When I do, I can live out these verses. When I don’t – well, I fall flat on my face.

Imagine a world where all of us lived out these verses. What a unselfish, peaceful world that would be.

I am not the center

I am Not the Center: A Joint Post

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ. Most of the brothers in the lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly.  Philippians 1:12-14

From Susan

Paul wrote those words from prison. Really, Paul?

I don’t know that I would have had the same attitude. I think if I had been writing that letter to the Philippian church, it might have gone something like this: “Please pray that I get out of this filthy place!  It’s no fair that I was thrown in here when I hadn’t committed a crime.  It’s cold, and I don’t have a bed, much less a pillow, and the food stinks.  Would someone please go petition my case to the governor or something?  Anyone have the funds to hire me a better lawyer? And would somebody at least try to smuggle me in a Snickers bar? You are coming to see me, aren’t you?  You haven’t forgotten about me, have you?  Because I think God may have.”

Do you see all the “I”s and “me”s in my letter? I sure do.  Paul’s version, however, had a completely different perspective.  “It’s actually a good thing that I’m in prison, because I’ve been able to tell my guards about Christ, and they are all talking about Him to each other.  And my arrest inspired other Christians to boldly share the Good News, so that more people have heard about Jesus because I am in prison than would have if I had never been thrown in here.”

Paul understood that it wasn’t all about him and his personal comfort.   God’s main goal was not to make Paul happy, and Paul was fine with that. He got it that there was a greater purpose for his existence – to glorify God in everything.

How can we apply that lesson today, in 2014?

From Jen:

How indeed. Everything within nags that I need attention, and everything without tells me that I am right. Silencing the demand for me seems impossible. But what is impossible on my own…

This is why Jesus said we needed the Holy Spirit. Living a God centered life isn’t natural, because it requires a shift in paradigm. The fleshly standard goes something like this: A successful life will yield the fruit of self-satisfaction. Wealth. Comfort. Fulfillment in friends and popularity. It will never be trampled on by another, never be overlooked. It will be the whole package of me-centered desires.

But the Bible paints a different picture for the God-centered life. One that bears the fruit of the Spirit living and working within. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

So even in prison there is love. Shackled in chains; joy and peace. Left in a moment by unreliable friends, yet there is patience, kindness, goodness. Poured out by God’s providence in a way that is painful? Faithfulness. Treated with brutality; gentleness. Wrongly accused; self-control.

The answer has remained the same throughout the centuries. I live a life in which I am not the focal point. The Christian life is a God-centered life. And the paradox is this: a God-centered life is never overlooked by the creator of the universe. A God-centered life is complete.