Tag Archives: contentment

You Have All You Need

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of relationships and the more I learn to appreciate them. Plain and simple: we need each other.

It seems like an obvious concept, but putting it into practice isn’t friendshipeasy because we often take people for granted. We take the time we have with people for granted. We take the bonds we have – whether in marriage, family, friendship, church fellowship, or work – for granted. I don’t believe it’s because we’re horrible people who don’t give a damn about others. It’s because we are constantly drawn away from community in our culture.

Every day we are bombarded with marketing messages that push us toward self-gratification and indulgence. We’re told that you deserve this or that. Or this is how you get ahead (everything is a competition it seems). Or your life will be miserable and incomplete unless you get this car, this smartphone, or try this diet.

It’s easy to get caught up in the mind-set that we need things to satisfy us. We feel if we just get the promotion…if we just get into that university…if we just get that home…or if we can move to that city…if we just get a different job, then life will be great. We are driven and programmed to think that way because we are constantly lied to, both by the media and Satan, that we are not happy. That we don’t have enough.

The truth is we have everything we need. I saw a Facebook post from Joel Osteen the other day that spoke to this:

“Psalm 34 says, ‘Those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing.’ This means if you don’t have it right now, you don’t need it right now. Our attitude should be: ‘I’m equipped, empowered and anointed for this moment. I am not lacking, shortchanged or inadequate. I have what I need for today.'”

Obviously the Word is quite different from the messages we hear and see each day.

So what does this have to do with relationships? I believe how God equips us for each moment, season, and challenge in life is with each other. We are the answer to each other’s’ prayers. While the culture and media push us toward things, God pushes us toward each other.

I think of Jesus’ life. Obviously He wasn’t caught up in things, but He was obsessed with people. He always was teaching, eating, conversing, walking, and talking with people. Even when He isolated Himself, it was to spend intimate prayer time with His Father.

We are made for community. A couple of weeks ago, I spent quality time with friends on a retreat. It was so refreshing – yes, to get away from my regular routine – but mainly because of the people I was with.

Time with friends and family is golden.

As seasons in our lives end – whether we move to a new city, change jobs, graduate college, or get to the end of life – we don’t miss the car we drove, the house we lived in, the place we worked, or the area we lived so much. We miss the people we experienced life with. We miss the bonds we had.

So while you may feel you’re lacking in an area of life – whether it’s because you’re single, unemployed, unhappily employed, or just experiencing general discontent – I challenge to look around you, not at things but at the people in your life. Even if your true friends are few, you have all you need for this moment in life. Enjoy it. Enjoy them.

 

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Stop Chasing Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not this side of Heaven. Most of us know that, but our expectations often belie that truth.

We know nobody and nothing is perfect, yet we are quick to complain about all the imperfections in the person we’re dating, the church we attend, or the job that pays our bills.Stop Chasing Perfection

High expectations are a good thing. Having a vision for the type of marriage you want, the church you serve in, and the career you navigate is important and admirable. And I believe the vision you imagine can become a reality as long as it’s grounded in reality. There must be some compromise and tweaking to the vision along the way.

Most people understand this. Where we go astray is when our focus shifts. Instead of remembering everything in life is a process, we get impatient with the immediate. So we focus on our partner’s imperfections, our church’s problems, and our employer’s negative practices. We magnify the few things that tick us off, letting those idiosyncrasies overshadow what we enjoy about our current state of life.

Consequently, we become complainers part of the unfortunate majority miserable in our relationships and jobs, and tuned out in church. Sometimes discontent means it’s time to move on. But most of the time the discontent comes from within, not without.

Changing jobs, churches, or dating someone else won’t change things when the problem is within you. The problem is often perspective. And perspective is tainted when problems arise: when there’s tension in your relationship, when there’s disagreement in church, and when there’s frustration at work. These aren’t signs to bail out; these are signs to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The life you want takes work. The vision you have won’t manifest without pressure.

So when things in life particularly pertaining to your relationships, church, and job become frustrating, shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Intentionally dwell on the good things about your situation. This fosters peace, patience, and problem-solving ability. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then maybe it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ll realize that though life isn’t perfect, it is good, and with patience you can build something close to perfect.

 

 

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5 Lessons for My 18-year-old Self

I read a Facebook post from a friend a few weeks ago that asked: What would your 18-year-old self think of you?

It’s an intriguing question, and as expected, the answers were comical and varied. I think for most of us, life hasn’t life lessonsturned out exactly how we thought it would be when we were 18. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective. I know I don’t have nearly half of what my 18-year-old self wanted, and that’s OK. That kid didn’t know anything anyway. If I could write him an email — to his AOL address — about how he turned out, these are the five key things I’d point out to him:

1. YOUR DREAMS AND AMBITIONS CHANGE

I know you’re driven, and somewhat stubborn, Kevin. You have big goals and dreams. That’s great. But guess what? A lot of that stuff isn’t going to happen. It’s not because you don’t have a good work ethic, or won’t acquire the skills you need, it’s just that most of that stuff won’t matter after a while. The stuff you thought you couldn’t live without? Well, you’re living without it, and you’re doing fine. Your goals and values have changed — for the better.

2. YOU’RE SECURE

This may be the greatest relief to you, and one of the greatest things to happen to you. You don’t care what people think of you. You realize your imperfections, and you don’t sweat them. You’re comfortable in your own skin. Unfortunately, this took a while — years! The awkwardness you sometimes felt in high school, the desire to fit in with certain crowds, and the worry of what other people think of you continues well into adulthood. But it gets better. It’s a process, but you get to the point where you don’t give a damn. That’s a very good thing.

3. YOU’RE NEITHER MARRIED, NOR RICH…AND IT’S AWESOME

Sorry to break it to you, but you’re in your 30s and you’re single. You don’t drive a Benz either. You done crying? OK, now listen. Here’s the weird thing: You’re happier than ever. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to get married and acquire wealth — because contrary to what you think, 30something ain’t old — but you’ve reached a status much greater than married or wealthy. It’s called contentment.

4. YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL

Yup, you are a success. But not because of your career or accomplishments. That’s not how you measure success any more. You’re successful because of the people you impact. That’s right, you’re more concerned with people than promotion. You help others. You listen. You love. That means more to them, and you, than anything you ever dreamed of accomplishing.

5.  YOU HAVEN’T CHANGED

I know that sounds weird since Nos. 1-4 don’t mesh with who you are yet, but, at your core, you’re still the same guy. You know why? Because all this stuff is already in you. The wisdom, maturity, confidence, peace, contentment, and character, it’s deep in your soul. You’re a diamond in the rough. You still have a lot of rough edges now. But in the pressure cooker of life, the pretense, the fear, the insecurity, the doubt and dirt are chipped away, and who you really are is revealed.

Enjoy the journey, young Kevin, you’ll be OK. Oh, and pull up your pants!

What would you tell your 18-year-old self? What are the key things you’ve learned over the years?

 

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How God Gives Surprise Gifts

By Kevin Howell

photo by Shereen M via compfight creative commons
photo by Shereen M via compfight creative commons

There’s nothing like Christmas time. It’s truly the biggest spectacle in our society. As much as I like the commercialism of it, I stay balanced by reflecting of the story of the birth of Christ in Luke. It’s one of the most dramatic, miraculous accounts in history. And though Jesus is the center of the story, there are so many other characters that teach us inspiring lessons just in the first two chapters of the book.

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, for example. He and his wife Elizabeth were quite old at the time, and they couldn’t have children. We are told this couple lived honorably before God, kept the commandments, and “enjoyed a clear conscience before God.” They were faithful, devout Jews.

It’s interesting that despite the couple being devout and pleasing to God, they still couldn’t have children. One of their desires remained unfulfilled. There have been times when I felt like I was doing the right things, pleasing God, serving, yet stuff was missing in my life. What I was believing for, what I felt I should have had, I lacked. Does it make sense? No. That’s where Zachariah and Elizabeth were.

Yet, despite the fact the time for bearing children had passed in their lives, they weren’t bitter. They still lived honorably before God. And Zachariah went about his business, serving God.

Zachariah was a priest, and one day he was going about his regular priestly duties when an angel appeared to him, scared the crap out of him, then said:

“Don’t freak out bro. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife is going to have a son by you (which must’ve been a relief, because no man wants to hear his wife will have a son from some other dude), and you’ll name him John. He’s going to be awesome. He’ll be filled with the Spirit and he’ll turn people of Israel back to God and prepare the messiah’s arrival.” Luke 1:13-17 (NKV – New Kevin Version).

Zachariah, still clearly freaked out by all of this, didn’t believe it because he and Elizabeth were too old. Because he doubted, the angel said Zachariah wouldn’t be able to speak (became mute) until his son was born. (Read Luke 1 for all the details).

The day Zachariah went to the Temple was just another day at work. He wasn’t expecting an angel to show up, that’s why he was freaked out. And he sure as heck wasn’t expecting to hear what he heard, that’s why he doubted.

I believe God operates the same way in our lives. I’m not saying you will be visited by an angel (and honestly, I don’t know if I could handle that), but as you are going about your normal business, staying faithful and doing the mundane things, God will surprise you.

He’ll surprise you because He loves you. He’ll surprise you because He’s never forgotten about you. As with Zachariah, He’s heard your prayer. Even if it was months ago…even if it was years ago….even if you feel your time has passed.

It’s clear Zachariah’s faith wavered. He was old; he didn’t think being a father was possible any longer. Chances are, if you’ve been waiting on a prayer to be answered for a while, your faith has wavered too. But God’s faithfulness isn’t based on our faith. He’s faithful, plain and simple, in spite of us.

At the time of the first Christmas, Israel was going about its normal business, not expecting the messiah to arrive. But God was faithful to His promise, and the Lord arrived. This Christmas, even if you’ve forgotten about a dream, or if you feel forgotten, God hasn’t forgotten. He’s bound to surprise you, just like Zachariah.

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The Blessing of Hope

By Kevin Howell

photo by Michael Yan via compfight creative commons
photo by Michael Yan via compfight creative commons

There’s a misconception of what it means to be blessed.

Blessed is a common word used in church, and we often invoke it when things work in our favor:

“I was blessed with a job.”

“I was blessed with a car.”

“God blessed me with a house.”

“God blessed me with a spouse.”

“God blessed me with ____,” (you can fill in the blank).

Though those things can be considered blessings, they are not the primary example of blessing according to scripture. To be blessed means to be fortunate, well off, or happy. And though the aforementioned things certainly make us happy, we can create a culture within the faith that ties the idea of being blessed solely to receiving some sort of gift from God (or someone else).

So, if you don’t have a job, a car, a house, a spouse, or other things you desire and see others with, then you’re not blessed? Maybe according to modern-day church culture, but not according to Jesus.

I’m no theologian, but when I read the words of Jesus, I see a much different definition of blessed, none clearer than in Matthew 5.

Those whom Jesus described as blessed aren’t people we would considered blessed in our culture: poor in spirit, meek, those mourning, and the persecuted. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t call people blessed based on what they had or received, He called them blessed because of what they will receive.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt. 5:3-10)

The blessed shall be comforted, shall inherit the earth, shall be filled, shall obtain mercy. Being blessed is based on a hope. Not on something you possess, but on the hope of Christ and His promise. It is a matter of faith in Him, realizing Jesus Himself is the blessing. It’s not the gift, it’s the One who gives. Therefore, being blessed is independent of what you receive.

Even if we look at our forefathers (men and women) in the faith, we see blessing isn’t based on what they had. I think we’d agree the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus were blessed — they walked with Jesus after all. But Paul nor Peter never said they were blessed because of what they had. They were blessed because they were in Christ, children of God. Even during persecution, even during lack, even during trials, they were blessed because their blessing was based on hope, not their current circumstances.

The hope they had was in Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. It’s the same hope we have today. The hope of peace, provision, and all the kingdom of heaven is composed of. As singer David Crowder put it, “It is the hope in a rescue that has come, the hope in a rescue that has found us, and the relentless hope in a greater rescue that is still coming.”

So regardless of whether you’ve been given the things you’ve been believing for yet or not, you’re blessed if you’re in Christ. And you have a hope and bright future in Him.

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