Lean into stress

Run toward your fears.  That’s some billboard-variety advice I get while driving past the local university.  And as we all know, multicolored roadside signs are the most reliable source of life advice these days.

Lean into it.  That’s how the same basic sentiment was expressed in an article I read recently.  Except this wasn’t written by a nameless, faceless intern.  This was from an expert in the field of stress management who woke up one day struggling mightily to manage his own stress.

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Flossing

I hope Dr. Naumann, my childhood dentist, is reading this somewhere.  For the first time … ever, probably, I purchased dental floss.  And I am actually using it.  On my teeth.  I’m not consistent, but I do it.  In fact, I have fibers of mango wedged between my lower incisors right now, and I can’t wait to get home and dig for them.

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Why we left Egypt

Throughout the Old Testament, “Egypt” is used as a metaphor for slavery.  The Israelites spent 430 years in Egypt, much or most of which was spent under the Egyptians’ thumb.  The kind behavior shown to Joseph and his family was not continued by the Pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).  Life soon became intolerable for the nation, even to the point of being forced to kill their own male children.  But God was watching over His people the entire time, even and especially during the worst days.  And when the time was right, God intervened.  Pharaoh was humiliated, Egypt was crushed and looted, and Israel emerged on the other side of the Red Sea as a nation to be seriously regarded and respected.

But the story was not yet over. 

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Free life advice from a cheapskate

My propensity for frugality is not a secret.  So when I saw an article online about the biggest cheapskates ever, I had to read it.  You know me.  Always looking for ideas.

Paying for a muffin out of the tip jar.  OK, that’s not cheap; that’s thievery.  I oppose that. Driving all over town to find gas two cents cheaper?  That’s penny wise and pound foolish.  But washing out jars to use as drinking glasses?  Saving soy sauce packets?  What’s wrong with that?

An interesting side note: Lots of the cheapskates mentioned in the article were rich.  Their friends seemed to think that was an indication of a character flaw, and perhaps it was.  On the other hand, is it possible that their cheapskate ways had something to do with them having a lot of money in the bank?  Seems at least possible.

Plenty of people are willing to envy the success of others while thinking themselves morally superior to them for avoiding the measures that made the others successful.  That’s perverse.  The reason people underachieve is that they refuse to make sacrifices in the short term.  They want to have their cake and eat it too — and lose weight in the process!

If you don’t want to stoop over to pick up a penny, that’s perfectly justifiable.  You don’t owe me an explanation.  But don’t resent me for picking it up and then ask me to borrow a penny an hour later. 

I say all that to say this: my life, all in all, is pretty fantastic.  Much of that is because I have been spared some of the indignities and pain that plague the lives of others, including other Christians.  And yes, some of that “just turned out that way” — attribute that as you like, whether to God’s blessings, my parents’ influence, or simply being in the right place at the right time.  But it’s not all just the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice, the whim of fate.  Much if not most of my fortunate circumstances are a result of deliberate choices I made along the way. 

In short, I worked hard to get this lucky.  I found a good wife because I worked at it.  I reared godly children because I worked at it.  I made and maintained friendships because I worked at it.  I grew my faith because I worked at it.  Not all of my circumstances were of my choosing.  But plenty of them were.

This is not meant to brag.  This is meant to inspire.  You are not a prisoner of fate.  Perhaps you cannot control your destiny, but you can certainly direct it.  If you want to marry well, you first set your eyes on your values system.  Seek a Proverbs 31:10-31 kind of woman — or be that kind of woman yourself.  Seek a man who thinks “provide for his own” (1 Timothy 5:8) means more than making a lot of money — or be that kind of man yourself.  If you want godly children, be a godly person.  If you are blessed with children, show them what it is to live under God’s authority.  Show them with the “rod of discipline” if necessary (Proverbs 22:15).  If you want closer relationships, make them!  Go the extra mile in doing so (Matthew 5:41).  Each of us is under obligation to love his neighbor; no one is issued a “sit on your couch and wait” exemption as far as I can tell.

The hidden glory of this plan, God’s plan, is that it succeeds even when it “fails.”  In a worst-case scenario, you are left as a better Christian, more grounded in your faith, more prepared for heaven, but not in the precise circumstances you would have chosen.  Could it be better?  Obviously.  Will it get better?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  In any case, your situation, whatever it may be, is  not only one you can learn to live with, but also one you can learn to rejoice in (Philippians 4:4) and find contentment in (Philippians 4:11). 

God has given you that power in Jesus.  Don’t squander it by sitting by idly, hoping to get struck by the lightning of good fortune.  

Abstaining from Sin: 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time

American efforts at sex education are ridiculed by many for a strong emphasis on abstinence.  “We know kids are going to have sex,” the argument goes, “so we should teach them a safer way.”  Whether this curriculum “works” or not is irrelevant in my view, as it avoids the central issue.  The problem is not kids getting pregnant or getting STDs; the problem is kids going to hell.

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