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Recently, as I tried to fall asleep, the colors swirled behind my closed eyelids. Red, yellow, purple, black, white. Some swirling like a pool of water being swished, others flashing like lightning.

I like watching the colors behind my eyes. When I meditate, I often mentally glide through the colors as though I’m being propelled through a kaleidoscope wormhole toward a shapeshifting rainbow. This does wonders for helping me focus during prayer and meditation, keeping me from drifting off into other thoughts.

One day I tried to explain this to a friend, and it suddenly hit me. Do other people see these colors, too? Maybe I’m the only one! Maybe they all think I’m crazy when I talk about the colors behind my eyes. (Someone, please comment and tell me you see them, too, LOL.)

What truly is reality? Even with colors themselves, how can we be certain “red” looks the same to every one of us? What if it looks like “blue” to some people and “orange” to others? But we all think we’re talking about the same colors! True, painters reproduce what they see onto canvas, but then we each perceive that again with our own individual eyes. How do we know we perceive the same?

Maybe I’m getting a little far out there, and maybe I’m just a little tired and loopy. But doesn’t it make you wonder? And aren’t a lot of things like that in life?

For instance, what about when two people argue? (I’m married, so I’m no stranger to arguments.) What if a “red” person and a “blue” person disagree, thinking they are talking about the same thing, when really they are discussing two entirely different topics or views? Think of the confusion and discord that would produce!

But that does happen, doesn’t it? We push our own points of view, and we often fail to consider another’s opinions. I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Maybe we should all just take a moment to consider that maybe the other person’s “red” is really our “blue” and maybe there’s nothing to really argue about at all? Imagine the peace that would ensue. <sigh>

So, what is truly real? Can we trust our senses? Can we trust our minds? What and who can we trust?

We can trust God! God is just as real as (no, He’s MORE real than!) anything we can quantify in our limited human perception. Why, then, do so many people deny His existence? How can it be possible not to know God?

Or is that just my limited perception and different point of view rearing their heads again? Maybe some people we think don’t know God really do in their perception. Maybe God reveals Himself in different ways to different people. Who are we to judge?

I know God. I know I see Him in a glorious sunrise and a serene lake. I see Him in the tiniest ant and the largest oak tree. I see Him in the faces of my children, and I feel Him in my heart. God is love.

I may not be able to understand how someone else can’t know God in these ways, and I can try to show them, but God is the only one who can open their eyes to what He wants them to see. If He wants to show another person “blue” for a while before revealing “red,” then who am I to judge?

I can be here when someone needs me, and I can grow closer to God myself. And I trust that, in time, He will show me ALL of His colors. And I know I’ll be amazed! Hey, I already am.

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The High School Student Playing Annie and My Daughter As "Little Annie"

The High School Student Playing Annie and My Daughter As "Little Annie"

My daughter Jessica is nine years old, and she wants to be in musicals when she gets to high school. She loves to sing (and is really good!) and has taken six years of tap/jazz.

Well, on April 4, she got a small taste of what it’s like on the acting stage as one of the “Little Annies” in the last scene of this year’s high school musical, Annie.

It all started on March 14, when our local school held tryouts for younger students to sing the final song with the high school cast. Jessica was one of 10 children chosen to take part in this unique experience (two Little Annies/Warbucks for each show for five showings). Jessica was scheduled for the afternoon we were attending, April 4.

The Little Annies got to see what practices were like when they joined the cast one night the week before to learn what they would be doing. It was then that Jessica saw how much work goes into putting on a musical. It was also then that we discovered the Little Annies/Warbucks would be more involved than we originally expected. Not only would Jessica be singing the final “Tomorrow” song with the cast, but she would be IN the final scene before that (singing the New Deal song and acting like one of the orphans with the regular cast members). Even further, during that last Tomorrow song, Jessica would be on the stage overhang in front of the band with the high school Annie/Warbucks — merely inches from audience members sitting in the front row! How exciting!

Another of the Little Annies chosen is a friend of Jessica’s from school, Chelsea (she joined Jessica on April 4), and one of the Little Warbucks attends our church (Gary). All of the children did such a wonderful job!

Jessica said the practice night was so much fun, exactly like she had hoped and what she wants to do in the future. I was so happy for her. She didn’t even seem to mind the long night (her little brother had trouble keeping quiet, though: Note to self: Do not take a 4-year-old to a high musical practice again.). She was on cloud 9.

April 4 was an exciting day for us (I could only imagine what it’s like for the parents of high school students who are part of the entire musical!). Jessica wore a red dress and fixed her hair in pigtails (she looked beautiful!), and, when it was her turn up there, she sounded just as beautiful. We could hear her singing, and it was amazing.

I had tears in my eyes, for so many reasons. My little girl was up there, singing beautifully, and I was so proud of her! Even beyond that, I knew she was doing something she loves. That made it so much more memorable, that she had this chance to do something she loves and to excel at it. Don’t we all want that for our children? To find something they are good at and enjoy doing. To find God’s calling in their lives…

Okay, maybe I’m getting a little melodramatic, but who says children can’t have callings? Jessica sings in the church choir, and I know God has called those children and the choir director. They work so hard and do a wonderful job glorifying God. What could be better than that?

My tears of joy were a combination of pride and love and wonder that God can help lead a 9-year-old to a calling that glorifies Him. God leads all of us, no matter what age. We just have to be open.

I know my daughter has a lot of growing up to do, and her calling may not remain the same her entire life. But whose does? I’m just thankful that God is showing her a wonderful way to glorify Him at such a young age. And I pray that He continues to show my children as they grow up. He shows us all — PRAISE GOD for that!

(At the top of this post is a picture of Jessica with the high school student, Casey, who played Annie in the musical. She and the other cast members, teachers, and everyone involved were so nice and helpful. They really made the younger kids feel welcome. Thank you all for such a memorable experience!)

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**This is the same article I posted for the March issue of my Balancing Tips newsletter, which can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/balancingtips/ .**

One day last week, after dropping my son off at preschool, I started feeling down. I sighed loudly into the empty vehicle, giving in to the “woe is me” attitude that had inexplicably reared its ugly head. I felt drained. I felt blah. I didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere, just finding a corner to sit in and stare.

But then I suddenly slammed the brakes on my thoughts, considered them for a moment, and asked myself a question. “What is so terrible about this current moment, driving down the road?”

My answer was NOTHING! Absolutely nothing terrible was happening to me at that precise moment. I was driving the car. Nothing inherently sad about that. In fact, if I just looked at that one moment, or those few moments, life was pretty good.

So where was this depression coming from?

Then I suddenly realized why I felt sad. I was feeling dread about issues I suspected might happen later in the day.

Would I have time to get enough work done before picking my son up from school? [Answer: Who cares? Just do what I can and continue later.] Would the house be clean enough for my husband when he got home from work? [Answer: Who cares? He’ll comment or he won’t, whether the house is perfect or a mess. Just do what I can, and focus on my priorities (family, work).] Will my kids listen to me this evening? [Answer: Who cares? Just send them to their rooms! 🙂 ]

I didn’t even know what would happen later, but I had done quite a lot of assuming, and I was already feeling down about it. Does that make any sense? It didn’t to me at that moment driving in my car around the lake near my son’s school.

Maybe life WOULD happen exactly as I had imagined it, or maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I WOULD feel bad later, or maybe I wouldn’t. But why worry about it now? Why imagine feeling bad, and why make myself feel bad now when nothing was even wrong (yet)?

It makes no sense, yet I find myself behaving this way often, almost every day some weeks.

Unfortunately, issues DO happen in life! That’s part of the definition of life. Difficulties may not be the ones you are worrying about (so why worry?), but there WILL be issues and problems and hurdles.

If we try to avoid issues or fight upstream trying to stop them, then we feel miserable.

If we believe we’ll finally be happy once this or that problem goes away or when a specific event happens, then we’ll NEVER be happy.

But we CAN be at peace. We can feel negative emotions (whether over real issues or due to perceived problems, it doesn’t matter; we still feel bad), and we can recognize those emotions for what they are and get through our funk without wallowing in it.

What I think many people call “happy” is really “peace”. Peace under ANY circumstances.

How many times have you been having a wonderful day, outwardly happy — being with your family or doing an activity you enjoy — only to feel jumbled inside? What were you dwelling on internally at that moment rather than being fully present in your actual happiness? You were doing something you thought would make you happy — and maybe it does. But, if your mind is elsewhere, you won’t truly BE happy. In fact, you won’t truly BE anything. You’ll be trapped between what was and what might be.

God doesn’t want that for us. He wants us to meet Him in the NOW — the present moment — and just BE with Him.

How often do we really do that? Just BE with God. I know I don’t do it often enough. Even during prayer, my mind drifts.

How much more soothing and effective would prayer be if we were really THERE in it at that moment (not mentally off somewhere else)? How much closer our relationship with God would be!

Knowing you are behaving this paradoxical way does not mean you automatically stop doing it, or that you never will do it again, even after you stop. But, I have learned that, if you can recognize it when it happens, and try to stop yourself, then negative feelings seem less bad, almost comical. How silly we all are!!! 🙂

Remember, row, row, row your boat, life is but a dream… The reality is home with God. Does anything else really matter? Well, then, why dwell on it? Why beat yourself up over it? Just BE.

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We Are Called & Equipped

+ + + Please join us for the “Called & Equipped” Christian Conference in Greensburg, PA, on September 20, 2008, a F*R*E*E Legacy Inspirations event!+ + +

 

*Date: Saturday, September 20, 2008

*Time: 9 a.m. – 12 noon (8:30 a.m. registration and free continental breakfast)

*Location: First Reformed United Church of Christ, 312 South Maple Avenue, Greensburg, PA  15601

 

Scripture lessons from 1 Samuel and Ephesians.

 

God has called and equipped every one of us. In our daily lives, in our professions, in our ministries, we are called to glorify God and help others by spreading the Word. Just as Samuel listened to God’s call, so must we listen and obey. God has equipped us, through the Armor of God, to do His work.

 

Each of us has a unique way. Hear how others are following God’s calling in their lives and how you can, too!

 

Please join Legacy Inspirations and friends for a wonderful time of fellowship and glorifying our Lord! Bring a friend!

 

Program Speakers:

– Rev. Alice Lindsay-Bignell, First United Church of Christ, Harrison City, PA

– Rev. Blair Morgan, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Glenshaw, PA

– Michelle Kunkle, DCEYM, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Irwin, PA

– Christina Downs, writer, editor, and author of Simply Balanced: Bible “Contradictions” Teach Balanced Living

– Michael & Juanita Pardus, Caregivers

– Kristina A. Rugh, Householder Lifestyle Consulting, LLC

– Dr. Timothy Strittmatter, Keystone Spinal Care

– Pilgrim George Walter

 

For more information, please contact Christine (724-244-4003), Kristina (724-561-7460), or Christina (724-532-3669).

 

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It’s been far too long since I’ve posted to my own blog. Somehow, it didn’t seem so long! I don’t know if life has really been any busier or if I just got off focus a little. Sure, the kids being home in the summer probably played a small part. But, if I had really stayed focused, I still could have posted. I apologize to those who have been interested in reading about balance in life.

 

In the months I’ve been “away” from posting, I’ve actually learned some valuable lessons about being calmer and living in the moment. Lessons that, paradoxically, may have contributed to my lack of focus. Learning to live in the moment has helped me worry less, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, I’m still learning how to combine that with continuing to move forward. Not worrying doesn’t mean you stop achieving your goals.

 

That’s a lesson I believe God wanted me learn. How I can worry less and live in the moment while, at the same time, move forward with enthusiasm doing God’s work. I got stuck for a little while in the “la la land” of hearts and daisies, being happy and accepting whatever happened in my life. That’s wonderful, to a point. It’s wonderful to appreciate every moment – feeling both more alive and more at peace simultaneously. I can still do that but add goals back into the mix. I can enjoy each moment of moving toward a goal.

 

This time being off focus also actually helped me figure out the right things to be focusing on in the first place! Even though God taught me that each person is different and no one person can do it all, guess what I was still trying to do? Yep, you guessed it – I was STILL trying to do it all! Partly, I think I just hadn’t refined my purpose or narrowed my goals sufficiently. I left them wide open and impossible for any single person to fulfill.

 

So, this time of not worrying and living in the moment has helped me. God had a purpose for the time. Now I know I can add goals again and STILL be able to live in the moment.

 

Thank you so much to my wonderful book club friends (Bunny, Betty, Maggie, Joan) and others who have helped me learn this lesson. We read Eckhart Tolle’s book The New Earth last spring leading into the summer. Now we are starting on The Power of Now to continue our exploration into living in the moment.

 

God bless!

 

– Chris

 

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Some of you have been receiving the Balancing Tips newsletter every month since October 2006. Thank you for subscribing and reading, and I pray that you have been half as blessed as I have been working on preparing them. God has revealed some amazing lessons to me, which I never would have learned had I not been seeking guidance and exploring topics for newsletters. So God has worked in me as I write these articles, and I hope He has also worked in you as you read them.

Until now, I have been manually emailing the newsletter every month. As the number of subscribers grows, that becomes more difficult (and I am also finding that I’m being blocked by some spam filters, even from email addresses that have requested the newsletter from me). So I decided to try a more automatic approach. 

Starting in January, Balancing Tips will be sent via the following Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/balancingtips/

I have added some people from my previous subscriber list, and I will continue to do so. Also, subscribers can feel free to go to the link to join themselves. I also invite brand new subscribers to join my new Yahoo group and start receiving the Balancing Tips monthly e-newsletter from Cross Your Heart Publications. If anyone prefers to continue receiving  manual emails (rather than through the new Yahoo group), please email me at cdowns@crossyourheartpub.com.

For more information (and to find out how you can receive a free ebook about how the armor of God helps deflect worry), you can also go to https://chrisdowns.wordpress.com/free-newsletter-and-ebook/ (one of the tabs on this blog).

Thank you so much! And I pray that this new method of sending out the newsletter will continue to bless each and every one of you and glorify God, who deserves all the PRAISE!!! Amen!

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The radio show “Write the Vision” is doing a series of spotlight interviews with Christian authors.

I’ll be on the show Monday 1/14/08, at 5:30 p.m. EST about my book Simply Balanced: Bible “Contradictions” Teach Balanced Living.
 
The show airs at http://www.praizpr.com/writethevision.htm and also at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Write-The-Vision (where I think a recording is also going to be available later).

I hope you can listen!

Thank you, and God bless.

– Chris

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