Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Constantly Craving - Contentment

So I've been reading this book by Marilyn Meberg.  I didn't think much of it when I first picked it up, but I've been devouring it over the last few days.  This lady is 72 years old at the writing of this book.  That's a lifetime.  A lifetime of experience, of learning, of growing, of failing, of triumphing.  That gives her a lot of street cred.  Mom has - um, shall we say, emphasized? - the kind of perspectives that are typical of different ages of people.  The older she gets the less wise a 30 and 40 year old are.  Anyways, I guess I assumed that most of these types of books were written by disillusioned late-30, early-40's type people.  I consider it quite a treasure to find one written by a woman who has been through twice that life!

In three of her early chapters, she discusses why we crave more in romance, why we might be attracted to certain people, and what we expect from our spouses, and how our previous relationships with family might affect that.  Very interesting.  However that isn't what I wanted to share with you all today.  I wanted you to hear some specific excerpts from chapters 5, 6, and 9.  For today, let's stick with chapter 5.

Chapter 5 - Longing for Contentment
Marilyn talks about how the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence - the "if only I had" syndrome and the opportunity she had to switch families with a playmate when she was 5 which allowed her to discover that phenomenon.  She talks about souls or psyches and how they need to be switched out if we expect to change our natural contentment level.  The story of Paul's soul swap is recorded in Acts 9.

"Paul, after three days of blinds and fasting, completely rethought his opposition to Jesus.  In fact, he spent the next several years reformulating his mind and emotions about who Jesus was, is and continues to be in the life of the believer" (p57).

The Steps to Contentment
"Paul was not only a witness for Christ, but he was also - and continues to be - a witness and example of containment.  His sense of contentment is nearly unbelievable in view of where he spent much of his life.  Because of his zeal in communicating the good news of Jesus, Paul spent years in prison.  Those who had an earlier loyalty and allegiance to Paul and his zeal to persecute Christians turned on him, arrested him and ultimately executed him in Rome.  And yet, while sitting in jail prior to his execution, Paul wrote these words: I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: i know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13).

"Paul's words provide a simple but profound definition of contentment.  Shockingly, it has nothing to do with out circumstances.  Most of us assume if she could just change our circumstances we would be content.  If I were Paul, I might have said, "Just get me out of jail, and I'll be content."

"But he said contentment didn't depend on whether or not he was in jail, whether or not he was hungry or had just eaten a platter of pasta.  he knew contentment is an inside job.  His trust and faith in Christ got him through it all." (p 58, 59)

She talks more about the specific process Paul went through and then continues on page 60-61:

Forgiven, Cleansed, and Made New
"These were the steps Paul took to gain a new understanding of Jesus and receive a new and transformed soul.  His old soul was forgiven, cleansed, and made new.  Paul described this newness: 'Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!' (2 Corinthains 5:17).

"When Paul experience chis transformed, cleansed, and forgiven soul, he came into an understanding and experiencing of contentment.  because of the forgiveness with cleansing from sin, Paul could walk without the shame and guilt o this murderous past.

"Since the mind is part of the soul, Paul had access to the mind of Christ, who said, 'Let this mind be in you , which was also in Christ Jesus' (Phillipians 2:5).  Christ's mind in Paul's mind reminds him that Christ promises to never leave him.  Christ's mind assures Paul's mind his love will always hold him up, providing courage for each experience that hurts him, threatens him, or discourages him.

"That's how Paul's transformed new soul enabled him to sit in jail, even knowing he would ultimately experience execution, and still say, 'I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.'

"I am encouraged by the words 'I have learned.'  They tell me we are not born content, and achieving contentment does not happen quickly.  It's something we learn.  As our relationship with Christ develops over time and through experiences, we learn to trust God more and ourselves less.  Through the indwelling Christ I learn that contentment is an inside job."

The next chapter talks about happiness and how it relates to contentment ... stay tuned!  I'd really encourage you to take the time to read this book through.  It's a very easy read and if you get it used, you won't need to spend a lot more than $5.

And please leave comments, thoughts, and critiques!  I like to know who has stopped by particularly since I'm not advertising it.

Song for the day:
Definitely like this version better!

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