Airplane oxygen masks are a two-step process

I’m not a huge fan of airplane travel, mainly because it’s far less expensive to drive, but sometimes you have to fly. Like when I went to Ireland a few weeks ago. I couldn’t drive to Ireland (well, I could try, but I don’t think I would succeed).

As I sat and listened to the flight attendants run through their little spiel about airplane safety, I smiled when they got to the place about securing your own oxygen mask first. I was traveling with two other people on the way to Ireland, and I had laughingly joked with my sister-in-law that I’d need to make sure one of my travel buddies had her oxygen mask on if we crashed.

That’s the rule with oxygen masks

First, you secure your own and make sure that you are breathing. Then, you help the people around you, children, the elderly, or generally distracted (but totally adorable) traveling companions. It’s a two-step process. First, take care of yourself. Then, take care of those around you.

Exodus 18:17-18 Always PeachyThe problem I usually have (when I’m not flying on an airplane) is that I skip ahead to step two without doing step one. I tend to want to take care of everyone around me first before seeing to my own needs. I want to help people, and I don’t want myself to get in the way. But it’s too much for one person to do alone, and I exhaust myself. (Exodus 18:14-18)

I’ve spent years telling myself this fact over and over again, but only recently did a new way to think about it occur to me. Using airplane oxygen masks correctly is a process.

A two-step process for an airplane

In an emergency situation on an airplane, you can’t just randomly try to help everyone around you. You’ll be in the way of people who are trained for that situation, and you’ll do more damage than you prevent. You’re supposed to stay seated. The best way for you to help those around you is to first take care of yourself.

That goes against my personal programming, but if I don’t first make sure that my thoughts are clear, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be of help to anyone. The truth is, if I don’t take care of my own needs first in that sort of situation, I won’t be able to help anyone around me.

If we accept that concept on an airplane, why can’t we accept it in our everyday lives?

A two-step process for life

Instagram Airplane MasksI’m talking to myself here. I run myself ragged for the benefit of others. I wear myself down and work my immune system to its lowest point for the sake of those around me. It’s how I’m wired. But I need to start looking at taking care of people as a two-step process.

If I want to help others, I need to take care of myself first. I need to sleep, to eat properly, and take care of my physical and spiritual needs first. Granted, that doesn’t mean I completely ignore people who need help, but before I work myself to exhaustion helping the helpless, first I need to make sure I’m strong enough to be of service. And this isn’t just something I’m making up. This is a biblical principle! (Ephesians 5:29-30)

As Christ-followers, we are called to serve others but not at the cost of our relationship with God or our physical health. Life is a balance between being a good steward of what God has given us and giving sacrificially so that others can share our blessings.

Wearing yourself out helping others may be a noble concept, but it’s not practical or healthy. And it’s not what God intended for us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) If you really want to help others to the best of your ability, first take the time to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

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Sacrificing for the right reasons doesn’t feel like a sacrifice

I’ve heard it said that the best definition of love is sacrifice. If you love someone, you’ll sacrifice for them. But what does it mean to sacrifice?

In American culture, the concept of sacrifice has such a negative connotation. If you sacrifice something, that means you’re giving something up, and everybody knows giving something up stinks. But I have a problem with that definition, especially when it comes to the concept of sacrificing for God.

When you sacrifice for God, is it really a sacrifice? Have you ever thought about it that way? Because when I sacrifice something–my time, my energy, my focus, my finances, etc.–for God, I always get back more than I’ve given.

See we think of sacrifice as giving something up and never getting anything in return, but that’s not the case. Well, maybe it’s the case if you’re sacrificing for selfish reasons. Nothing done with selfish motivation ever pays a return–not really.

But turn that around. When you sacrifice for selfless reasons, you’ll be hard-pressed to see your choice as a sacrifice. I know tons of people who sacrifice every day. They sacrifice their time and their emotions and their money. They sacrifice possessions and privacy and personal desires. They sacrifice all kinds of things, but because they’ve got their perspective straight, they don’t see it as a sacrifice at all. They see it as an opportunity to do something kind for someone else.

desertToday’s verse is Hebrews 11:24-27.

It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

Just about everybody knows the story of Moses, whether it’s The Ten Commandments version of his life or the Prince of Egypt version. And we all like to focus on the fact that Moses talked to God and went before Pharaoh and said things like “Let my people go!” and brought the plaques on Egypt, etc. etc. etc. (no, wrong Yul Brenner quote…. so let it be written, so let it be done).

But how often do we focus on the fact that Moses had every right to stay in Egypt and claim a position of lordship? Moses might not have been born Egyptian, but he’d been raised in the palace. He could have stayed. He could have claimed title and land and riches and status. But he didn’t. He chose to walk away from it, and he ended his life doing what God had called him to do.

Talk about sacrifice, right? Walking away from a life of privilege to herd sheep at the hind end of the desert? Releasing his rightful claim to comfort and security in exchange for a barefoot conversation with a burning bush? But if we could talk to Moses today, regardless of all the crap he had to go through leading the Children of Israel, I don’t think he’d say that he sacrificed anything. On the contrary, he had a front row seat for some of the greatest miracles in recorded history.

Perspective is everything.

Are you in situation right now where you feel like you’re sacrificing and no one is recognizing it? Well, I hate to be the rain on your parade, friend, but sacrifice has absolutely nothing to do with recognition. If you sacrifice, you aren’t necessarily going to get to see your name up in lights. If you sacrifice for someone you love, they may not even notice. But if you’re sacrificing for the right reason, it won’t matter.

If you give up something you want expecting something in return, that’s not sacrifice. That’s bartering.

If you keep seeing your sacrifice as something you “had to do” for whatever reason, you’ll never move past it. If you keep bringing it up, you haven’t sacrificed anything. You’re still holding on to it. And you can’t walk that line. You can’t say you’ve sacrificed something if you’re still clinging to it.

But if you let go of what you want, especially if you’re letting it go for God’s sake, and you don’t pine after what could have been, you’ll be surprised at the turn your life will take. Maybe at the beginning, it’ll feel like you’re walking away from the best dream you’ve ever had, but when it’s over, you’ll be standing on a mountaintop talking to God like He’s your closest friend.

Just because you give up something you want doesn’t mean your life is going to be unhappy. It doesn’t even mean that you’ll end up losing out. In fact, you might even end up with more than you had to start.

Focusing on what’s wrong isn’t going to help you

I woke up on Monday morning in a horrible mood. Do you ever just have mornings like that? Where you wake up and you just can’t cheer up? No matter how you try, you just stay in the dumps.

I hate those mornings. Fortunately, they’re few and far between. But when you have a morning like that, is there a way to get back on track?

1302654_51792540Today’s verses are Genesis 39:19-23.

Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.

I don’t think there’s anyone in the Bible who had more reason to sulk and stew than Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own brothers, shipped to a foreign land, falsely accused, thrown in prison and forgotten–Joseph never did anything to deserve that kind of treatment. But he never gave up, and he always kept focused on living his life for God. How did he do it? He worked.

He worked for Potiphar before Potiphar’s wife lied about him. Then he worked for the warden of the prison. I’m sure he mourned, yes, and I’m sure he asked God why he had to go through all of this, but he didn’t ever sink into that black hole of self-pity.

When I’m in a bad mood, I find the best way to get out of it is to stop focusing on myself. Sure, it’s important to identify why you’re upset, because if there’s something really wrong, you should change it or fix it. But if you’re in the middle of circumstances that you can’t change, focusing on what’s wrong isn’t going to help you.

Instead, try focusing on what you can do to help people around you. Or, focus on what you need to accomplish in a day. No matter who you are, you’ve got goals you want to achieve. Instead of expending your energy on thinking about what’s keeping you in place, start working on all the things you need to get done in order to start moving again.

For me, there’s nothing more uplifting than making a list and checking items off of it. Maybe that’s my tiny bit of Type A showing, but it’s true. Or if that doesn’t work, set aside some specific time to do something that will cheer you up. Read a book and get your mind off the problem. Bake some cookies and take them to people you care about. If the weather is nice, go outside and walk or ride your bike. If the weather is bad, play a game inside or read a book.

Just stop focusing on the problem.

That’s not to say that you should live in denial. No, if there’s a serious issue going on, you should deal with it. But how many of us really live with serious issues in our lives? Most of the time, if it’s serious enough, we’ll do something about it.

Most of us just live with annoyances. Most of us just grin and bear it. The long hours. The lack of appreciation. The disrespect or the minimal acknowledgement. The coworker who drives you nuts. That small group leader who totally gets under your skin. The hypocrite you have to ride next to on the bus.

And when you’re in a bad mood, they all seem to gang up on you, don’t they? It’s like everyone is out to get you. Everyone has made it their mission in life to ruin your day. And the rational part of your mind knows that’s not true. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

So set up times in your day to sit and think about something else. When you catch yourself focusing on it or stewing on it, do something else. Get up and go visit with a coworker you haven’t talked to in a while. Ask someone if they want a refill on their cup of coffee. Do something productive like cleaning out a cabinet or washing dishes. Or turn on some music and sing or dance or whatever.

If you can get your focus off of what’s dragging you down, you might be surprised to find that you’re not in as bad a mood as you first thought.

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Being selfless isn’t our default setting

Good morning from Cincinnati, Ohio! I’m traveling for work this week, so who knows where I will be posting from tomorrow. But I’m running on five hours of sleep today, so if the interviews I get on film make any sense at all, it will be a miracle. So if you find typos in this, please be merciful.

I noticed something yesterday. Actually, I notice it every time I fly, but for some reason it stuck out to me yesterday more than it has in the past.

People only care about themselves.

Has anyone else picked up on that? It shocked me. Again, I know that. And I’ve seen it in many circumstances, but for some reason yesterday as I was trying to walk through the Chicago airport, this stood out to me more strongly than previous times. People paid no attention to me. They walked right in front of me, usually causing me to stop. They stopped right in front of me because there was something else they needed to do, and I nearly ran into them. And then they gave me a dirty look.

And that’s just walking around in the concourses. I’m not even talking about on the plane. People just want to get to their seats, and they don’t care how rude they have to be to do that. In six hours of traveling yesterday, I encountered one person who was thoughtful enough to offer me help, and that was another passenger onboard the flight from Chicago to Cincinnati who helped me get my carry-on bag back to the front of the plane because there was no more overhead storage. Because the rest of the passengers on the flight had crammed everything they owned into the overhead compartments so the rest of us with carry-on luggage had to check our bags.

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:4.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Being selfless is part of following Christ. Christ didn’t call us to look out for number one in our lives. He has called us to put other people first, to care more about our neighbors (which is everyone around us) than we care about ourselves.

I got to thinking about how the other passengers on that plane were acting and how most of the other travelers I encountered yesterday acted. I know that we live in a self-absorbed world, but I guess it really didn’t hit me how selfishness really affects everyone. And please don’t misunderstand me because I have plenty of selfishness issues myself. But it irritates me that people seem incapable of truly trying to help others.

But at the same time, I don’t think it’s intentional. I don’t think the people who I encountered in the airports yesterday left home with the plan to be rude and inconsiderate. I just think they’re not paying attention.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our little worlds and our little lives and forget that there are six billion people in the world who also have their own little worlds and their own little lives. Life is so busy and it’s so frantic that it’s easy to forget that other people struggle too. But that’s all a part of caring more about other people than we care about ourselves.

It’s a conscious decision to put other people first. It’s a decision that you have to make every morning when you step out your door. Or even before you leave your house. Or maybe before you get out of bed in the morning. Before you talk to your spouse or to your husband or to your children. Before you talk to people at work, at church, at school.

Selflessness isn’t our default. Our default setting is to look out for number one, but that’s now how Christ called us to live. And we need the Holy Spirit’s help to live like Christ did, which means on our own we aren’t capable of living the way Christ has called us.

This concept is heavy on my mind this morning because I’m dealing with a situation that could be very awkward if not handled properly. Basically I need to communicate something to someone who isn’t really interested in listening and who is pretty much in a position of authority over me. And it’s not something I want to do. It’s something I’ve been told to do — by someone in a higher position of authority than both of us.

I have to find the balance between getting the job done and being considerate. And I don’t think I can do that without God’s help.

I love the Message, and I love the way the Message puts this verse. So I’ll end with that and ask you all to pray for me today that I can figure out how to do what needs to be done without resorting to being inconsiderate.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.