Weekend Challenge…

It’s Friday, again? Already? How can that be? It’s been a strange week here. I’ve been under the weather and mostly confined to the house. On my very few forays out into the world, my attention was always captured by the small things that indicate that there are changes in season on the way.

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The last of the purple petunias with their amazing perfume.

The mushroom in my front yard that looks like a Danish pastry.SONY DSC

SONY DSCThe changing colors in the leaves. SONY DSCAnother round of fragrant blooms on the rose bush by the back door.

SONY DSCThe red berries of the dogwood peeping out from leaves that are still (mostly) green, but also showing signs of fatigue from the lack of rain during the hot, dry Georgia summer.

(All of these I have noticed while trying to ignore the fact that my grass needs mowing again since we finally got rain and there are other garden chores that need doing around here in the worst way.)

With each tiny foray out into the world, I’ve tried to bring some small thing back into the house with me just so I could still feel I was a part of it all.

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Waking up yesterday to find I was finally on the mend and feeling much improved made me so happy that I took a shower just so I could push the trash bin out to the road!  (Yes, I laugh at myself quite a bit, too.)

No matter what you’re going through right now, you have a choice about what you’ll spend your thought energy. The things you choose to place around you can help you cope better, be more productive, feel more connected and remind you of all the wonderful gifts we receive each day. So? Where’s the challenge?  Here you go: Each time you leave the house this weekend, take some time to focus on the tiny gifts of color around you in nature.  If possible (and without breaking any laws–yes, there’s a hidden story there) bring a small touch of nature back with you and place it where you can be reminded that God loves us so much that He’s placed reminders for joy all around us.  We just have to take the time to stop and see them…and then, give thanks.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes  e.e. cummings

Weekend Challenge…

The other day I was sitting in a very hot vehicle waiting for my nice cold slush to be delivered. I was on a “schedule” (self-imposed) and I was already behind, but the sweltering Georgia heat was too much to bear, thus making a Sonic run become an absolute life necessity. (FYI: Sonic was actually created just to make lemon-berry slushes. Truly. It may or may not be the only reason they exist.) I tapped the little red button and I waited. Then I waited some more…and a little bit more…and finally a voice came on to take my order.  One slush.  It wasn’t even the really big one.  And then I waited. And then I waited. (yes, I meant to say that twice) And then, just as my fingers headed toward the little red button one more time–to cancel my order (I was on a schedule–self-imposed, you know!!)–a small little figure emerged from the building and headed toward me.

You could actually see the dread on her face as she hurriedly approached. She handed me the slush and began to apologize profusely for my wait and then she took a small step back, kind of braced herself, and just stood there. She was waiting on it:  the big fuss. It made me wonder how many times that day that she’d been the one to take the brunt of whatever caused the delays.  All of the sudden, those words behind my teeth–those absolutely true and deserved words about the service/wait-time–decided to just stay with me.  I handed her the money–with a nice tip included–and I smiled and nodded at her.  I didn’t say a single word.  You should have seen her smile!  Her face totally changed and her shoulders relaxed and she just looked so grateful…because I didn’t say anything…even though I had a “right” to do so?

That experience changed me a bit this week.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  This girl’s day was suddenly brighter because I kept my mouth shut.  Revelation.  What if I could make other people around me have a better day by choosing not to exercise my “right” to speak up, speak out or “educate by way of criticism”?  What if I extended grace?  What if I made the choice to pass on some of the grace God has extended to me…by being quiet?

Some days that is a lot harder than others, isn’t it?!  Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in several other situations where I literally felt as if the words were pushing at the back of my teeth trying trying desperately to escape. Honestly, in every single instance, the words weren’t really my best ones, either. It was up to me in each situation:  I could choose to release the words clamoring for escape, I could change them, or I could choose to keep them to myself.

I know it’s happened to you, as well.  Can’t remember any right offhand?  See if the  following sound like anything that’s happened in your life lately:

  • If you have to pick up one more pair of socks or step on one more out-of-place toy or find one more half-empty glass left in the living room…
  • Seriously?  The line to check out was forever long and the clerk waited until the person just before you started to unload their cart before announcing that her line was closing because it was time for her break…
  • You made the call and then sent the text and then…nothing.  No response.  You need a response.  You need it now and…nothing…
  • They promised.  You heard it and they know it, but they didn’t come through…and it might have even made you look bad in front of someone you want to impress…

Yep. I know. It happened at your house, too, didn’t it?  (grin)

cropped-heartSo here’s OUR challenge for the weekend:  Forget about your right to be right and just be quiet.  Extend grace.  It doesn’t mean you have to be falsely complimentary, just quiet…for the next three whole days. If you find you’re up to it, you just might want to extend the challenge and take it in to work with you next week…

Bonus:  For those of you who really enjoy God’s sense of timing/perspective, here are a few illustrations of what He might think about this challenge. If you think of any others that also fit the bill, please feel free to share them with me!  Some days I need all the help I can get! (grin)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”  James 1:19

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.”  Proverbs 11:12

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah”  Psalm 4:4

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”  Proverbs 29:11

“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray.”  Job 6:24

and, of course, my own personal favorite…

“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Limits, boundaries…and the lack thereof

I just haven’t felt very “bloggy” lately, so I’ve just been silent for awhile. (and yes, I have laughed to myself at the irony of this blog being called “quiet ambitions”) Several of you have noticed and commented—and I’m ever so grateful to be missed!–but God has been talking and I’ve just tried to hush (even though it is often extremely difficult for me!)  so I can listen and learn…because my main ambition in life is to become more like Him.

I wish I could say that I’ve been learning things so quickly that He’s had a difficult time keeping up and that, as a result, He’s had a whole lot to say, but that wouldn’t be true. In fact, He’s just been repeating one verse over and over—and actually, sometimes not even the full verse!

In one of my few recent posts, I talked about how my pastor had been teaching on spiritual warfare and had challenged our church members to memorize Romans 13:14. I wrote about how I had been riveted by the first phrase in that verse:   “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ…”  I’m still not sure how I had missed that for all these years!  It was (for me, anyway) a novel concept that we could actually “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ as we dressed for the spiritual battles we all face on a regular basis. I found that portion of the verse particularly important because it tells me that there will be battles that I will face that are beyond my control or ability to fight without being wrapped up in Him. I think that’s a much bigger statement than it would at first appear to be…and I am still learning.

And then God decided to move on to the last part of that same verse:  “…and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  And you know what? I’ve found this portion to be just as riveting! Over and over, He’s repeated this to me in so many different places and situations that I’ve learned something else:  some of it IS up to me.  You see, left to my own devices, my flesh can—and WILL–lead me away from God , so I need to be particular about what I allow in my environment.  I’ll need to monitor those things, events, places—and yes, even relationships—on which I spend my allotment of days.  It means that I need to be more careful about what I read, what I watch and wear, what I buy, where I go and, yes, even what I eat. It says there will be those things I want to say and stuff I might like to spend time thinking about, but shouldn’t.

Ahhh.  Some of you just shook your head and said something under your breath (or maybe even out loud) about those crazy Christians and their list of rules. Always trying to follow the list of dos and don’ts in favor of becoming even more holier-than-thou…and you’d be wrong about that…this time, anyway. (grin)

You see, I’m not trying to please God just so I can somehow earn His love and acceptance.  I get that I’m already accepted by God and I’m so aware of the love He has for me that there are times when I’m just stunned by it!  This verse isn’t just about me, however, even though I’ve heard it ring in my head as I’ve made decisions that were good and ring just as loudly as I deliberately made decisions that were bad for me over the past few weeks.  This verse is also about you–yes, you—and it is about the little girl who delivered my slush at the drive-in this afternoon.  It’s about the lady who checked me out as I bought groceries and the ones who answered my call to the insurance company and the doctor’s office.  Scripture is never just about one person.  It is about all of us.

Mainly, the second portion of this verse has been my reminder that God wants only the very best for me and that means boundaries are needed for my success and safety.  I also need those boundaries for YOUR success and safety because I’m supposed to represent Christ to everyone I meet…and I don’t do a very good job of showing you how wonderful HE is when I’m out of control. In other words, I need to deliberately set some limits for myself so that you can better see the God who has no limits.

I’ll be honest and say that there are areas of my life that aren’t under control just yet.  I have some things that I really struggle with and they are my constant reminders that I still have far to go.  Some of these quiet days have been full of painful examples which illustrated exactly how far from “controlled” I am! Happily, they have also served as reminders of God’s great grace.  He knows every single weakness.  Every single mistake.  Every deliberately bad choice…and He still invites me to be His ambassador…because I am still His so-dearly-beloved-I-could-eat-you-up-with-a-spoon child.

Grace.  It is His invitation to represent Him even in my weaknesses that scream to the world that He’s not waiting on perfect people to serve Him.  He wants all of us.  More importantly, He wants all of us…because He loves without limits…so yes, that means, you, too.

Isn’t God fun?

Weekend Challenge…

Happy Friday, everyone!  I’ve been thinking about this challenge for awhile and I woke up this morning with the perfect verse to go with it!  Are you ready for something amazing?!

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  Proverbs 3:27 (NIV)

I also like the NLT translation of this verse which phrases it this way:

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”

We’ve all read this one before and many people also tie it in with Galatians 6:10 (ESV), which says:

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Did you notice the wording in these three Scripture references?  Go back and read them again.

  • All three talk about doing “good”, but they don’t list specific actions that we’re to do.  That means we have lots of options to consider! (Let’s think of something really difficult, ok?)
  • Proverbs 3:27 says that there are people out there who actually deserve for us to do good to them!  They are DUE for some blessing from us! (Some of them, in fact, might actually be OVER-due…oops!)
  • That NIV translation also lets us know that we have the power to act. (Doesn’t knowing that make you feel great? We actually have power!!  Let’s not waste it!!)
  • The New Living Translation of that verse brings in the idea that when we act, we’re also supposed to help people. (uh-oh.  That sounds like we’re going to actually have to DO something!)
  • Paul’s word to the Galatians is that we’re going to have some opportunities come our way–and we need to take advantage of them. (Good old Paul.)

So, what monumental task am I asking you to do this weekend?  Become an observer…and then, become an encourager. Become a reinforcer of good choices or behavior. Become someone who sees the good in those around you…and lets them know. Become a person of influence!

Oh, my goodness, what a tall order!  (well, yes…and no.)

Your challenge this weekend is to be a compliment-giver!  Is that all? No!  Of course not!  Here are your parameters:

  • You have to give at least 3 GENUINE compliments to people you see regularly in your life. (This does not include things like, “Well, I see you finally got a decent haircut.)
  • Work them into your conversations, send a card or email, leave a sticky note, or write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror–I’m not picky about how you deliver these blessings!
  • THEN extend your gaze outside your normal circle…and do the same thing for 3 people you don’t know that well. (Oh, my word!  Are you serious?!  Yes. This is your opportunity to bring a smile and a warm fuzzy to people you may never see again…unless, of course, they decide they want to become friends with someone who is so nice to strangers!)
  • And last, but not least:  No one can know you’re on assignment!  Smile and make it seem natural!  Have fun with it!  This is heady stuff!  In fact, you just might become addicted to this one and repeat it over and over and over…Who knows how many lives you can influence in just this simple thing?

cropped-heartGrace & Peace! (and a very happy weekend!)

Wardrobe malfunction

Happy Monday, everyone!  I used to have some subtle people in my life, but I’m not sure where they’ve all gone!  In their place, I’ve discovered people who will just flat out tell you that they are now waiting on another blog post! (Smile, Cindy!!)  Being the consummate people-pleaser that I am (HA!), here’s just a little bit of what’s been running through my head recently:

Unless you’ve moved within the last couple of years, it is easy to forget how much there is to do as you get settled into a new place.  The lists (yes, plural!) of things that need to happen, the scheduling of those things and the practical everyday life stuff can take over in ways that even this slightly-OCD-tendancied person had forgotten.  Long after the unpacking, there are all kinds of “move chores” that seem to crop up and get in the way of what you’d really planned to do…and, if you’re not careful, the list can become the focus instead of just the incidental chore.  I know this, because it happened to me.  I’ve managed to get things done and keep us on some sort of schedule…and along the way, I forgot something really important.

Three weeks ago, my pastor started a series on Spiritual Warfare based on Paul’s writings to the Ephesians (chapter 6, verses 10-17) and something amazing happened:  Once again, I realized that God was speaking directly to me.  Yes, I know, there are probably others in the church who think it was about them, but no.  It was for me.  (smile)

I know this because as soon as he began to speak that morning, I realized what had been missing!  I’d been creating my very own wardrobe malfunction!  I’d been forgetting to put on my spiritual armor before I started facing the day.  (And, yes! I did see some of you just roll your eyes, but trust me–this makes a huge difference!!!)

Oh, I hadn’t given up my faith or quit reading my Bible or even stopped praying!  In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that I was actually trying to step things up a bit now that we’ve gotten more settled.  (FYI: pride will get you EVERY time!)  My problem was that I had JUST been praying and JUST been reading my Bible and JUST been doing my life with all of my detailed to-do lists and I had forgotten that, while all of that is good stuff, it is only part of who I’ve been called to be.

I’m supposed to be a prayer warrior.  I’m supposed to actually make a difference in the world.  I’m supposed to do more than just go out in my own strength and the wealth of knowledge from YEARS of reading the Bible and teaching and being taught.  I’m supposed to get dressed for battle every single day and go fight the ones God puts in front of me…even when they are just ME and my lists.  I’m supposed to do more than just make do and get by.  I’ve been called to do more than just exist and get it done…and so have you.

Sunday before last, our pastor actually gave us homework!  We were to memorize the different parts of Spiritual armor and we were to memorize a verse of Scripture.  I expected it to be one of those verses in Ephesians, but I was wrong.  Instead, he pulled in another verse I’d read many times before, but had—for whatever reason!—not connected with the topic of Spiritual Warfare before and he tied it all together for me in a brand new way.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  Romans 13:14

Did you get the first part of that verse? This is about more than just going to church and doing all the ‘churchy’ things that we get lost in at times!  This is about getting dressed to go do life in style!—in HIS style!  We are to do more than just leave our homes looking good on the outside!  We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and go do life like He would!

We’re supposed to be more than nice.  We’re supposed to stand up for what is right and speak truth and pray like we actually believe He’s listening and can DO something about it!  We have got to realize that when we face difficult things, it isn’t really about the crushing deadlines or the person who is getting in our face and causing us grief at that moment.  These are just real-life spiritual battles and we’d better be properly dressed for them!  Our responses to the challenges we face can do more than just diffuse tense situations!  They can make the people around us want to be like us…or be determined not to be.  The choice is ours: are we going to look like us or are we going to look like Him?

IF we choose to walk out this life in just what we can do for ourselves, we are lost.  If we have any hope of representing Him well, we must gear up for battle.  We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to the challenges and the opposition—and the blessings and the joys!—like HE would.

I’m getting dressed a bit differently these days and I must say, proper wardrobe makes all the difference in the world!

The first day of the rest of your life…

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Actually, that’s not all that unusual for me, since I regularly find myself learning (or re-learning!) things that I should have already known or perhaps used to know, but suddenly remembered for some strange reason.  So what was my revelation yesterday?

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Wow, right?  I mean, really, could the “epiphany” have been any more clichéd?  Perhaps not, but it didn’t make it any less weighty for me.

I was standing in the kitchen, putting dishes into the washer and watching the hummingbirds swarm at the feeder when that incredible thought suddenly occurred.  It doesn’t sound any more momentous to you now than it did before, does it?  (grin)

Well, that’s ok.  It was plenty momentous for me.

On Saturday, my husband and I were having lunch together when he stopped to ask me a question:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  He followed that little gem up with several others:  “Are you good with where you are in life?  Is there something else you’d like to be doing?  Would you like to take classes or go learn something new?  Are you fulfilled where you are or do you really want to do something different?”  Those questions—and others—created quite the conversation for us then, and I suppose, my mind just hasn’t let them all go yet. (And yes, I do realize how blessed I am to have that man in my life!)

Yes, there are new things I want to learn and, yes, there are other things I want to do, but I’m actually pretty happy with where I am right now.  When I was growing up never in a million years would I have expected to look at my life as it is right now and say that truthfully.  I was one of the lucky ones…the blessed ones.  I had a loving family and I did well in school.  My extended family was large and involved and encouraged me to believe I could do whatever I chose.  Naturally, the plan was to go an conquer the world.  College was a given.  A good career and—after a very long time and in my own timetable, of course—I would marry and have children of my own while continuing to work.  That wasn’t God’s plan, however, so …things are very different now.  Oh, I had most of that.  Right up to the children and continuing to work part. And I’m just fine with that…most days.  (I’m not too fond of the days I have to clean the bathrooms.)

Those are things that I had anticipated in the grander scheme of life, but my thought process yesterday was just a little bit different.  You see, since my husband took his new position back in November of last year, I’ve been living in a bit of a whirlwind.  Each task in front of me came with a much longer line of following tasks and a set of dated timelines to get them all accomplished.

While there is still plenty to do, I suddenly realized that there would be no more overnight guests for awhile, no major events to plan for, no more pressing deadlines–and I was truly standing in the first day of the rest of the way I want to live my life in this place…just for me…just for us…just for God.  What kinds of things would I need to keep doing?  What kinds of things should I begin to change?  What kind of a life do I want to build for myself here?

Sometimes we just go with the flow and we forget that the decisions about how we spend our allotment of days is actually important.  Those moments turn into years and the knowledge of that makes me view them more carefully these days.  In my quest to live out the quiet life described in I Thessalonians 4:11-12, and with Jim Elliott’s admonition to “be all there” resounding in my spirit, I found myself deliberating in a new way yesterday…and today, as well.

How about you?  Are you happy with the life you’ve made for yourself?  If not, what would you change—what WILL you change—to make it more like you desire?  Have you talked with God about it?  (For the best results, do this first!!) Have you discussed it with your closest loved ones to get their input?  If your answer is in the affirmative and you really do like the life you’re living right now, then how will you celebrate that and how can you help others around you to make the kind of life that they’re called to lead, as well?

Whatever your answer, don’t just blow past it.  Give this the thought it deserves and take the time to start being deliberate in your changes and in your current joys.  Share your dreams with those around you.  You may find more good company for your journey than you’d ever believe.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, too.  What will you do with it?

Spending the day

What are you doing today?

Is it work or play?  Is it easy or difficult?  Dull or exciting?  Laughter or tears…or both?  Or like most of us, “All of the above?”

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately.  My “theme” for the year has been Jim Elliot’s quote:  “Wherever you are, be all there.” and that’s a lot harder sometimes than you’d think.

I’m a multi-tasker of the very first order and making a conscious choice to focus fully on whatever is right in front of me this year still feels foreign…even after more than 7 months of trying.

I’m getting better at it.  Little by little.  Day by day of practice…and yet sometimes I have to remind myself right moment by moment.

I’ve had a  house full of company around here lately and even in the midst of it all, I had to remind myself to “be all there” (and not run to the computer and blog about it right then!) so I wouldn’t waste a single second of it:  croquet on the side yard, card games on the back porch, amazing amounts of really great food, phone calls from those who couldn’t make it, the laughter ringing in the rafters and escaping to the yard, the quiet conversations late into the night or while waiting on others to wake up, the tears of shared heartbreak and the prayers of and for loved ones.  All that preciousness that we store up until we can all be together again–I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it.  God uses all of that to sustain us during the times it is more difficult to obtain and I wanted to revel in it and soak it all up like a sponge–wasting nothing, no matter how small.  Friendship.  Family.  Family of the heart.  Days of spirit-filling sustenance from God.  All from Him.

Today, this day that some of us will take for granted, will be someone’s wedding day, someone’s best day, someone’s worst day…and someone’s last day.  Wherever you find yourself, make the choice to be all there today.  There’s a reason you’re having the day you are–and (surprise, surprise!) it may not be all about you.  Someone else may need to see how you handle it.  They may need to see God at work in you today in the easy stuff and, more likely, in the hard stuff, too.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

This is what I need today:  the ability to be aware of how precious each day really is and a heart of wisdom to “spend” it well…and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

Prayer:  Father God, please be with those who have lost today and feel that loss so keenly, with those who are uncertain of their next move and those who charge blindly–or deliberately!–into danger, with those who will choose to laugh in spite of their difficulties today and those who need to learn how to do so.  Be with those who celebrate the wondrous thing and those who will deal with the ponderous ones.  Show us YOU in each situation and help those around us to see You at work in us.  In short, give us You today and help us share You with the world.