The really spectacular day…

IMG_20170527_180617889It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Well, some days it does, but it’s usually stuff like spending time together and having both of us healthy at the same time and holding hands and having our cat, Smokey, oversee our every move. (As you can see from the photo, he thinks this is HIS blog today.) We have had just such a day.

We had planned a whole long weekend at home trying to kick the yuck of the previous weeks out of our lives and I had all the food choices figured out and ready for the grill, a slew of old movies and maybe a board game or two lined up along with the knowledge that we had a whole extra day to add to the mix on Monday. I woke up first and quietly made my way into the living room to break my way gently into the day. It wasn’t long before my husband joined me with a mischievous grin on his face. I could tell he felt better just by the way he was grinning. (MAJOR praise!)

“You know what I want to do today?” he asked.

“You want to go out for breakfast.”

He shook his head from side to side and began to spill out his plan for the day. Just the idea that he felt up to it made me want to join in the fun, so we made quick work of our morning chores and off we went. It took us off our beaten path and it was worth every single second.

When we arrived at our destination we giggled like school children. We held hands as we crossed the parking lot and shared one last (really big) grin as opened up the heavy doors and stepped inside…and then we parted ways. You would have thought it was Disney, but we had just entered the hallowed space that is the Barnes and Noble.

Let me pause here and let you exhale that great big breath you’ve been holding, ok? I know. That probably wasn’t even close to what you were expecting, but believe you me–it was a big deal to us. Even better? We made a pact to split up and go whichever direction we wanted and stay as LONG as we wanted…just because we could! Outside of a public library or a botanical garden, there’s just about no other place I’d rather spend some time than a room full of words all put in different orders and ready to share something new and pertinent with you if you just pick up the ones written in the right order to appeal to you.

We had traveled over an hour just to get to this one. Oh, there’s one about 20 minutes closer, but THIS one has a P.F. Chang nearby…and that cast the deciding vote on the matter. When our adventure–and yes, it qualified because we braved Atlanta traffic and survived all sorts of perilous drivers on the road there and back! In fact, I am actually the only one who made all the right moves on the entire trip there and back, y’all! It is harrowing to know that that many people who can’t drive actually do so!…ANY WAY!… When our adventure was complete, we each had a bag full of books and magazines with hours and hours of fun, entertainment, learning, and mind adventures just waiting to be started. We made another stop on the way home to get some minor fixes made to a recent purchase and then, to top it off we made a stop by the Sonic on the way home and purchased TWO Route-44 Fresh strawberry slushes…and if that doesn’t sound delicious to you, then we’re not sure you’ve really lived. (grin)

We heated the PFC left-overs from lunch while we got in our comfortable clothes. Actually, that last sentence should be more accurately translated into, “We then got into our pajamas at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and settled in for the long duration!” Now that we’ve made sure Smokey has properly settled in for appropriate oversight and the delights of Crispy Honey Chicken with brown rice and the egg rolls have been consumed, it is here that we find ourselves…hoping and praying that one day you’ll manage to have such a splendid outing with someone you love this much and that you won’t let things like being over an hour away and not being on the schedule or feeling silly that if you’re going to go to all that trouble it better be something more spectacular than a bookstore and some really upscale Chinese food. (Fried green beans, y’all. Fried green beans. It would have been worth the trip just for the appetizer!)

The moral of this story is this: don’t wait to have a spectacular day until you can pay big bucks and do something stunningly grand to impress people. The little things actually make the bigger impact when you consistently fill your life with loving people, delicious food, and good words all written out in a way that makes you smile…and maybe even ones that will inspire you to get out and do something that wasn’t on your agenda at the beginning of your day, either.

Grace and Peace, y’all! I’ve got a stack of books to dig into right now! (happy dance, happy dance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Passing

I got a text the other day from a friend requesting prayer. That’s not unusual. She and another friend were going to be doing prison ministry that evening and she was requesting prayer that they would be able to share God with those inside…and not be offensive in the process. I know. THAT part was unusual. I also know that several eyebrows just rose—and for different reasons.

Some of them rose because in this day and age who worries about offending people who are already in prison? Some of them rose because they already know that sharing the Gospel…the Good News…the information that we’ve all been born into sin and are in desperate need of a Savior is offensive to many. Some of them rose because the very idea of trying not to offend seems to be a new one.

We’ve all watched for a while now as our society has gotten more and more “truthful” and less and less loving. I put those quotation marks around the word truthful because what passes for truth these days is often a lot more personal opinion and political outrage than actual truth. Unfortunately, that outrage is happening on all sides of almost every argument. Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, or Independent. Religious right, left, or repulsed (of any faith). World view, political leaning, religious affiliation all seem to have at least one thing in common right now: the determination to scream the loudest and use the most offensive way possible of grabbing the attention…because that’s really what they’re after: the attention.

Father God, help us! We’ve made an art form of being offended and raise in triumph our abilities to offend.

Word to the wise: offended people rarely listen. Even more rarely do they look for ANY good in those who are offending them. Rarer still are those who are converted and then espouse any expressed belief which has covered itself in words and deeds that offensively take them far from their comfort zone or that shout them down without listening or caring about anything but being heard.

There are such people. We know this because of Scripture. The New Testament is largely comprised of the writings of one such man, Paul. Seen any of those people lately? Probably not. Pauls are the exception, not the rule.

The Apostle Paul went from being a rising star in the religious elite, full of his education and even more full of indignation—full of himself! —to being one of the most powerfully erudite servants of God–and others!–ever to be on record. What caused this drastic change? The only thing that can change anyone: a personal encounter with the living God. Yes, Pauls in our day and age are rare…but they don’t have to be!

No matter what ideology you espouse today, know this:  what passes for “right” in our world today bears little resemblance to actual righteousness. That only comes from God. He is the true standard for both righteousness and for love. Without His help, our world is doomed to the cacophony of the loudest offended spirit and the anger that inevitably follows which leads us into violence and creates a circle of offense that gets passed along in the name of all things holy. Riots, looting, and leaving a trail of trash for others to pick up once you’ve marched to express yourself won’t draw others to your cause or help them think your sense of entitlement worthy of their efforts on your behalf. Neither will using Scripture as a battering ram instead of a loving invitation to relationship with the only One who actually can make a difference. Think about that before you raise your voice, write that Facebook post, share that joke or use words designed to hurt others in the name of teaching them your truth, or call them names and cast aspersions at those who may have beat you to the punch…all in the name of doing good. If it didn’t work ON you, then why would it work FOR you?! It all reminds me of this verse Paul wrote to Timothy:  “…having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  2 Timothy 3:5 (NKJV) It isn’t really good at all…it’s just passing itself off as good.

No, what passes for truth and righteousness these days in the public arena is just that. Passing. It isn’t the real thing and it isn’t going to last. Only God’s word will last and it is absolutely full of admonitions to do life differently than what we’re seeing today. Like it or not, we are temporary. He is eternal and so it only makes sense to follow the path of the One whose ways will outlast us all.

 

cropped-heart
”Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.”

Jude 24-25

 

Grace and Peace!

Storm Warning

Becky’s Immutable Law of Lines is universally accepted to state that no matter which line I choose at the check-out area, said line will immediately grind to a halt and I will be stuck there for all of eternity. Selah. (That’s a Biblical word that basically means, “Sit there and think on that for awhile”–because you will have time to do so in that line.) While ETERNITY may have been a bit of a stretch, I think you get my point. It does no good to change lines as said Law of Lines will follow me there…as it is Immutable, after all. This, along with several other such Immutable Laws have been conceived after much time spent in many such lines. After all, I’ve been there for a long time and have to do something to entertain my brain after the people-watching begins to pall…or frustrate.

Such a thing happened the other day when I went on my regularly scheduled grocery run to find that all parking lots in the locally known universe were filled by anxious Southerners participating in the elusive milk, eggs, bread, and battery stampedes that inevitably follow any announcement of a possibly impending precipitation forecast with temperatures less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

I didn’t have a lot to buy at this particular store, but I had more items than could “legally” allow me to stand in their fast lanes. After searching out the entire line situation,  I thought that God had gifted me with as short a line as possible to complete my business. When I arrived I was number 4 in line behind others who also had the same legal buying issues that I did. No one had over 25 items, I’m sure of it. AND YET! We were in that line for a-WHILE, y’all; long enough, in fact, for my popsicles to lose their formerly frozen-solid state and the boxes no longer have any degree of coldness to them whatsoever! (I am being serious when I say that–it is not an exaggeration and I did not buy them and I stopped at another store closer to home and picked up another box of them because, well, those are MY winter-storm preparedness items. You can see that I take these things seriously.)

Did I mention that the store was overrun with panicked Southerners–who are prone to moseying at it’s finest? Did I fail to say that ALL of the scheduled cashiers were on the lines and that the management had been pressed into service there, as well, in addition to having to periodically leave to go help an over-pressed cashier? OR did I mention that while Southerners can be the most polite people evah (yes, that was deliberate), during any weather panic, they can become hostile at a slightly higher rate of decay in public manners and under such circumstances some real ugliness can fall right out there in front of everybody? ( I know. I may not be helping us in the public image department, but I’m trying to set the scene here, ok? I strongly suspect we are not the only part of our country where this kind of thing occurs.)

ANY way! I was in such a line and was feeling really bad for the sweet elderly woman ahead of me who had been on her feet too long and still needed all her medical items so she was stuck. I was also similarly frustrated, but determined to wait it out, when I heard a hard exhalation of breath behind me. I looked around and, very casually with a grin said, “You might have picked the wrong line today, too.” I was referring to the time I had already spent there and nothing else. The heavy breather, however, had  eyes on something else…and took my comment as a sign that I had observed and commented–and therefore must have agreed with their particular area of frustration. What followed was a louder public commentary about the person then currently checking out and their method of payment. No actual ugly words were uttered, but the sentiment of racially motivated judgement and the contempt and the ugliness of it were there just the same.

It broke my heart. Really. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to  laugh at the stupidity of the attitude, cry at the intended hurtfulness, or slap some mouth-washing soap into a hand and go to work. I wanted to do ALL of that and more. I wanted to introduce them to Jesus and I wanted to erase that time so it didn’t happen and I wanted to go hug the person checking out just in case they heard it and thought they were alone or thought that everyone else around them agreed with those words. I didn’t do any of that, however. I simply dropped my head for a moment, took a deep breath, looked right at them and said, “My comment was strictly regarding the TIME. I have no problem with anything else today.” Then I turned my back and just stood there while the person grumbled a bit and then moved on to another topic.

Y’all. It was sad. I felt dirty just being next to those words. I’m still not sure what else I could or should have done. I don’t think for a moment that the lecture I wanted so desperately to give would have found a fertile home and changed a thing. It bothered me so much…and it still does. It rang in my ears again this morning when my husband told me of the recent Facebook streaming of a crime against a mentally challenged young man. I had been unaware of that due to my recent limitations of public media, but I scrambled eggs with tears in my eyes while my heart broke all over again at the ugliness in this world.

Father God, WHAT have your creations come to and how long can your forbearance last in the face of all we have  convoluted and polluted about Your desire that we “love one another even as Christ loves the church” when we see these things happening and remain silent? We JUST celebrated Christmas, y’all; the time when Love left heaven and came down to a dwell with us at OUR level instead of requiring US to somehow come up to meet HIS level without a hope of doing that on our own! It is unfathomable to me that as advanced as we have become in society we still have this foolishness in our midst. It is actually more than that though, isn’t it? It is evil, so I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised to find it fighting for a place, but I am still appalled.

I am also praying. I am praying for the Love that came down to fill me up in such a way that I will not tolerate such behavior in my presence or allow it to take root in any place within me even–or especially–when I am under pressure, because in those situations, what is in the heart often comes out of the mouth and I want to be so full of God that HE is what comes out no matter where I am or what I’m doing. This isn’t political. This is personal. God made us as individuals and He made us ALL in His image no matter what we look like or where we live. If you can’t get your head wrapped around the fact that GOD chose every single detail of your creation to bless you and bring Him glory including your skin color and your geographical and socioeconomic placement before He ever put you on the planet with the brainpower and opportunity to improve the world where you can and worship Him while and WITH the doing of that, then you’re going to be pretty surprised when you finally meet up with Him. Nothing about you and your creation was a mistake. NOT A THING.

There are many things up for debate in our world, but this shouldn’t be one of them and the sooner we can get on board with HIS plan for how we treat each other makes it that much sooner that we can get busy bringing some of this other foolishness in the world to a halt.

How we choose to use those choices that God has already made for us says more about us than we realize. Not a single one of His choices for us was intended as either a slight OR as an indication of His higher favor. They were made with love and care because  He has a plan that is for our good and part of that good is about making us more like Him! As our Creator, He alone would know exactly what was needed to make that happen. Every detail about each of us has been deliberately and lovingly chosen in order to help us reach as many people as possible and illustrate His greatness to the world.

What will you choose to do with His choices for you? Those choices are yours.

Grace and Peace!

Oh, Yes! We are in such dire need of GRACE and PEACE…and HIM.

Day 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second! 

 

Day 15–NCN2016

Confession time. Over the weekend–and with my own challenge taken fully to heart about trying to love on the people around me as a way to counteract all the negative activities that have been going on!–I had a really hard time. I had the strongest urge I can tell you to share ALL about NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER with someone…JUST so I could also share about how much it was SAVING THEM from me at that moment.

Sigh…when I shared this with a couple of friends, they…laughedreally hard. Apparently, this urge is “such as is common to man”…and woman. (very tiny wry grin…or perhaps more accurately, grimace) Even now, I’m not entirely certain I’m “over it” enough to be completely rational in my sharing of the tale–and doing so would COMPLETELY obliterate my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER goal for today, so I will continue to remain quiet about the details and celebrate that the one who engendered this response is alive and well and happy and has absolutely NO idea how close they came to annihilation by verbiage. I’m counting that as a victory and moving forward.

I shared all that to say this: WE’RE ON DAY 15!!!!! We’re at the half-way mark of this challenge and NO, I am not the Pollyanna that some would claim and YES, this is harder than it looks some days. Maybe it shouldn’t be–and my goal is that one day it WON’T BE!–but until that day comes, I’m choosing to move forward and keep trying. I also hope that it encourages you–whether your record is absolutely perfect so far this month or whether you’ve started over multiple times every single day!–to keep at it! We CAN do this!

We can change the world right where we live. And that is a goal worth pursuing.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

Days 12 & 13–NCN2016

Good morning! It’s about 4:30 or so (VERY A.M!!) and I woke up thinking about all the angst and rancor of this past week…not so much in a bad way, but in a “I SO wish it had been different” way. I truly think that’s how a lot of us are feeling. This has been a most interesting NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER so far!–and a most necessary one! (and you know, God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect!)

Earlier in the week I posted about some of the ways that my friends were using different items or methods to remind them not to complain. I’m looking forward to exploring that a bit more next week, but for these next two days, I’d like us to focus on expressing our appreciation to the people around us. Let’s DO something POSITIVE in addition to eliminating the negative!!

So, here it is, your weekend challenge: Make a point (and even keep a count, if you’d like!) to let the people around you know that you love them. Give them a hug! Give them a compliment! Give them a lollipop, if you’re so inclined, but make every effort to raise the bar in expressing your appreciation of those who make your life and your day something better. Use your words, for sure, but be deliberate about passing out some hugs and kisses, too, if appropriate–and if not, a good firm handshake WILL DO! (grin!)

Experts in the field of human interaction have long since told us that it takes at least TWO positive interactions to counteract ONE negative. I think we’ve all had more than one negative interaction this week, so that means we’ve got a LOT of catching up to do! Make it FUN! Make it a GAME! Make it HAPPEN! Change the world where you live and bless the socks off the people you share life with this weekend! Be intentional about being a light in the darkness!

Anyone can do this! Will YOU?

Grace & Peace (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

Waiting Game

According to WordPress, I started this blog entry 10 months ago. As you can see, the title is most appropriate. The next full paragraph is as far as I got with it before, so I’m starting again. There’s lots to say. We’ll see where it goes…

“I’ve been waiting to write this one for a lot of reasons. I wanted some distance from our beyond-my-wildest-dreams participation in observing our first ever No Complain November. I wanted to get through the holidays and I wanted to see what God was going to do. I’ve managed to do the first two things just fine. I’m still waiting on God…”

Just yesterday, my husband and I were talking in the kitchen about how time has just flown by this year. (I know. It is the conversation of all of us who are past the age of college…and then some. grin) As I looked at the calendar, I said, “Can you believe it’s been almost a year since your last day with ___ (former employer)___? It’s almost time for NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER again, and that means in 3 days it will be the anniversary of when you lost your job! That just doesn’t seem right, does it?!”

He shook his head and then said with a small grin, “Ummm…maybe we need to skip NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER this year…?”

“Absolutely NOT!”, I replied.

“Well, ok then, but…get ready!”  And then we chuckled…with the full awareness of all that really meant for us this past year.

Yes, you read that right. My husband suddenly lost his job on Day 2 of our first NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER last year. It was completely unexpected, totally blindsided us, and was one of those life events that just take your breath away for awhile. It just didn’t make sense…at first. But God. Oh, how I love those two words!

BUT GOD…

  • was still entirely in control.
  • had a plan that was not only for our good, but also for many others, as well.
  • descended with His unexplainable, but oh-so-needed peace and rest.
  • gave provision–on every front!–throughout the whole process.
  • gave us time to catch our collective breath and then relax in Him…for the next SEVEN months.
  • gave us a marvelously unplanned, but welcomed and much-enjoyed time together to laugh and reconnect in ways that just aren’t possible when your schedules are so tight that you rarely see each other or are too tired to do much when you do.
  • gave my husband time to recover spiritually, emotionally, and physically from the incredible stress he had been under before starting the next challenge.
  • surrounded us with encouragement from our friends and family every step of the way.
  • gave us a new appreciation for our time together and allowed us to be reminded of just how much we actually LIKE each other in addition to the great love between us.
  • gave us a heart for those whose lives have been like that for much longer than ours.
  • at the appointed time, provided a new opportunity for him that allows him to function within his area of expertise, meets his need to learn new things, and allows him to function within his spiritual gift of teaching–and all with people who are ready to learn, ready to work together, and supportive for the whole team.
  • used this as an opportunity to both grow and show our faith to those who were watching.
  • gave us an opportunity to extend NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER into the rest of our year!

What looked like a disaster on that second day, has turned into one of our greatest blessings! Only God can do something like that! The waiting was absolutely worth it!–and so was the choice for us not to complain about it!

Throughout this past year we, along with our friends and families have faced many challenges–job loss, death, large-scale moves across country, health concerns, surgeries and hospital stays for loved ones. These things and many other life-events (large and small!)  have provided us the choice about whether or not to complain…or simply  plough forward and praise God anyway. I’m thankful to say that, most of the time, we’ve chosen the latter response…and so have our loved ones. In fact, this may have just been the most God-honoring year that I’ve ever lived through and I owe a lot of that to the deliberate choice to focus on the many reasons I have to be grateful instead of complaining about the circumstances I wish were different.

And so it is, with the knowledge that we have made it through this year with all of the hurdles we’ve cleared and those we know are yet to come, that I invite you to join us once again as we deliberately choose to celebrate–yes, CELEBRATE!–NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2016.

Feel free to comment below if you want to “join in officially” or simply remain silent, but please know that you and your stories of how God uses this in your life are always welcomed here.

Tomorrow is our official kick-off day for NCC 2016, so…get it all out of your system today…or, better yet, start practicing for the the rest of the challenge! (big grin, REALLY big grin!)

Grace & Peace! (and no complaints!)