Beauty regimen

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

I found a graphic on Pinterest awhile back and haven’t been able to shake it. My mama had a saying: “Beauty is as beauty does.”  (I’d guess all the mamas I knew while I was growing up had that saying!) It took me quite awhile to fully appreciate the truth of it, but these days seems more on-target than ever.

In this world where we are more likely to share our lives online with more people than we actually see in person, our lines of right and wrong, our filters for kindness and civility,  and our boundaries of what is real and what is virtual have a taken quite a hit.

Freedom of speech is such a precious gift! What a shame that we’ve used it to cheapen ourselves by sharing our deepest hurts and joys along side photos of what we’re having for supper and attacking others for having the temerity to use that shared freedom of expression to disagree with our political opinions. It makes all of those things seem equally important…and they are most definitely not.

Earlier this month, those of us in the United States celebrated our nation’s independence. The formation of a single nation created specifically to harness the power of each individual’s right to think for themselves and express those thoughts and beliefs without fear of reprisal:  That’s an anomaly in this world…and an important one. Using the very freedom of expression granted to us by the first amendment of our Constitution to denigrate others with opposing viewpoints instead of using that power to educate, encourage, or entice them to see the merits of your own seems to indicate a lack of character–and that is far more damaging to our society than we can afford. Why wound and belittle when you could bridge gaps and find common ground for a common good? Why not become a person of influence for unity rather than one who divides and derides? We don’t have to agree on everything to cooperate on a lot of things!

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. In fact, there are days I relish it. I’ve even been known to argue the side of the opposition just for the fun of it. The ability to see both sides of an issue helps me make better choices and it helps me to pray more specifically as I seek to do what God wants me to do.

More than ever I find that He asks me to speak words of encouragement. He asks me to look for the positive. Sometimes, He just asks me to be silent and extend grace…and grace is never easy…except when you’ve found that you’ve needed so much of it yourself.

I love the black and white of an issue and I love “being right” (who doesn’t?!) and I love that we have been gifted with both words and the ability to share our thoughts. This is not about being silent when we need to defend. I wonder about this though…and I think I want to be beautiful.

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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.

 

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”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!

Early Spring

Our nation has seemed to descend into a vitriolic winter of the soul over the past few months that has far surpassed any depth I had previously thought possible. The loss of civility even between friends over differences in politics, the outright refusal to acknowledge that it is the right to have our differences that make this nation a place of desired residence for so many, and the apparent lack of willingness to remember that even those who hold polar opposite views can STILL both have  our country’s best interest at heart…well, these things are disturbing to me on many levels. Part of me has wondered if God wasn’t witholding a natural winter from us because we were already treating each other so coldly.

Even in the absence of a “proper” winter I am inordinately cheered by the signs of this early spring. I pray the signs of nature’s new growth will also stimulate a resurgence of kindness, a putting away of offended and offensive spirits, breathe into us a new determination to move forward despite the obstacles, and spur a willingness to find common ground and work from there in an effort to heal the vast breaches we’ve worked so hard to create.

img_20170224_102311867As I wander through my yard viewing the signs of an early spring, I pray for my nation. I pray for her leaders in both parties and ask God to grant them wisdom. I pray for healing and I pray for an abundance of obstinate seeds of hope and reconciliation to survive in all of us. We could all use an early Spring.

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 29–NCN2016

I went to sleep with news of wildfires causing evacuations in the mountains and woke up to the sounds of rain. Answered prayers.

As I checked my phone for messages and found the one that said another pay period had just been completed, I remembered that just one year ago that was an email that wouldn’t have come because there was no job. Answered prayers.

The news out of Ohio State University yesterday said people were injured and their futures were not yet clear. This morning I read that all expected to make a recovery. Answered prayers.

My phone pings regularly with reminders throughout the day to pray for this person and that one, for this situation, and for our nation. I am still waiting for some of those answers to make their way into our world.

Today, as we head into the last two days of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, I am reminded that there are a lot of things that need to be changed in our world. I am reminded that there is more work to be done in areas both political and personal. There is room for change and, yes, a desperate need for it in many areas.

I am also reminded of answered prayers. Of how God has provided. Of how things used to be and how far we’ve come. Of progress made and of relationships that are in my life as a result of those changes. I am grateful.

Yes, I am grateful…and also convicted. How often have I complained instead of praying? How long have I ignored instead of helping? I’ve found that my life walk tends to correspond to my prayer life. (ouch.) How can I expect God to respond when I remain in neutral? If I am to change the world where I live, what am I to do next? How can I take this discipline of watching my words and curtailing my complaints and move forward toward the peace I want for the relationships I’m in and the world where I reside?

I cannot change it all, but I CAN PRAY–and I CAN put hands and feet to those prayers where they intersect with where I am today. I can choose to be kind. I can choose to smile first. I can offer to help. I can be intentional. I can continue to incorporate NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER into the other 11 months of the year and use my words to build up rather than destroy. I can push past my own comfort barriers and look to the needs of others.

What can YOU do where you are? What prayers will you pray? What words will you use? What actions will you take and what difference will you make where you live?

We will never make changes in the world that we aren’t willing to make within our own hearts first. Don’t be discouraged by that “small start” and don’t ignore the importance of it! If we each make and then model that choice of personal responsibility for our words and deeds, the whole whole world would change…and some of our prayers would be answered a lot sooner than we might think. It’s easier to pray for “the other guy” to change, isn’t it? That way we don’t have to think about how we might be contributing to the problem instead of being part of the solution. (again, ouch.)14804222571921199874857.jpg

There’s a small sticky note over my kitchen sink that says, “If all your prayers were answered, would it change the world or just yours?” It’s my reminder to pray larger prayers…to become a person of influence and to be ready to change the world right where I am, first, by praying while I go about even the most mundane of tasks and, second, to be God’s representative out in the world as I leave my home. (now there’s a job for us!)

We’ve made a good start toward positive change in the world this month by participating in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! Now, whatever shall we do next? (smile) Just something to think about…while you continue to curtail those complaints for the next two days…

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

Day 11–NCN2016

To the men and women who have been our protectors, who have defended our nation from the time of its inception right on up until the moment you read this, THANK YOU!

To the ones who endured agonies and fears untold so that those of us “at home” could sleep through the night in safety, THANK YOU!

To those who have prayed for protection under fire so that we can worship in safety as we see fit…THANK YOU!

To those who have gotten up every morning–or any time they were called upon to do so!–and put on a uniform so that we could dress as we choose–THANK YOU!

To those who have endured both the hardships and the drudgeries of service without fanfare, public recognition or acknowledgement so that others could congratulate themselves on their own accomplishments…THANK YOU!

To those who have valiantly served our nation and gone wherever they were told so that others could go where we want and have the “right” to call them names and fail to show them the respect they deserve–THANK YOU!

To those who heard the call to serve and chose to follow through so that we could make other choices–THANK YOU!

To those who acted with honor and discipline so we could act carefree and crazy…THANK YOU!

To those who didn’t make it home…and their families…THANK YOU! (I know that will never be enough.)

To those who returned in pieces after their defense of peace…and their families…THANK YOU! (That will never be enough, either.)

To those whose official service was long ago, but whose integrity has never waned and whose bearing still reflects that discipline…THANK YOU!

To those of us who know them and love them, to those of us who see them, to those of us who only know them by their portraits, to those of us who still miss them, to those of us who still need them, to those of us who take every advantage of the freedoms they provided without a single thought of how it came to us, we NEED to say THANK YOU!

THANK YOU for your service to our nation, for your inspirational gallantry, for your example of strength and commitment, for your provision of freedom without regard for race or creed or sex or religion, and for giving so much more than we will ever really know…THANK YOU, VETERANS, THANK YOU!!

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

 

Day 10–NCN2016

Can I just make a few of observations here today? (And since it’s my blog I’m going to proceed, so just nod, ok?)

  • Either yesterday was the most terrible “Day After” EVER or there are there are a lot more people who need to join us in celebrating NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER than we thought. (and, FYI, that was an independently confirmed observation, not a complaint, but don’t get me started on that!)
  • Oddly–THANKFULLY!!–both President-elect Trump and former Secretary Clinton along with President Obama led the way and delivered strong, conciliatory speeches hoping to reunite the country and move us forward. PLEASE feel free to follow their lead in this!!
  • No matter who you voted for, you are NOT all the horrible labels that were hurled your way yesterday…otherwise God would have mentioned it.
  • He didn’t mention it. I promise.
  • Instead, He said that you are loved. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • He said that you are cherished. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • He said that you WOULD be held responsible for your words and your deeds. (Matthew 12:36)
  • He said you need to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • He said forgiveness is not only possible, but realistic…if you ask Him. (1 John 1:9)
  • That forgiveness-thing? He’s serious about that, but that name-calling stuff is going to have to stop.

Seriously. It’s going to have to stop. I know that all of the divisiveness can’t be erased overnight. It wasn’t limited to just one campaign. The rancor and name-calling was the hallmark of both major parties/candidates and it went on too long and too deeply for it to fade away quickly. It DOES need to start, though, by supporters in BOTH camps and soon.

Speaking the truth in love is critical to our being able to unite and work for the common good. However, most of what we heard and saw yesterday was neither truth, nor love–it was just critical. What kind of influence did YOU bring to the national conversation yesterday? Think about it: how willing would you be to work with those who called you what you called them yesterday? If you really want your side to be heard and your agenda to be advanced, we’re going to need to work on our people skills, people!!

Consider doing your part to make that change today? Personally, I’d really appreciate it…because it would make MY NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER celebration a LOT easier to celebrate. That may sound pretty selfish, but I think it would probably help you with yours, too. At the very least, we all wouldn’t have to feel like we need a shower and a week in solitary just to recover from a short visit on Facebook.

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)