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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Words in the window

IMG_20170518_065834453This is my view today as I chop veggies to go in the freezer. There’s a scent of gardenia wafting over the freshness of the zucchini, squash, and onions simmering on the stove and the house is quiet. I’m cleaning out the fridge and preparing for a delicious casserole one of these days when I’m pressed for time and still in need of sustenance.

My cat watches my every move from his pod on top of the washer in the laundry room. It’s peaceful here today.

I had to take my glasses off as I transferred the steaming concoction to a strainer, but it didn’t stop me from reading the words on the ornament left on the window sill since Christmas, “Be cheerful and pass it on!”

I’m as struck by these words as I was the first time I saw them. Such a simple message. I originally bought the ornament for someone who has trouble being cheerful. (Subtle as a hammer, I know. grin) When I got it home, however, I noticed the ornament had a crack running through it. That’s not exactly what you look for in a gift, is it? A broken reminder to do something that’s often difficult? It just didn’t seem like a good idea to pass it along…or to throw it away. The “obvious” alternative was to place it atop a small silver cup on the window sill as a reminder to myself.

I’m convinced that’s what God wanted all along. The makers of this ornament meant for it to be perfect and to hang on a tree for a few days or so once a year. In the midst of all the other decorations of the Christmas season, this message might have gone unnoticed. But placed as it is on my window sill? Each day I see these words reminding me to spread the cheer that comes as a result of His coming among us to bring us hope and salvation. Each day I am reminded that things don’t have to be perfect for me to be cheerful and that I can change the world in simple ways just by being willing to be used in whatever way and in whatever place He chooses to put me.

Sounds like the words in the window were meant for me…and maybe, you, too. What will you do today to be a person of influence right where you are?

BE CHEERFUL and pass it on.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

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!

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.

ON to the next…?

I started writing an imaginary blog post in my head last night listing all of the complaints I chose not to give voice to in November. Or at least I tried to do that…but I couldn’t remember what any of them were! How funny is that?! It was a great reminder to me that watching what I say and how I express myself has more benefits than those just in the moment. If the things I’m prepared to speak badly about aren’t worth remembering a month–or even a few days!!–later, then why bother doing that in the first place?!

I soon moved on to other thoughts…like what I plan to challenge myself with in December. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for several days. I’ve had several options that appeal to me regarding being more intentional about getting my exercise and finding a project that I could donate to as my own little Christmas gift this year. (I drink a LOT of water, so I’m exploring some options that help bring water to people and places where they don’t currently have a regular supply of water right now. More on that later, I guess.)

I’ve seen food challenges about giving up certain items for the holidays, but I’m still trying to be diligent about eliminating processed sugar–I that started in my 2015 Lenten observance and it made such a difference that I’ve tried to keep it going–and adding (or rather, subtracting!) something else food-related right now just isn’t all that appealing.

I’ve enjoyed writing regular blog posts during November, though I had gotten a bit out of practice and some days it was really a stretch for me to do it in a timely manner. Maybe I should be more disciplined about my writing?

I’ve pared down my holiday decorations over the years so that, other than the tree and the nativity set, they fit into 2 regular sized totes now. I’ve also been on a purging kick for YEARS, so I don’t really hold on to material things as much any longer.

I haven’t pulled out the paints and worked with those in awhile…and I DO love that…maybe I need to regularly schedule some creative time? (yeah! because that had always worked for me in past! NOT!)…but still, maybe…?

I wish I read more…books, instead of just internet things…

Oh, boy. Think about that for a minute. How much time do I spend on the internet each day? Well, maybe YOU don’t need to think about that, but I think I might. Yes, that might be just the thing. Ooohhhh, that’s a bit scary. Think before you commit, Becky…you love Pinterest. You love keeping up with your people on Facebook. You do a lot of research online. You love all of the different subjects you can check out. You’re pretty grateful to Al Gore for even thinking about creating the internet (giggle)…and yet…

It has become one of my pet peeves of late. I’m not talking about the internet so much as I am the societal addiction to technology…instead of actually being present and having interaction with people who are actually…you know…THERE. Yes. That might just be the thing for December.

Ok. Deep breath. Here we go. For the month of December, I hereby challenge myself (and invite you along for the ride, if you want to join me!) in putting down my phone/technology when there are people around. I spend a great deal of time by myself, so I’m going to take it even a bit further: I’m going to set a limit on how much time I spend online…for things outside research and writing and …oh, wait. I’m already waffling on this…

Nope! I’m going to stop that waffling. I’m just going to take a deep breath and do this! Phone down when there are people in the room and I’m setting a limit of 2 hours per day to be online. Given the time it takes to actually write and publish the blog, do research in prep for Bible study, etc., I’m going to have to really discipline myself to keep to that limit, but I think that is my challenge for December.

Join me? Pick your own? Either way, share what YOUR next challenge will be! I just might need another challenge…in January…

…and now, I’m out of here! I’ve got a time limit and I need to do some serious planning about what to do with all of this extra time…

Grace and Peace!

 

 

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 22–NCN2016

As I’ve prepared to write the blog posts this month, I’ve read research about how complaining affects our brains and thought patterns, our health, the people around us, and a LOT of people’s opinions about it. There are quotes and videos, books and memes all over the internet. Resources are seemingly endless on this subject because, well, sometimes the complaints apparently seem so, as well.

Most of the recommendations in these resources, however, can be adequately summed up in just a few words, like: “Don’t do it!”  and “Stop!”  and “This is not a healthy life choice!” There are all kinds of different reasons behind each article, book, or quote, but this one little quote seemed to sum it up best for me:

“The hammer never complains of the noise.”  ~Marty Rubin

I love that! In fact, I stopped looking for quotes after I saw that one. It is, to me, the epitome of what this challenge is all about. If we are to really make a difference with this challenge, we’ll need to do more than just watch what we say.

We need to become agents of change and people of action. See something wrong? Make it right. Don’t like the way it’s done? Speak up with a solution or, at the very least, open the door for a conversation about how to improve it!

We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is negativity/ingratitude. One of my husband’s is to complain without posing a solution. To pose a solution, you have to look past the irritation and think for yourself instead of about yourself. It means you become the hammer.

Those who are busy working on it rarely have time to complain about it.

 

Which one are you: the hammer or the noise?img_1583

Think about that as we go through these last few days of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. Make your time in this challenge count for more than one month out of the year. Become a person of influence! Change the world where you live…for the better…and for all of us.

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)