NCN 2019–Day 14

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”  ~Abraham Lincoln

I read this quote the other day and I’ve thought about it several times since then. Naturally, I trust the source. I mean, after all…it IS the internet. (grin)

Whether or not this is an actual quote by Abraham Lincoln, the intent behind it is still powerful. It illustrates a strength of character that we could ALL use when we run up against a situation or someone we “don’t like.” We need to look beyond the surface of what is annoying and find out the WHY of things.

THAT knowledge can help us decide whether a situation actually REQUIRES “fixing” or is a simple adjustment (on our part, perhaps?) might just be the ticket to making it work or helping us work together in greater harmony. Life is too short to live in continual chaos and disorder, anger and frustration, but getting some more information before we run off–either literally or at the mouth!–about it might make the situations we are frustrated with better for EVVVeryone involved.

I am a classic illustration. I can name on way less than my two whole hands the number of people that I’ve “disliked on sight” and just never got over my initial impression. That’s a good thing. It means I’ve met a lot of great people! I learned early on, however, that when someone strikes sparks off me that hard from the start…well, it means I need to look a little closer. Sometimes, those people are just _____ (fill in your own blank here!) and SOMETIMES it is because God is showing me how I appear to others.

That’s not a comfortable thought, but it is a truthful one.

With very few exceptions, I’ve found that the people who frustrate me the most are the ones with whom I have an attitude, a habit, or a character flaw in common. I see in them the things that need to change the most about ME…and it’s sometimes annoying when God points out that we need to change. (insert very heartfelt eye roll here) I am convinced that when He’s tried other unsuccessful methods of helping me improve in an area, God often sends me a visual aid. It’s not comfortable when that happens. Unfortunately, for me, He’s had to do that more than once–to the point that now, when I meet someone who is a “visual aid” for me, I immediately want to know them a little better as quickly as possible so I can find out what we have in common…and what I will need to change…in me.

If I can also help them to learn or change in the process, so much the better.

God is funny about that stuff. He rarely wastes an effort to make us better.

So…who or what do you need to get to know a little better today? Think about it, but don’t take too long. It’s always more comfortable to be the one who needs the clue than to find out you’re the one who is the visual aid! You do NOT want to be THAT person of influence! (ha! ask me how I know this!)

Remember: You can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.

Grace and Peace!

 

NCN 2019–Day 7

If you’re going to hit a goal, you better set a mark for it. Sounds simple enough, right? But…how do you know if you’ve set your mark where you need to? That’s something to consider.

I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve been reading and studying James lately. I thought it might be just the thing to help motivate me during NCN this year. OUR goal for this NCN-project is relatively simple in the setting–and a lot more difficult in the doing. We are attempting to go without complaining for an entire month.

Right off the bat, James made me wonder if my bar was set too low.

“…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

Count it all joy,” he says.

Well. Don’t just NOT complain about it, but look for the joy in it when things don’t go your way, he says. Get ready to get better and then go beyond better to “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

This quick note of “encouragement”/lesson in setting goals is brought to you by GOD and the Apostle James for those of us who still haven’t made it through every day of this first week of NCN without complaining yet. (grin) NOW, this doesn’t seem quite as much of a workout, right? Just kidding. Like anything worth doing, NCN requires plenty of effort. (for me, at least!) We all need to start somewhere. If we’re going to hit our mark and reach the goal of NCN, let’s aim for the stars while we’re not complaining! Who knows? Maybe we’ll find our way toward joy in the process.

I’m praying that’s the case for each of us! Focus on smiling and finding joy today as you work without complaining.

Reminder: You can do this! For now, think:  PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace!

No Complain November 2019

Welcome to Day of 1 of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2019! (Yes, we’re at it again!)

To be perfectly honest, I had been thinking about NOT doing NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER (NCN) this year. There were several reasons:  we’ve got a full plate right now in this season of our lives, it’s been a bit since I blogged on that regular a basis (see season reason #1), and I really wasn’t sure anyone else would care if I let it slide. Was I pushing this thing further than it needed to go? Maybe it was time to drop this public challenge and just make it a private one. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking on it, you understand. It was more of a passing thought that led me to a “wait and see where you are then” resolution…

…right up until I started hearing from a few friends. It seems I’m not the only one who recognizes the need to stop what has become the “norm” for our society and make a difference the only way we truly can:  one person at a time, starting with ourselves.

So! Here we are! At the very beginning of another NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! While the goal for this month is to eliminate complaining from our own lives and, perhaps, to influence those around us to do the same, I want to suggest a secondary theme for this year’s observance, as well. It is the idea of “Progress, not Perfection.”

I lose count of the people who tell me that they didn’t make it past the first day every year. My response is always the same:  “That’s fine. Try it again tomorrow.” I always say that because sometimes the results of doing something that’s actually GOOD FOR US isn’t always what we think it will be. I am the perfect illustration of that and, perhaps you are, too.

I’ve been naturally strong my whole life. It wasn’t something I ever truly had to work for; it was the result of great genetics and God’s own good pleasure. Over the last couple of years, however, I noticed that my strength wasn’t as consistent as it had been. I wasn’t worried. I was still plenty strong and had energy–until that started slipping, as well. Hmmmmm…well, that’s different. Maybe it’s just part of getting older. Yep, that’s probably it. That, and stress…lots and lots of stress. My doctors agreed and I just tried to rest a little more.

It didn’t help. Not only was I feeling weaker, I was getting larger and heavier than I had ever been and my body was becoming more susceptible to injury. Again, the doctor said it was just a normal part of aging, but what she didn’t know was how much I no longer felt like me. The stress was piling up and I needed an outlet.  I prayed about it. I blogged about it. I thought about it. I talked to friends about it. None of that helped ME feel any better about it, but I decided that I needed to do something just for me. I decided to get out and walk as a way to recover from a back injury.

When I was growing up, my mother’s family would gather regularly and after lunch, most of the girl-cousins would get out and go for a walk. It was always a sweet time of fellowship among us. Later, I had walked with friends for improving my fitness levels and it was a great benefit in losing some excess weight. I set out to walk with those two things in mind. I didn’t push. I just decided to stroll and remember. That led to strolling and thanking God for such great memories, then thanking Him for my family and friends, and on thanking Him for all of the other blessings I have received. The thanksgiving led to prayers for specific needs that I knew about and, almost immediately, my walk became one of the highlights of my day.

Over the months I have gradually increased the speed and the length of my strolls with God, but the prayer time has remained a constant unless He sent me a neighbor to share my time. Even then, I was often praying for them. My already active prayer life was being taken to a new level! Definitely an unexpected result of deciding to start walking!

Another unexpected result was that, almost immediately, I gained 18 pounds. Yes. You read that right. I wasn’t getting bigger, I was just getting heavier–because muscle weighs more than fat. While I know that in my head, I was still discouraged about that number for awhile. Some days I still am. For awhile the weight gain settled down, but it didn’t drop off right away. It just STAYED. If I hadn’t also been aware that I was also becoming stronger, having more energy and greater endurance, and didn’t huff and puff so much coming up that slight hill…well, I think you see where I’m going. Six months later, I’ve lost about 12 pounds–something that I actually discovered just this morning because I had refused to get back on the scale for awhile! (HA! Like that made a difference!) My clothes fit a little differently now and I’m grateful for all of the positives because they literally outweigh the overall weight gain for me. This is a process. It will take time for me to get where I’m going. The very fact that I apparently NEEDED about 18 pounds of muscle and the improved tone from the walking and the stretching, well, that actually makes me grateful for this unexpected result. My strength and energy are returning and increasing! THAT is worth celebrating!

I’m sharing all of that to say this: NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER can be celebrated even if you (or I!) can’t do it perfectly, even if no one around us seems to notice or join us in our efforts, even if we’re under a tremendous load of stress, and even if it doesn’t turn out to be what we expect it to be. The point is this:  The goal is to use this month to start making a difference the only way we truly can:  one person at a time, starting with ourselves.

While this is definitely a personal challenge, be sure to invite your friends and relatives, your coworkers, and fellow adventurers into the unusual idea of a trying to go a whole month without complaining! Whether or not they join us, if we work this right, we’ll become a more positive influence, make the world right where we live a better place to be, and, hopefully, glorify God in the process.

Who knows what else we’ll gain in the process! (grin!)

Remember:  Progress, not Perfection. You can do this! WE can do this. Give it a go–even if you have to go it alone where you are for awhile! This effort is contagious and it WILL pay off in ways we may never even see this side of eternity.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 (CSB)

Grace and Peace–and Happy NCN 2019!!!

 

Reading recipes

I seem to have developed a taste for books that combine fiction with recipes. It wasn’t intentional, but I just noticed that I have several books of this sort on my shelves. Perhaps it is a latent, inherited trait since my mother has long read cookbooks for pleasure.

I used to think that was odd. I would pass through a room and see her losing herself in  words combined as a road map to bring a taste of deliciousness into the world. Why in the world would you want to just read a cookbook?! I couldn’t imagine.

Sometimes Mama would look up suddenly and say, “Listen to this!” and then rattle off a list of ingredients assembled by someone from long ago that she never even knew…and she would always seem surprised when I didn’t get the taste of it like she had just by reading them out loud.IMG_20190202_205905963

Tonight, however, I got it. I read a recipe for lavender scones and, though I’ve never eaten anything like it before, I had that taste and texture in my mouth as I wondered if I could substitute a little lavender oil, instead…or maybe just add a little for some extra oomph…

I smiled and wondered if it would have tasted the same to my  mother…just by reading the words.

I started this day off early by participating in an effort to read through the Bible as part of a missions conference at our church. For the past several days member after member has read for their assigned time and been relieved by another. Each of us giving up something to gain the treasure of unity; sharing and consuming the Life we find in the written Word. I teared up as I began to read my portion and was equally moved when the one who followed me had the same reaction to what he read, as well.

These ancient words fill me with hope and joy. They are not fiction, but facts…and so much more. They give direction when I need to make decisions. They instruct when I have questions and lead when I feel lost. To hear them read aloud and see their effect on others who know and love their Author reminded me that cookbooks weren’t the only words my mother reads for pleasure. She also reads her Bible, for in it she has found–and shared!—the recipes for life.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 (CSB)

Grace and peace…and happy memories.

 

NCN 2018–Day 27

Today is #givingtuesday, a time to be generous and contribute to worthy causes. I don’t know when it got started, but I definitely applaud the whole idea, and it makes me wonder…

  • What if we decided to be make every day a giving day?
  • What if we made a plan (not a wish, but a PLAN) to support worthy causes with regularity…because our priority was to become more worthy, too.
  • What if we looked at our resources with an eye toward blessing those whose needs we’re aware of long after “the season of giving” has passed because we realized that the Source of all blessing has promised to never leave or forsake us…and others need to see that promise in action so THEY can believe it, too?
  • What if our whole lives centered around making those around us know they matter, that they’re loved, and that their gifts are needed to help others, too?
  • What if we decided to become walking, talking, giving billboards for grace and peace and the One whose idea they were in the first place?

What if…?

What will you choose to do today…since you’ve given up complaining…and have all that extra time on your hands? (grin)

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!

Scented

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You don’t even have to round the corner to smell it; it almost assaults your senses as soon as you step out on to the small back porch. Confederate jasmine run amok…a neighbor’s gift to the previous owners untrimmed and unmitigated in the slightest for the four years or so that we’ve lived here.

It was tidy once, but no longer. It has taken over the small trellis meant to support it, reached on up for the branches of the maple tree at the corner, wound its way over to the roof…and…I’ll have to do something about it this year. I caught a few tendrils trying to reach in through the crack of a window sill casing.

Beautiful, abundant, breathtaking in both scent and beauty…and intrusive…or trying to be, anyway.

I love the scent of this beautiful invader but, to tell the absolute truth, when caught in the right wind, it can be downright overcoming. It will almost smother you with the goodness of it–some kind of aromatic cross between gardenias and honeysuckle and all here within reach and easy viewing.

It reminds me of something Paul wrote to the church at Corinth long ago, when he said,

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV)

I see this flowering vine and I’m reminded that as followers of Christ we, too, are called to be abundant in our production and reach those around us in ways that they can’t avoid noticing because we’re just that different. We’re supposed to “smell different” from those in the world…and act that way, too…because we’re called to BE DIFFERENT from the world.

Some people will love us for it and some will hate us. Others will just be annoyed. The one thing we shouldn’t be, though, is easily ignored. We are to put Christ on full display in our lives and turn Him lose to take over everything in His way. Another thing we shouldn’t be is so full of our own goodness that we fail to be approachable or willing to share our Jesus with those who may not look like it, but so desperately need Him.

In a world where it seems every news cycle is full to the brim with the latest misdeeds of those we should be able to trust, this is a hard thing. Who IS equal to the task? Certainly not me. Not on my own, anyway. Not you, either, I’d suspect. We’re often too full of ourselves and yet too aware of all of our own misdeeds…and that’s part of our problem. If we belong  to God and have asked for His forgiveness, we ought to be bold enough to celebrate the forgiveness–sweet, overwhelming, totally invasive forgiveness–that comes by asking the One who never sinned to cover ours. Once those have been covered, we need to make the choice to celebrate the Forgiver in no uncertain terms and live our lives in ways that honor and glorify Him. It may seem a little too corny for some in our “sophisticated” society, but I believe Chuck Swindoll had it down when he said,

“Few things are more infectious than a godly lifestyle. The people you rub shoulders with everyday need that kind of challenge. Not prudish. Not preachy. Just cracker jack clean living. Just honest to goodness, bone – deep, non-hypocritical integrity.”

I love that quote and had it on my office wall for years to remind me that each interaction–whether patient or staff member, phone call or personal encounter–was an opportunity to live that out…and in so doing, live out what Christ had called me (and YOU!) to do for Him.

I want to be pleasing in His sight and I want to be an aroma of Christ before God. That will require both submission and pruning…and a willingness to let Him sort out which one is needed when and who needs to hear about His work in my life next. My job is to be available for either, let Him scent the air, and give Him free reign to make me equal to the task.

Grace and Peace!

Out of joint

Sometimes following Jesus is easy and sometimes, to be completely honest, it can be a real pain. That’s not the “churchy” thing to say, but it is the truth–especially if you’re really serious about desiring to do it well.

There is an Old Testament account of a man facing the possibility of trouble who wrestled with God. All through the night he grappled and held tight. He refused to let go until God gave him a blessing. He got what he asked for, alright; he got his blessing and a little something extra. He walked away a new name…and a limp.

That happens sometimes when you’re determined not to let go of God and you’re desiring His blessing. I use the present tense here on purpose because I know it to be true. I’ve been wrestling with God this morning about something and, as a result, it’s not my hip, but probably more accurate to say that my nose is out of joint about it.

God has a funny way of working on me. He’s so good to allow me to teach His Word and be in a position to give counsel at times. He gives me space to recover from doing those things and retreat from the energy expenditure, as well. As a deep introvert, that’s a critical blessing for me and I value it highly. As my Creator, He knows that AND (not BUT–AND!) this morning He put a thought into my head about considering the possibility of that going away for a bit.

Let me be clear: He hasn’t asked me to go DO a hard thing yet, He’s just asking me to consider the possibility of doing a hard thing…and I balked. Big. Time. I get why He’s pushing me to even consider this. I deeply appreciate that He’s still speaking to me and stretching my faith. I want to be able to run joyfully toward every single thing that He calls me to do, but this morning…well, I just felt a big old “No” rise up at the very thought of this thing He brought up to me.

How do I know it was from Him? Well, let’s just say that it isn’t anything I would ever choose to do on my own. I’ve got multiple “reasons” why I wouldn’t want to do it and only one really concrete reason to consider it: because I made a decision to and have the privilege of belonging to God. (that sounds like two, but it is actually just one thing, I promise.)

If/when the rubber meets the road, I will respond with a “yes.” I know that. That decision was made a long time ago. My problem is that I would wish to say that I can’t wait to do whatever He might ask of me–as SOON as He mentions it…and, as evidenced by my response this morning, that’s not where I am just yet. I hate that. I really, really hate that. I thought I was better than my response today, but apparently, I am not. It is humbling. Perhaps that was the point.

My husband says that determined obedience is enough for now and that if–or when–God actually asks me to do this thing, that will be the time to get to doing with a right attitude, but I’m still wrestling with this idea. I am making progress already, though, and I’m grateful for that. I am deeply aware that becoming a person of influence doesn’t automatically come on the “easy pay” program. It means things might–will!–often become uncomfortable because the people who are watching need to see God at work in every area of our lives…and they need to see Him win. Although I first balked at the very idea, now I am wrestling with the possibility of doing it the with the right attitude. My nose is still out of joint a bit about it, but at least I should be able to walk without a limp today…

maybe.

I guess we’ll see.

Praying all your joints remain in place today and that mine gets back in line as quickly as possible.

Grace and Peace!