Lessons in love

IMG_20181205_071214882Even after years of practice and a whole month of November in intensive training, I still felt like I was failing yesterday. I am out of my element this week and I was out of sorts about it! Once again, while nothing escaped my lips, my mind was absolutely rife with complaint, all while battling situation and provocation…and Scripture. That last one is always a heavy hitter! (grin)

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)

I read that verse pretty early in the day as I moved ahead with preparations for an upcoming Bible study. I sailed right past it at first. God knew that.

He brought it back around.

He had me focus on it, and then He proceeded to bring that theme up over and over and over throughout the day from the words I typed, the people I saw in the grocery store, and even in the book of fiction I picked up at the local library.

It shook me. It schooled me. It made me do some self-evaluation…and I wasn’t always pleased with what I found. Scripture does that. It is both a mirror and a standard of perfection side by side. Given my state of mind, I really wasn’t in the mood for either, yet God continued to push me. I know He does so out of love, and I truly felt that, but I was also frustrated by so many things I couldn’t change externally. That helplessness to “make things better” rages against my internal “fixer” motif and frustrates me no end.

By the end of the day, I felt beaten. That’s rare for me. I’m usually the most positive person in the room–and I still was!–but God knew I needed to feel, not just love, but empathy…and that is always harder after a day of battle of multiple fronts.

Today, I woke up to a new verse. Matthew 25:40 says,

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

and THEN, there was THIS one…

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NLT)

When you can’t change the situation or fix the people in it, you still need to move forward in love. That instruction never changes. That standard never changes–and neither does the fact that we are still representing Jesus wherever we go. AND (I usually hate when people start  sentences off with AND, but here is one to remember), if the battle makes us weary and our feelings are less than loving or empathetic, we can STILL love on Jesus by doing what we can right where we are. I am responsible for my actions and, yes, even my attitude. He is responsible for the outcome. Today, I needed to be reminded of that. Maybe you did, too.

Let’s go represent Him well today. Happy Wednesday!

Grace and Peace!

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NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 24

I’ve seen something similar before, but the message is still a great one and worthy of sharing here with you just as my precious #6 (Thanks, Lisa!) shared with all of us earlier this week. It is especially appropriate for those who are busy in the preparations of the days leading up to the “great day” of Thanksgiving…just TWO MORE DAYS, y’all!!

“Grateful for…

  1. Early wakeups = children to love
  2. House to clean = safe place to live
  3. Laundry = clothes to wear
  4. Dishes to wash = food to eat
  5. Crumbs under the table = family meals
  6. Grocery shopping = $ to provide for us
  7. Toilets to clean = indoor plumbing
  8. Lots of noise = people in my life
  9. Endless questions about homework = kids’ brains growing
  10. Sore & tired in bed = I’m still alive!

Amen

pumpkin1I’ve been thinking about that since Lisa sent it out to us Sunday morning. All of the things we so often turn into complaints have, at their heart, a reason to give thanks. Let’s not forget that this week…or next…or ever. So many people can NOT include those 10 things in their prayers.

That was brought home to me especially by a Facebook post last night from my friend, Linda:

“I heard on the news tonight that 14% of the U.S. population experiences food insecurity and for Mississippi, it’s 22%. Food insecurity in the land of plenty is mystifying. How blessed, and how truly unaware of that blessing, are those of us who don’t wonder how, when, or where our next meal will be.”

That’s pretty sobering, isn’t it? In this month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and especially in this week of Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s remember those who are less fortunate …and then, let’s do something to change it.

Our mission won’t end at the end of this month. We can choose to be grateful. We can choose not to complain. We can choose to make positive differences in the world and in the lives of those who need our compassion and our assistance…even when they aren’t asking us for a thing. Start thinking now! True ThanksGIVING can start right in the neighborhood where you live. Will it? Will you?

Grace & Peace!

(*Beautiful mini-quilt made by hand and given to me as a blessing by my wonderful #3, Jody! That word “Blessed” sums up my life in ways I can never truly write about well enough to convey the depth of it. My friends and family  know that and generously continue to add to my metaphorical pile of blessings by loving on me every day!)

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 21

I woke up cold and early this morning and couldn’t figure out why. I got up and pulled on a robe and house shoes, turned up the heat, and settled into my favorite chair in the living room. The chair used to belong to my Grandmother and it is old and covered in what is now (and was then, too!–grin) a hideously brown and orange flowered print from the 1970s…and it reminds me of her and how she loved me and it warms me up in ways that have nothing at all to do with temperature.

About an hour later, my husband emerged from the bedroom and I wondered why the heat was still running and I moved through the house looking for another way to warm. Entering back into our room, I noticed that the curtains at the window were gently moving…with the breeze of an open window…left open all night long.

I did that. I did that yesterday to air out the room and I’m the one who forgot to come back and close it up, make it tight against the chilly night air. I did that.

It doesn’t sound like much, but God doesn’t always need big things to teach us. Lessons of the day:

Sometimes, the things that make us uncomfortable are our own fault. It may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but the effects of our actions–or our inactions–still make themselves known. There’s no point in complaining about things that are in the past or that we can fix today. Fix what you can and move on. (And I pray those things are as simple as shutting my window.) Be careful about where you are and what you do today.

Sometimes, the things that make us the most comfortable aren’t really things, but the emotions brought on by people who have poured love into us in days long ago. It’s a pretty good reminder that to become people of influence, we need to be pouring love into the people around us now…and be more vocal at expressing our appreciation when the ones around us pour back into us. Again, fix what you can and move on. Be careful about WHO you are today and what you choose to pour into those around you now.

Wishing you a warm, dry, cozy day surrounded by love and great memories…with no complaints…

Grace & Peace!

Offended much?

Last night was the third time in less than a week that God put this word in front of me, so I guess He’s trying to make a point. Who knows? Maybe He’s trying to make that point to YOU and I’m just the scribe here, but…no, it’s probably to me, too, so I guess we’d both better pay attention, right?

It came up during my Ladies Bible study discussion time. We’ve been studying Kelly Minter’s What Love Is (a study of 1, 2, and 3 John). Subject matter is pretty title-evident here, so I won’t go into that right now. Anyway! We had a discussion starter that asked, “How has the Holy Spirit rescued you by refusing to let you continue in a specific sin?” Well, it was supposed to be a discussion starter. In reality, it resulted in a lot of dropped heads and a palpable please-don’t-let-her-call-on-me vibe. It’s a tough question. Fortunately (or perhaps un-fortunately) I actually had an answer for that one myself. I shared the much-abbreviated version of the following situation with them and now, again, with you:

Many years ago, someone in my life decided it would be ok to make disparaging remarks about someone I love dearly…TO me. It didn’t go well. In fact, it pretty much ended the relationship’s previously sweet fellowship, but being the proper God-following Christian that I am, I decided that I would just forgive and forget…except that I didn’t. I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that person, I replayed the scene and then I’d tell myself that I’d forgiven and I just needed to move onward. One day I was sitting at a traffic light on my way to work when God spoke loudly within my spirit that I needed to call and apologize to them.

“Seriously, God?!”

“Yes. You’ve had a bad attitude toward them and you need to apologize to them for it.”

“But, I didn’t start this! I did nothing wrong! This is on them!”

“I know. Call and apologize. Now.”

I called. I apologized. They said, “Yes, I know. I was right.”

(And yes, it actually happened and, yes, I really did think my head might explode…just before God reminded me that this call wasn’t about THEM. It was about ME being obedient. I finished the call and was actually able to move on from the experience just carrying the love and the knowledge without carrying the grudge or the offended spirit toward them. If you don’t think that’s a God-thing, then we need to chat. Soon.)

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, that was incident #1:  my reminder of lessons learned…and still in need of practice. (One day I’ll be smarter and pick up on things sooner, right, God?)

Incident #2—I was getting ready for church Sunday morning and somehow my mind drifted into thinking about someone who seems to just have the gift for offending me. I mean, almost every time they speak. It’s been consistent enough that I’ve now started to dread even seeing them. Just avoid them, you say? Not possible. They’re part of my life…and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that God did that on purpose. Anyway. I was wondering to myself how I should deal with the situation. Should I write a letter? Make another phone call—I mean I do remember how that turned out on the last one. (grin.) Should I go talk to them in person? Take a witness or go alone? What to say so that I could address the matter and not be offensive on my end of it all? I mean, it isn’t about spiritual matters that we differ, it isn’t about political issues, it’s just life issues/people skills. (yes, it was a fine way to prepare for worship, wasn’t it?!)

God let me put it aside throughout Sunday School and the phenomenal worship and praise time. Then he had my pastor start talking. He’s been teaching us about generosity throughout the month of February. It’s been great…and then, he seemed to veer off into a slight tangent about attitudes toward others and offended spirits… Oh, yes, he did. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say HE did. God used my pastor and the Word to step all over my toes and remind me that I’m called to be generous in many ways…including the way I deal with people who don’t believe, think, or do just like I do. Instead, I’m called to love even my offenders. (and ouch…again.)

Incident #3—I was on that amazing highway of intellectual exchange—Facebook—last night and saw that someone had posted the following: “Being offended doesn’t make you right.”

Never one to let ambiguity stand in my way, I simply commented back, “Neither does not being so.” At least that was my intention. Epic fail on my part: I left out the “not” portion of that statement. HA! Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and how God will allow you to take your own self down a notch or two.

While my addition to the conversation makes no sense in its published form, my intended response does. Being offended doesn’t make you right any more than not being offended makes you right.

Don’t misunderstand me. There ARE things that should offend us (I can make you a list, if you really can’t make your own.), BUT being offended by something doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes—that one was for me (Oh. You, too. And you…yes, I see all those hands going up.)—that still do not honor Christ. (Yes, that was a period, but perhaps it needs to be cohesively restated.) Being offended by something or someone doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes that do not honor CHRIST! (Bold face, italics, underlining and an exclamation point on purpose, people.)

Think about it:  We’re never going to be offended into believing the other person might be right…and that also means that we’re rarely likely to offend someone into a vibrant relationship with Christ. We’re called to be offended AND THEN LOVE THEM ANYWAY. No, I’m not kidding…and I get that straight from Scripture where we are instructed to become like Jesus. We are called to know Truth, LIVE the truth and speak it in love! We’re called to live HIM and that means that our standards must be inviolable (because they are HIS standards!) about those about things that are offensive AND about loving our offenders.

I need that to sink in deeeep, because one day that offender might be you…and one day it might be me. We’re all going to need this because Scripture doesn’t say this: “They’ll know you’re with Me by how easily you become offended and seek retribution and hold grudges and lock people out of your life because they don’t think/act/believe like you do.” Instead, it says this:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

SONY DSC Grace & Peace!

The Mississippi Road Trip Brain Dump

MS Road trip Brain dump (in no particular order)

  • I think I may need one of those Star Trek devices like the Captains always had for their logs. I’d really love it if I could simply speak the words, “Becky’s log” and then begin my brain dump of brilliancy (ha!) without a break or having to stop driving, pull out my computer or anything. (And no, I am not a Trekkie, but that device always intrigued me because I wondered if everyone on the ship had them or if they were simply the province of the Captain…) (Also! I love that when I misspelled Trekkie, the auto-correct gave me an alert to suggest the “true” spelling! How funny! LOL!)
  • I tried to create my own version by choosing the microphone option for dictating things on my phone as I drove home. I’m apparently not as fluent—or as intelligent-sounding!–in my native language as I had previously thought. I sounded pitiful. Pi-ti-ful.
  • Thanks to God and the DOT divisions of Mississippi , Alabama and Georgia, I had reasonably decent roads to travel and some amazing color on the trees that lined the way to and from on this trip. The weather was fantastic and the autumn colors on the trees blending in with the evergreens made me wish to stop and take pictures…but I drive with too much determination to get where I’m going on trips like these, so I just took “mind photos” and it will probably be awhile before they’re ready for publication…especially since I’d really rather work on that Star Trek captain’s log thing before I start on the mind photo printer.
  • I may have the coolest nephews on the planet. No. Actually, I do. (I’m sorry if that was news to any of you.)
  • They (the nephews) may or may not have the cutest dog in the universe. Uh…no, actually, they do. (I know some of you thought that you did. Again, sorry about that.)
  • I have a really entertaining family.
  • My parents have been married for over 50 years now and they are absolutely hysterical to watch—and listen to!–especially when they’re just being themselves.
  • I finally got to have really good Chinese food again! Many thanks to my sweet friend who joined me and let me get all up in her business. (I have really cool people in my life.)
  • The number of Mississippi State signs, tags, clothing and memorabilia in Starkville and Columbus combined has passed the ability to be numerically counted. These people are so excited about this year’s team performance that it might be possible for team members to retire on the public giddiness alone! It is fabulous to see and I wish them well…right up until they play Bama. (grin…but y’all know I’m still serious about that. I will say, however, that if Bama can’t win it all, I certainly hope Mississippi State can.) RTR!
  • My Christmas shopping is pretty much done. Don’t hate me. That’s mainly because I won’t be back in MS for the holiday, so I had to get that portion completed before/during the trip so they would know that we love them when it comes time to open presents. HA!
  • My mother still makes excellent fried chicken. May that talent be ever with her…and her with us.
  • I love that my mother’s brothers and sister still get together regularly and talk on the phone regularly even though they are a bit spread out geographically. I’m sorry I couldn’t have stayed for the fun…and happy that my sister was going to get to go for a little bit.
  • I loved the way it felt to stand in my mother’s kitchen and hug each other while my father prayed over our breakfast yesterday and how he prayed for our safety as we went our separate ways.
  • I love the way my father saves the scraps as he processes deer to feed the just-this-side-of-feral kittens that live out in the yard and how they run up when they hear his voice as he calls his “babies” and how they love to sit on anything that has his scent on it, but still won’t let him pet them.
  • I love that he won’t give up trying to pet them.
  • I love that he prays for people while he processes their deer…and I’m glad that he passed that on to me. (the praying while you work part–definitely not the processing thing.)
  • I have friends whose children are newly married and some who are currently planning weddings. That is really strange to me since these kids live in my mind forever frozen at about age 4.
  • I love having friends who will join up for coffee and hot chocolate and bare their souls for 3 hours so I can stay current and we can pray together when I drop into town for short visits.
  • I think that praying for someone may be one of the most amazing privileges ever.
  • I love that my husband beat me home yesterday and made supper, that we sat to chat over more hot chocolate and watched a sappy Thanksgiving movie afterward. He is the best.
  • I love that my cats ran to greet me upon my return and that Lewis (the youngest one) finally got over his pouting and let me pet him before he had to go to bed.
  • Yes, my cats go to bed when I tell them to do so. (And it makes my friends laugh when they see it.)
  • It’s good to be home.

For your weekend…

Today I am grateful. Absolutely My-God-Is-Awesome-and-Amazingly-Great-FULL! I’m grateful for all kinds of things like

  • time spent with my husband
  • peanut-butter and banana sandwiches for lunch (along with a glass of cold milk!)
  • hints of gold peeking through the tree tops as I walked to the shop this morning
  • work to be done
  • hugs
  • the tiny bird nest I found on my way back from the mail box–delicate and strong and empty
  • mail…even the bills today
  • emails from friends far away filled with love and prayers and strength for the battles to be fought
  • silly ring tones on my phone that announce loved ones even before I hear their voices
  • anticipation
  • sunshine through changing leaves on trees in my yard that look like God’s own stained glass up against the sky
  • green pumpkins
  • pomegranates on sale
  • the last of the blue hydrangeas along the back walkway
  • the sound of the screen door as it slams behind me
  • words…to speak and think and write and read and sing
  • colors
  • you…yes, you! (even if I don’t know you, I’m telling God right now what a bang-up job He did creating you and sharing you with the world! And it’s just as I suspected:  He already knows.)1029141353a

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What’s on your gratitude list this weekend? Whatever it is, share it with someone. Share it with me! (grin)

Blessings are too precious to keep all to ourselves.

Grace & Peace!

  “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~William Arthur Ward  

(and it will make you smile a lot more, too!)

Still savoring the day

 “No distance of place or lapse of time can less the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” ~Robert Southey

I’m generally on the move for most of the day and the majority of my conversations are—since I typically work here alone at the house— usually just with God and the cats. While both God and the cats are really great listeners, the audible/verbal back and forth is typically a little different and not always readily understandable by other human ears. Yesterday was another story.

I spent most of yesterday sitting down and having a conversation…with a real, live person! (grin) We had a wonderful lunch at a local bistro and then retired to my keeping room where we talked and talked and talked for hours.   It was amazing to be able to look over and see this beloved face and hear her laugh without having to imagine the way her eyes crinkle and her smile lights up when she talks about her family or the way her eyes become serious when she talks about what God is asking her to do next.

I’ve learned not to take those things for granted, you see, because this was just the latest installment of a conversation that we started back in 1989. It was also the first time we’ve seen each other in almost 14 years. Yes, 14 years…of really regular contact through notes and phone calls and emails and texts, but no face-to-face time in all that time.

It didn’t slow us down a bit.

We hugged and laughed and ate and cooked and shared and prayed and it was absolutely wonderful. She stayed for supper and it was as normal as if she was always there…except that we actually ate at the table this time.

I loved every moment of our time together, but I think my favorite part was when we prayed together and she thanked God that this time we were able to actually hold hands while we did so. We’ve held hearts and secrets and prayer requests for so long now, that we are a part of each other whether we are near or far. We are bonded by our long-term friendship, our history and our faith in God and I am so grateful for the gift of yesterday. I am still savoring the time together even now.

Who do you need to touch base with again today? Pick up a phone, send a text or a card and let someone know that you value them. At the very least, say a prayer for them. Better yet? Pray with them, if you can!  It may be just what they need to make it through the rest of the week.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5