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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Blessed is the nation…

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

     And the people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance.”     Psalm 33:14

 

A lot has been made over the recent days about ”God being removed” from the platform of the Democratic Party during the recent convention.  An even longer public debate has been over the 2003 removal of the 10 Commandments from an Alabama courthouse, along with their subsequent removal from various schools, public monuments or displays throughout the nation and, even more recently their removal from the publically owned, but privately operated Oakland Zoo in July, 2012.  Going even further back, there was the 1962 Supreme Court decision regarding prayer in schools.  A lot of people get really upset over things like that.

I’m not one of them.

Do I think that those decisions were wrong?  Yes.  Do I think they were short-sighted?  Yes.  Do I think they have made a detrimental impact on both current and future generations?  Yes.  I think religious freedoms have been diminished by a handful of “liberal” people who were so determined not to believe in God or be held responsible for following His ways that they were determined to remove the option of belief from others…and believers let them. That doesn’t sound very liberal to me …perhaps we all need to check the dictionary for some clarification on that word…it means expanding choices–not just eliminating the ones you don’t like.

Any poll will tell you that the number of people in our nation who say they believe in God far outnumbers those who say otherwise.  So, why do we, as a nation, allow a minority to control the majority in this—or any other!—matter?  Personally, I think it is because we’re a bit lazy and we’re a bit complacent and we’re a lot determined to retain some control over our own lives. What?!  Yes, you read that right.  I think the main reason for all the monumental lack of public outcry over these issues is that we’ve wanted to do things our own way so much that we’ve gotten away from following closely after God ourselves.  That gives us precious little ground to stand on when we suddenly find ourselves in the precarious position of publically defending Him and His principals.  Furthermore, we’re often unsure about exactly what God has to say on the matter so we get really quiet and hope that we don’t say something to offend someone else.

There’s one more thing we’ve all forgotten…and it is something really important:  We’re not in charge here.  God is.  Regardless of what public monuments contain or liberal opinions of the day may be or what some people interpret the current laws to say, God hasn’t changed a bit.  He’s still God.  He still answers prayers and His people can still cry out to Him regardless of location.  Thus, the idea of God being removed by humans from ANYWHERE is sheer lunacy.

As a matter of fact, this whole situation reminds me of the quote by C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:  “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

All the so-called public opinion in the world can’t defeat a group of people determined to live their lives according to the prinicpals God has set forth in His Word.  We must CHOOSE to follow him, to worship Him and be the example of Christ no matter where we find ourselves.  We can choose to live lives that honor His teachings and exhibit his love and compassion to the world around us.  In fact, if we put as much effort into living lives that glorified God as we have railing against those who refuse to do so, we might make a larger impact on those who oppose him and have a greater influence over those who don’t yet know about Him.

The United States of America was founded as a direct result of a people’s perceived need for freedom to worship as they believed without government sanction or intervention.  They believed what King David said in Psalm 33:12 and they set about founding a nation for that purpose.  Our founding generation would be shocked beyond belief at what we have done with all that freedom.  They might even see the need for another revolution.  Personally, I see the need for something even larger…a revival.

Please, Father God, let it begin in me.

If only she’d known…

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“Becky, if you could punctuate, you could write books!”  That was the comment written in bright red ink at the top of my high school senior term paper…right beside that “A+/F++” that was also written in red.  The top grade was, of course, for content and the bottom one for punctuation.  Pat Coffey was making a point.  She’d been making points all year.  That was the 3rd time I’d had her as a teacher, so she knew me pretty well and she wasn’t about to let me slide on anything.

The complete content of the paper with the theme personally chosen for me by her (“because the ones on the list would be too easy for you”) no longer stays with me, but her confidence in me remains.  She had no idea that her influence would extend into my college years where my first English comp paper resulted in my being asked to stay after class so the professor could ask where I’d gone to high school.  “You’re one of Pat Coffey’s students, aren’t you?  I can always tell.  Keep it up.”  Without a word from her personally, Pat Coffey’s influence had shown through and insured that my next instructor of writing would also expect more from me.  As a result, I was soon inundated with other student’s papers to proof-read.  Apparently, I’d found the formula even when it didn’t always show up on my own papers.

Grad school found me assigned to my main professor…who just happened to be editor of our profession’s most illustrious and technical magazine.  Seriously?!  The man edited his own notes to himself!  My job, in part, was to find anything he might have missed.  It was the easiest hardest job ever.  He didn’t miss anything unless it was on purpose and his purpose was to make me pay attention.  He helped make me a better clinician by making me attentive to the details that might otherwise be missed.  The up-side was that my thesis was returned by the Graduate School Department with only 3 small errors for correction and their stunned declaration that they had never before seen such a clean first draft.  Dr. S and I declared the required corrections to be matters of opinion, but changed them anyway to keep the peace.  At the end of our time there, he threw a party at his house for me and the other audiology student who had managed to survive our tenure.  It was the first time in years that anyone in the department remembered being invited to his wonderfully hidden and beautifully planned abode.  I think it was because we had somehow managed to exceed even his exacting expectations…either that or he was really glad to get rid of us!

I won’t promise that Pat Coffey or Dr. Moore or Dr. Sheeley will be excited about what might show up here…or about the punctuation.  I will tell you, however, that their attention to detail has shaped my life in ways they could never imagine.  They enhanced my already deep desire for the written word and they sharpened my focus on the world around me.  Because of them I am loathe to miss the details of life, I adore watching for the small blessings that surround me and escape the notice of others, and I am eternally grateful for those who’ve dedicated their lives to teaching.

Like the distant mountains in the photo above, the educators of my past helped create a more beautiful world for me.  They granted me differing perspectives and were secure enough in themselves to encourage (and endure?) the forming of a world view often differing from and challenging of their own.  I am forever grateful to them and to the God who chose to grant me such gracious gifts.

Here’s to the teachers and the young minds of which they will forever be a part!  I can’t wait to see what ambitions–quiet and otherwise–will result.