On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

The Today Blessing

I’m cleaning out again. Still. This time it’s the table top beside my chair. Old cards, magazines, photos, pens, paints, sticky notes with prayers and verses on them, books and Bible study materials…yes, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of treasures here.

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As I’ve sifted through all of the detritus of many yesterdays, I unearthed this poem. I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give credit where its due, but it’s too good to keep myself, so here it is, just for you in case you need reminding, too…

Living in the Present (by Helen Mallicoat, 1977)

I was regretting the past and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Teacher was speaking:

“My name is I AM.” He paused, I waited.

He continued, “When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears, it is hard.

I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,

it is not hard. I am HERE.

My name is I AM.”

Grace and Peace…and as Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”…because that’s where God is, too.

Heroic faithfulness?

Our Sunday School class is in 1 Samuel right now and the lesson this week is on David and Goliath. Almost everybody knows this ancient story. Its part of our cultural lexicon and used even by people who aren’t believers in the Word. We refer to it when we face difficult situations with impossible-looking tasks or to significant victories where the little guy comes out on top even today. As I read through the material in preparation to teach, this quote made quite the impression on me, so I thought I’d share it with you today:

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” *

I read that sentence, grabbed my highlighter, and then I read it again and headed to the computer. Those words speak to me. In this world of political and social upheaval, we’ve seen policemen, firemen, and other emergency personnel run toward the danger almost every day. They go because they’re trained to do so. They’ve worked hard to be ready at a moment’s notice. They go because they care. Despite the actions of a few, the majority hold the line and perform admirably every day whether they’re caught on camera or not.

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” 

You don’t have to be a public servant for these words to apply. The same can be said of those who are faithful to prepare and perform any task. Not so sure about that?

  • Ask the child with the scraped knee when the parent shows up with a hug and a band-aid.
  • Ask the patient in need of pain management or just a friendly face.
  • Ask the employer who can’t get product out the door or make a living without the people who show up on time and as scheduled…and who actually work while they’re there.
  • Ask the friend in need of a listening ear and some sound advice.
  • Ask the husband or wife trading sleep to comfort and encourage–or do the dishes and laundry!– after a difficult day.
  • Ask the school without enough qualified teachers or coaches.

We may not automatically think about people performing mundane tasks as preparing to be heroes, but perhaps we should. Heroes-in-the-making are everywhere, quietly going about the business of living faithful lives. We need to be reminded to say “THANK YOU!”–BEFORE the need is great and the response is required. We need to show appreciation for those around us who do their job and show up consistently to make our lives better.

You know what this means, right? It means you need to be reminded that someone is counting on you today, too. They may not call you heroic and they might not throw a parade, but you matter more than you think you do. Your work ethic matters. Your attitude matters. Your presence matters. Your faithfulness matters.

Yes, your faithfulness matters…and so do you.

Thank you.

Grace & Peace!

 

*Explore the Bible Leader Guide HCSB, Summer, 2016. Eric Geiger, General Editor. Lifeway, One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234.

 

 

 

 

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 30

SONY DSCI’m not exactly certain, but this may have been the most relaxing Thanksgiving of my whole adult life. It started off with a driving trip with my husband to see our Mississippi family, supper and catching up with my sister and her family, and resting in the open home of friends…and that was just day one of our little trip. The rest of it was all about shared food, laughter, catching up and loving on our extended family.

It was wonderful. We were busy, but didn’t try to fit in anything that wasn’t about family on this one. It was what all holidays should be about, but so seldom are. Yes, we loved on a couple of friends and were well-loved in return, but honestly…well…they’re actually family of the heart, so it still counts.

Hey! Did you notice? We made it. Today is the very last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2015!

That doesn’t mean we’re all off the hook tomorrow! It means that now we’ve had a whole month to practice and we should be much better at this as we go forward! (You didn’t think I’d let it slide that easily, did you?!)

Here’s some of what I’ve learned this month:

  • It is possible. You can actually set your mind to let go of your “right” to complain every single day.
  • Choosing to participate in this has been a very positive thing for me…and more than a few others, as well! When we focus on being more positive, people are drawn to that and want to participate!
  • You can never have too many people who are choosing to focus on the positive things in life!
  • Encouragement and positivity are contagious–and courageous!–choices in a world so often focused on only the sensationalized negativity that passes for news.
  • Small ideas still matter. What seemed like a single, simple conversation among friends in October mushroomed into something much, much bigger than we ever expected.
  • Sharing our experiences–whether they are our radiant successes or our less than stellar results–brings us closer, deepens relationships, and makes accountability fun.
  • Knowing that you’re not alone in something that may seem impossible at first is pretty good motivation to keep working at it.
  • I’m STILL the most blessed person I know…and I have the family and friends to prove it.

I’d love to hear from you about what you learned this month, about your best days and your worst ones, too, along with how you see this extending out into your future. I’m still excited about this “experiment” of ours and I’m looking for ways to make it even better next time, so share away, please! If you’ve got a focus for December that you’d like to share, please feel free to do that, as well–we’re always up for more blessing!

I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to end this post and I keep coming back to one of the most beloved blessings in Scripture. I’ll share it with you here and pray it for all of us in the month ahead as we celebrate the One who came to bless us best: Jesus, the Christ…no longer a babe in a manger, but seated at the right hand of God making intercession for each of us even in this moment.

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”   ~Numbers 6: 24-26 (NIV)

Grace & Peace! (and still no complaints!)

 

My Real Life God

I looked through one of those magazines today. You know the ones that are so full of pretty pictures and creative options that it makes you feel like a bit of a slug for not coming up with something like that…or that…or…well, anything that could just add to the pretty of the world and inspire someone to go out and paint a picture or write prose with deep thoughts that will change the world.

It was full of quotes from people who, apparently, live lives full of poetry and have plenty of time to cut little tiny bits of paper and reassemble them into works of art and it had lots of pictures of things like feathers in vintage vases and lace used in unexpected ways to create backdrops for family photo collages. The photos looked, well, the words “whispery” and “ethereal” kept running through my mind…along with very mundane thoughts like, “Mercy, that’s pretty, but even if I could do that, it wouldn’t last long at my house…the cats would kill that mood in a heartbeat. It looks great, but it’s just not an option in my real life.”

I walked out of the store without the magazine, but I carried the pictures in my head along with the desire to write things that were Jane Austin-y or William Wordsworth-y. The truth is that I know most of the same words they knew (or at least a good number of them, anyway!), but somehow mine come out without the flights of fancy most of the time.

I thought about how different we all are and what a good thing that is and that started me thinking about God. I know from Scripture that God is a Spirit and, because of that, a lot of people associate Him with things that are secret and wispy and whispery and gossamer and hushed reverential tones…kind of like some of those magazine pictures I saw today: perfectly staged and too pretty to touch with real life on your hands. I guess I just see Him a little differently.

I see God in the great big things like sunsets and even in the chaos on the evening news. I see Him in the practicality of finding a new use for an old thing that got sold at a yard sale and I see Him in the delicacy of the tiny purple muscari blooms that are scattered around our yard near the hot tub. (Yes, we are the Clampetts and we have a big old hot tub out in the yard–grin—and yes, I even see God in the humor of having that big old hot tub in the yard.)

I see God in delicate things like the moss at the base of the oak trees out back and in the silent flight of the owl that lives up in the top of those same trees. I hear Him in the wind that sweepsSONY DSC
through the Georgia pines out front and in the sweet scent of those same trees as I head to get my mail…it stops me in my tracks every single day. I hear Him in my nephews’ laughter and feel Him in my husband’s hugs. I see Him written out on the delicate pages of my Bible and also in the tough-as-nails, precious people I love who live with daily pain or those who are fighting cancer…still…or even, again. I saw Him today in the face of the perky little lady who came and sat by me at the deli counter and the way she reminded me of a loved one who now lives with God full time.

All of that makes me think that my words might be more whispery when I talk about God if He just wasn’t so loud to me every day. God is available for more than just those reverential, high-church holiday times like Christmas and Easter! He’s a REAL LIFE God for every single second of your life! I hope you hear Him, too—and it doesn’t matter to me if He whispers to you or shouts out loud with joy like He seems to with me most days! Just so you hear Him and know that He’s not too delicate to touch with real life on your hands…no matter what that real life looks like today.

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Grace & Peace!

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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!