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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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!

Day 10–NCN2016

Can I just make a few of observations here today? (And since it’s my blog I’m going to proceed, so just nod, ok?)

  • Either yesterday was the most terrible “Day After” EVER or there are there are a lot more people who need to join us in celebrating NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER than we thought. (and, FYI, that was an independently confirmed observation, not a complaint, but don’t get me started on that!)
  • Oddly–THANKFULLY!!–both President-elect Trump and former Secretary Clinton along with President Obama led the way and delivered strong, conciliatory speeches hoping to reunite the country and move us forward. PLEASE feel free to follow their lead in this!!
  • No matter who you voted for, you are NOT all the horrible labels that were hurled your way yesterday…otherwise God would have mentioned it.
  • He didn’t mention it. I promise.
  • Instead, He said that you are loved. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • He said that you are cherished. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • He said that you WOULD be held responsible for your words and your deeds. (Matthew 12:36)
  • He said you need to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • He said forgiveness is not only possible, but realistic…if you ask Him. (1 John 1:9)
  • That forgiveness-thing? He’s serious about that, but that name-calling stuff is going to have to stop.

Seriously. It’s going to have to stop. I know that all of the divisiveness can’t be erased overnight. It wasn’t limited to just one campaign. The rancor and name-calling was the hallmark of both major parties/candidates and it went on too long and too deeply for it to fade away quickly. It DOES need to start, though, by supporters in BOTH camps and soon.

Speaking the truth in love is critical to our being able to unite and work for the common good. However, most of what we heard and saw yesterday was neither truth, nor love–it was just critical. What kind of influence did YOU bring to the national conversation yesterday? Think about it: how willing would you be to work with those who called you what you called them yesterday? If you really want your side to be heard and your agenda to be advanced, we’re going to need to work on our people skills, people!!

Consider doing your part to make that change today? Personally, I’d really appreciate it…because it would make MY NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER celebration a LOT easier to celebrate. That may sound pretty selfish, but I think it would probably help you with yours, too. At the very least, we all wouldn’t have to feel like we need a shower and a week in solitary just to recover from a short visit on Facebook.

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

 

Changed?

I waited until later to publish this one…on purpose. I knew, you see, that yesterday’s news would be today’s as well. I also knew that so much would be said yesterday (and probably for a good while to come!) that my words might get lost in the clamor. I’m OK with that. What I’ve got to say won’t change a lot of people’s minds, but maybe–just maybe–it might help someone else out there calm down and focus on something other than the hoopla in the news. Everywhere I’ve turned today, there have been rainbows and recriminations. Even as I type, there’s a rainbow at the top of my screen…and it wasn’t there yesterday. I suspect it will still be there tomorrow. Some things are going to be different now. Some things won’t change at all. I plan to be one of those “things” that don’t change. As far as I can tell, my mission is still the same one that its always been. God said I was supposed to love people like He loves people. He didn’t say that I’d always understand them, approve of their actions, agree with them, or even always like them. He just said I was supposed to love them. So, in case you were wondering, the answer to the unspoken question is a resounding “No.” I am not upset by the conclusions reached and published by five people whose job it is to interpret the laws instead of making them. I wasn’t wondering what they thought yesterday, so their opinions don’t hold that much appeal for me or change my thought process today. I don’t agree with those five people, but I am still called to love them and I plan to do so. And what about those people who are so excited and happy about this ruling? Well, the answer to that question is a “yes.” I have friends and family who see today’s news as a victory. I haven’t changed my mind about them, either. So, yes, I loved them before I heard the news and I see no reason to change that now, either. How can that be? Well, I’m realistic enough to know that I don’t have to believe someone is right before I choose to love them. Realistic? Yes. That word is appropriate because I don’t know of a single person on the planet that I’ve agreed with 100% of the time. In fact, if I was waiting until I found someone I agreed with on every single thing, then I wouldn’t even be able to love myself! (To understand that last sentence you need only remember the last time you said you were “on a diet”, but decided to have that big ole brownie anyway.) Loving someone like Jesus loves them means I am called to love regardless of their choices or opinions…and it means I will still be speaking His truth to them every time they’ll let me. You see, I’m a firm believer in telling the truth. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, therefore I am called to tell the truth. What concerns me, however, is the number of people who aren’t speaking His truth in love…and we are called to do that, as well. It matters, people. It matters a lot, so I don’t plan to do that differently, either. The main thing you need to know about me is that I won’t be different today and I won’t be different the day after or the day after that…because I’ve already been changed. I’ve already made the decision that God knows best and that Jesus came to make a way so I could spend eternity with Him and I already know that He wants me to tell others how they can be changed, too, so here it is: God loves YOU! He sent His Son Jesus to die for you and He’s not waiting on you to get cleaned up or change on your own before you get to know Him. He loves you just like you are today AND He loves you enough to know what needs to change about you…whether it’s something that you’ve made public or not. He’s not worried that the task will be too difficult for Him. He’s also not concerned about whether His Word (the Bible) will suddenly become popular with the people on the Supreme Court or with the ones on the Main Streets all across the world or even with those who might sit in pews with all kinds of sin in their hearts this weekend. The Unchangeable One came to change us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29)…no matter where we live or where we stand on this issue or any other. He came to make us righteous and when we become righteous because of His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21), that’s when we’ll be able to love like He loves…and that will be what changes the world.

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!

Bad decisions and the people we love who make them…

I don’t think this will be news to anyone, but people are going to do things that don’t make any sense whatsoever.  They’re going to choose to do things that are wrong and immoral and stupid and they’re going to do those things without thinking for one single second about what consequences those decisions are going to have for others.

Sometimes they’re going to make those decisions without even considering what the consequences are going to be for themselves.

I wish it were different.  Wishing won’t make it so.

I can pray for them and I can use all manner of logic and I can show them eighteen different options and show them how all eighteen of them would make more sense than the one they’ve chosen.  The one thing I can’t do, however, is make their choices for them.

I wish that were different, too…right up until I consider that if I could make their decisions, it might mean that someone else could be making mine.  (Maybe those control issues I mentioned are deeper than anyone else imagined.)

When I find myself in a situation with someone who is making a bad decision, I have a choice to make.  The choice I need to make is about my reaction.  What I choose will make a difference…in our future relationship, in our future conversations and in what my future influence will be.  I need to take all those things into consideration.

That doesn’t mean that I’m called to be fully supportive of decisions I know are wrong.  That’s not the case, at all.  In fact, I’m called to speak the truth in those situations just like I am in any other one.  The thing to remember, however, is that according to Ephesians 4:15, I’m called to speak the truth in love.  In fact, I’m called to do so in order to become more mature in my faith…in order to become more like Christ.

Yes, speaking the truth in love is possible.  No, it may not be easy…to do or to hear.  Regardless, my faith doesn’t allow me to pick and choose my response.  I may need to delay my speech until I can articulate the truth in love, but I’m not excused from speaking it and I’m not excused from doing so with the right attitude.

Being a person of faith doesn’t allow me a pass on this.  There are times I wish it would.  It might be easier, but then again, the idea of disappointing my God is a far bigger deterrent than any concern I might have about what others might believe about me.  I’m aware that there are people in my life who do not talk with me about certain decisions they’ve made because they already know I can’t give my approval and they also know why.  When God has taken a stand on a particular issue, I must take that same stand if I’m to follow Him.

Today, that means I’m having a difficult time reconciling some choices made by some people I love.  I can’t change them.  I can’t change what God has said about their choices.  What I can do is pray for all of us, speak the truth in love and live a life that’s consistent with my own decision to follow Christ and love them just like He does.  It would seem I have my hands full just handling me today…