Theresa’s Next Chapter


“MY SON, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you,
Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it];
Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures,
Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God. [Prov. 1:7.]
For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He hides away sound and godly Wisdom and stores it for the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him); He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and in integrity,
That He may guard the paths of justice; yes, He preserves the way of His saints. [I Sam. 2:9; Ps. 66:8, 9.]
Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and fair dealing [in every area and relation]; yes, you will understand every good path.
For skillful and godly Wisdom shall enter into your heart, and knowledge shall be pleasant to you.
Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil and the evil men, from men who speak perverse things and are liars,
Men who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
Who rejoice to do evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
Who are crooked in their ways, wayward and devious in their paths.
[Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you] to deliver you from the alien woman (or man), from the outsider with her flattering words, [Prov. 2:11.]
Who forsakes the husband and guide of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.
For her house sinks down to death and her paths to the spirits [of the dead].
None who go to her return again, neither do they attain or regain the paths of life.
So may you walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the [consistently] righteous (the upright, in right standing with God).
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the men of integrity, blameless and complete [in God’s sight], shall remain in it;
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the treacherous shall be rooted out of it.” ~ Proverbs 2:1-22
Today, my oldest daughter and firstborn graduates from highschool. It’s an odd feeling. No, it does not make me feel old. I feel more like long-awaited plans have reached a goal along the road of many goals. One long phase of her life, her childhood, is over. (Pause for tears before I can type again. Sigh) We have had some wonderful times, she and I, my beautiful Theresa, the child who first broke ground in my heart in a permanant, real sense. Theresa gets me, like few other friends have ever been able to do. She and I like a lot of the same things, and have a lot in common. In recent years, she has stepped in to a role of encourager, exhorter, and occasionally chasitzer, or is it chaser…..wait no that’s Harry Potter. Anyway, moving on…
When I thought about writing this post, I thought of all the encouraging, boring quotes I could use to point you off in the right direction, Theresa. But, they were boring, trite, overused, impersonal, and not the best I could give you. My best for you has always been my heart. My best has always been to try with shaking, imperfect hands, to point you in the direction of the One who will never fail you, the one accessory you dare not leave behind, and the friend who will never leave you or forsake you. God will never be too cool, or ditch you. He will hold your name in his heart and your life in his hand, so much longer than a tree. (Even a tree’s love has it’s limits, in spite of what Peter S. Beagle would say.)
I must grieve in that mother way, for the times of your childhood when I was your greatest hero, when you looked only to me to teach you things. I will cry a little because the next chapter means leaving some of these things behind, but not all. You and I can laugh only as you and I can, after all. But some of the dependencies you had in me must now be transfered to God. I know you and he have your own understanding. It makes me feel so much better about loosening my grip a little bit more. It’s like when you were little and learning to swim. I’d hold your hands as you stepped into deeper water, little by little you’d work your way past the cold torture of the water as it rose against your skin, your feet barely skimming the bottom. One day, you swam on your own, and you didn’t need me to hold your hands any longer. This has been the dance we’ve done for a long time now.
But times change, and people grow up. Your arms and legs are stonger now. You are able to swim, and learn, and decide, and choose, all on your own. I don’t always agree, or approve, but you have entered the realm of adult action and reaction. Bear it well, Daughter of Eve.
Many have or will or are graduating. This is the season for it. Many are going off on their own to tread the deeper waters of life, not all are as well prepared as you are, some are more so. Some of your future classmates will have more talent in some areas, some less. Many will have different ideas about life and God as they are away from their families and figuring it all out. Listen to them. Learn from them. Be thankful that your life lessons have not been what some of theirs will be. Be thankful that you have ever been surrounded by people who love you and love God and want more than anything for the two of you to be besties for life, and beyond. Yet while you are listening and learning and making new friends, never forget your Forever Friend.  He is the friend of sinners. He is the Savior of us all. Don’t be intimidated or brow-beaten into hiding the Light inside of you. The world NEEDS that Light, it is the only light there is in this dark world. (John 1:1-5)
In a world full of fleeting glowstick-light, the blazing hot sun of God’s love is the one you need to hold dear. In love, as you go about your day to day, this Light will shine on those around you. Love them. We all need love. When they are hard to love, be kind, when it is hard to be kind, be silent 🙂 , but pray. Bless those around you as much as you can and trust to God. He moves in secret places no one else can see. He is the God of hearts, who has a heart, and who changes hearts. While we both wait for a certain heart we both hold dear to soften, we can pray for that as well, and trust them to God.
For you, the best I have to give you is what you already have. Don’t only GO with God, go FOR God and IN God and BECAUSE of God. Not everyone is a missionary in a faraway place. Not everyone ends up in an official “ministry” position, and yet we are all called. We all can minister. This world is hurting so very much. We carry inside our hearts, the Balm for the world, for all the souls of the world. Be a balm. Be the BOMB balm. In times when you feel uncertain and inadequate, remember He is a balm for you as well. JESUS
My amazing, restless, bossy, wonderful, talented, limitless Theresa, you will do great things. Just remember to keep wisdom at your side, God in your heart, and never forget your pocket handkerchief.
“That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,
Receive instruction in wise dealing andthe discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity,
That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth–
The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]–[Prov. 9:9.]
That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. [Ps. 111:10.]
My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother.
For they are a [victor’s] chaplet (garland) of grace upon your head and chains and pendants [of gold worn by kings] for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. [Ps. 1:1; Eph. 5:11.]” ~ Proverbs 1:2-10 Amplified
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So Cold It Hurts (Part 2) | My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered


So Cold It Hurts (Part 2) | My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered.

It’s a Great Day to Be New!


“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell

Right now I have a packet of seeds, several packets in fact, sitting in front of me on my desk. Have you ever looked at a seed, to simply marvel at the size of it? Even a very large seed, like from an avocado, is small when you take the time to consider the possibility and potential that lies inside. A seed on its own doesn’t usually give much of an indication of the eventual fruit of the tree or plant it will become. The majority of seeds are dry, sometimes withered, unattractive, and easy to discount, easy to overlook. I have never once felt hungry when looking at the seed of a watermelon or tomato or orange. I have never looked at an acorn or maple seed and thought, “Now that is some lovely shade.” There is a lot of time and work required to get anything of value out of a seed of any kind. Time……Work…..Time and work…….Hmmmmmmm…….. Did I lose anyone? 🙂

A funny thing about these seed packets is that they all look the same. They’re all about the same size and color. Some are slightly heavier or thicker, but for the most part, they are all the same: packets of potential. On the paper is printed the seed names, instructions for best results, and a hand-drawn picture of the expected plants lying dormant inside each one of them. (I love botanical prints, but that doesn’t really come into this post much. 😉 )

Each one of us, living on this Earth, is like a seed packet. Some of us contain the seed for great works, or beauty, or development, or discovery. Some of us contain the seeds to nurture and care for those around us, or lead, or inspire, or protect. Each of us, no matter what out outsides may look like, where we may live, what we believe, or who we love, or fear, or mistrust, have inside of us the seeds of who we were meant to be. Not all of those seeds will grow. Many will be poisoned by life and sin and choices of our own and others until we stop believing that there was ever anything good or helpful or wholesome or even worthwhile inside of us. Some of us will grow weary with the strange and capricious weather of the world and opt to not plant our seeds. Why risk the heartache and the long years of work and waiting to see if one or two of our dreams may come to pass? It’s too much to hope for. It’s too hard. Its too…..I’m not….They don’t care anyway. Who needs ________________ really?

STOP. Just stop and listen to yourself! What would have happened if the greats had said this and taken no and wait for answers to their burning questions?? Our world is a hard place to live now. Think about how much harder it would have been without the brave souls who paid the price necessary to plant their seeds! Do you think there’s no cost when you plant a seed? You just dig a hole, put the seed in the hole, cover it up with soil, and walk away?

What about the seed, leaving a safe place for the dark unknown, where there is mess and regular dealings with garbage, manure (to put it nicely), and all manner of threat from above and below? AFTER a lot of watering and sheltering, this most fragile living thing finally emerges weak, twisted, and STILL not anything like it’s potential promises. One seedling looks pretty much like any other. They are all delicate, sensitive, and easily discouraged or even killed. This is the fate of embryonic dreams. When we finally have the courage to go ahead and plant them, very often they seem to disappear and we wait an interminable amount of time for them to finally show some signs of hey-I’m-not-crazy-after-all! Patience is hard. We want what we want and we want it NOW!! There was no waiting involved in your imagination when the dream first come to you. There was no hard work or try, try, trying again. What gives? Now in the sick and weary world our dreams are held up for scrutiny and ridicule even by those we most love and that hurts very much. There are even times when we may forget what we even planted. (Wait, is this row radishes or rutabagas? *Author’s note: I will NEVER, EVER plant rutabagas in my garden. Also why is it spelled rutabagas when you pronounce it root-a-beggas? Anyway, moving on.*)

Some people would tell you that labeling your rows is just plain old common sense. I expect most serious gardeners would. I often forget to mark my seeds, or the kids move them, or play with them, or for Heaven’s sake eat them (who knows?)! I find this to be true quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the garden. I find myself distracted by life and the turmoil that comes with raising a big family, let alone dealing with my own inner turmoil and fears and sense of inadequacy as a woman, mom, and wife? I mislay my dreams and hopes and goals. Sometimes I mislabel them, like when I was still a single mom waiting for Mr. Wonderful. I labeled my hopes “Mr. Right”. I should have labeled them “Mr. Right-for-ME”. Alongside that goal, I should have also placed a marker for “Healthier, Happier, Self”.  That crop had to mature a bit first. (Take note, lonely single people.)

Set goals for your dreams. Measure their growth in benchmarks. Keep track of your hopes and dreams. Never forget how far you’ve already come! You are a packet of potential! It’s up to you to show the world what you have inside!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified 

Appetite for Destruction


“If you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being. For this commandment which I command you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off. It is not [a secret laid up] in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your mind and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil. [If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which] I command you today, to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land into which you go to possess. But if your [mind and] heart turn away and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish, and you shall not live long in the land which you pass over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live And may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:10-20 Amplified Version

There is a story that I heard some time ago, and have told in chat-rooms and elsewhere myself, about a daddy who was spending time with his little girl at the park. They didn’t get to spend too much time together just the two of them, and they were both enjoying their time. As the afternoon wore on, the dad heard the ice cream truck coming and ran to get his daughter a treat. Glancing over his shoulder (because, of course, you should never leave your children alone at a park), he saw that she was happily playing in the sandbox. He smiled to himself, paid the ice cream man, and hurried to present his little girl with her treat. As he neared his daughter, the daddy called her name. When she turned toward him, he saw that her mouth was full of sand! (Oh boy! Kids say and DO the darndest things, don’t they?) The dad sighed and smiled and shook his head, scooping up his little girl with one arm while he held onto her treat with his other hand. He then proceeded to carry her to the drinking fountain where he could wash out her mouth and clean her up a bit before finally giving her the ice cream that was, by now, starting to dribble down his wrist. Simple enough story right? Well, let’s take another look at it.

First of all, if you have read my blog before, you should know that I love parables and allegories. Secondly, you should also know that this is, indeed, one of those. 🙂 To begin with, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s say that you (no matter your gender) are the little girl, and the Daddy, is of course, God.

Before you run off, thinking that this is no story for you, let me tell you of God’s love for you. He really, really loves you. Seriously, he’s a huge fan. Sometimes the things you do, are another matter. So many times in life we are merrily trucking along when we find our mouths (sometimes literally) full of sand. God has a good plan for us. He sees much more than potential. He sees the hopes and dreams and unique personality and gifts he has placed inside each one of us. He sees the beauty of discovery and joy and blessing of friendship and soul-communion with us. He has amazing and glorious things in store for each of us, personalized amazing. Some people might like a big tub of red vines. Others of us couldn’t care less about red vines. Maybe we would prefer a pedicure, or a new part for the classic Chevy we’ve been massaging in our garage, or a fashion makeover, or the latest expansion of our favorite MMO (online games for non-gamers), or a new transmission, etc. The list of special amazing things someone might like is as individual as each of us is. God knows these things though. He is the best present-giver ever. Not only did he send Jesus to die and rise in order to save us, but He delights to surprise us with a million little and big things all along our journey to encourage, reward, and treat us, “just because”. Anyway, back to our story…

Since we have established the who’s who of things, let us dig a little deeper. As I said, God loves to spend time with us. During our lives he watches over us, even more when we take the leap and decide to love and serve him and accept the sacrifice only He could have made for us. Sometimes, when He is about to show us a new aspect of himself, or give us a miracle we’ve been praying for, or promotion, or “just because” present, He sees us with our mouths full of sand. He’s not going to cancel the treat, but it might be delayed awhile, while He helps to clean us up to prepare us to enjoy the blessings he has in store for us. Of course he loves us, there is no question of that. You take care of your kids. When they fall down and get hurt, or even deliberately do things that hurt them, we pick them up and clean them up before we give them the good things we have been saving on purpose to give them. Sometimes there is a time of healing, or strengthening, or just an extended time of washing. Thankfully, there is no chance that God’s treats will melt and be ruined. 🙂

There are times when, let’s say it plainly, we are stubborn, foolish, and just plain stupid. We’d rather do things our own way, despite the taste of sand. Our mouths get raw, our insides rebel, but we still refuse to ask for help. Sometimes we try to be sneaky and clean ourselves up. We are not exactly good at this and usually end up making a bigger mess. And still our Father waits, expectantly, for us to stop throwing our fits and trying to get our way so he can give us the special, customized amazing that he has in store for us. Oh, He loves us as we are, but He doesn’t want to leave us with our mouths full of sand. He has so much more in store for us, you see. We just have to be wiling to accept it.

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer offered in this place. For I have chosen and sanctified (set apart for holy use) this house, that My Name may be here forever, and My eyes and My heart will be here perpetually.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 (Amplified Version)

Day of the Dead?


Love, like death, changes everything.” ~Kahlil Gibran

This time of year has always been my favorite. I love the fall colors, the fall food, the fall sweaters, smells, etc, etc. My anniversary is November 1st (5yrs tomorrow!). Halloween, on the other hand, used to be a big question mark for me. Do I celebrate, as a Christian? Do I make a point of telling others about my faith? Do I pretend I’m not at home? Do I celebrate as my non-Christian friends and neighbors do? I’m not sure why I tend to over-think things like this, but that’s the way I am. I like to analyze.

This year is a little different. There has been a LOT of death recently in my community and in my own life as well as the lives of my friends and family. It quite honestly frightens me. Like a divorce, the death of a friend or loved one (or the friends and loved ones of friends), death makes you reevaluate things in your life like relationships, priorities, hopes and dreams, and the unknown clock that is running out for each and every one of us. We each carry a skeleton around on the inside.

If the focus, for you or me or anyone else, stays on death, then no, Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead festivities are not fitting for a Christian to celebrate perhaps. There is, of course, more to the story than a skull and crossbones at the end of the trail. Our story continues after death. For those who have decided against popular culture and chosen Christ, there is no fear of what comes after death, because of the love of God.

“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again. Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay. The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true, “Death has lost the battle!Where is its victory?Where is its sting?”Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin.But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory!My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.”1 Corinthians 15:52-58

 

The Nature of Me


My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered

I once wrote a biography for English in my junior year of high school. Naturally, it wasn’t a very long story and maybe not even a good read, but it was interesting to make an effort to see my life as it might look from the outside, to an impartial observer. It took some years for me to finally figure out that, contrary to science journals and social experiments, there is no such thing as an impartial observer. Bias makes us human, and also interesting. We can relate to one another through our bias, or preferences. I might like Chinese and Mexican food but the thought of trying a certain Ethiopian crock pot recipe (again) makes me want to just pitch my slow cooker in the trash! Quirks and eccentricities are what give us all our unique personalities and ourFLAVOR!

I remember desperately trying to be like everyone…

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Be Still and Know…


“There are times when parenthood seems nothing more than feeding the hand that bites you” – Peter De Vries

Blogging has become a very therapeutic  activity for me. Sometimes it helps me just to make sense of the world and my place in it. If I can encourage other people while I’m at it, then all to the good. Sometimes, however, my being a mom tends to get in the way of things I really want to do, like blogging, or learning to quilt, or taking a shower. I’m sure a lot of parents can sympathize with me on this one.

On 9/11, I had a great ( in my mind) blog post all worked out……..it somehow did NOT work out…..or even several days later, when a young, lovely girl here in our local high school that has a graduating class of less than 200, who took her life after school. I wanted to exhort, encourage, I wanted to say something profound and shed a little sunshine into otherwise dark and depressing times. My job as a mom took precedence, however, as wisdom reminds me….it is supposed to do just that.

Even though my family is warm and dry and well-fed and protected and all the blessings we hope and pray for our families to have, I often feel that  am missing out on something big, something I could have done, or said, or written, or experienced…. I know I am not alone in this, either. There are scores of books and movies about women (and men) who override this immediacy of parenthood and run off unshackled into the sunset to pursue their dreams. They live happily ever after, for the most part, in those stories. Why doesn’t everyone do this then? Why don’t we have generation after generation of orphans instead of these silently exhausted and stressed-out masses who find it difficult to have a normal adult conversation without recounting so-and-so’s bodily functions for the day?

Perhaps parents everywhere, on every continent, know the secret to being a parent and keeping their life’s light of hope still burning. Perhaps these parents have learned that there are not stretches of eternity….not in this life…..but seasons that are ever-changing, each beautiful for its own characteristics. Maybe they know that there will be days in the future when the little inconveniences and annoyances and heartaches we endure for our children’s sake (and sometimes because of them), will fade and leave mostly happy memories and funny stories in their place.  I try to remind myself this on days when I feel overwhelmed and want to run away and hide, after selling all of my children to the gypsies….or the circus….or maybe the bargain bin at Grocery Outlet. The frantic need for peace and quiet claws at me and makes my best intentions seem quite thin at other times. What I am left with is a simple verse out of the Bible:

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

I must trust that my days as “Mommy” who wipes noses, tears and bottoms, listens to silly stories and book reports, corrects papers, and on the list goes, will one day change and I will be more like Dear Abby, giving advice and listening from afar. I will miss this and will probably not feel like doing the things I think I am missing out on now. Those things I’m missing, aren’t worth my time as much as these little adored human beings I am responsible to raise to giving, living, loving adulthood. In the end, I don’t think my most important work is being left behind. I think being a mom is the most important thing I will ever do, even when my wildest dreams come true, as some of them surely will. Let me encourage you, also, with this ridiculous stream-of-consciousness rambling that I am doing. God sees what you do, your children see what you do, others see what you do. A good parent is priceless. Don’t undermine your day in and day out job of teaching someone how to be an amazing human by doubting if it’s all worth it. It is. They are. You are. One day things will change. When they do, be able to look back fondly on memories of how you invested in these small ones who looked to you for everything. Be still, and know that He is God. You’ve got this; and He’s got you.

“God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-11

The Trap of Offense


The fox condemns the trap, not himself.   William Blake

If you happen to look up the online Merriam-Webster definition of the word “offense” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/offense), you will have quite a lot to chew on. An offense is more than just a feeling of outrage, anger, insult, etc. An occasion for offense is an invitation to step into a trap. Offense, like unforgiveness, is something we hold on the inside of us to our own detriment.

We always, of course, have perfectly good reasons (read excuses) for the things we might or might not do, which offend others. People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? Others, naturally, do not receive such largesse. They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!

Additionally, when we are offended by someone, a business, government, church, etc., we tend to want to tell other people all about it. Offense is catching. Now the offense has grown. Don’t try to kid yourself. you haven’t done the newly offended party any favors. Offense is a stumbling block that keeps people angry and closed off from others. When we are offended our relationships suffer, all of them. We turn a critical eye on everyone and everything. We even shut out God, the Lover of our souls. It only makes sense that the newly offended are also keeping God and other people shut out. Then they share their offense with someone else, and so it spreads, like a cancer, like gossip….the only truly appropriate medium for so much badness.

The Bible says in Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [Psalm 120:2, 3.] A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren.”

When we give in to our offended, hurt feelings instead of reserving judgement, being merciful, and trying to see things from the other party’s point of view, and moreover share these hurt feelings with others, we become proud, deceitful, violent, scheming, and evil in our hearts, the place where God looks. (1Samuel 16:7) Now wait, don’t throw out what I’m saying, aka, don’t be offended. 😉 Pride tells us that we are capable to decide what is in another person’s heart and mind AND we are perfectly within our rights to be upset because WE are much too important (them, not so much). We lie to ourselves (or listen to the enemy’s lies) and convince ourselves that we have been wronged, so much that we hold it against the other party, like a weapon behind the door. We might possibly forgive but we will never forget. (Ouch, that one hurt a little; it’s OK, me too.) All of this holding on to offense tends to make us stew or mull the situation over and over in our minds. We hold a grudge. We come to the conclusion that other people should know about it so they too can hold their secret weapons. We cause trouble between other people. The reason we are separated from God is because when He looks in our hearts to see who we really are, He sees a festering, stinking mess. Remember the Golden Rule and that whole thing about being forgiven as we forgive others? Yeah, He actually meant it. (Ouch some more.)

It’s not all about finger pointing and bad boy this and bad girl that, though. God truly wants our hearts to be healed and our spirits free from the traps we enter of our own volition. Unlike us so many times, God understands the naturally mucky tendencies we all have: and He wants to help. (Psalm 103:14)

First, He gives us instructions: “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” 1 John 1:9

Second, He gives us salvation: “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:6-10

Third, He gives us Himself: ” But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. [Mal. 3:6.] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. [Isa. 33:2.] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. [Num. 18:20.] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26

For these reasons, we need to revise the previous statements: [People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!]… The attitude that these statements, and similar ones, display is unseemly for a child of the Living-Giving-Loving God. Instead, we should change things up a bit.

I should understand that they have extenuating circumstances. Why am I so touchy?? What’s my problem? I have no excuse. I should have known. I should know better. Who do I think I am? They don’t have to put up with that! See the difference that makes? Now, maybe other people will see us the way we would like them to see us. All of this, truthfully, is difficult. Sometimes there are definite trespasses it’s hard to get past. That is where the amazing and free grace of God kicks in. (Amen!)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness. [James 5:11.] He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge. He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children–[Deut. 10:12.]” Psalm 103:8-17

Fortune Favors the Prepared


You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.  Harriet Martineau

Remember the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It’s one of my favorites. The foolish grasshopper only wants to play and laughs at the ants as they “waste their time preparing for winter during the warm summer months. They don’t get to enjoy themselves. They don’t have any fun. Soon enough the snow falls and the ants are inside their well-stocked homes, warm and well fed, as the storms rage outside. The grasshopper, poor thing, soon enough comes to realize that his playing has sealed his fate, and sadly freezes to death.

I am always reminded of this fable whenever the weather starts to change in preparation for fall. It is almost time for the kids to return to school. It is almost time to dust off all the soups and stews and cold weather recipes. It is time to start the yearly battening down of the hatches. Time to take stock of our food and the condition of our homes and automobiles and wardrobes has come. We still have the last little bit of summer in some places. We still have a little more time. There is still something to be said for hard work and the payments we receive for our investment in it.

This was brought on, in part, by a certain smell in the air and feel of the wind…..not to mention the fact that there was wind at all. Fall is on it’s way, and change is in the air, again.  A friend and neighbor posted something about her apple trees and tomato plants and preparing for their harvests. We used to live in a house with more apples and pears in the fall than we knew what to do with them. We miss them dreadfully now, of course. It would be wonderful to enjoy the same kind of bounty again.  (Hey, I’m always up for sharing.)

As we think about being prepared, working toward it, planning for it, we must eventually realize that there is more to our lives than our homes and cars and wardrobes and pantries. In the same way, there is more to a person’s life than their day in day out sleeping, eating, working, playing cycle. We are more than we are on the outside, and our insides could do with a bit of preparing as well. This doesn’t have to be the mule at the flour mill daily trudge many of us picture. Our soul and spirit’s preparing can be a wondrous journey full of adventure, discovery, and yes, challenging ourselves to stretch, stretch, stretch! Think of it as the beautification of the inside of yourself, which will eventually be so radiant as to shine out through the windows and give light to those around you.

In your relationships, your personal feelings about yourself and your ultimate worth, your willingness to forgive and be forgiven, and your views of God and the universe around you, your investments of time and study and working things through for yourself (or lack thereof) will bring fruit of their own. You may not ever learn the exact answers or gain perfect understanding in this life, but you can make a good start. Don’t leave the preparation of your inner self on the back burner until it’s too late!

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself?Because whoever is ashamed of Me and of My teachings, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the [threefold] glory (the splendor and majesty) of Himself and of the Father and of the holy angels. ” Luke 9:23-26

 

Mirror, Mirror…


“Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude.” Aphra Behn

As we go about our lives, we often hold onto visions of our true selves as the heroes from stories we have heard all of our lives. Stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and the Little Engine That Could teach us wonderful lessons about courage and bravery and the rewards of faithfulness and perseverance.  These are all good things to hold inside and mull over, to be sure.

However, there is more to any story than a happy hero going off to be brave, unselfish, and finding true love (not to mention a throne) without a hitch. Without danger, there is no bravery. Without a need for sacrifice, there is no unselfishness. Without a struggle, there is no victory and ultimate happy ending. Many times, these struggles come to the hero in the form of a nasty piece of work known as the Villain. As villains go, it’s hard to come by nastier examples than the ones we see in fairy tales…..except the ones in real life. Of course there are the ones notorious throughout history. We should definitely learn our lessons from them. By and large, though, the majority of us face villains much more tame and boring (thank God!).

If we are truthful with ourselves, we must eventually admit that just as often (perhaps more-so) as we are the heroes of life, so we too are also sometimes the villains. Yes, Snow White, I’m talking to you. You, also, sometimes find yourself looking jealousy at the blessings of others, their friends, position, status, reputation, looks, spouse, and on it goes… Sometimes, you have wished that bad things would happen, the truth to come out, loss of reputation, loss of position, loss of love, loss of fortune, even loss of life. How, then, does this make you any different than the Evil Queen who once sought your own life?

If we look at the other side of the stories we cherish from our youth, we see the repercussions of pride, thoughtlessness, arrogance, greed, jealousy, and all the rest. These should be lessons to us as well, perhaps even more dear to us than the ones we glean from the heroes’ stories. When we gaze into our mirrors, we need to see the truth of who we actually are.

Many of our world’s villains thought themselves to be heroes in one way or another. They felt misunderstood, wronged by fate, persecuted, maligned, talked-about, misused, abused, and unlucky. Many of them were, but it is what we DO that makes us a hero or a villain. Every hero has odds to overcome as well.

Our reflections should show us more than how good we look. We can also see where things are out of place, dirty, missing, or broken. When we reflect on the person we have become, we would be wise to take a brave look at our true selves so we can see the things we should be working on. The point of a mirror, after all, is to help us look and be our very best.

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).”  James 1: 22-25