The Truth About Dissing

IMG_0815When my husband and I put our home in Virginia on the market seven years ago it brought out the worst in me. I might as well have been taken over by the pod people. I’m surprised my husband didn’t move to North Carolina without me. I became a man’s worst nightmare…the nagging wife.

“…and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” Proverbs 19:13

Like water constantly dripping from a leaky faucet I was making my poor man miserable. I’m sure there were times he would have preferred living in a tent in the woods than under his own roof. At least he would have had some peace in his heart.

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9

If you’ve ever sold a home you know it can be nerve-racking. It wasn’t just all the preparations that went into the sale of our home it was the stress of moving to another state. Leaving the city of our birth, the country of our childhood, the place where we raised our children, our ministries and our church family, our neighborhood with all it’s comfort and familiarity, our family, our friends….leaving it all behind to move to a new place where we knew absolutely. no. one. Not one single person.

Yeah. I was stressed.

That cliche’? Too blessed to be stressed? It’s cute. It’s wise. It’s true. But, it’s not practical for a high-strung woman going through menopause. Just sayin’.

One of the things I’ve learned in the seven years we’ve been in our new home is that once you become a whiner and complainer, it’s hard to break the habit. But, praise God, hallelujah and amen, I think I’ve had a break-through ’cause the good Lord has seen fit to give me some of His hard-to-ignore-wisdom-and-counsel this past week.

Whining and complaining is really a lack of trust in the Sovereignty of God. My word for 2014 is trust. As I’ve been reading my Bible through this year I’ve highlighted and journaled in the margins of God’s Book everything He’s been showing me about trust. I’ve always thought I had a pretty solid foundation of faith, weak at times-yes, but I’ve never doubted my salvation. I’ve been digging deep this year, though, and I’ve allowed God to expose some of my ‘ugliness’…the parts of me that aren’t very ‘pretty.’ One of these things has been my tendency to worry. When I worry, I stress. When I stress, I whine. When I whine, I complain. When I complain, I criticize. When I criticize, I start dissing others.

Dissing is now in the new contemporary versions of our American dictionaries. It means to disrespect someone, to criticize. So last week I was whining about something. The next thing I knew I began criticizing someone. Before I knew it, God had gotten in the middle of it. I guess you could say He put a stop to it. Like a lightening bolt. Boom. Thank goodness I didn’t drop dead. I don’t know that heaven is ready for me, yet.

All of these words began to flash before my eyes: discord, disunity, disharmony, dissatisfaction, discontent. God showed me that when all these disses show up in my heart they wreck havoc on my soul and spirit. I’m not just disrespecting my fellow man, I’m disrespecting myself. I’m disrespecting my God because my heart is really Christ’s home.

When I’m whining and complaining there isn’t much room for God’s love, joy, peace, and contentment in my life. It’s as if I’m poisoning my thoughts with everything that is not “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8)

But the defining moment came when I realized I can’t really bring honor to God when I’m dissing because I’m not respecting Him and His authority in my life. It’s a lack of trust in Him. A lack of trust in His goodness.

And that brings tears to my eyes. I don’t want to hurt God’s reputation because He really and truly is good. Deep down, where the heart of Jesus lives and breathes within me, I really do love this Man. This Redeemer. This One who only wants the very best for me and part of His best is to rid me of all that isn’t good so that I can receive all that is…all that is “true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable.”

And when it comes right down to it, I can’t shine the light of Jesus when I’m full of disses. I want to be full of blesses instead. I really do want to be too blessed to be stressed.

So I’m working on letting go of a bad habit. It takes work. It takes practice. Not only do I want my husband to live peacefully in his home, I want Jesus to feel at home in my heart. I don’t want to let the pod people take over because they dull my sparkle. I want to shine. I want to keep a twinkle in my eye. I want to light up my little part of the world.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:14

Lighting the world for Jesus begins in me. It starts in my heart, Christ’s home…the place where He is pleased to dwell.

Grace After Grace

IMG_0787My pastor has a real heart for prayer. On Monday my husband and I joined him in a new kind of prayer ministry he has started as a community outreach. After receiving permission from the directors of our town’s medical clinic, we set up a tent, a table and some chairs on the lawn just outside the main doors. Our mission was to ask people going in and out of the clinic if we could pray for them.

That’s all. Pure and simple. Nothing added to it. Nothing taken from it.

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t know what to expect. I don’t like rejection and I half-believed there would be a lot of that, but God knows I love to pray and so do these two godly men I served alongside. I especially love to pray with others, taking their names to the throne of grace while holding their hands.

There are a lot of hurting people in our midst. Many of them feel helpless, sometimes hopeless. Some are frightened, afraid to even face tomorrow. Others feel completely alone. They just need to know someone cares. Somehow, prayer has a way of bringing comfort to those who may not even know how to pray for themselves. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve prayed with someone and we’ve both ended up in tears. Only Jesus can reach that deeply, touch that tenderly, and comfort that generously.

But I’ve come to understand something about prayer. Something that makes all my own personal suffering worth it. I’ve had my share of physical discomfort in life. I live with a measure of discomfort every single day, but God has not left me to cope on my own. He gives me all I need to live life well. If He does it for me, I know He’ll do it for anyone.

“Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness…” John 1:16

We have all received grace after grace…

Oh my goodness, I think I need to shout “Hallelujah!!”

Grace after grace after grace…never-ending grace. In other words, I’ve been given plenty to go around. It’s not to be hoarded or hidden away.  As it has freely and generously been given to me so I should freely and generously share it with others.

There’s a scene in the The Lord of the Rings movie, Fellowship of the Ring, that I have memorized. Frodo was stabbed by a morgul blade and near death. Lady Arwen raced him away on her horse, carrying him to her people where they had the power to save him. Along the way, they were pursued by the Nazgul who desired to capture Frodo, the bearer of their precious ring. Because they were held up by the enemy, Frodo began to slip away into the shadow world, but Arwen cradled him in her arms and with tears in her eyes she prayed,

“What grace has been given to me, let it pass to him.”

Such an abundance of grace has been given to me. I know where I’ve been. I know what I’ve done. I know what God has saved me from and what He still delivers me from. I know what I struggle with every single day. I know my weaknesses, my frailties, my insecurities. I know the power of grace. How can I not want others to know it, too?

When I hold someone’s hand or lay my hand on her (or his) shoulder to pray with her, in a way I’m cradling her in my arms. I don’t always want to just say, “I’ll pray for you,” and then put her name on my prayer list.  Sometimes I want to pray side-by-side, face-to-face, and hand-in-hand in the Presence of God. I want to share tears. I want to give comfort. I want to unleash grace.

I want to pass it on.

I know grace is unleashed in thousands of different ways, but prayer is so very personal and God is a personal God, meeting us right where we are and loving us just as we are. People need to know God sees, God hears, God cares. And I can show them that through prayer. Prayer is just another way to grace someone, but I believe it’s one of the most powerful.

We met with such a wonderful response yesterday outside the medical clinic. People were receptive, responsive, appreciative. And, yes, there were even some tears. I have no doubt God touched many hearts. I have no doubt God came down.

I have no doubt Grace abounded.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Prayer changes things. Prayer covers things. Prayer calms things.

For the love of grace, pass it on….

 

 

Morning Glory

IMG_0189I love morning glories.

A few summers ago I found some seed packets at WalMart for the Giant Heavenly Blue variety. Of course I just had to purchase a packet. I came home and couldn’t wait to scatter the seeds around the light post in my back yard. I was rewarded handsomely with gorgeous blue blooms in no time. I had hoped they would re-seed themselves so I didn’t save any seeds for the following year. Sadly, they didn’t come back and WalMart hasn’t carried them since. I know I can probably order them online from a seed company, but I just haven’t done it. I’m lazy like that.

It really doesn’t matter, though, ’cause you know why? The morning glory grows all over my little town of Spring Hope. Some might consider it a weed. I know some varieties are very invasive and can take over a garden if not cultivated and kept under control. I guess I’m a softie, though. I love the way a morning glory plant beautifies the most unattractive places. I love the way it grows along the roadsides and fields. I love the way it clings to rotted fence posts and rusty, metal farm equipment. I love the way it shoots pops of bright magenta pink, cornflower blue, and even pure white across the landscape.

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I love how a morning glory grows fast, spreads quickly and tolerates poor soil. I love how it climbs a porch trellis and offers shade on hot summer days. I love how it’s leaves are shaped like hearts and it’s white centers like stars. But most of all, I love how a morning glory loves the sun, how it’s blooms close up at night into thin spirals and takes a rest in the cool night air from a day of beautifying the earth. I love how it unfurls in the early morning as the sun begins it’s ascent over the treetops. It’s as if the morning glory greets each day with purpose.

So it is with the child of God.

We’re called to bloom in the most unlikely places. We’re called to add beauty to the most unattractive corners of the world.  We’re called to tolerate the poorest of soils, to climb the most difficult mountains, to offer a bit of respite to those wandering in desert lands. We’re called to share our hearts, shine like stars and then take a welcome nighttime rest that we might bloom with purpose at the rising of each new day.

We’re not weeds, though. We cling to the One True Vine with. all. our. might. Some of us grow a little wild, some of us are more cultivated, but all of us are beautiful in His sight. With our faces to the rising Son, we shine bright, we bloom big, we climb high…

I just love that.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

 

 

My Crowning Glory

IMG_0774Nearly twenty-five years ago I took my sons to school one day, went back home, sat in front of the full-length mirror in our bathroom with some scissors and a comb, and bravely chopped off all my hair.

I had been trimming my own shoulder-length hair for years, even doing my own highlighting, but I was ready for something different. My hair is fine and straight without a lot of body. I was tired of hot curlers and curling irons and things that made styling my hair a dreaded chore. I decided I just didn’t want to be a slave to my hair.

I had been looking at pictures in magazines of short hairstyles and thought I could pull it off. I was too impatient to make an appointment with a salon for a professional consultation. I don’t know what came over me. I’ve always been creative and figured this was something else I could copy from a picture and achieve good results. I found out that doing it myself wasn’t really a good idea.

Don’t ask me how, but I survived a near disaster. After calling a salon with a cry of “Help! Emergency!,” my hair was properly restyled. I can now say that short hair and I get along very well. Believe it or not, except for the two or three times a year when my best friend (who just happens to be a hairstylist) gives me a professional cut and color job, I trim my own hair every 4-6 weeks. For someone who is blind in one eye this is quite a feat. As they say, practice makes perfect or maybe in this case…practice makes okay.

When I was a little girl I used to wake up early in the morning and sit on our family room floor with paper, scissors and crayons to satisfy my need for artistic expression. One morning as I happily cut and pasted my little heart out, my hair fell over my face. As only a four-year-old could reason, it seemed the best way to get it out of my eyes was to cut it off. So, I did.

When I realized I couldn’t put it back together with tape and glue I went to my father who was in his study reading his Bible. Lifting my arms up with hands stretched out as if presenting an offering, I showed him my dead chunks of hair and told him it “just fell out.” Thank goodness he was in the Word at the time because I don’t recall any harsh words or punishment for my fib or my crime. I do remember my mother standing me on the toilet later that morning, cutting my long, blonde hair to a chin-length bob, crying the entire time. She even saved a lock which I still have to this very day.

What is it about women and hair? Are we ever satisfied? My hair has thinned considerably the past several years. Woe is me. The only reason I highlight my hair is to add texture and body. I don’t have gray hair yet, but I really don’t think I’d mind if I did. I think gray hair is lovely. There’s something regal and royal about a woman who wears her gray hair with pride.

One of our weaknesses as women is letting our hair define us. I remember how devastated I was years ago when a surgeon shaved the back of my head before brain surgery. I actually asked my best friend to shave it all off because I didn’t see how in the world we could salvage the mess he made. When the nurse removed my stitches a week later she asked me, “Are you okay with this? Because brain surgeons definitely aren’t hairstylists.” She shared with me that women who lose their hair to chemotherapy often have a hard time with hair loss. I get this. I had wondered why I was grieving the loss of so much hair. I think it’s fair to say that most of us view our hair as our crowning glory.

But, I’m coming to understand something else. Something a little bigger than hair. I’m discovering what a privilege it is to grow older and I want to learn to do it with such radiance that others don’t even notice gray hair, thinning hair or even crow’s feet. I don’t want to become so concerned with keeping a youthful appearance that I forget to reflect the heart of Christ. The older I get, the more I want to see Him looking back at me in the mirror. When I let God cut and paste and style and color my soul and spirit hopefully there will be an inner beauty that produces an outward glow.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

I want my wrinkles to speak of a life well-lived. I want my aches and pains to scream grace. I want my scars to reflect the Cross. I want my smile to be genuine and my laughter rich. I want my words to be wise and my speech kind. I want my hands to move with purpose and my feet to run with perseverence. I want my arms to embrace in love and my legs to walk in peace. I want to see with Kingdom eyes and hear the King’s voice. I want to hold my head up high because one day it will hold a crown.

I want to grow old as gracefully as I possibly can.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4