Friday, July 19, 2013

Being the Light I Am Called to Be

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

As the checkout clerk began to scan my groceries, a young man walked up with an empty buggy, smiled, and said, "Hello Ma'am, how are you today?"  
I returned his smile and said, "I'm fine, how are you?"  
He responded that he also was fine, or at least he might as well be.   He said, "It does no good to complain if I'm not okay."
I chuckled with him and agree and responded that his statement was very true. I said, "We have the same number of problems even if we complain about them and the same number of blessings for which to be thankful."   

As I have continued through my day I have continued to think on that conversation.   If anything, complaining does make more problems for us because pretty soon, no one wants to listen to us or be around us.  Other than with a business that has a "complaint process,"  my complaining only seems to increase my problems, not ease them.   

 Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a complainer.  When something (or someone)  is bothering me, I complain or I sulk and stew.  All it seems to accomplish is to make me feel more miserable about the situation and to bother or burden anyone I might share my complaining with.   ( I am not talking about my faithful sisters who listen to me, love me, and pray for me through my struggles and heartaches.  And I do the same for them.  That's how we survive our hard times.)

Same grocery store, two weeks earlier, I am waiting to purchase postage stamps.  I have time to "people watch."   The member of the management team for the front of the store is helping a cashier down at the other end of the store; then she rushes back to the self-scan station and begins to help a customer there who has a hang up in her check out process.  It literally takes five to ten minutes (more than five, less than ten I would guess) to resolve that customer's issue.  In the meantime, my presence has been acknowledged by this manager and I was told that I would be helped shortly.   When she appeared at the window where I had been waiting, she thanked me profusely for my patience.   I responded that I understand she couldn't be in three places at the exact same time and it was no problem.   After she took my money and handed me my stamps, she asked if I knew about an upcoming special sale, got me the sales flyer, and gave me a tip for shopping that sale.  She said she recognized me as being a regular customer and that I am always courteous and friendly and that she really appreciates that.   

Now, this feels like I am bragging; but that's not the purpose of sharing that story with you.  The purpose is to share my thoughts as I left the store that evening and today.   Both times, I left the store smiling and feeling good.  Both times, the employees of that store had no complaints to make about my behavior.   That evening as I thought about the manager's response I realized that there are many people who would have acted rudely with her, complained, sighed loudly, talked about the slowness of the situation with others in close proximity, etc.   And for what purpose?  What would have been accomplished? 

If I had behaved badly, then we both would have felt worse in that situation.  But instead, we both felt good about our interaction.  It was a small, small thing on my part to be kind and to treat her the way I would want to be treated.   But it made that evening more joy-full for both of us.  Win-win.   And then win!   You see there is a third win here.   I am a Christian, made in the image of God and His Son.  My purpose in this world is to show Them (by my life) to those around me.  I did not have to quote scripture to her or hand her a Bible.  She saw the fruit of the Spirit in my actions.  Again, this is not written to brag about me or to say I am always perfectly behaved!  Far from it!  Just ask my husband and children!

So I challenge you to be kind.  Really listen when the McDonald's lady is telling you a personal tidbit about her life and then ask her about that situation the next time you see her.  Pick up after yourself a bit in a restaurant and tip your server generously. (Yes God wants you to tip that person more than the 10% He commanded the Israelites to give back to Him.)  When you finish with that shopping cart, put it in the designated rack in the parking lot and if you have the strength, put the front end in the up position so that more buggies will fit in the receptacle.  That way, the 100 pound girl that comes out to retrieve the shopping carts has a slightly easier task on her hands.  In other words, treat others the way you would want to be treated if you walked in their shoes.  Be a good neighbor.  Let that light shine!

Pressing On In Christ,


Confession:   As I was previewing and editing this post, one of my treasured besties phoned me and asked how I am.  I replied, "Not good, how are you?"     She (concerned) asked what is wrong.  I replied, "My sinuses have gone mad and are making me miserable and I'm trying to work on a blog post and it's not cooperating" (user error-I am still learning!)   I then laughed at myself and realized how silly I am complaining about this while editing a post about the non-value of complaining!  So I then ask her how she is and we go on with the reason she phoned me.   See, I told you, I am far from perfect!  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When Others Wound Us Deeply

                                                  "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" 
                                                                                             I Thessalonians 5: 11 (ESV)

When the words of others sear my heart, how should I react?  This is hard, isn't it?

I want to scream at the other person, "Don't you read your Bible?  Don't you know what God has said to you?  Don't you know how He said you should treat me?!   Note, I said I want to scream.  Righteous indignation!  Oh yeah!   Problem is, I'm not so righteous.  I am fallen just like the other person; I sin daily.  I fail those around me with my words and actions, or lack thereof.  So truthfully, I have no room to take on that tone or attitude.  

So then what?   When words or actions wound us deeply, how should we proceed?   The child who screams, "You let me down" or "I wish you were the one who died," or whatever the heart spills out onto our world.  Or what if the grown child decides that you have messed up so badly that you no longer deserve their presence in your life?    Or what if, in the heat of the moment, a spouse utters words that sink deep into your heart, words that you cannot un-hear, scarring words?   

The bad news is that I am still figuring it out also.  But the good news, The Good News, is held by God, the heavenly Father.  

The first step I have learned is to breathe, deeply.  I tend to take shallow breaths when I am stressed.  But I have recently begun to take deeper breaths in those stress-filled moments, and it truly helps.  I can feel myself start to calm,  fight-or-flight syndrome begins to recede.  I can think more clearly.  I can decide to keep my mouth shut in order to not "feed the fire" of the accuser.  

Second step:  seek God.   Father-God, Yahweh. 

"Our every breath is a murmuring of His name, YWHW. " 
                                                                                ~Ann Voskamp.  
Read her post at   (  

His word is full of instructions for relationship repair and building.   Truly, the good news of Jesus Christ is that we were give reconciliation with our Father-God; reconciliation that would otherwise be lost to us is now ours.  It can help us find reconciliation with those around us from whom we have fallen for He left us ministry to complete while we live here.   And we can guide other souls to reconciliation with God.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:"  2 Corinthians 5: 18

Third, remember that the person who has hurt you is not your enemy.  When your spouse, parent, child, friend, sibling hurts you, they are a fallen human being just like you are.  

 "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  1 Peter 5: 8

That is it, all of it!  That person is not your enemy; Satan is your only enemy, the enemy!  Extend to that person the same grace and love you find in your relationship with Father-God.  Yes, it is difficult, very difficult.  Sometimes we question, "Is it worth it?  Do I really need this much pain in my life?"  (And I am not speaking of long-term abusive relationships here.)
My husband and I have been open with our church family and other friends that we have struggled throughout our (nearly) twenty year marriage.  The first nine years were beyond horrible.  Then we FINALLY found a Christian counselor who taught us about unconditional love and grace with one another.  He also convinced us that there is no perfect marriage or "happily after ever."  Though we worked hard during our time with him, we still struggle at times.  We forget our way, we say hurtful things.  The only way to keep this marriage alive is to concentrate on loving with God's unconditional and forgiving love.    Breathe, seek God, and realize:  "he is not my enemy, the devil is."  And usually, I have to begin again,  breathe, seek God, ....

I asked myself recently what I would say to a dear friend who was facing a traumatic point in her marriage.  My husband and I had a particularly ugly argument with words which should not have been uttered.  I went for a drive and I thought long and hard about my "friend" who needed advice.  (It's mostly easier to love others more than self.)  What should I say to her?  I have no training in counseling; I certainly am not an expert.  I found myself thinking the following:

 "breathe deeply and do not rush to make decisions. Guard your heart and tongue.  Seek your heavenly Father and have other trusted friends seek Him on behalf of you and your husband."

 I reminded myself of what I had learned about unconditional love and grace in marriage.  I prayed and then I started towards home.  As I drove,  I turned on the radio.  It was set to my favorite contemporary Christian station.  I heard the words I was thinking right at that moment, 

"I need You, oh I need You.  Every hour I need You.  My one defense, my righteousness, oh God how I need You."     ~Lord, I Need You -- Matt Maher

I thanked God for His comfort and amazing presence in my life.   And I smiled thinking He is with me always.  I may be weak and inadequate, but He is strong and He is all I need.  Thank you Father!