Want What You’ve Got! (maintenance)

Dental flossApparently, I have a tiny mouth.

(Those of you who beg to differ, see yesterday’s post: Shhh!)

From my strategic position in the dental recliner, I complied with every request to open wider, turn my head this way, close my mouth around the suction hose thingy, stick out my tongue… All in the name of maintenance.

We all know that dental maintenance pays, right? I have a friend who is a dental assistant and I’ve heard stories, man. Stories of what can happen when we take our dental health for granted.

Kids, floss every day. Seriously. It’s worth it all when you take your place in The Chair.

Today I was told that my gum health is good – no bleeding. Hooray!

No X-rays on this visit, but apparently no trouble spots, either. I was in and out of the hot seat in less than 25 minutes, sporting some pearly white chompers and a shiny new toothbrush to boot.

The things we possess require maintenance. Teeth, hair, hearts, bodies… Feet.

Today is what many in church-world refer to as Maundy Thursday. On this day during what we call Holy Week (the week before Jesus’ resurrection), Jesus shared one last meal with His friends before His arrest. This wasn’t just any meal, either. As they gathered around the table in a borrowed room, the Jewish lot assembled there did so in remembrance of the Exodus – in celebration of the Passover.

Jesus did something shocking around the table that night. Taking the position of a servant – on the floor with towel and water – Jesus performed some badly needed maintenance on the feet of His followers.

Can you imagine how unpleasant it would be to wash the feet of guys who have been hoofing it in sandals for who knows how long since their last shower? Picking up each foot and, with the help of some water, scrubbing off those road-weary hoofs demonstrated to the dumb-struck diners just how unconventional and counter-cultural this Jesus really was.

And it modeled for them the need to maintain what matters most.

“Within pain and filth, there is an opportunity to extend God’s kingdom through an expression of love, humility, and service. This simple act of washing feet is a metaphor for how the world looks through the lens of Jesus’ grace. He sees the people—the world He created—which He loves. He also sees the filthy corruption in the world that torments everyone. His mission is to cleanse those whom He loves from those horrors.

This is His redemptive work with feet, families, disease, famine, and hearts. When Jesus sees disease, He sees the opportunity to heal. When He sees sin, He sees a chance to forgive and redeem. When He sees dirty feet, He sees a chance to wash them.” John 13:11 (The Voice)

We spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources on the maintenance of our possessions and toys. Boats, houses, atv’s, cars, carpets, landscaping, computers, closets… While some of this maintenance is essential, the rest of it is costing us – breaking the bank, so to speak – and keeping us from investing in those things that matter most.

Teeth require maintenance or else you’ll suffer. Cavities, root canals, and crowns all cost much more in terms of time and tender (and pain management) than the few minutes it takes to maintain dental health each day.

Relationships require maintenance, too. So do attitudes and energy. To keep them operating at full potential, all of our investments call for a commitment to ongoing (yes, even routine) preservation efforts.

Dates. Coffee breaks. Naps. Exercise. Prayer. Bible study. Conversations. Celebrations. Dental floss. All a part of the necessary maintenance for those who Want What They’ve Got, and want to keep it around for a very long time.

Daily Questions: Think about the maintenance investments you make on a daily, weekly or regular basis. What gets the most attention in your world? The lawn? The laundry? Kids? Spouse? Electronics? Your own well-being and spiritual health? Weigh the things you value most by the attention you award them… Telling, isn’t it? Maybe there are some dirty feet in your world that need washing today. Maybe there are some maintenance contracts you need to break in order to tend to those feet, and to that which matters most. Want What You’ve Got? Take good care of it today.

Want What You’ve Got! (shhh!)

8ELEVEN-silencePeople can be so infuriating, can’t they? Even in the church.

I was once referred to as Saint Brita by a co-worker who had a penchant for gossip and tiresome chit-chat, often at the expense of those who were not present to explain or defend themselves. I guess I had established myself as someone who wasn’t keen to participate in these third-party tirades, so as I was approaching one day, he called out – Hey! Here comes the Saint!

I wasn’t really sure how to take that.

On the one hand, I was actually offended, at the very least by the tone in his voice.

On the other hand, though I am far from being saintly, I suppose I prefer that label to a variety of others he might have used.

I really can’t recall how I responded at the time, but I’m pretty sure I opted to smile and keep on moving toward bigger, better and more meaningful things. But I stewed about it later. He got under my skin.

Rules of engagement for believers are challenging at best. Sometimes it hurts much more to bite my tongue than it would to spew poison right back at those who hurt and maim with their unkind and provocative words. I tend to move relatively gracefully through such war zones only to find the wounding rhetoric looping in my head for hours – even days – afterwards. I think of all sorts of comebacks after the fact, which riles me up and distracts me from seeing what is really going on: how easily I’m hacked by an enemy for whom no method of intrusion is off-limits.

I stumbled upon these words after my “sainthood” was established, and I have literally clung to them for dear life ever since:

“Excuse yourself from any conversations that turn into foolish and uninformed debates because you know they only provoke fights. As the Lord’s slave, you shouldn’t exhaust yourself in bickering; instead, be gentle—no matter who you are dealing with—ready and able to teach, tolerant without resentment, gently instructing those who stand up against you. Besides, the time may come when God grants them a change of heart so that they can arrive at the full knowledge of truth. And if they come to their senses, they can escape the devil’s snare and walk freed from his captivity and evil bidding.”  2 Timothy 2:23-26 (The Voice)

Sometimes the best response to the one who picks a fight is silence.

So today, in the face of immaturity and insensitivity, excuse yourself. Preserve your strength. Respond gently. Teach tolerantly. Instruct without resentment. Keep your wits about you. Walk free. Want What You’ve Got.

Daily Questions: When was the last time your patience was tested by someone whom Rick Warren would call an EGR – Extra Grace Required? Were they being foolish? Mean-spirited? Opinionated? Judgmental? Speaking out of turn? Un (or Under) -informed? Critical? (Or just annoying?) Shhh! What is the quietest response you can muster under the circumstances? How can you avoid burning a bridge that might be an EGR’s most direct route to the foot of the Cross? Will you meet them there this week?

 

Want What You’ve Got! (snow)

English: Snow-laden oak near Upton Grey The mo...

I lived in Wyoming during my teenage and young adult years. Time after time our plans would change suddenly when the snow began to fall. School trips were cancelled. Weekend shopping excursions cut short. Many times I found myself held captive by the weather – disappointed. Frustrated. Unfairly dealt with. Angry.

At the first opportunity as a newlywed, my husband and I jumped ship and moved out of state. I admit that at the time, I was thinking the move would help me take control of my schedule. I was tired of weather that dictated my plans! I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it!

My first mistake was in thinking that Kansas would be a place where I would find freedom from weather’s rule – talk about a control freak! When severe weather in Kansas would take control, I’d freak! After spending season after tornado season in the hallway with a mattress over my head, I began to realize that despite my best efforts, there are simply some things I have no control over.

Actually, make that a lot of things…

King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:8-9 says that:

“No one can control the wind or lock it in a box. No one has any say-so regarding the day of death. No one can stop a battle in its tracks. No one who does evil can be saved by evil. All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.”

Weather. War. Evil. Death. Our children’s choices. The actions of others.

As long as men and women have the power to choose, I may fall victim to their poor choices. As long as God is God all by Himself, I won’t be calling the shots when it comes to snowfall or sundown.

The real challenge for me is to Want What I’ve Got when it isn’t what I had planned for today. To accept snow packed roads where I wanted dry pavement. To be okay with changing plans because I can’t control the hand of God or the minds of the people I’m doing life with. To be able to act on these strong words from Paul when those around me suffer delusions of control:

“When you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.” (I Corinthians 10:14)

Today – Want What You’ve Got when you sit down with others, or get out of their company as fast as you can. You may not be able to control the weather, but you can control who benefits from the gift of your time.

Daily Questions: What are you fighting to control that isn’t up to you? Who in your life helps to fuel these illusions of control? How can you take the first step toward wanting what you’ve got when it’s God who’s in control? When other people’s choices remove your power to choose?

Construction Zone

Even those on a Trek to the Manger can expect to encounter a Construction Zone now and then…

I know all about Construction Zones. As the wife of a road builder, I have been to and through all sorts of highway and bridge Construction Zones over the years.

I know the difference between concrete and cement, and I can tell whether a road has been paved in concrete or bituminous asphalt.

I’ve seen road surfaces being milled and bridge decks being poured.

I recognize a core sample when I see one and I know that when testing with a nuclear density machine, you’re supposed to wear a radiation-detection badge (I know, because a few of those have ended up in the laundry by mistake).

I’ve seen roads and bridges in various stages of a contract, and when it comes to Construction Zones, well… you might say I know just enough to be dangerous.

In Bible study today we agreed that our group gatherings look pretty much like a Construction Zone. In various stages of construction, each one of us is a distinctly unfinished project (some of us might even say we’re a real piece of work).

Some of us are entering uncharted territory. The road God is building in us doesn’t even exist yet! We might be able to see the bright paint sprays of the utility companies who have marked what’s hidden underground, but where we’re going, there have been no roads before.

Some of us are freshly graded earth, ready for the Paver to make us into a usable roadway.

Some of us are being resurfaced – getting a face-lift, you might say – because the years have left their mark, but there is so much more life left for us to live.

Some of us are all rebar and concrete forms – not looking so much like a road just yet, but being equipped with a solid foundation so that when the deck is poured, we’ll be able to handle any load God might bring our way.

Some of us are being signed and striped. We’re looking pretty darn good, but there are directions we still need and pavement markings that we require in order to continue safely down the road God has put us on.

The thing about Construction Zones is that, with very few exceptions, no one likes them.

Seriously.

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow.

I suppose those doing the work itself would disagree, but for those who just want to pass on through, Construction Zones stink.

This is not unlike what happens in our Bible study group, or in any group of those whose lives are perpetually under construction. With very few exceptions, watching the construction of others is like driving through the Zone…

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow!

Sometimes we get impatient and take a detour, to avoid the construction (and those being constructed) altogether.

Sometimes we wait for what seems like forever in order to move past the Zone that others are in, because when one life gets messy in a community of believers, everyone feels it.

Sometimes the Construction Zones of others keep us from doing things we want to do, on a timeline of our own choosing. This can frustrate, anger and disappoint us, no matter how understanding we try to be.

Today, try to think about those whose work is the Construction Zone… What they do while we’re feeling inconvenienced is to create something new.

Something better. Something more efficient. Something safe.

God Himself is in the Construction Zones of our lives, making something better. Something more beautiful. Something He can use. Something others need.

Yes, the Zone irritates those who navigate it during construction, but for those who are hands-on in the mess, the progress being made is measurable and significant.

We are becoming more and more like Jesus with every pass of the Paver, with every passing day.

No matter how you feel about what God is constructing in and around you, rest assured – the finished product will be well worth the wait.

A Better Way

makeupI’ve stayed in more hotel rooms these past six months than in the past ten years of my life combined. As one who is often all too willing to subscribe to marketing ploys, I generally keep my Hilton Honors card pretty close (points speak, you know). But the travels of the recent past have brought me to a variety of places to lay my head for the night, and to two specific A-ha moments that today are causing me to ask:

What if there’s a better way?

But before you dial in for seedlings of truth, two not-so-deep illustrations from my travels must be shared…

Every bed I slept on in Europe defied my understanding of the limits of linens. To be specific, it blew my mind that every two-person mattress was topped with two separate comforters! One fitted sheet. NO top sheet. TWO duvets stuffed into their own duvet covers – one for each sleep-mate.

Exposure to this one idea has revolutionized the way I make my bed! Don’t laugh! Gone are the days of blanket tug-of-war. I can stick my toes out for air on either side of my small blanket – even on my husband’s side. And I can launder the top sheet/duvet cover as often as I used to change the sheets, giving my touch of OCD a bit of a reprieve as I climb into fresh bedding and switch off the lights.

I always assumed that sharing the bed meant sharing the covers. Well – didn’t you?

Never mind that she’s a cover-hog and he wakes up shivering in the dark.

Never mind that his favorite quilt is too warm – or not heavy enough – for her.

Never mind the onset of menopause and those pesky thermostat-changes in the middle of the night…

We’re married. We share a bed. We share the covers. For better or worse. End of story. Right?

I never stopped to consider that there just might be a better way.

One of my favorite, recent stays was in a funky boutique hotel. Not part of a huge conglomerate, this quirky place has an enormous hot tub that seats about 50 (seriously) and a fabulous organic Mexican restaurant curbside. The rooms have black marble tile in the bathroom and cuddly robes hanging in the closet. They give you bottled water or soda, candy bars & snacks for free – yours for the asking – and each room has a Keurig coffee maker with to-go cups and lids. If you’re checking in for just one night, you can request a 24 hour stay! Check out time is 24 hours from the time you check in… Sweet!

But the coolest feature – in my opinion – shows up on the towel rack. It’s a black washcloth. Embroidered with the word ‘makeup‘.

Now, this will be totally lost on the gentlemen (sorry!), but a black cloth for removing makeup is totally brilliant! Especially for a hotel! While it hasn’t stopped me from engaging in my hygiene routine, I have often felt bad about using those pristinely whitened cloths to remove mascara at the end of the day. After all, I see my own white cloths with black stains at home, in spite of the bleach-maintenance system I’ve devised. Yet it never occurred to me that there was another option for hotels other than white!

Who knew? There is a better way!

I know, I know… Comforters and washcloths don’t exactly have the power to change the world, but what if there’s a better way to live and do and act – and instead of being ready for inspiration and open to new ideas, I’m at home on the couch? TV droning. The world at arm’s length. Firmly fixed in my comforting little routines.

What if there’s a better way to love people and I miss out because I think I know it all?

What if there’s a better way to meet the needs of the lonelybut I fail to meet the lonely because I’m content abiding here in my own little world?

What if the God of the universe hasn’t stopped creating and yet I’m missing His handiwork out there by choosing instead to hole up in here?

It doesn’t take a European vacation to see that there is a way of life that leads to death – where minds are shut tight and there is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing brilliant to be discovered under the sun.

Likewise, you don’t need a hotel loyalty card to discover that, as the United Church of Christ has said so well, “God is still speaking!” And inspiring! And creating! And saving!

So, open your eyes! Pay attention to the world around you! Watch for clever improvements on the dull and monotonous! Look for better ways to do the little things, but more importantly – look for ways to improve on the meaningful work you have been placed here to do!

Don’t settle for what works…

Find a better way.

 

Kid President is doing exactly this! Check out his SOCKTOBER initiative on YouTube today!

Afterthoughts: Reflecting on the Road Just Traveled

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Some people barrel through life in a constant state of ablaze-for-what-comes-next.

Some people live very well in the moment, but when the moment is gone, so goes its power. No lesson learned. No lingering sense of the holy in what just happened.

And some people put down roots – deep and extensive roots – in the events and relationships of yesterday, never entertaining the possibility that new adventures may spark important ideas or birth exciting connections with today. Maybe even with tomorrow.

As for me, I want to be like Mary.

Upon her baby’s birth, after the angel choir had summoned the shepherds to the humble birthplace for worship, Mary wasn’t dwelling on ‘what happens next?’ She wasn’t whining about having given birth in the straw with animal-onlookers; not complaining about inadequate medical care. And from all accounts, we don’t get the feeling that Mary was cringing at the way her story – and that of her son – was unfolding. Nothing in the narrative suggests a Mary who would have preferred to go back in time to a simpler, more ‘normal’ and less mind-blowing existence.

In fact, we get the feeling that Mary was all-in for this God-created adventure! How do we know? Luke 2:19.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV)

But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. (NCV)

But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. (HCSB)

Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. (ERV)

Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. (CEB)

But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart. (AMP)

Mary treasured and pondered and meditated on the events she found herself living. Not only while the mysteries unfolded, but later, too – committing these things to memory and weighing them. Considering them. And my personal favorite – making Mary human and limited, just like me trying to understand them.

What just happened?

We ask this question because the lives we live matter. The words that are spoken and the people we meet, the adventures (and even the mis-adventures) we experience – all of it has the potential to shape us into the best parent, the most thoughtful friend, the most faithful expression of the presence of God in a world where pondering and treasuring are nothing more than ancient practices found in the dusty pages of a rarely opened Book.

Now, I am clearly not the mother of Jesus, but I am the mother of Joffrey and Britton, and I have been the wife of Dallas for nearly 25 years. My life’s adventures can’t really be compared with Mary’s, though that is often what we do, isn’t it? Compare our lives with others?

My family has just returned home from a three week European vacation. Three countries. Eight hotel rooms. Trains. Planes. Taxis. Boats. Buses. Mountains. Oceans. Rain. Snow. And people.

While living this recent adventure, we had to stay in the moment – there was so much to see, and it was ALL new! It wasn’t until I was sitting uncomfortably on the 12 hour home-bound flight that I began to ponder the events of the previous weeks, remembering a word spoken here or a mind-picture there, weighing and mulling over and trying to understand what had just happened…

Because this adventure – this road we’ve just traveled – matters.

At face value, it was a fun trip! We did lots of things, saw places we have only read about in books or seen in movies, met new and interesting people and were reunited with family and friends that we haven’t seen for years.

But I want to be like Mary. I want to hold onto what has happened for awhile, turn it over in my mind, and see what happens. I want to be teachable, but I am also a teacher – and I want to share some of these Afterthoughts with you.

Will you walk with me for awhile, down this road I’ve just traveled?

After all, one person’s Afterthought could very well be another one’s treasure. Just ask Mary.

Sometimes I’m the Light Bulb… (a PINK Tuesday post)

English: High Resolution black and white photo...
Q: How many egomaniacs does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.
Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  How many can you afford?
Q: How many board meetings does it take to get a light bulb changed?
A: This topic was resumed from last week’s discussion, but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items. It will be continued next week. Meanwhile…
Q: How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But the light bulb has to really want to change.

Even Wikipedia has a page dedicated to defining the cultural phenomenon known as the ‘light bulb joke’:

A light bulb joke is a joke that asks how many people of a certain group are needed to change, replace, or screw in a light bulb. Generally, the punch line answer highlights a stereotype of the target group. There are numerous versions of the light bulb joke satirizing a wide range of cultures, beliefs and occupations.

Many versions of the joke are puns on the word “change”.

Some jokes are purely for fun – to elicit a grin or a belly laugh – but it’s funny how we also joke about the things that bother us the most. Things like… CHANGE.

‘Change’ is equivalent to a four-letter word for many of us (just ask a woman approaching her 50’s what SHE thinks about the CHANGE). In the spirit of Dire Straits’ lyric for ‘The Bug’ (‘sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug’), sometimes I feel like the light bulb in all of these silly change jokes. Growing dim. Fading out. Flickering. Failing. No longer functioning the way I used to (the way I ought to). Powerless to bring about the change that’s needed most – because what really needs changing is me.

There are also times when I feel like the proverbial butt of all of those light bulb jokes. Instead of taking the most direct route to meet the needed change head-on, I drag my feet. I complain. I call for back-up. I make excuses. I lean into my personality or quirky tendencies in an effort to avoid the task at hand. Instead of simply making the change – replacing the broken with the functional – I try desperately to do it my way instead. Anything to delay the change.

The writer of Proverbs knew this about us.

Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30 (Good News Translation)

Like it or not, our unwillingness to see change as a good thing is actually a root cause of many of the tears we shed. Paul knew this. He had written words to the church at Corinth that had resulted in some tears on their end. Instead of apologizing, though, Paul said this:

But now I am happy – not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation – and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (GNT)

Sometimes God uses the tough stuff (when we’re feeling like ‘the bug’) in order to bring about the change that we are content to forever tap dance around, if left to our own devices.

There has got to be a better way, my friends! John the Baptist must have had these inklings, too, when:

“In many different ways, John preached the Good News to the people and urged them to change their ways.” Luke 3:18 (GNT)

Wouldn’t it be better all around if we would heed the wisdom of the Baptist and take the initiative to change the light bulb (or the relationship – or the situation – or the priority – or the behavior) ourselves?! Difficult as this may seem, it’s exactly what Paul was talking about in Romans chapter 12 when he warned his readers not to become “so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (v. 2, The Message)

To follow Paul’s line of thinking requires us to look at change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Facing change squarely and not backing down makes us think outside the lazy box-life that many of us lead – as Paul said it – ‘without even thinking’. Change engages our minds and invites us to participate in our own lives rather than spectate, watching life unfold from as great a distance as we can muster.

Shifting focus from the ways of the world to the Way of the Word ushers in the NEW! New feelings! New choices! New ways of being in the world!

As uncomfortable and disconcerting as change can often be, it always does one thing very well…

Living in the eye of the hurricane of change confirms that, YES! You are alive! You don’t have to numb out to the predictability and monotony of the same old routine. You may be bruised and you may be bleeding, but you have the choice today to become the embodiment of Jimmy Buffett’s lyric: “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.” (Growing Older But Not Up)

To live a life that defies every light bulb joke in the book will require that you stop dwelling on the light bulb that needs to be changed. Of course the bulbs are going to burn out – they aren’t made to last forever. Of course the things that are working in your life today will one day begin to flicker and fade – this life wasn’t made to last forever, either.

Resolve this day to make the change you need to make, but don’t let that change capture your attention. Instead, fix your eyes on the One whose light will never grow dim! With Him, change won’t get the better of you.

You’ll be changed! From the inside out.

What’s on the Menu? (a PINK Tuesday post)

Dog & Bee Pub Menu Graphic

Image by Howdy, I'm H. Michael Karshis via Flickr

Traveling this week has meant I’ve held a number of menus in my hands.

Some have sported precious few (and painfully pricey) options. Others offer so many choices that I find myself overwhelmed and quite unable to choose.

The menu tells us much about the establishment, doesn’t it? And about its target audience – its clientele.

Imagine your life as a menu. Instead of appetizers – relationships. Instead of entrees – time commitments. Instead of side dishes – those things that add value to your life. Instead of beverages – those voices and words you choose to soak up and soak in.

What would your menu tell us about the establishment of you? Your target audience? The kind of environment your life is, in effect, creating for those who walk through its doors?

Is yours a broad-spectrum menu with minimal focus and lots of choices – a little bit of something for everyone?

Or are you clearly communicating a few precious and possibly costly options, reflective of deep passion for the fruit your life can create?

This week I’ve started to pay attention to the menu of my life, but I’m also thinking about whose menus I’m ordering from. Because there are lots of choices when it comes to eating food, but there are just as many choices when it comes to feeding my head and my heart.

Media – what am I listening to and what do those choices do for me? How do they affect the establishment of my life when others come into my space?

Books – am I basing what I think about and how I think about it on the words written down by others? Which authors am I ordering up my worldview from, and are the words I’m eating making me healthier or watering me down?

Relationships – how do I choose who to connect with? What do my relationships say about what matters most in my life? Do I surround myself with like-minded folks whose menus look a whole lot like my own (franchises?), or am I open to authentic diversity, even if it costs a little more when the check is delivered?

The prophet Jeremiah once said these words to God:

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” Jeremiah 15:16

A preacher named Harvey Carey got me thinking this week… maybe I have been ordering off of some questionable menus; filling up on lesser words than the rib-sticking, heart-satisfying words of God Himself. After all, God’s menu sports precious few (and painfully pricey) options. There are more attractive choices at the establishment around the corner, and seemingly more affordable, too. At least in the short term.

I might make a quick dime or dollar with a fancier menu and enough options to please everyone who walks through my door, but I’m beginning to realize that my target audience is really an audience of One. And something tells me that He’s probably more interested in a few organic menu items made by my own hands than a veritable smorgasbord of half-baked thoughts and overly-processed ideas.

And if the God who enabled me to open up shop in the first place will also come in and sit down and eat with me, well…

He won’t have to knock on my door more than once.

 

Salty Friends L4L.24

Salt shaker, transparent background

The WORD

“Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.” Mark 9:49-50 (The Message)

‘Preservatives’ have the ability to protect from decay or spoilage. Another word for preservative is stabilizer

“Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another.” (Good News Translation)

When we preserve something, we make sure that it lasts. We protect it from anything that might cause its current quality or condition to deteriorate. We maintain it.

Salt is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

Friendship is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

The APP

Jesus’ words here can be boiled down to two simple yet profound directives:

  1. Be salty.
  2. Practice saltiness.

Salt is, by its very nature, generous. It is generous in the sense that its very purpose is to lend its best qualities to make something else, well… better.

But at the same time, salt is… salt. It doesn’t vary much from shaker to shaker. All of it basically looks the same. All of it basically acts in the same ways when used. There just aren’t too many variations on salt.

And the thing about salt is that it just isn’t that special on its own. Salt is meant to complement flavors that already exist! The value of salt is negligible when it sits in isolation – in the shaker, on the counter, by itself. Salt does its best work in combination, and it is only a commodity when it is put to good use.

Salt cannot fulfill its purpose unless it comes into contact with food. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside the salt shaker. There’s only salt. And hoarding salt is utterly pointless, since its only merit is the effect it has on something else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a meal, which is why we salt to taste. We can carefully measure, as if following a recipe in a cookbook, which is actually a good way to get used to knowing how much salt to use. But salting well is also an art form; something to aspire to, like cooking by instinct or using recipes as suggestions rather than rules.

Whichever way we opt to salt, it’s important to remember not to lay it on too thick.

All of this wisdom applies just as readily to those of us who inhabit holy salt shakers in the Kingdom of God!

Salty people are, by their very nature, generous people. They are generous in the sense that their very purpose is to lend their best qualities to make others, well… better.

But at the same time, people are people. We don’t vary all that much from house to house or church to church. Most of us look, in basic ways, the same. Most of us act in basically the same ways. There just aren’t too many variations on people.

And the thing about you and me is that, according to Jesus, we just aren’t that special on our own. Salty people are meant to complement the variety and flavors of humanity that already exist in the world!

The value of salty people is negligible when we sit in isolation – in the church pew, in our Bible study, by ourselves. Salty people do their best work in community, and we are of greatest value when our qualities are put to good use.

Salty people cannot fulfill our purpose unless we come into contact with others. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside our own salt shaker’s walls. There’s only more salt. And hoarding salt by only spending time with other salty people is utterly pointless, since our only merit is the effect our salt can have to bring out the flavor in someone else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a friendship, which is why we salt to taste. And we take lessons from the Chef Himself, whose artistic and instinctual cooking sets the example by which we aspire to live.

And it’s every bit as important with people as with food to remember not to lay it on too thick. A little bit of salt goes a long way toward making a tasty masterpiece, whether our environment is the kitchen or the community!

When people are salty, their presence has a sort of stabilizing effect on those around them.

Salty people make some things last and keep others from deteriorating or falling into a state of decay. Things like attitudes. Perspectives. And friendships.

When my saltiness is showing, everything and everyone I touch stand to benefit from the fact that I am there.

Not because the world is that bad and I am that good.

It’s just that we are better together.

Interested in learning MORE about SALT?!
Click here for information about a SALTY! Retreat for women!

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Fear of Heights L4L.17

Piece of chalk and blackboard

Image via Wikipedia

The WORD

“You must not be called ‘Teacher’, because you are all members of one family and have only one Teacher.” Matthew 23:8 (The Good News Translation)

“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do.” (The Message)

These words of Jesus have great potential to tweak us all today. Whether we lean toward passive followership or have a penchant for taking charge, Jesus is very clear that we are ALL students in God’s classroom. Standing up there, in front of the chalkboard, isn’t Pastor so-and-so or Dr. such-and-such…

It’s GOD.

The APP

There is great danger in our failure to take literally these words of Jesus.

Caution is required anytime we begin to subscribe to a particular human teacher’s words or ways. To the degree that our earthly teachers seek to function as holy plumbing systems, a person can actually participate in the active Word of God as it flows through the lives of His people. At the point that those pipes seek to channel God’s goodness in directions of its OWN choosing, we’ve crossed that delicate line between participation and power.

Even the most well-intentioned human teachers can become sidetracked in issues of pride, authority and control. We don’t do them any favors by empowering them to exercise their issues in our lives, do we? There is a great need for all students of the Word to keep ourselves in check when it comes to who we listen to and how far down the road we are willing to go behind a person who is herself attempting to follow the Rabbi.

My Tuesday morning women’s group has discussed this many times – the way that we in churches tend to put all of our eggs into the Pastor-basket. Pastors are people, lest we forget, and Jesus’ reminder is timely for those of us who would rather see one person charged with much responsibility than to take up our own crosses and follow the Teacher Himself.

On the other hand, some of us would be wise to ask God to give us a healthy fear of heights. Leadership comes so easily to some, along with the temptation to become something more than we were ever called to be. We who seek to let the Living Waters flow from our ministry efforts would do well to keep the picture of the classroom in our minds.

I picture old, wooden desks (the kind with the lift-up desktop and pencil shelf inside), arranged in rows facing the blackboard. There are boys and girls seated on chairs that swivel and squeak. Some have buzz cuts. Others have pig tails. Scraped knees. Ankle socks. Grass stains on their jeans. These are my classmates – real, down-to-earth people – and I sit there with them. I am one of them. And just like sweet first-graders, we love our Teacher.

Today, on this Literal 4 Lent journey, take a good, long look at your surroundings:

  • Do you feel a bit nauseous? Do people look like ants from where you stand?
  • If you were to fall, would you have far to go before hitting bottom?
  • Is it unclear who your Teacher is?
  • Are there other voices speaking into your life that compete with His?
  • Are you content to live vicariously through the bold and boisterous others you’ve surrounded yourself with?

Consider what gives you pause. Pray for caution and pray for fear. Embrace your classmates. Listen to the Teacher.

Let Him tell you what to do.

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