Want What You’ve Got! (wedding)

Wedding bouquetIn a few short months I will be traveling abroad to share in the joy of a family member’s much anticipated wedding. Though we have no real responsibilities concerning the event, my family is making plans for travel, lodging, financing (ouch!) and – of course – what to wear.

I bought my dress months ago (actually, I bought two dresses, just in case I changed my mind), but apparently I’ve over-indulged in comfort food this winter. To the tune of (at least) a couple of pounds, I’ve got some dieting to do. At least that’s what the scale is telling me.

Why is it that I can never seem to Want What I’ve Got where weight is concerned? I look in the mirror and I can’t say that I have real problems with what I see there, but then I jump on the scale and immediately feel the need to pop some appetite suppressants and drink a gallon of water. It isn’t that my dress for the wedding doesn’t fit, so what’s really going on here?

Amy Grant had a song that I listened to in the 80’s – my mind hit the play button just now:

“You’ve gotta know who to – who not to – listen to… They’re gonna hit you from all sides, better make up your mind who to – who not to – listen to.”

There’s a voice inside my head that says perfection is the goal. And for me, perfection was 8-10 lbs ago.

There’s a voice shouting out from the media that says “you’ve gotta look like this” as I walk past the freshly-pressed Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition at the grocery store.

There’s another voice that says I can only enjoy myself and feel good about life if I can manage to wear my skinny jeans for more than two hours without cutting off the circulation to my feet.

And there’s a really loud voice, disguised as the people I love, that says I’m only lovable when I look good to others. This lying voice tells me that looking good is inseparable from things like height/weight charts, the body fat index, how I look in a swimsuit and whether I can still wear my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

Amidst the clamor of voices vying for my attention comes the still, small voice of the Spirit, who whispers:

“…what matters is not your outer appearance – the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes – but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” I Peter 3:3-4 (The Message)

Last week one of my sisters in the faith shared an unedited epiphany with our study group. I found myself teary-eyed as she boldly proclaimed (forgive my poorly paraphrased translation) that…

I am beautiful to God just the way I am! This extra weight says that I’ve quit smoking! This gut says that I’m a Mom! These sags and bags say that I nursed my babies! I have a husband who loves me for just being me! How can I not be okay with who I am?

How can I not Want What I’ve Got?

For me – and for my friend – there will never be a shortage of critical voices to listen to…

Scales. Calipers. Pant sizes. Media. Competition. Perfection. Guilt.

The challenge for us today is to know who to – and who not to – listen to.

Because the voices… they will hit you from all sides.The best course of action for living a Want What You’ve Got life in a get-what-you-want world is to make up your mind and tune in to the voices that speak truth, improve your disposition, increase your capacity for grace, and cultivate inner beauty.

I may delight for a moment in being the ‘perfect’ weight, but that moment will pass and my critic (the scale) will remain. May you choose instead to delight the heart of God by wearing your true, ageless beauty on your sleeve – no matter what size that sleeve is.

Daily Questions: Are you satisfied with your current weight and fitness level? If not, what is the source of your dissatisfaction? Is Wanting What You’ve Got an option for you in this area, or is your physical state keeping you from pursuing the kind of beauty that gives glory to God? What can you do about it? Whose voice do you need to listen to today?

Leftovers

Leftovers salad

Leftovers

I walked away from the conversation with face still flushed, pulse still elevated, thoughts still racing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a necessary conversation. One which I would have regretted not having, despite the intensity and confrontational nature of the thing. One which was brought on by something so deeply seated that I didn’t realize how strongly I felt until the words started flowing.

You recognize the feeling. You’ve had this conversation, too.

In the car, on the way home, I sorted through my thoughts about the matter…

  • What had been accomplished?
  • What had been resolved?
  • What had been aired and not settled, and can I be okay with that?
  • How had things been left, as we parted?
  • Is the relationship intact even if the differences remain?
  • Are there any leftovers?

You know, LEFTOVERS… Unsettled feelings. Unresolved issues that will resurface again. And again. Pin-pricks from words that were meant to be hurtful. Emotions still swirling, and the uncertainty as to where they will finally land.

Leftovers.

Like those leftovers you keep in your refrigerator; the remnant of a meal, perhaps a meal shared. Or a meal enjoyed. Or a functional meal – one that met your caloric needs without any extras or frills.

You see, the thing about leftovers is that they do serve a purpose, but it’s a limited purpose. A purpose with an expiration date. A purpose with a deadline. Leftovers are destined to be disposed of.

If the ‘meal’ is the conversation I had today, it was something I needed to eat. I will absorb that which my body needs to maintain health, to give me strength and to increase my energy to cover the output I will inevitably be required to produce. This ‘meal’ served its purpose, whether it was fun to eat or not. Maybe the company at the table wasn’t choice. Maybe the food didn’t taste quite like it should have. Maybe it wasn’t the most delicious feast I’ve ever consumed.

In the car, driving home, the meal is over. It’s time to decide what to do with the leftovers.

I might throw it all in the trash now – I’m not very good at using leftovers wisely (or it just wasn’t that good the first time).

I might save it all for later – it was more than I could digest in one sitting.

I might save just the parts I want more time with – the stuff worth chewing on again.

I might put it in the frig, which means I’ll have to reheat and revisit it sooner than if I place it in the freezer to preserve it longer; to extend its impact on me.

Regardless of the choice, the fact remains that leftovers go bad. Keeping them around too long results in things like ugly, smelly (greenish) growths or less than appetizing separation of ingredients. Consuming leftovers that have been left over too long can make you sick. Really sick. Even if they appear to be okay, your leftovers can make you miserable inside.

Holding onto leftovers which have passed their safe usage date is never a good thing. Even if you have no plans to reuse or rehash them, leaving them in the frig takes up space you could be using for the good stuff and might even taint the rest of what you plan to use for another meal, another day.

Why take the risk? Use your leftovers while they still have value and can still be put to good use! And remember – every leftover has a shelf-life. Some shorter, some longer than others, but no leftover is good for you forever. Pay attention to what you’re allowing to take up space in your frig. In your freezer. In your head. In your heart.

Eventually, all of our leftovers stink.

By the time I reached the driveway and found the key to my front door, I had settled on a few leftovers worth keeping. For awhile.

But I don’t intend to hold onto them too long. I don’t intend to wait until the leftover goes bad, gets rancid, grows fuzzy green hair and is transformed into something I don’t recognize. I will reheat them, chew on them, use them up and then dispose of my leftovers when their contribution to my life has been exhausted.

Trash the stuff that will only serve to make us sick and stain our Tupperware.

We’ll be healthier for it, my friends.

Pants on Fire (a PINK Tuesday post)

Example capri pants.

Image via Wikipedia

I still can’t hear the word liar without hearing the rest of the rhyme:

Liar, liar. Pants on fire. Nose as long as a telephone wire.

(Proof that making something rhyme gives it staying power – possibly undeserved.)

I don’t use the word much. Don’t even hear the word much. So when it shows up in Scripture five times in the petite book of 1 John, it grabs my attention. I’m listening.

li-ar (n): a person who has lied or lies repeatedly. Synonyms include: deceiver, trickster, cheat, beguiler, fibber, storyteller.

Anyone come to mind?

In the world you and I live in, lying is fairly commonplace.

We struggle with ways to get our kids to tell the truth, and we wonder how we’ll know if they don’t.

We fail to tell the whole truth sometimes, hoping that a partial lie (or incomplete truth) will pass for the real thing in a pinch.

We weigh the value of a relationship before deciding whether this one is deserving of the facts (or just a camouflaged version of the truth).

We’d like to think we’re fairly wise in how we present ourselves, but we’re always open to the possibility of an aesthetic touch-up here or strategic adjustment there, to insure that we’ve put our best foot forward.

What we fail to acknowledge is that manipulation of the truth in any way, shape or form is actually a lie.

Apparently John had witnessed, on more than one occasion, behavior that warranted the use of this strong, descriptive word: liar. The Greek language definition of the word, which reflects John’s objections to its appearance in the church, is slightly different than the English dictionary version printed above:

Liar: One who breaks faith. A false and faithless man. To lie, to speak deliberate falsehoods. To deceive one by a lie, to lie to.

I may not think of myself as a liar, but have I ever broken faith?

Surely I’m not a trickster, but is there anything about my persona that could be considered false? A misrepresentation of who I am or what I believe?

Sometimes I tell a fib or two, but does that make me faithless?

I might use artistic license at times, but it’s not like I’m deliberately misleading others!

“Deceiver” is a name given to the evil one – God’s enemy. Not to people like ME!

What was John thinking when he offered up this four-letter word?

I Am A “C”

I am a “C H.” I am a “C H R I S T I A N.” Which implies, I belong to Christ. I follow Christ. I am HIS. And yet my claims of belonging to the family of Christ ring hollow and tinny when my life itself fails to confirm it.

“If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth.” I John 2:4 (NLT)

We are liars in the eyes of God when we confess Him with our lips and deny Him with our lives. When the life I live is a misrepresentation of the One I’m living for, and still I claim to be a member of the Body of Christ, I’m fooling myself.

One of John’s names was John the Evangelist. If he was known as such, he must have spent years of his life proclaiming the Name of Jesus and lifting up the Gospel of grace before those who were hungry for a bit of good news. John knew that it was as important to preach without words – through a life lived authentically for the glory of God – as it was to speak the Message in audible ways. Actions speak louder than words, you know. John knew it, too.

And just in case we forget or begin to think that we’re somehow exempt from this truth, John is here to remind us that words are not enough for a watching world to be convinced. They’ve got to see it to believe it.

I Love You, Lord

And I lift my voice to worship You, oh my soul rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear; may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear. (Lyrics by Laurie Klein)

We sing the songs on Sunday morning. We pray the prayers that express in words the love we believe we have toward God. And we just can’t stand that annoying person sitting in the pew behind us.

“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?” I John 4:20 (NLT)

John uses this word liar to describe someone who claims to love God but fails to extend that love to people. I wonder if it’s just that we’re… confused. It’s not difficult to see how we might have become confused – after all, love in our culture is best described as the warm, fuzzy feeling that wells up in our hearts when we think about someone who is special to us – right? If we claim to have the warm fuzzies for God, surely we can muster up a tepid fleece for those who worship with us, right?

Unfortunately for us, it’s going to take more than a feeling to qualify as a lover in the Kingdom of God.

In God’s world, love is an action. Love is a lifestyle. Love is a choice.

We can’t love outside of relationship, which means that we must be in relationship with the people of God in order to truly be in relationship with God Himself. Only through the act of loving real people can we even come close to knowing how to love the God who made them in His image.

Loving God is the result of loving those who bear His likeness and are known by His Name; not the other way around.

Denial… That’s a River in Egypt, Right?

I know – it’s tempting to play dumb. That must be why John was driven to use such hard words to drive home such a critical point to those who filled the worship centers of his day.

“And who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22 (NLT)

When it comes right down to it, I wonder how many people actually deny that Jesus is the Christ. Think about it with me. ANTICHRISTS. That’s quite an accusation. How many people in our communities today would deny the Lordship of God – if they were sincere? If they were totally honest? If they were asked?

I don’t think we’ll ever know unless we, like John the Evangelizer, wander out of our Christian bubbles of comfort and safety and start asking the questions that beg our attention.

Sure, there are great liars out there. But not so many, I suspect, as we might think.

There are those whose god is themselves.

There are those whose god is their appetites and passions.

But there are those who are just waiting to be approached.

To be looked at. To be asked. To be LOVED.

To BELONG.

With hearts (not pants) on fire, may we demonstrate today that we are lovers (not liars).

(And spread the news from the telephone wires!)

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes… REALLY? (a PINK Tuesday post)

I just stepped out of my closet.

My head is hanging, because I thought it might be effective to poke fun at myself and my obvious obsession with shoes. I figured that, if I wanted to really make a strong argument for the case of the damage done by our excesses, I should begin at home with MY excess. And my excess (well, one of my excesses) is SHOES.

55 pairs of shoes. (Not counting slippers.)

And those are the in-season shoes; I didn’t include the box of footwear stored in my garage, waiting for summer weather to come before occupying space in my closet.

On this PINK Tuesday, I’d like to propose that we have been consumed by consumerism. This good idea has gotten the better of us – even those of us who purport to following Jesus of Nazareth, who almost certainly owned no more than the shoes He wore on His feet.

Not that we’ve had to be persuaded, mind you. Most of us have been willing participants in our society’s economy. The problem is, the control that is in our power to exercise over our buying decisions has been unwittingly assigned to the standards our society has set.

The standard of COOLNESS. The standard of TRENDINESS. The standard of a CULTURE whose mantra clearly is: MORE is MORE.

No one really NEEDS a 56th pair of shoes, and if the fact that I WANT a 56th pair of shoes is reason enough for me to lay my plastic money on the counter, then the ills of consumerism are further-reaching than we once thought. What I thought would be good fun – counting the kicks in my closet – has left me with a sour stomach and a headache, not to mention embarrassment about my apparent self-centeredness.

What makes me think that I could possibly NEED another pair of SHOES?

Why is it that I’m so susceptible to the suggestion that buying yet another pair of shoes is in my best interest – a good idea?

Three possibilities come to mind today, as I struggle with being a subject in the Kingdom of God and a resident in a society that doesn’t know when enough is enough…

SHOPPING as PAIN MANAGEMENT

Let me be the first to admit to having used shopping as anesthesia. I won’t even attempt to count the times when I have chosen to anesthesize my pain, stress and feelings of inadequacy by indulging in the comfort of consumerism. I’ve been amazed (clearly) by the power a new pair of shoes has over my temporary miseries. I can go for at least one good day beyond a shopping trip before the mileage gained from shopper’s euphoria returns to pre-purchase levels. When I’m feeling shallow, this can be all it takes to ease my pain. But today, my pain comes from all of those purchases that look pretty shallow now, in light of the real needs of the people around me.

‘WANT’ is the new ‘NEED’

Somewhere along the road, we’ve gotten things all mixed up. We’ve gotten SPOILED. With the resources we’ve been given, we have successfully elevated our perceived needs to a new level, so that when we WANT something passionately, we’ll use the word NEED to communicate our eagerness to have it.

I need a new Ipod, Mom.

I need seat covers for my car.

I need a vacation.

Mama needs a new pair of shoes… REALLY?

Few of us know genuine need, only ‘wants’ dressed up in ‘needs’ clothing. Scripture illustrates God’s feelings on the subject, by using the word ‘want’ (as a verb) only 8 times in its 66 books (and most of those references are in the ‘thou shalt NOT want’ vein). On the other hand, the Bible discusses ‘need’ at length in its 45+ uses of the word. Clearly, God is more interested in our NEED than in our WANT:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

If a simple thing like our word choice can communicate to others where our true riches lie, then it’s time to pull back to the basics and call our NEEDS what (most of them) really are: WANTS. Nothing more.

MINE!

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, but does that include my 56th pair of shoes? Those shoes are actually MINE, right? I work hard to earn every dollar that I spend, so when I swipe the money card and sign on the dotted touchpad, those shoes belong to ME! And yet, if pair #56 is God’s (not mine), how likely is it that He is as eager as I am to see those sweet shoes stored on my shelf, waiting for just the right occasion? Would He not prefer to see me share His shoes (or the money I would have spent on them) with someone who has a genuine need to survive (unlike me, whose need for shoes is classified under ‘want’ whether I choose to see it that way or not)?

In Confirmation class this week, we experienced a frenzied search of the scriptures for passages dealing with hospitality, compassion and giving. One student uncovered this verse, not knowing how great an impact it would have on little old me:

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28

If the purpose of my paycheck is to have something to share with those in NEED, well, my whole concept of what is MINE and what is GOD’S (and what is YOURS, for that matter) is all shook up. Ownership takes on new meaning if I subscribe to Paul’s suggestion that everything on earth is actually God’s. How, then, can I make the decision to buy pair #56 with a clear conscience, knowing that my heart is not beating as God’s is for the poor?

GROW UP

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 3:15

The path of consumerism threatens to consume me and you, and yet God has made it clear that He has a better way for us to live. It may sound silly, but I’m appalled at my own insensitivity to the condition of the people in the world all around me, in light of today’s shoe count and the resources those purchases represent. Suddenly, I’m wiggling in my seat and I’m VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. I don’t want to be like the rest of the world, whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame… Their minds on earthly things.”

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven!” Philippians 3:19-20

Time to start acting like it.

Time for me to grow up.

(Anyone with a size 6 foot in need of a pair of shoes?)

PINK Tuesday

Field of Women MCG 2010 Melbourne

Image by Combined Media via Flickr

Every Tuesday morning, armed with my Bible and a bag of powerful, freshly ground coffee, I make my way to the church. Only, I don’t really think of it as going to ‘church’ – it’s more like going home.

I never dread Tuesday mornings. On the contrary, Tuesday is my favorite day of the week! As they begin to trickle in, I find myself celebrating each unique arrival – grandmas (with attitude), mothers (with the uncanny ability to go from side-splitting laughter to rivers of tears in 20 seconds flat), sisters (who struggle to ‘become’ in light of family baggage), daughters (in every stage of growing up, from blaming to embracing), and wives (with hang-ups, headaches and heartbreaks, even in the best of marriages).

Each woman who walks through that door brings with her a history, a heart-felt need, and a HOPE. As we fill our cups and settle in to our seats, we ‘arrive’ at that place where who we are is all we need to be.

Nothing more.

The thing that happens each Tuesday is that the stuff of life (good, bad and ugly) intersects with the Way, the Truth and the Life, resulting in moments of clarity where what is happening in our very raw, very real lives somehow makes sense in light of the Word. As Beth Moore says, it’s where our reality and our theology collide.

That’s what happens for me on Tuesdays. If only for a few, brief, glorious moments, my life makes sense. I get it.

And I’m no longer satisfied with keeping this phenomenon to myself! For this reason, Pink Shoes Ministries is thrilled to invite ALL of you to join me (and my soul sisters) for PINK Tuesday!

WHERE?    Here, at:  https://pinkshoesministries.wordpress.com

WHEN?      Every Tuesday

WHAT IS IT?     A forum for women to connect the dots between a reality made up of tough issues, difficult choices and painful circumstances with the theology of a living, loving, ACTIVE God who is present in the midst of our complex (and often messy) lives.

WHY DO IT?     Why be a part of PINK Tuesday? So that the God of HOPE can fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him (Romans 15:13) AND so that you can have a place to relate your stories and struggles with those of other real women who are seeking what you are seeking – a moment of clarity. Where life just makes sense.

After all, THIS is what Pink Shoes Ministries is all about! Being real (unique) expressions of God’s TRUTH in a world that has been duped by too many counterfeits too many times.

Want to make it REAL?      Join us on PINK Tuesday!

Want to make it COUNT?      Check in on PINK Tuesday!

Ready to LET IT SHINE?      Then let it begin.

Here.

On PINK Tuesday.

Coming to a computer screen near you on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.