Monday, February 28, 2011

31 Days of Wisdom

For the next 31 days, I will be dedicating myself to the Proverbs and the wisdom found there. I will be sharing what particularly strikes me. I'd love it if you join me on this journey seeking wisdom.

I will begin tomorrow, March 1st, with Proverbs 1 and read and respond to a chapter per day. I'm excited to see what I will learn!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

You WILL Get Divorced

As a single person, I tend to stay away from offering any advice on marriage. For me, any such advice would be all theoretical (having never had a spouse of my own). But, I do, however, listen to marriage advice often and tuck it away for possible future use. This week I had the opportunity to "get" some advice from one of my married friends. And, since I loved it so much, I thought I would share it here.

My friend started out by telling me that all marriage counselors should tell their clients in pre-marriage counseling that they "WILL get divorced". I laughed a bit until I realized she was absolutely serious. She continued, "Seriously, they should tell young couples that they can see the future and they WILL get divorced".

She then went on to expound upon her thought and I loved it. She told me that if I could look forward and know that my marriage would end in 5 or 10 years, it would give me the opportunity to change that future. And, the truth is, if you don't work at a marriage, if you think the other person is "stuck" with you no matter what, or if you enter into marriage with the wrong person, you likely will get divorced.

So, what would you do to change that future?

Would you work harder now to repair any cracks in the foundation of your marriage? I hope so, because those cracks can become fissures that one day could leave a canyon between you.

Would you view the relationship with more care and concern if you thought the other person could or would walk away at some point? (Not that you should live in fear of that, but sometimes, when we think something is ours irrevocably, we don't care for it as we should. Would you treat your spouse differently if you felt that you may lose them one day?)

Would you do your best not to take your spouse for granted?

Would you listen more?

Would you work more on yourself and the kind of person you are becoming?

What would you do to change that future if you thought it certain?


Now, this may seem drastic, severe and dramatic. Maybe it is. But, think of teachers who start out the semester telling their students that they have a 100% average in the class, now they have to fight to keep it. Or, think of movies you've seen (i.e., Back to the Future) where the future is known and a small part of the past has to be changed to effect it. This is basically the same principle.

I don't think this should be taken as a prophecy of doom over a marriage, but one of gentle caution meant to remove the rose-colored glasses of love. You're not always going to like the person with whom you've chosen to spend your life. So, what are you going to do now and going forward to make sure that you love them well and fight to keep the relationship in constant repair?

I think these are great questions to ask, and don't necessarily apply to only marriages. What if you knew you would lose any relationship because you neglected it or failed to put in the time necessary to make it grow? Maybe if we thought more along these lines we would choose our friendships more carefully, love each other better, and work harder to keep the friendship alive.

And, as always, this is just food for thought and what I'm thinking about today. I welcome any comments or thoughts on the matter. I hope that any wisdom I gain now will mean a smoother road for my own marriage someday. So, I welcome those who want to share the wealth of their wisdom and experience.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Trying something new... I Corinthians 13

I'm in a weekly Bible study with the most amazing collection of women. We're all joined by a relationship to one woman, but come from different areas of her life. This Bible study has been a huge blessing to me in the short time we've been meeting.

One of the ladies has been employing a method of studying the Bible for years that seemed interesting to me. She has gone through and written her own paraphrase of the books she's studied. She shared some of it with us last week, and it struck me as such a good way to really understand and get the words into my heart. Being able to put an idea into your own words shows a strong understanding of the idea itself.

I've been thinking a great deal about I Corinthians 13 since pastor Greg's message a few weeks ago. So, I thought I'd try my hand at this new technique of Bible study.

So, before I share my venture with you, a word of caution: This is my paraphrase and understanding of this passage. I haven't gone to the Greek and tried to re-translate this scripture, I'm only sharing it back in my own words. Please refer to the passage itself, you can do so here:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=I%20Corinthians%2013&version=NIV

or here:

http://christysolly.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-corinthians-13-message.html

Now for my understanding/paraphrase of I Corinthians 13:


v1 - If I speak beautifully, if the sound of my voice is pleasing and people enjoy listening to me, but I am not a loving person, in truth, I am as unpleasant as a loud and raucous noise.

v2 - If I am blessed with the ability to understand the Scriptures, to prophecy in the name of the Lord, or even have faith strong enough to actually move mountains, but I am not a loving person, I am nothing.

v3 - If I am generous with all I have, even if I am willing to die for my beliefs, but I am not a loving person, nothing will be added to me or my life.

v4 - Love is patient and kind. Love does not get frustrated or mean. Love stays calm. Love does not envy or boast and is not proud. Love rejoices over the blessings of another person. Love doesn't covet that blessing. Love does not lift itself up. It does not brag or hold itself above another.

v5 - Love is not rude - it is not sharp or heartless with others. It listens. Love is not selfish. Love doesn't chase after its own best - does not put itself first. Love isn't quick to get angry. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. love does not jump to conclusions. Love doesn't keep a scorecard or balance accounts. Love does what is right without concern for whether the other person involved is doing what is right. Love doesn't keep up with things like that.

v6 - Love doesn't get pleasure out of another's pain. Love does not rejoice over another's failure. Love does not laugh when someone falls. Love does not run to spread the news of someone's failure. But love is ecstatic when Truth prevails. Love rejoices to see lives saved, families restored, health renewed and right and justice prevail.

v7 - Love always protects - it watches another's back. Love always stands up or in the gap for someone. Love always trusts - it doesn't hold back. Love keeps at it. Love is resilient - it keeps pressing on.

v8 - Love never fails. Love doesn't let us down. Love doesn't disappoint. Everything else, prophecies, tongues knowledge - all of that will one day fade; but, not love. Love remains.

v9 - We don't know everything. We can't see everything. We only see part of the puzzle.

v10 - But, when we are perfected, all of the broken pieces will fade away. Imperfect will disappear.

v11 - When I was a child, I behaved like a child. I thought and talked like a child. I thought of myself, I wanted what was best for me, I didn't think things through to their logical conclusion. But, in growing up, I put these things behind me. I've matured and now think, act and talk like an adult.

v12 - Right now, we don't see clearly. We can't truly see the fullness of love. We see an image, a reflection; but a day is coming when we will stand face-to-face with Love. A day is coming when we will know all the depth of love and be fully known ourselves.

v13 - There are three things that stand the test of time: faith, hope and love; but nothing is greater than love.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Corinthians 13 (The Message)

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

The Way of Love

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What is Love?

A recent sermon by my pastor and a blog post from my friend have me asking some questions about love and what I don't understand about it.

If you have a moment, take a break from what you're reading here and read Rachael's Blog: We Don't Fully Understand Love

If you can't access it by clicking above, you can access it here: http://rmirabella.blogspot.com/2011/02/we-dont-fully-understand-love.html

It won't hurt my feelings if you don't make it back to this blog after reading Rae's. She gives her readers a great deal to think through, and I am still chewing on what she said.

But, I would love to see some discussion about it, as it always helps me to hear what others are thinking.

At Word of Life, we are currently enjoying a series based upon the book "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. There are so many examples of love and faith in God in that book that it is at times overwhelming. To see love in action in the lives of the Ten Boom family is truly humbling.

Last week, we focused on the definition of love that the Apostle Paul gave us. I will leave you with that because I couldn't say it any better. But, I will be ruminating on all of this and would love to hear your thoughts on love as well.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (New International Version, ©2010)

1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

158.723

Every Sunday, almost compulsively, I visit www.postsecret.com. It's been a tradition for me for quite some time. And yet, every week, I am struck by how much we have in common as human beings.

Postsecret began as a community art project where people were asked to mail in their secrets on a postcard and present them in a creative and unique way. The result has been an amazing collection of secrets that reveal the most interesting and universal of human emotions.

Sometimes, the secret isn't immediately evident. This week, there was such a secret. You can view that secret by following this link:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-wBllnarpj38/TWB8_9hlqGI/AAAAAAAAOOE/xFpakx_GLHQ/s1600/deweysaysburnout.jpg

I was reminded, once again, of a sense of greater community when Frank Warren posted that this one secret had triggered enough hits on Google that it was actually a trending search today. In fact, it reached the number 2 spot.

You should check out www.postsecret.com. If you ever feel like you're alone or you're the only one who carries a certain secret, you may be surprised to find that it's more common than you think.

Thanks, Frank, for giving us a peek within ourselves; for giving an outlet for those of us who feel all alone or separated by society by our secrets. What a beautiful homage to humanity - www.postsecret.com.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pieces of Me

I've been thinking alot about the people who have made an impact on me, in some way or another, throughout the course of my life. A conversation that prompted by last blog post, also prompted this line of thinking.

There are people who seem to own pieces of me, pieces I've given away, or that have been taken from me over the years. I had a very visual picture of it in my mind this afternoon as I started to think about the pieces of me that have someone else's name tatooed across them.

There's a piece of me that will always belong to my first love; a corner of my heart that seems to store the momentos of that time in my life.

There's the smile that belongs to the friend who always knows how to evoke it; the only one who knows.

There are pieces that are ugly and scarred by people who have wounded me with words and actions; their names scratched into the jagged tissue.

There's the side of me that is reserved for the one who always seems to make me go a little crazy, get a little dangerous.

There are thousands of pieces that have been touched by someone else in one way or another. And, there are a few special people who have a key to the door of my heart and are allowed full access anytime they wish. These people are my greatest blessings and treasures. They are the ones who can come in when my heart is a mess, a complicated mess that I don't want to show to anyone,and help me sift through the pieces. These friends are often my lifeline.

Sometimes loneliness seems to settle in my soul, even though I am surrounded by love. Today is one of those days. I think it has much to do with the eternity that has been set in my heart and the longing for home that sometimes catches me unaware. I have to say I felt a little jealousy last night as I talked to a friend who long a friend to cancer. I'm not envious of the pain her family is feeling or the sense of loss that is surely surrounding them. But, there was a bit of longing stirred in my soul at the thought that she was now seeing the Lord face to face. No more veil of tears. No more human brokenness and pain; only perfection and basking in the light of the Son. More and more my heart longs for that day when I too shall see fullness of His glory; then face to face.

So, as I bring it all full-circle in my mind, I realize that I am so grateful for a Savior who holds all of the pieces of me in His hands. I am so thankful that, no matter what piece of me feels lost to another, they are all safe in His heart. And, one day, I will be complete, whole and perfect; every little piece in place.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Laughter really is the best medicine

I had a conversation this morning with a friend who knows me well. In fact, this friend is one of those precious few with whom I can immediately reconnect no matter the time or distance between us. And, sometimes he knows me better than I'd like.

With friends like these, it's hard to hide. It's nearly impossible to pretend you're having a good day when you really aren't. This was the case for me today. I wasn't having the brightest of mornings and this friend could hear it in my voice.

God was sending me a blessing, and I didn't even know it.

I needed some great laughter today, and that's exactly what I got from my friend. He doesn't even have to try, he just lifts my spirits. There's something to shared experience, authenticity in relationship, and a sense of humor between two people that can just make all of the difference.

So, in honor of my friend and his ability to brighten my day when I needed it most, I'd like to share some of these quotes about laughter (I hope they bring a smile to your face):

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen

Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. ~Henry Ward Beecher

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. ~e.e. cummings

When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other. ~Alan Alda

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. ~Kurt Vonnegut

I've always thought that a big laugh is a really loud noise from the soul saying, "Ain't that the truth." ~Quincy Jones

You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants. ~Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis

[L]aughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life. ~Hugh Sidey

Humor is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on one's bottom. ~Taki

Humor results when society says you can't scratch certain things in public, but they itch in public. ~Tom Walsh

The Woodcutter's Wisdom

Max Lucado is one of my favorite authors. He has a way of telling a story that just really grabs my attention. I've read this one a few times this week and wanted to share it. I needed the lesson; maybe you do too.

The Woodcutter's Wisdom
by Max Lucado

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”

The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”

The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

He should know. He is the Author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Don't worry...I'm right behind you

I had the honor, today, of attending the funeral of a man who walked 93 years on this earth. I can't even begin to imagine the things he saw in his lifetime. I wonder what he must have thought as he saw the world go through so many changes.

His obituary stated that he had nine hobbies: his wife, his seven children, and his church. What a legacy to leave. He was a military man, a business man, and a community leader, but what he loved was his wife, his seven children, and his church. I am blessed to know one of his children and two of his grandchildren. I can see his legacy in them.

What touched me the most, this week, as I heard stories of his passing, was of a comment his wife of 70 years made to him in his last days. I'm told that she told him it was ok to let go, not to worry because, "I'm right behind you".

How beautiful.

I'm sure that is not a comforting thought for their children who are still grieving the loss of their father, but somehow, it really is comforting. It's a reminder that this place is not our home. We are strangers here. Our home awaits where we will be perfected and whole. No more sickness. No more death. No more tears and pain.

Mr. Williams was greeted this week by friends and loved ones who had already made it home. Now, he waits to receive his bride once again when her time here is complete. How comforting to know that we do not grieve like those who have no hope, but as ones who know what is to come.

My heart breaks for the Williams family as they greive the loss of their loved one. But, I rejoice with them, also, as they know he is no longer in pain and in the arms of His blessed Redeemer. And, they have hope that they will see him again.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/macon/Obituary.aspx?pid=148334753

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfFOlPTyULg

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The "C" Word

I've been thinking a great deal lately about the power of words. As a person who loves words, it's not an unusual thought for me. I'm often looking for just the right one to express what I'm feeling. I'm processing something that was said to me yesterday, a message actually, that I believe the Lord wants me to hear. But, in that journey of processing, I've been stuck on this thought all day.

It's interesting to me how some words take on a life of their own and seem to have power just in the utterance. "Cancer", for instance, is one of those words. That's the one that keeps reverberating in my mind as I chew on these thoughts. In many cases, people have difficulty even saying it, relegating it to "The 'C' word" so as to not have to name the terrible thing.

The lady who shared with me last night actually battled cancer. She was given a 24% chance of living as the disease ravaged her body. To someone who has faced those odds, I can imagine that "the 'C' word carries a great deal of weight.

I think too often we are careless with our words. I know I have been guilty of that. But, I wonder what it would be like if we really measured our words before we used them. Have you ever called someone a name? Have you ever been labeled? Or, have you done the same to someone else? I know that I have and it grieves me. There are labels and names people have given me that have left very deep wounds. I shudder to think what wounds I've left on people.

Words have power. They have power to bless. They have power to curse. They can deeply wound people, but they can speak healing too.

So, I'm processing this word from the Lord to see what He would have me learn. He's already revealed much of it and much of its purpose. I'm excited to see where He leads.