krikketgirl: (Smug)
I talk a lot. I talk as part of my job. I talk to my kids. I talk online in a blog. I talk for fun and for profit. And I certainly know what it's like to say the wrong thing at the wrong time...or to say something when I should have waited a heartbeat and not spoken at all. Sometimes, words just fly out not in the right order, and the only harm caused is that I have to stop and explain myself. Sometimes, though, I speak in the heat of the moment, when I haven't reflected on a situation enough to even know how to respond appropriately...and while those occasions are usually few and far between, they are painful.

So yesterday's "Smart Saying" spoke directly to me. "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).

For some of us, it's hard not to be hasty in words. I think in words; they flitter and dart around me. I find every experience I have translated into words, every emotion tagged with a word. It's ridiculously hard to keep from simply blurting those words out. But here's the thing: words require pondering. As Mark Twain wrote, "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." Words have power, and it must be harnessed and used carefully--and I find that this is especially so when we're dealing with people. And aren't we always dealing with people when we use words? As soon as our words are in a public forum, they are affecting people.

Surely there can be no more public forum than the Internet. The words I type here I may as well stand on my front porch and shout to the neighborhood at large: I don't know who is reading, and I don't know what they will do with my words. Many of us have become as comfortable with the computer as we are with the phone as we are with face-to-face conversation. But this brings with it all kinds of new issues to deal with when it comes to our words. Who is reading what you write on Facebook? Your kids? Your parents? Your supervisor? Would you want a prospective employer to read that long screed you just posted about your current job? Do you really want your impassioned attack on a former friend to be haunting the Internet forever?

As our communication options have increased, it seems that our sense of propriety when it comes to speech has decreased. Sometimes I shudder at the things I read and hear. A hasty post, a hasty e-mail, words written in the heat of anger--and a friendship is destroyed, a reputation is damaged, a job is lost. And if you've accidentally been on the sending end of those words, you know that they are so very hard to take back.

This parable was written a good long time ago, but it is still relevant. We all must learn to be very careful with our words, whether here on the Internet or behind the doors of our home. We must learn to keep them in their proper place--like fire, they make good servants but very poor masters. Let us not embrace folly by being quick with what they say.
krikketgirl: (Default)
Yesterday, I was reading a blog post about Proverbs 27:14, which reads, "If you shout a pleasant greeting to your neighbor too early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse!"

One thing I love about the proverbs is how thought-provoking they are. We start with the obvious: even nice things--good things--can be annoying if they're done at the wrong time. If I'm bringing you homebaked chocolate chip cookies, but I deliver them at 5 a.m. with a strident ring on the doorbell, the effect of the nice gesture is going to be rather lost. There is a time and a place for everything!

Of course, we can then step further and ask, "Well, how early is too early?" I mean, I'm up at 6 on school mornings, but I have friends who shouldn't be disturbed before 10 a.m., or even noon. A lot depends on the day and the person and the circumstances. So we have here another thought: just because you are up early (and happy), don't assume that other people are! There's a certain amount here of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. As we know, "Do unto others as you'd have done to you" only goes so far.

Lastly, though, it occurred to me that we can take this another step and put ourselves in the shoes of the person who is counting the greeting as a curse. Let me tell you about two boys first. We'll call one Boy A and one Boy B. Boy A wakes with a bounce and an enthusiastic heart. He rises full of vim and vigor, ready to tackle breakfast and running on all four cylinders.

The other boy, Boy B, wakes halfway, falls asleep, and needs about five wake-up calls to finally rise. He gets dressed lying on the floor to "use less energy" and then trails into the kitchen, eyelids at half-mast. He bids me "good morning" in a humming language that does not usse words. He does not want to talk, he does not want to hear a funny joke, he does not, in fact, want anything other than to eat really slowly while being left alone.

These two sit next to each other.

You can imagine the fun and frivolity as Boy A greets his brother with verve and joy and Boy B thinks about shoving napkins in his ears to avoid the sound of Boy A's voice. Two boys who usually get along very well can be at loggerheads within minutes--one crying and angry and the other exasperated--"I didn't DO anything! I just told him a joke!"

Now, here's the thing. One's pleasant morning greeting is being counted as a curse. Should he know better than to jump immediately into conversation and frivolity? Yes. But on the other hand...Boy B should know that his brother is not trying to be rude or loud, but rather to spend some time with him before leaving for school.

Which brings us to how personally most of us take things when a gesture falls flat. We are quite quick to snarl to ourselves and to others about that loser who woke us up with his noisy singing. I think that there is a lesson about that here, too: look at the intent. Look at the motivation. Was the person really trying to be annoying? Were they really being completely careless? Or were they making a gesture that didn't communicate itself in the way it was intended?

Whether we're morning people or not, we can all learn something about time, place, and motivation from this parable.

Clothing

Jun. 14th, 2010 08:30 am
krikketgirl: (Forces)
In several places of the New Testament, Christians are told to "put on" something, or to "clothe" themselves with something (as th NIV tends to translate it). I find this concept interesting because it hints at a couple of different things.

The verse I was thinking of was Colossians 3:12. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Now, the first thing that this suggests is that these attributes are things that we will have "put on," because they are not yet inherent to our nature. I think that this is both goad and comfort. Babies don't enter the world clothed; it is not the natural way of things. Left to ourselves, our natural bent is to look out for ourselves first and everything and everyone else, second. We are instructed, though, to put these things on--it will require some effort on our part, then. We are not going to wake up one morning and suddenly feel loving to everyone in all circumstances. Instead, we will put on love and compassion and kindness. We will choose to display those items, even if we have to suffer a bit sometimes for that particular "fashion."

Which leads me to the second idea that I think can be drawn from this: when people meet you, in public, one of the first things they see is your clothing. They may not notice it to the exclusion of all else, but it does tend to register. If we're looking for someone, one of the first things we ask is, "What were they wearing?"

And I think that this is pointing to that same idea. Earlier, in Romans 13:14, we're told to clothe ourselves "with the Lord Jesus Christ." Why? What does that mean? If we're putting on Christ, putting on His behaviors and characteristics, then like our clothing, those will be the first things noticed about us. If you've ever talked to someone who was very kind or very compassionate or very gentle, you know what I mean. Later on, when you try to conjure up that person in your mind, that attribute of their character colored everything you remembered about them. It was the first thing you saw, the first thing you remembered.

Now, my figure is not amazing. When I choose clothing, I am trying to choose things that will make it look less potato-shaped, if you will. And when I put on Christ and His ways, frankly those are layered over something (myself) that is not yet very attractive. I'm working on it, just as one might work on one's figure through diet and exercise. But I rely on those things that I put on to cover my inadequacies and to allow people to see what I am trying to grow into, moment by moment.
krikketgirl: (Stairway)
I love the book The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. In it, a young girl travels from the country to a bakery in the big city. Her father has lost his job during the depression, and she is traveling to live with her uncle, who runs the bakery. Her uncle is taciturn, though not unkind.

The story is told in a series of letters back home, in which Lydia Grace talks about the people she meets, the friends she makes...and the plants that she is nurturing. Lydia Grace brought seeds from home to plant in window boxes, and sets about livening up the bakery.

In time, the store cat shows Lydia Grace a special, secret place: the rooftop of the building where the bakery is located. When she first sets eyes on it, it doesn't look like much--there is a cast-off bathtub and a few other odds and ends. It's tired and cluttered and not very beautiful.

Lydia Grace decides that she will transform this secret place into a beautiful place. Slowly, she works to bring in dirt and plants and makes it into a flowering garden as a surprise for her Uncle Jim, whom she hopes to make smile at least once.

Listening to this story this week reminded me of a conversation that my oldest son and I had about the levels of knowing someone--how, at heart, we are all unknown, but to God. In a sense, then, my heart is a secret place. Oh, out of the abundance of it the mouth speaks, and so everyone can get clues to what is in there--but its totality is not known to anyone, even Chris.

Truth to tell, at times it doesn't look like much. But reading The Gardener makes me wonder: am I adding good things to it? Am I working to transform it from a hot, cluttered space into a place of beauty? Am I carrying out the trash and planting it with good works and hopes and thoughts? Am I working toward that idea of a smile on my Father's face? Or am I just ignoring the stagnation and hoping He won't look?

Resonant

Apr. 19th, 2010 07:13 am
krikketgirl: (Smug)
Last night, we were attending a charity auction to support the United Church of God's "Good Works" program. The proceeds of the auction went to sponsor the education of children in east Africa, and it was a wonderful evening. Along with the auction, we were entertained by students of the church's Ambassador Bible Center.

It was during one of these--a song accomanied by piano--that I noticed that the snare drum up in the stage area was vibrating with the sound coming from the piano. Though the two instruments were separated by a little distance, they were close enough that the music from one moved the other to sound as well.

At first, I only thought of the logistics of musical instruments, of unintentional accompaniment that would have benefited from a little more space between drum and piano. But then, I thought about human resonance and how sensitive we are to the things we are near. What are the things in my environment that vibrate my heart and my emotions, that resonate in my actions?

I find it true that we will in some way hum along with whatever "tune" we are nearest. When I had a close friend who used shocking language, for example, it was very hard not to think in those words myself. Those who are in perpetual bad moods pull my mood to the flat side, too. The only way to make sure that I stay on my chosen pitch is to pull myself closer to the things and the people that are in tune with the things that I profess to hold dear.

And of course, for me, that has to start with God. Am I drawing closer to Him? Am I setting myself free to sing the song that He would give me? Or am I belting out something else and edging away, uncomfortable with the resonance?
krikketgirl: (Stars)
When I still had a household cat, there were certain negotiations that had to be entered into whenever we were planning to travel for an extended period. An obliging next-door neighbor was an integral part of this plan: we would leave our key with him and ask him to pick up the mail and to feed our cat.

Now, when we asked him to feed the cat, we were actually asking him to do a great deal more than just unlock the door, dump some food in the bowl, and beat a hasty retreat. We were asking him to take care of her--to keep her fed and watered, surely, but also to talk to her, to pet her, to ensure that she was well and happy and healthy in our absence. In a larger sense, he was to keep an eye on the house, too, and be sure that it wasn't destroyed or broken into while we were gone.

I was thinking of this today when I thought of Christ telling Simon Peter to feed His sheep. In John 21, we read:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."


He is told to feed them, to take care of them. I take this as something that can be applied to all who are in Christ--if we love Him, we ought to feed His sheep, His people. And here again, I think that there is much more intended than simply feeding people (though that is good) or simply preaching (though that, too, is good). I think that in considering this, we ought to consider it a command to nourish, to build up, to cherish His people. When we look to Christ's ministry, we see teaching and also miracles involving food; but more than that, we see compassion and care and concern.

Where are we in this "If/Then" statement? If Christ is saying, "If you love Me, feed My sheep," are we doing so? Are we practicing outgoing care and concern? Are we looking for ways to care for His people? Are we doing more than just the minimum? Or are we the neighbor that has grown tired of caring for His beloved and looking after the house? Are we starting to slip in doing what we agreed to do?

If...then. If we love Christ, we love our brother. If we love our brother, we feed him, clothe him, and build him up. How are we doing?

Jealous

Apr. 11th, 2010 10:21 pm
krikketgirl: (Haughty)
When I first met my husband, we were visiting an area in which neither of us lived. At the end of three days, we each headed home to our own towns; mine was Green River, Wyoming. His was Indianapolis, IN.

I remember very clearly the pangs of being separated by geography from one whom I adored. I would think, "I wonder what he is doing now. I hope he's well." But secretly, I would hope he wasn't too happy without me, as I longed so much to be with him. I had fun without him there, but I knew how much more fun everything would be if we were together.

I was jealous of people who got to see him every day. I was jealous of the activities he pursued while we were far apart. It wasn't an angry jealousy, a jealousy that demanded that he should do nothing but sit at home, pining and writing letters (though, well, I didn't mind when he was pining and writing letters, because hello! Letters from my guy!). It was a jealousy that hoped he would remember me, that the people he was with wouldn't distract him from me completely, that he would still, somewhere, be thinking of me--because I thought of him.

Confession: I'm still jealous over him. We've been married for fifteen years (well, come July). Still, when we are apart, I always hope he's having fun--but not too much fun. It delights me when he calls during the day, or brings home some little something, or sends me an e-mail...it tells me that I am not forgotten, that even if I am temporarily eclipsed by something important, he still thinks of me and loves me more than almost anything.

Today, I was thinking about God and His jealousy. I wonder whether He is the same way over my heart. Does He wish that I would remember Him more often? Does He know that I need time to nap or play or be silly, but hope that underneath, I will remember Him and not tarry too long? Do the times I remember Him--the Sabbaths, the prayers, the hymns--do they delight Him?

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