Shine Bright

Photo by nationalgeographic.com

Photo by science.nationalgeographic.com

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
 – Matthew 5:16

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…- Philippians 2:14-15

I’ve been considering what it means to shine. Candles burn a wick in order to provide light. Lacking understanding in this arena, I turn to ScienceIQ.com for this explanation:

When you light the wick on a candle, the heat melts the wax in the wick and at the top of the candle. This liquid wax is drawn up the wick by capillary action, getting hotter and hotter until it turns into a gas. This gas mixes with oxygen in the air and is ignited by the flame that melted the wax in the first place. The heat of the flame melts more wax and this wax too is drawn up the wick. Then the whole process repeats itself until all the wax has been burnt.

So why does a candle need a wick? If you try to light a lump of wax you can melt the wax but that is just about all that happens. The wick does the important job of keeping the molten wax in the heat of the flame long enough to vaporize. Liquid wax does not burn. Wax has to be in its gaseous state before it will ignite and burn. If you look at the wick of a candle that has already been used you will see that it is all burnt and black. What you are seeing is loose, powdery carbon and soot, held together by the wax that was traveling up the wick when it was blown out.

Now you know. See, the candle stays lit if the wick burns. And that takes a flame, which uses gaseous wax as fuel.  The flame, though bright and beautiful, is temporary unless the fuel keeps coming.  With a candle, it’s a finite operation. Even PartyLite knows this.

Stars, however, can burn for millions of years. But eventually, even stars go out.  Their fuel source, often hydrogen, runs dry. They pass through several processes – red giant, planetary nebula, white dwarf, then finally a black dwarf.  That star, whose light traveled light years for us to glimpse its pinprick light, will someday go dark.

Which begs the question:  why shine at all?  Is it even worth it? Because you know what?  It costs something to shine.  Shining means something must burn.  Shining requires fuel of some sort.  What sort of fuel stokes the fire? As Christians, we know God covers misunderstandings.  He fights for us.  He heals our diseases and soothes our broken hearts. The hope we have within us doesn’t disappoint. It never runs out, either. As our hurts and dashed plans get consumed in the furnace of His love, our love for God and others glow ever brighter. I think surrendering the pain to Christ allows it to be turned into something useful. That, friends, allows us to get up and shine again and again and again, despite what each day brings.

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Lift Up Your Face

I can’t get enough of this song today. It keeps hitting me between the eyes.  The lead singer of Third Day, Mac Powell, has a voice like the best velvety chocolate cake or perfectly grilled sirloin, take your pick. You can almost stick a fork in it, it’s so tangible. His blues-rock-gospel vocals stand out from a host of Jeremy Camp/Chris Tomlin copycats. I have several Third Day songs on my mp3 player.  For a long season, they provided music for the first half of my training runs.  I clicked to their selections first. They didn’t disappoint. Their compilation made up about 20 minutes of running, the first 8 or so straight uphill. Third Day’s worshipful songs encouraged me, helped me to press on when lying down on the pavement seemed much the better option. 

I find this song bringing the same hope to my heart today. Songs based on scriptural truths have that ability. I’m in a “lift up your face” place right now.  I’m holding on, and I encourage you to do the same. God will come through, if we only wait.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. – Psalm 25: 1-2

 

Lies We Believe About Women

Today, Dr. I. brings us part 2 of his series on modesty.  Comments appreciated. Enjoy!
The current push towards modesty in the modern church relies on many false assumptions. Last week I spent some time lining out some of my misgivings about how men are viewed in light of  modesty. This week, I will look at some of the underlying assumptions I see regarding women. Before I do that, though, I do have to put a disclaimer here:
I am not advocating that women or men should be allowed to wear whatever they want whenever or wherever they want. What I am advocating for is that believers extend grace instead of judgment, and congregants to act with acceptance and love instead of control and manipulation.
And so, with that dear readers, let us turn out attention to the lies we believe about women.
#1 – Women’s bodies are a commodity
Commodities are bought and sold. Commodities are valued by what the market will pay for them. Commodities are subject to the law of supply and demand (most of the time). Women and their bodies are none of these. I have a feeling that most of us would agree with this statement. Those in porn or prostitution might disagree, but most women reading this don’t live in that world.
Underneath the modesty doctrine, though, is a lot of this thinking. I have heard women tell other women that if they show too much, they devalue their body. Really? So if supply goes up and demand stays constant, the price must go down, right? If you give it away, men won’t think it has a lot of value. Yep, I’ve heard that one as well. The worst idea of of all is the idea that a woman’s purity is like the pearl of great price Jesus talked about. A man found it and then went and sold everything he had to purchase the field so he could have the pearl. This is how some view marriage, with the woman’s purity as the pearl.
Don’t misunderstand me, I think my bride is an amazing woman and an amazing beauty and I would willingly sell everything I have to be with her, but this line of thinking (attaching a value to women, particularly her body) leads to a great deal of problems in our church and a great deal of pain when trying to apply modesty based on this idea. One of them is:
#2 – Women’s beauty is a zero sum game
I haven’t heard this one spoken specifically, but I can see it in action. For those who don’t know what a ‘zero sum game’ is, it’s the idea that if one item goes up, something else must go down to make all of them add up to zero. If I have  20 $1 bills to give to women and my instruction is to dole them out to each woman according to her beauty, then…my wife wins all and the rest of the women lose. Sorry.
Fine. I will give my wife $10 and then a few other ladies in my church a couple of bucks.
Immediately, you think me harsh. Of course I have to give my wife the most (if not all), but if I give some others out, why do some get bills and some get nothing? What if I change my mind?  What if I want to make it as fair as possible? I have to *take* a dollar from one woman to give it to another. Now, I have to take $9 from my wife to make sure everyone gets $1, assuming there are 20 women.
Don’t think this applies? You haven’t been paying attention. In the modesty debate, there’s this fear that if a scantily clad woman shows up at church, all men will be paying attention to her (if you read that as ‘lust after her’, please read my first blog). If married men are paying attention to that woman, less attention goes to their wives, right? Wrong. Attention is not a zero sum game either. If a beautiful woman walks into the room (even a well coiffed, modestly dressed one), that does not mean every other woman in the room loses their beauty. Beauty is not a zero sum game, either.
The modesty movement fosters this idea of beauty as a zero sum game. I don’t think it intentionally puts this idea forward, but it comes through nonetheless. And while I am on the subject, please allow me an ‘aside’ here.  Beautiful women attend my church. There are women that spend a lot of time on their hair, and it looks great. Ladies, if I compliment your hair, I am not lusting after you (see my first blog). If I say I think you look pretty in that new dress, it does not mean I wish you were not wearing it…or anything at all. If I compliment your smile, please don’t think I am coming on to you. If I compliment you, it means I noticed something I like. I think my wife is pretty as well. I like her hair. I like her smile. I like her dress.
And just because I compliment you does not lower what I think of my wife. Another woman’s beauty has no impact on your own. Beauty is not a zero sum game. Husbands, feel free to compliment my wife; she’s a beautiful woman. She was beautifully and wonderfully made. She spends time taking care of herself. If you compliment her breasts I will knock you out…you know what’s appropriate! Husbands, if my wife looks pretty, feel free to tell her. It would make her day. I promise I won’t think you are trying to hit on her, and I will respectfully compliment your wife and you will assume it’s innocent attention as well. Aren’t compliments supposed to edify the receiver?  Let’s do it intentionally, with joy.
(Oh, and while we are at it, how about we men in the church step up and start complimenting the single ladies in our church. Maybe…if they receive non-sexual compliments from mature Christian men, they would gain a better understanding of what appropriate male attention looks like and wouldn’t be confused about where the line is…I’m just saying.)
OK…back to the topic at hand.
#3 – Immodestly dressed women are trying to steal men
I have heard well-meaning Christian women jokingly comment that the ‘floozy’ is going to steal her husband. This statement may be an exaggeration and it may be true in a small percentage of circumstances, but how many women do you know who would clutch their husband closer when he compliments or pays attention to the scantily clad woman? It’s almost a cliché by now.
Why do the women do this? Because they assume the scantily clad woman is on the prowl. The article that started me thinking about all this suggested that the woman wearing less probably has a reason for her attire other than stealing the attentions  of men in the church, but yet…we tend to treat them this way anyway.
In conclusion
So how do we escape the trap of the zero sum game? Grace and Love, I think. What if a scantily clad woman shows up and gets complimented by women and men alike for things that have nothing to do with what she wears? What if she shows up in something short and tight and sees men and women alike complimenting each other, as well as her, on her sense of humor, her creativity or her kindness ? What if she shows up and witnesses people garnering attention because they are beautiful and unique creations of God and have infinite value in themselves, simply for who they are? Do you think she will show up next week in a short, tight outfit?
Maybe. But in that environment, would anyone really care? If she’s not a commodity, she doesn’t need to sell anything – or give it away –  and nobody else fears her flooding the market with her goods. She’s God’s child, wonderful and special, and her worth is rooted there. Yes, this is how it would be in my perfect world, to be sure, but if we are able to get over these lies we believe about women, I think modesty would come a lot easier us all, and it might not even matter.

Good News

I got some revised payrolls emailed to me today.  Woot!  I know.  You’re not excited.  Well, these payrolls have been incorrect since last year.  As in, since they put them out in August 2013.  Yep.  For all intents and purposes, it looks like they paid their guys right.  They simply didn’t document it correctly, or in any way regular humans could follow.  This, friends, is the last item on the list, the most important thing to complete before the project can head to closeout.  

The task seemed impossible.  The subcontractor wouldn’t budge. My counterpart at the prime contractor sent them no less than 10 emails about it. She also held onto their pay.  Money talks.  I suppose the lack of money might say even more, like “I need to eat!” Regardless, she got through. 

I almost jigged.  Again. Gotta do something about that.

What could be better than the story above?  I’ll tell you. 

This morning, I found a piece of paper at my place at the table. I turned it over and smiled. It was a note from a “seceret admirer”.  The writer is quite the poet.  “Your laughs are like singing birds, your color hair like your daughters. Roses are red, and violets are blue.  I love you Susan.”

I wonder who it could be?  Jonathon denied it and so did Zac.  Hmmm….

The combination of these two things happening on a Monday almost – almost – made me want to live it again. I love good news. Bring on the Tuesday, world.  I’m ready.

The Cat Came Back, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my mom and her cat disappearing.  I apologize if that sounded mean.  I’m not a big fan of her cats, but she is. Her orange tiger cat, Baby, came home a couple of weeks ago.  But he was in the neighborhood; he just didn’t know it. He got lost in the wilderness around Shelton.

The bigger news is about her other cat, Little Boy.  She moved to Shelton June 21. Little Boy bolted that moving day and hadn’t been seen since.  Her former neighbor called yesterday to let her know he’d spotted the missing cat loitering around her place in Portland.

Bam!  I love stories like these. 

Remember that old slogan from the 1970s? ,”If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours.  If it doesn’t it was never meant to be.”  Que sera, sera. 

Right.

I hated that slogan.  Because I’m the “If it’s truly mine, chain it up and stake it in the yard” kind of gal. Don’t even *think* of running away, because I will find you.  And it won’t be pretty. I don’t like it when those I love – be they animal or people – go away.  It makes me sad.  It hurts. Maybe you feel the same.  It’s less painful if they stick around, near you. Yes, it’s selfish. It’s also protection. I think it’s how we’re wired.  Love invests in others.  It means I extended care and maybe you reached back in kind. When somehow the relationship gets strained or severed, pain ensues.

I’m reminded of this scripture:  So Jesus told them this story:  “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!– Luke 15:1-7

When someone comes back, renewed relationship happens.  In Mom’s case, I imagine there will be lots of petting from her and purring from the cat, with much rejoicing on both sides. Both will dole out reassurance to be there for each other in the future. I pray it’s a long and happy friendship. It’s never too late to come home.

 

Friday Frippery

Today, I taught my 10th kettlebell class.  Woot!  I’m learning to make it up on the fly. When I taught this past Wednesday morning, I forgot my workout sheet at home.  I remembered it as my car crested the hill to the gym. Doh!  Thank goodness for the grace of the one other friend who showed up that day. This morning, though, we did cards.  Seemed like enough. Especially the 40 jump squats.

Ruby will attend another week of YMCA camp.  Flower Power likes it and they like her.  She gets to walk dogs there, too. Where else can you learn to tie knots anymore? I ask you.

knot tyingWhile food shopping today, I kept almost running into a couple of British guys and a little boy, also British.  The boy sat cross-legged in the cart, calling out, “Dad-dy! Dad-dy!” in that adorable accent. 

“Sorry,” one of the Brits said with a sheepish smile as we both tried to maneuver our carts in the post-addled aisles.  “We’re always in your way.” 

I smiled back. No problem, mate.

Did I miss something?  Is Shelton a tourist destination now?  I quenched my nosy 20 questions, fearful of seeming an ugly American, as well as clinging to a certain amount of native reservedness. Accosting total strangers while they shop isn’t my thing. Usually. Perhaps a movie crew is putting a film together. One of them looked an awful lot like Simon Pegg.  Just saying.

simon-pegg

Hey, it could happen.

 

Speaking the Truth

I like to think of myself as someone who tells it like it is.  I guess my close friends would say I am.

The other day, Jonathon and I were laughing over a Facebook meme. I think I even rolled my eyes.  The same theme kept coming up in my feed, over and over.  He mentioned how he’d like to respond, but didn’t.  He never would.  The thought of it, though, that’s what got us laughing.

“I just want to punch them in the groin,” I said.  Not that I would.  But it expressed exactly how I felt about the whole thing.  Yeah.  I’m direct. I try to curtail it, yet sometimes it slips out. Sorry.

Today I spent a long visit with an old friend of mine.  We both speak frankly.  I filter a bit more than she does, but we both know it.  Years ago, she gave me a bit of advice about a certain situation.

She looked me in the eye, her dark eyes flashing concern, and said, “That person is trying to control you.”

At the time, I came away a little unsettled and confused.  She must have misinterpreted things. How in the world…?  I was grown, married, with kids of my own.  I had a mortgage.  I paid taxes.  I worked. Nobody had me cowed. I shook my head.

Wrong.

Now, several years have gone by.  The friend said it again today.

“How will you get out from under their control?”

My friend tried to show me the muddle I’d been in for a long time, but I couldn’t – or didn’t want – to see it.  The skies cleared, and I could see that God did that work through a series of rather painful circumstances. Funny she should ask. I related to her all that transpired and where I found myself now.

Can I just say I’m very thankful for good friends who speak the truth in love to me, sometimes more than once?  Let me say to you:  I’m listening.  I hear you.  I might not have a pocket to put it in at this point or a spot to anchor it on my internal wall, but in time I will.  Don’t stop.  I need it and I need you.  I hope I can do the same for you, if you’ll let me.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:15