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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not ambitious, it is not selfish, it is not easily provoked to anger. It rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

I’m willing to bet that 1 Corinthians 13 (see above) sounds familiar to you, even if you’re not much of a church-goer. Probably because you heard it at a wedding. 1 Corinthians 13 is practically de rigeur at weddings. Heck, it was read at my wedding. But with so many marriages failing these days (Mr. and Mrs. Humphries, we hardly knew ye), perhaps it’s time someone took St. John to task for his writing. Because clearly, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t telling us everything we need to know. To wit:

1. Love is weird. It doesn’t always make sense, so don’t expect it to.

2. Love can’t be judged. Just because you don’t understand it or condone it doesn’t mean it’s not love. Love is purer, and just plain better, than we human beings are. Anyone who claims that love is wrong is the wrongest person there could ever be.

3. Love changes. I am not the same person my husband married; neither is he. You’re going to do a lot of growing up over the years. Try to ignore the things that grow you apart and focus on the things that keep you together. At the very least, don’t rub these changes in your partner’s face.

4. Love does fail. But only because we do. Falling out of love doesn’t just “happen”; it’s a choice.

5. Love is bigger than you are. And it should be. In fact, it’s not about you at all. It’s about all of us. Love is the only thing that keeps humankind going. What’s the point, otherwise? And that means love is precious. It’s not like the weather, something that changes from one day to the next. I once had a colleague who told me, “My marriage is like a rollercoaster — it’s so exciting.”
“Well, mine isn’t. It’s a pretty steady road,” I replied.
“I feel sorry for you,” she said.
Guess which one of us is still married?

6. Love is hard work. Don’t doubt it for a minute.

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Dear Lord,
When I pray,
help me to still my mind,
steady my hands,
stop my feet . . .

And listen.

Help me listen
to the world around me,
the beat of my heart and
always for Your voice
as it comes, sure
but quiet into the space
that I have left open
just for You.

Amen

Are you one of those women who feels compelled to say “yes” whenever someone asks you a favor?  Do you spend hours every week listening as your neighbor/friend/sister pours out her troubles which seem pretty consistent with the ones she had last week?  Is your life a traffic jam of committee meetings and volunteer hours, all of which you dread?

Its okay to say, “No.”  Or maybe, “Not right now.  That’s not what He wants me to focus on at the moment.”

Several weeks ago, a woman at church asked if she could nominate me to be an Elder.  I hemmed.  I hawed.  I told her I’d have to think about it although I just wanted to say, “No way. What have I ever done to you?”

Fortunately, another friend came to my rescue.  Sort of.  “Do you have any idea how much she hates meetings?”

The woman who asked to nominate me looked more than a little put out.  The fact of the matter is that we need new people on the board, but I really and truly do hate meetings.  Still, the church needs people. . . “Give me time to think about it,” I said.

Fortunately, I didn’t just think about it.  After all, I can talk myself into all kinds of things.  This time I did something else.  I prayed about it while walking the labyrinth.  “Lord, is this what you want me to do?  Do you want me to be an Elder?  How can I best serve my church?”

I walked.  I prayed.  I listened.  My mind wandered.  I listened.  I thought about an errand. I prayed some more.  Did I want to hear His answer?  He does have a habit of telling me to do things I don’t want to do.

Still, I listened.

“Pray.”

“What?  I am praying.  How do you want me to serve my church?”

“Pray.”

“I am!  What do you want me to do?”

“Pray.”

At first, I thought that He wanted me to keep praying about this particular issue.  We have already established that I can be a little dense.  But finally I came to a different conclusion. He wants me to spend my time, right now and in the near future in prayer.  Coming to Him.  In His presence.  Praying for my church and those around me.

What about being an Elder?

I asked how He wanted me to serve my church.  He didn’t tell me to accept the nomination.  He gave me a very specific job. The job I’m pretty sure he wants me to do.

Sometimes it really is okay to say no.

–SueBE

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not 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 is not rude, 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. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

As a writer, the big rule is:  Save your work!

So much of our lives is about saving.  Saving time by taking the highway, not the back roads.  Saving money by clipping coupons.  Saving electricity by turning off all the lights at night.

For the last few years, I assumed that because God kept putting people in need of encouragement on my path, it meant He was telling me to take care of them all.  As in, be their counselor or clergy, and let them unburden themselves onto me.

Oh boy, was I wrong!  I think now it may have been a nudge in the opposite direction, as in, “How can you add to your caretaker duties when you’re not even taking care of yourself?”

You can’t save everyone.  That’s not why you’re here. It’s not a pleasant analogy, but they say that if the plane starts going down, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first, then put your children’s masks on them.  Why?  So you can breathe.  You know.  So you can live.

First Corinthians 13 is a beautiful Bible passage, describing what love is.  I spent a good part of the last few years learning what love is not.  It’s not allowing people to bring you down just because they’ve been wounded and they want to pick at their scabs.  It’s not allowing people to vent the toxic fumes of their regret to the point where you’re about to pass out.

“Love is patient. Love is kind…  Love never fails.”

It never said, “Love is a doormat.  Love has to carry other peoples’ burdens at its own expense.”

The most amazing thing I realized is that you can love people from afar.  You can essentially put them out of your life and wish them well, knowing that being drained and bombarded with negativity isn’t good for your own well-being.  If that’s the only way to save your own sanity, keep your oxygen mask of faith on all the time and leave the saving-souls-business in God’s Hands, where it belongs.

 

 

Dear Lord,
Please help me
do unto others
as You would have me do.

Without excuses.
Without delays.

And, if I do it
with a smile
on my face,
let the smile reflect
Your love.

For isn’t that what
I’m supposed to be doing
every day?

Amen

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  (Luke 6:31)

I do my best to live by the Golden Rule, dealing with those around me with straight-forward honesty.  In my mind, honesty is best and it works well.  Or so I thought until one of the women I work with told me that I’m intimidating.  Seriously?  I’m a friendly person.  I smile a lot and all that other friendly stuff.  Clearly, this wasn’t my problem.  It must be their’s.

At least that’s what I thought until recently.

Not long ago, I got to view a brand new employee dealing with one of her co-workers.  She was changing around the way things are done, reordering processes and the like willy nilly.  Yes, its within her power to do so, but instead of telling the other worker in private, she chose to discuss this with him in public.  Yep.  Right in full view, he got his first glimpse of things to come.  And when he objected, it was smilingly brushed aside.  That makes it okay, right?  She was smiling.

I approached two of the people responsible for hiring and firing.  No, I wasn’t trying to get her fired, but seriously?  Did they know she treated people like this? The first response just rocked me back.  “Oh, she wasn’t that bad.  She was smiling.”

Seriously?  Like a smile makes it all better?

Then the other person spoke up. “She really values honesty.  She’s all about being transparent.  That’s why we hired her.”

Right up until then, I thought that I valued honesty, and maybe even transparency, above all else.  But something about this just didn’t sit well with me.  I pulled my husband into the discussion.  He is, after all, a business geek complete with classes in management.  Maybe he’d have some insight.  “Its not all about doing your job.  She may have been brought in to change things and because she values honesty, but she has to temper it with respect for the other professionals that work here.”

It isn’t enough to treat others as I want to be treated.  At one point, I would have said that was all about honesty and nothing more.  I now realize that respect is just as important and honesty is only a part of that package.

I may have just realized it but God knew it all along.  That’s why my version of the Golden Rule is just a bit different.  Treat others as God would have you treat them.  Seriously.  Because, when we do, the smile is genuine and reflects His Love.  It isn’t sugar coating anything.

–SueBE

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”   – Luke 6:31

There’s an old joke about the Golden Rule and masochists — the point being, there are some folks who might take “treat others as you’d like to be treated” to unpleasant and uncomfortable places. What it really comes down to is this: The Golden Rule presumes that people wish to be treated well. And really, who would disagree?

You’d be surprised. Most people would concur that thinking one’s self more important than other people can be construed only as arrogance. On the other hand, many of us have been programmed to believe that putting ourselves below others is humility…something to be sought after.

Well, there’s humility, and there’s masochism. And some of us veer a little too close to the latter, especially us caregiver types. It’s time to ask yourself: Do you put your needs last, after everyone else’s? Do you expect more from yourself than from those around you? How often do you make yourself a martyr? And how surprised would others be to be called the things you call yourself in the privacy of your own superego — words like fat, stupid, weak, lazy?

The Golden Rule assumes a certain estimation of ourselves…that we know ourselves to be important, good, worthy. And if you don’t, you’re just as guilty as the selfish so-and-sos Ruth writes about. It’s a two-way street. So I ask you: Which direction are you driving?

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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