Monday, January 25, 2016

Serving the Unlovely

Did you make a New Year's resolution? How's it going for you? Did I just hear you groan?

Some folks (like me) decided to focus on a particular word instead of a resolution this year. I'm not big on resolutions--they set you up for failure--so I like this concept. I chose the word service for 2016, thinking that it meant the actual physical action of serving people. I have had an opportunity to physically do that, but dwelling on this word has taken me to a deeper dimension of service that I had never considered.
I'm a word geek, so I looked up the word, service to discover that it is an intangible commodity. Well, of course, I had to look those words up too. One of the definitions of intangible is something that cannot be grasped or touched.

A commodity is a useful or valuable thing, such as water or time.

Based on these definitions, I came to the conclusion that just because I don't physically serve doesn't mean I'm not serving. There is a precious commodity called time and what we do with it cannot be grasped (kind of like chasing the wind-see my last post).

Even though my days are full, God has given me opportunities to simply listen. To care. 
I'm a person who likes to do for people and who likes to get things done--so I assumed that "serving" meant to "do" for someone. But there are ways to "do" without actually doing anything physical.

Two opportunities presented themselves this week at work. The first involved a customer who is the epitome of a grumpy old man. 

He keeps meticulous records and disputes almost every bill. I generally have to patiently explain the bill, and he's fine. But this time it involved a prior partially paid bill. He was going to physically come to my office to set me straight. I dreaded it, but remained calm--even when he didn't.

Once we worked out the details, he commented on how much he was shaking, due to "high anxiety." I assumed that it was due to this episode. He told me that he was worried about his health, and shared those concerns with me.

They were legitimate--and somewhat serious--concerns. We sat down at the table, and I listened. I didn't ask him if I could pray for him (I'm not that bold--yet), but I took the time to listen and genuinely care. I asked questions and made him feel like he mattered. He felt that doctors treat senior citizens differently, and I agreed. He was surprised. 

I said, "You know, very often, senior citizens are treated as if they're stupid." 

His face registered surprise and he said, "Yes! And you know, I thought, 'Oh, I hope she's not like that!'" (meaning me)

"Oh, no! I have a great deal of respect for senior citizens. After all, I'm not too far away!"

Senior citizens in Prague-learning to edit Wikipedia
I think he left a little lighter than when he came in. Still worried about his health, but perhaps a little more assured of his value.

Service + Time = something valuable that cannot be grasped.

I had another opportunity to diffuse a tense moment later that week. This person seemed defensive, and I thought, "Boy, he has an attitude." Later that day, he came in again and began sharing some past history of a business gone bad--a business he had partnered with family in. He lost money and lost relationships. His "attitude of defensiveness" came with good reason. He had felt attacked by something I'd said. My listening (this time) without judging made him feel less anxious that he'd done something wrong.

Service can come in many forms--just like opportunities. The key to serving God is to look for those opportunities in whatever form they may take, because they're intangible--something you cannot see or touch. And time is the valuable commodity that opportunity needs.

The next time you want to run away from someone who is angry, defensive, or has an otherwise foul attitude for no apparent reason, step back and ask yourself if you are willing to invest a few moments to listen. 

You may discover that there is a reason. Betrayal. Deep hurt. High anxiety. Feeling undervalued, unloved or misunderstood. Jesus understood all of those things, and He sympathizes with compassion. We are to do the same.

We may be the only Jesus some people ever encounter. Are we going to turn our backs on them?

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies

Be sure to check out the January issue of Ruby for Women  e-zine (click on the link, or on the Ruby cover on the right side bar of this blog), where you'll find encouraging articles, inspiring stories, reflective poems, crafts, recipes, artwork, puzzles and more! My article, "What's in Your Perhaps?" is exclusive to Ruby and can be found on page 9.

Monday, January 18, 2016

It's Just the Wind

This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:26

I don't have a bathroom where I work.

It's true. I work in a construction yard with no running water. I have a port-o-potty. And this time of year, it's...well, not very comfortable.

I take care of a few homes of people who live in Florida for the winter, checking every week or so to make sure no pipes burst, the heat still works, etc. One of those homes is only a few minutes from my place of employment, and I was due for a visit anyway, so I did double duty (no pun intended)--I visited her home and used her bathroom.

I was..ahem..doing my duty in her powder room, right next to the entrance from the garage, when I heard the door from the garage open and slam shut! Someone was in the house???

Panicking, I quickly closed the bathroom door and then a half second later realized that no one but me should be in the house. I panicked a second time! From my perch on the throne I yelled, most authoritatively, "Who's there?"

No answer.

Really, Mare?

If someone was in the house, do you really think they'd answer you? If they were breaking in, do you really think they'd slam the door? And what was I really going to do sitting on the toilet?

Then I realized that, since I'd left the garage door open, and apparently hadn't fully closed the entry door, the wind had not only blown it open, but sucked it closed.

Silly me.

Wind is a funny thing. We can't see it, but we can feel it. We can't hear wind on its own, but when obstacles are in its path, sound is made to "create" the sound of what we call wind. We only think we can hear it. Wind, on its own is invisible and inaudible. It's powerful--I won't deny that--but it needs a catalyst to be seen or heard.

I won't pretend to completely--or even partially--understand exactly what King Solomon meant in Ecclesiastes when he spoke of everything being meaningless--I mean, it's sort of a depressing book--but I do know that he compared meaningless to chasing after the wind. Many times. That I get--boy do I get that!

Imagine trying to chase the wind? If I hadn't figured out that the wind was the intruder in my client's house, and I crept through the house trying to catch the culprit, I would never find it. My search would be futile and meaningless, not to mention time-consuming. Not to mention that I'd look pretty stupid.

How often do we chase after things that are not ours to have? What about chasing after things that we think will bring us happiness, only to discover the emptiness that follows? We're on a constant quest for more--more knowledge, more money, more power, more religious freedom, more tolerance, even more wisdom...we get more and we want more. It's never enough. It all becomes meaningless, like chasing after the wind.

The only thing that satisfies is Jesus.

Maybe that's what King Solomon was talking about. 

We chase after what we cannot see or hear--that "wind" that we only think we see and hear--but it's fleeting. It ceases as abruptly as it began. It changes direction. And even if we do catch the wind, it slips out of our hands as if it were never there.

It opens a door, then slams it shut. It makes us yell, "Who's there?" And when we don't get an answer, we fear the worst from that which we cannot see or hear. We live in a constant state of anxiety, despite our accumulation of all things more.

We cannot see God, and we cannot audibly hear Him; nevertheless, chasing after Him means that we have purpose, direction, and meaning. Maybe it's because we get more of what we truly need, not what we think we want. We get closer to Him. We get mercy, peace, and forgiveness. 

We get unlimited access to immeasurable grace to receive undeniable life everlasting through unconditional love that leads to incomparable salvation through the incomprehensible death of our unequaled Savior.
Photo credit
Now that---the wind of the Spirit--is a wind worth chasing. 

But just to be safe, I'll make sure the door closes properly next time.

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies

Be sure to check out the January issue of Ruby for Women  e-zine (click on the link, or on the Ruby cover on the right side bar of this blog), where you'll find encouraging articles, inspiring stories, reflective poems, crafts, recipes, artwork, puzzles and more! My article, "What's in Your Perhaps?" is exclusive to Ruby and can be found on page 9.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Getting Rid of Unwelcome and Uninvited Guests

We currently have some unwelcome house guests who came into our home uninvited. They're very quiet; in fact, I'm not sure if they're even still there, but we may be entertaining their children and grandchildren in the near future.

These uninvited and unwelcome guests came a few days after Christmas with an invited guest that stayed a few nights with us. To his credit, he didn't know they were even there. None of us did. Until that house guest went to the vet, where it was discovered that he had...yes..


Luckily, we use Frontline on Lucy religiously, and so far we haven't seen one flea anywhere--on her or in the house. But that doesn't mean they're not there. I won't bore or gross you out with the life cycle of a flea. Suffice it to say, their eggs and larvae can be lurking in the rugs for up to eight months. Yes, eight months.

Therefore, the last few days have been spent furiously washing everything--blankets, throw rugs, dog beds, our bedding (the King slept on our bed when we weren't home). And vacuuming. Every day. Behind the furniture, under the furniture, around the baseboards. 

Then it occurred to me that negative thoughts are like fleas. 

Negativity often comes in the form of lies. Just as it takes only one flea to infect an animal, then to infest your home, it only takes one lie to infect your thoughts, then infest your mind.

Take, for example, the person who makes a mistake at work, and the boss calls her out on it--maybe even in a kind, thoughtful, and gentle tone and manner.

If that person is insecure, that mistake just infected her thoughts. 

She hears, "I'm stupid" (which, by the way, is a lie)

That "stupid" flea has just found a host! It now feeds on her, which sustains the life of the "stupid" flea. That flea now lays more negativity eggs in her thoughts...eggs that say,

"You're bad."
"You can't do anything right."
"You're worthless."
"You'll never amount to anything."
"You should just quit before they fire you."

And so on. 

The average female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day. Sounds like a lot, right (and it is!)?

But think about all the negative thoughts that come from one lie. We've all had at least one flea suck the blood from us at one point or another. How many negative thoughts have you believed from one lie?

Here's the kicker:

If those eggs aren't cleaned up they will hatch, and the flea population will grow until there is an infestation. 

In other words, if you do nothing, it will get worse.

We all know people who have been infested with the "negativity flea." Nothing is ever right, no one is ever on their side, and nothing will ever change. Always and never are their favorite words, and blame is their favorite pastime.

In order to halt the process, we need to vacuum those eggs up, and wash anything that we come in contact with. 

That's the only way to kill the offspring of the lie.

We vacuum our thoughts by replacing them with truth. And the one who tells us that truth is the One Who IS Truth---God. 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me 
(John 14:6).

On the practical side, we ask and then tell ourselves the truth:

Am I stupid? 
Probably not...No!

Can I do anything right?
Sure, I do lots of things right (and then find those things and tell yourself what they are).

Are they going to fire me?
No, or the boss would have already done so. Everyone makes mistakes.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
(Psalm 25:5)

Therefore, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
(John 8:32)

When I vacuum, the vibration in the fibers where those little critters are hiding wakes them up, and that's when the vacuum gets them. 

When we speak forth the truth, the vibration of our Lord's Presence will wake up those pesky thoughts, and when we take authority over them, they are sucked into God's holy vacuum. 

And washing? Well, to be honest, washing will destroy those little pests, but it is actually the high heat of the dryer that kills the fleas/eggs/larvae/pupae. So, turn up the heat! 

Tell the Father of Lies--Satan--the truth that comes from the Word of God. Don't let him plant that seed of doubt, the lie that will infest your mind! Let the heat of the Son break through the clouds of doubt and confusion and wash away those thoughts with His blood and the water of His Word!

And remember--you have to do this EVERY DAY because the eggs are in various stages in your mind. 

Get rid of those uninvited and unwelcome guests. Don't let them lie dormant or they'll come out to play when you least expect it. And then they'll reproduce, and the whole cycle will begin again. Be proactive and stop the cycle before it gets out of control!

Blessings Along the Path,

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Monday, January 4, 2016

A Heart Like God

I am in a unique position.

The weight that I could resolve to lose in 2016 has already been lost in 2015 (and I hope it is never found!).

The exercise regimen that I could vow to take on has been in place for months. So that's not an option-able (yes, I know that's not a word) resolution to make.

I could resolve to write finish one of the many books I've started, but I think a more attainable goal would be to discover and put to use the tools to make my writing better, smoother, and more effective. To really get with God and discover what He wants me to write. 

More than all of that, though, is something that I've been feeling for the last six months or so:

I want to have a heart that is like the heart of God. I want to love like He does. I want to feel the heart of Jesus beating in my own.

So it only made sense that when it came time to "choose my word" for 2016, it came right away:


At first, I was excited. I love to serve, to help, to encourage. Maybe that's because it's my love language (acts of service). If you're not familiar with that, then you need to read Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages

To have a heart that is like the heart of God? When I first prayed that, it was with a deep, deep longing, and teary eyes. But lately, I've been thinking about this. Loving like Jesus loved isn't easy. Think prostitutes, tax-collectors, adulterers, lepers, dirty fishermen, betrayers, and so on.

Loving with the heart of God means to love without conditions. I admit it: I'm judgmental. I tend to turn my nose up at certain things or certain kinds of people. I want to serve and love when it's convenient for me or when it will earn me a nice pat on the back.

In other words--loving for attention. 

Ew. Just...ew.

Yet, that's the human me. The Spirit of God in me yearns to love unconditionally. To love those who are unlovable. Who have less, or have nothing. Who are in need. Who have no one. The needy. The unloved. The lonely. The sick. The housebound. And maybe just a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on, a meal, or a ride to the doctor.

That's the heart I long to have. 

Obviously, I can't serve everyone. But I can love everyone with the heart of Jesus, if I ask Him for it. And in turn, He will let me know where, when, how and who I can serve.

I'm excited about this new heart, this anticipated service to the King. I long for my heart to be softened, not hardened, as is so easy to do in these troubled times. I long for my heart to be caring, unselfish, and other-focused.

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 

Yes, Lord.

What about you? Do you have a "word" for 2016? I'd love to read it in the comments below.

Blessings Along the Path,

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