Saturday, April 14, 2012

Somebody Is Talking About You

Women talk about each other...a lot. What do people say when they hear your name?

I'm referring to the positive side of "talking about each other." The ugly side is another article, for another time. Women don't always say negative things about each other, anyway. There are often times of genuine admiration, but I'm wondering out loud if we're admiring the right things. Consider this short list:

FLEETING: She's so thin! If you want to get accolades at every turn, lose some weight. People who normally don't even speak to you will stop to compliment you on your scientific miracle! Of all the things that a woman could do to make her seem superhuman, shedding a part of her body is right up there next to walking on water! I've noticed this about weight loss: when one of us is on the way down, another is on the way back up. Strange game, isn't it? In fact, it's the only game that I know of where you're praised for being a "big loser"! And then the rules change with age! Unfair! Thin is in when you're younger, but when you're 85 years old and shaped like a drinking straw, people whisper, "She's so frail."  Isn't there more to a woman than what she weighs?

LASTING: She's so gracious. Now graciousness is timeless, and doesn't require stepping on a scale. And guess what? Unlike weight loss, any of us can have it. As we're told in Scripture, "A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches." (Prov. 11:16) The word "gracious" in this verse is also translated as "favour" in other Old Testament verses. A goal of every Christian should be to make a favorable impression upon God. A gracious woman is also pleasant, which makes her a joy to be around. Would people describe you as a gracious woman?

FLEETING: She's so beautiful! Physical beauty is a lot like owning a new car; tomorrow, it's not so new.  I like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said about this subject: "Beauty without grace is the hook without bait." It sounds very much like Proverbs 11:22: "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion."  If the only thing you have in your bank account is a single deposit slip that says "beautiful," it's time to make some new deposits before your currency runs out.

LASTING: She's so godly. There is an undeniable and unmistakable glow on the countenance of a woman who spends time with God. Look at what happened when Moses spent time in God's presence: "And it came to pass, when  Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him." (Exo. 34:29) Proof-positive that time spent with the Lord literally shows on our faces! A godly woman shines in her countenance and in her lifestyle, because her focus is on developing a relationship with her Lord, rather than developing an image that can't last. Would people describe you as a godly woman?

FLEETING: She's so stylish! Okay all right already! Some women are stylish! I mean they've got the hair, the jewelry, the outfit that's in season and in style, the shoes that coordinate with the purse (I get an F+ on this one alone) and when you see them, you feel under-dressed and underdone, even though it took you at least an hour to get yourself together. Being a fashion plate is not a crime, but I have a question: Why do you go to the effort to be so stylish? If you're dressing to impress others with the very vision of you, your motives need examining. Polished for a purpose, like a soldier on duty in a crisp uniform, is different than being stylish for man's praise.

LASTING: She's so wise. Whenever I hear this about a woman, I expect I'm going to enjoy her company. Wisdom is radiant when it's from the Lord. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." (James 3:17) Scripture also tells us that "a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed." (Eccl. 8:1b) Wisdom and godliness share this common trait of improving the countenance. A wise woman realizes that the sand in her egg-timer is running out, so she lives to bear fruit while she is still on this side of heaven. Would people describe you as a wise woman?

Somebody is talking about you. Are they saying something that matters for eternity, or just complimenting you for the merit badge that you earned in looking good? If you live long enough, you're going to need more than just good looks. You'll leave a legacy somehow. Do you really want it to be about your coordinated purse and shoes?

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold." (Prov. 22:1)

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Maybe it's you

If you consider yourself to be a "blunt" person who is "frank" and "honest" with people, don't be surprised if your candid opinion is poorly received. Blunt, Frank and Honest would make great gangster names, because more people have been hurt by this dynamic trio than we can count! Even if what you said was true, and even if you meant well, it is not your place to put people in their place! Our words have more value when they are prayerfully chosen and carefully spoken. "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." (Prov. 16:24) If you have a lot of problems with people and you are often in trouble for things that you've said, maybe it's you.

You can say whatever you'd like, but don't expect everything you say to be well received. When it comes to words, more often than not, "less is more." I've heard a lot of excuses over the years from people who have a bad case of "Pricklypersonitis," but here are a few of the more common excuses, along with some Scriptural solutions:

1. This is just the way I am. Okay, that reminds me of a familiar song at the end of church services all over America. "Just As I Am" is an invitation to come down the aisle in a condition that needs changing! Just because we have certain tendencies doesn't mean we're stuck with them! God is the God of transformation. "And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:2) If the "way you are" isn't working well for others because it's harsh, abrasive or otherwise offensive, consider this: you need to change.

2. People are just too sensitive these days. Hmm. I guess it depends on who's getting poked in the eye. Isn't it odd how people will justify their own misbehavior, but absolutely refuse to tolerate the same misbehavior from someone else? It's more of the "Me First" disease that has spread faster than any virus. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him." (Prov. 18:17) If your case went before a judge, how do you think you'd fare with blaming others for being "too sensitive"? I'm ready to throw the book at you myself.

3. I'm sorry if they have a problem. Ah yes, the beloved old shoe of blaming the victim. Here's my version: "I'm sorry if you have a problem because you perceived something differently from what I intended, and if it hurt you, that wasn't the goal, but..."  It's almost better not to apologize than to offer a half-hearted, insincere, thinly-veiled "it was partly your fault" dissertation! When you were wrong, you were WRONG.  "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:4) If you're sorry, say so. Here's a free sample: "I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"

4. I'm very blunt, and people don't know how to deal with that. Allow me to run that through my "Automatic Translating Machine" (a different kind of ATM): "I may say something that will hurt your feelings, so if you see me coming and you don’t RUN you're going to get it." Whenever I hear someone say that they're "very blunt" or "very straightforward," I mentally start walking backwards. I don't want to be in the line of fire when they start shooting from the lip! "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Prov. 15:1) If you think it's fine to be blunt, don't be surprised if you end up in frequent trouble with people who find your lack of tact offensive.

When we talk and interact with people, it shouldn't leave them scarred for life! "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Prov. 16:20) Wise handling of relationships is essential. We need to constantly stay in tune with the Lord to know when to speak, when to be silent; when to draw closer and when to leave some space. God is able to teach us how to be wise in our relationships with people, if we're willing to learn and apply His principles.

When was the last time you evaluated the way you interact with people? If you'll examine yourself and ask the Lord to "search you," it's possible that you'll see some rough spots, and then you can go to work on those areas. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psa. 139:23-24) We all need a spiritual check-up now and then, because we all have the potential to harm someone with our words or our prickly ways. Our family may have to live with us "as is," but our friends can take us or leave us!

Have people been avoiding you? Do you have a hard time making friends and an even harder time keeping them? Are you wondering if your name is on some secret "Do Not Call" list?

Maybe it's you...and maybe it's time to allow the Lord to transform you.

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Prov. 16:25)

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Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...