Sunday, March 17, 2013

"God Boxes"

I found this poem today and thought it might encourage someone reading...

I have in my hands two boxes
Which God gave me to hold.
He said, "Put all your sorrows in the black box,
And all your joys in the gold."

I heeded His words, and in the two boxes
Both my joys and sorrows I stored.
But though the gold became heavier each day,
The black was as light as before.

With curiosity, I opened the black,
I wanted to find out why,
And I saw, in the base of the box, a hole
which my sorrows had fallen out by.

I showed the hole to God, and mused,
"I wonder where my sorrows could be,"
He smiled a gentle smile and said,
"My child, they're all here with me."

I asked God, why He gave me the boxes,
Why the gold, and the black with the hole?
"My child, the gold is for you to count your blessings,
The black is for you to let go."

~Author Unknown~

Saturday, March 16, 2013

When is it okay to lie?

Here is my latest post from my literature blog for class.  If you are confused... read my previous post.  I hope you enjoy it.
I remember reading “Adventures of Huck Finn” at the beginning of my semester with American Literature and really enjoying it. As I was completing my assignments and finishing up discussion questions, one question bothered me. It read…

Huck lies or avoids telling the truth on several occasions. Why does he lie? How do you feel about his behavior?

This was a part of my answer…

I don’t like the fact that he lies, but it seems like it is his way of doing things. He dodges the truth often to keep out of trouble. He seems like he feels telling the truth would only make things worse in the long run. This has worked for him well so far so he continues his pack of lies just to survive.

I am not a big fan of lying. In fact I dislike it SO much that my husband and I have made it a point as parents to really emphasize the importance of always telling the truth with our boys. Lying breaks trust and trust is hard to earn back once it is broken.

Because I don’t want to lie to my kids in any way we take a different approach with the holidays. We have chosen to never “pretend” when it comes to Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy…

Our approach was simple as the kids were little. We simply avoided the subject and waited until they were old enough to ask. It didn’t take long. When they asked we explained that other families liked to “pretend” with their kids. It was their special tradition.

We went out of our way to make sure we didn’t interfere with anyone else’s traditions. This is just what we chose to do. We emphasized that it wasn’t their place to “tell” any kid the truth. When the time was right, their parents would tell them. We NEVER had a problem with them telling anyone after all of these years (my boys are teens now).

Some people told us years ago that we might regret our decision to forfeit the game of “pretending” over the holidays, but we never have so far. We have started some of our own creative traditions as a result which have made the holidays even more special. We have shared with our boys the various historical accounts about Santa and traditions celebrated around the world, but he is not the focus of the season for our family.

Truth is important to us. I will not lie for the sake of lying or because everyone else is doing it. I want the words I speak to count for something. I don’t ever want anyone to question or doubt whether I am speaking the truth or not. I want them to know me as a person of truth.

We are endeavoring to teach our boys the value of truth as teenagers which has been interesting. One thinks if you ask them something like… “Have you brushed your teeth?” that if he doesn’t answer, he hasn’t lied and there are no consequences for his actions. The other thinks you can say whatever you want at times and say, “I’m just teasing” and it isn’t a lie. These are interesting concepts. What is the difference between teasing and lying? Can not telling the whole truth be considered a lie? Hmmm…. something to think about.

In reading Huck Finn it seemed like he only really lied when he was protecting someone else or trying to stay out of trouble. So, when is it okay to lie? As a Christian I tend to filter everything through the lens of the question, what would God think about this?

I believe that if some situation would arise that would make it difficult to tell the truth that God would provide a “way of escape” out of the situation. I can take it or stick with my opportunity to fudge the truth. I can’t say I have always chosen the “way of escape” God has provided, but I have learned how to see that escape path easier now through experience. I have learned over the years the value of honesty and the consequences of not sticking with the truth.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says…
“The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.” (NCV)

The next time YOU are faced with the opportunity to lie, look for “a way of escape.” Think about whether their might be a truthful alternative to using a lie to deal with a particular problem. When it comes to lying we need to remember:
~ the truth ALWAYS comes out eventually
~ once you break trust it’s hard to earn back
~ word gets around pretty quickly who can and can’t be trusted

For Huck Finn lying was a way of life, what will it be for you?

Living to leave a legacy,

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Toxic Heart

I am currently taking an American Literature class…. not because I want to of course.  It’s to finish my degree (BA in Biblical Studies).  Yay me!  No… shame on me!  I put this last class off so long that if I don’t finish it this semester, I will have to take several more English classes to meet the current requirement.  My college is consolidating with another college.  Boo!

I have found that balancing everything along with school can be difficult at times.  I have to prioritize time to read and then time to complete my assignments.  One of our newest assignments for the semester is creating and posting on a Blog about literature.  This was my recent post.  I hope you enjoy it!  

I read a book recently for class called “Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane.  It was about a young man, named Henry, who enlisted for war and the journey he took in becoming a man.  At the beginning of the story he is very na├»ve to war and its devastation.  At one point he even retreats leaving his comrades on their own to defend their honor. 

I noticed as the story continued that Henry’s heart started to change.  It hardened.  It filled with anger and rage.  It seemed poisoned by its surroundings and circumstances.  It became so toxic that others started to notice.  “Are you okay, Henry?”  One of his closest friends was concerned.  When Henry retreated, it wasn’t just a physical event.  He retreated in his heart as well.  The guilt overwhelmed him.  Roots were growing inside of him.  Roots of resentment, anger, un-forgiveness, and hatred were taking over his heart and making it toxic.

Have you ever met someone with a toxic heart?  The circumstances or surroundings of their life had poisoned them.  Bad things happen, unfortunate events sweep in and shake us to the core of our being, and things happen that are beyond our control.  Life is messy and unpredictable.  But in the midst of the chaos, we have a choice.  We can keep moving forward or retreat.  The choice is ours.  When we begin to retreat we open the door up for our hearts to become polluted and filled with toxin.

Toxic can be defined as…

Poisonous, harmful or deadly, capable of causing injury or death

In reading the definition of toxic, we see that long term this can be deadly and it’s dangerous to allow the fruit of a toxic heart to linger in our lives.  It’s got to go!

A toxic heart can be recognized by the words that come out of its mouth.  Henry had a religious background.  His mom had strong convictions.  It says in the book that,She had had certain ways of expression that told him that her statements on the subject came from deep conviction” (Ch. 1).  She also said after he enlisted, “The Lord’s will be done, Henry” (Ch. 1).  He was raised in a home where certain values and principles were held tightly and expressed freely.

Henry had to recognize what was in him as he spoke from a toxic heart.  How could he miss the changes occurring on the outside of him? Some times living too close to the problem can blind us to the truth. 

I have heard a scripture in the Bible before that helps clarify this point.
Luke 6:45 says “…for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)

What comes out of our mouths helps others see what is in our hearts! Interesting… I don’t know about you, but I have good and bad days when it comes to what comes out of my mouth.  I don’t know that this scripture is speaking of our off days, but what is deep down inside of us on a daily basis.  It’s what is at the core of who we are.

I am honest enough to say I have suffered from a toxic heart before.  I have allowed offenses by others and the circumstances of life to pollute my heart.  It consumed me, polluted my speech, and changed my personality.  Poison spewed from my mouth as I spoke splattering on those around me.  I was becoming the very thing I detested.  It was only with God’s help that I was able to be free. 

I have a question for you.  It’s a personal one.  Do you have any destructive roots growing in your heart?  Could your heart be toxic?  What is the flavor of your conversation when you speak?  Is it sweet or sour?   Living with a toxic heart is dangerous.  I encourage you to ask a friend or family member today if they have noticed any changes in you lately.  The ability to be free from this is entirely up to you.  I dare you to choose freedom today!

Living to leave a legacy,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Live YOUR Dash

Recently while I was at a Minister’s Wives retreat I heard this poem and it pricked my heart.

 The Dash

By Linda Ellis copyright 1996

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

Wow!  What a concept!  Living for the dash…. What will we do with the life we have been given? 

James 4:14 says…

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (NIV)

We aren’t promised tomorrow so we need to be intentional about making today count.  I want my “dash” to count for something.  I want to leave behind a legacy to pass on for generations to come.  I want my life to make a difference for good.  What will you do with your dash?  The choice is entirely up to you.

Living to leave a legacy,