A Private Message for Married Christians on Social Media

Woe to those who…do their work in darkness and think,

“Who sees us? Who will know?”

Isaiah 29:15

Some call them PMs (private messages). Others call them DMs (direct messages). I often refer to them as BMs (I’ll let you come up with your own interpretation) because, truthfully, they can place people knee-deep (or higher) in excrement when they aren’t flushed out immediately. Worse yet, sniffing out excess methane with an old flame could result in a hazardous explosion!

Yes, sometimes private messaging is appropriate – and even a necessity. My husband and I exchange a great deal of information in a non-public messaging forum, including flirting that the rest of the world doesn’t need (and likely wouldn’t want) to see. Sometimes, others have difficult personal matters – where a loving friend’s words of encouragement or instruction are needed – that would not be suitable for others’ eyes.

However, a great number of times, these BMs (PMs, DMs) are nothing more than social media fishing attempts. A person is casting out a supposedly innocent line to see if (s)he can hook another person of interest on the other end. To be fair, I truly believe that people aren’t always even consciously aware of this veiled intent. But somewhere, deep down in the recesses of a bruised ego, (s)he is searching for someone or something to quench a parched soul. And, just as truthfully, there are many forlorn souls who are tricked into believing if they accompany a desiccated drifter to a dried-up well, both parties can get refreshed there. The mirage effect. By the time the two have finished lapping up the muddied remains together, only then do they realize the tainting in the water. (This was sort of Jesus’ point to the woman at the well in John 4, when he offered her his living water instead.)

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

Private messaging is one of those realms in which we, as Christians, should diligently search our hearts to be certain of our intent – as well as the intent of those with whom we are interacting in that space. Just like Hezekiah in II Kings 18-25, if we allow the enemy entry into our storehouses – through his ambassadors who may or may not even recognize his intent (II Kings 20:12-13) – we are allowing the enemy the ability to devour our territory and potentially lead us into bondage, to a place we never planned to go.

Search me, O GOD, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

But wait, you say. I was just being friendly. Private messaging that person, even if there could have been a little flirting, meant nothing to me. I’m married; (s)he is married. I wasn’t intending on things going anywhere between us. As a matter of fact, it just made me feel good to know someone remembered me so fondly and still thinks so highly of me. (S)He is absolutely no temptation to me.

Maybe so. But…Just because you believe you didn’t get burnt by this flame doesn’t mean you weren’t pouring gas on the fire, where someone else might get burnt.

Have you considered how you’ve set either yourself or that other person up for potential dissatisfaction with his/her (or your) mate? Because we live in a fallen world, we need to be on guard for any potential temptations – to ourselves or others.

Be alert and of sober mind.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.

I Peter 5:8

I could mention I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man….” Our enemy knows there are common denominators that tempt humans. The fact that social media is so often cited as a realm for affairs and sexual immorality is proof enough of that. Even if you truly have not fallen victim to your ego’s great need for stroking, you can’t control the dissatisfaction that may have set up in the other individual – of which you hold a certain level of responsibility if you encouraged that person to continue private messaging you.

Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks!

For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come;

But woe to that (wo)man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Matthew 18:7

I’m not suggesting you can’t (and shouldn’t) have friends of the opposite gender. I am suggesting that you should invite your spouse into those friendships – and certainly into any personal conversations with those individuals. If you and your spouse don’t already openly share your social media account(s) with one another, then at the very least, immediately include your spouse into the message thread. That way, polite and friendly (and long-lasting) understandings can instantly be established. From there, I would strongly suggest that you encourage public interactions with that person as the social norm (in lieu of private messages). In such a way, you are ensuring that both you, that person, and any involved spouses are being honored, as is the LORD, in both your relationship and in your communication efforts.

Whatever…you do,

You must do all for the glory of GOD.

I Corinthians 10:31

By honoring the LORD, and then the One to whom He has placed in your care, and then others with whom you interact, your relational crops can’t help but reap a healthy harvest of solid growth!

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked:

For whatsoever a (wo)man sows, that shall (s)he also reap.

Galatians 6:7

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Selfie Susceptibility for Saints

“She opens her mouth with [GOD’s] wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Proverbs 31:26

 

Please don’t miss that part about kindness. If you’re accustomed to only listening to that which sounds sweet to the ears, I may be about to speak some truth in love that may not, at first, seem so very kind. I winced a few times, myself, while writing it.

GOD has been pouring down His blessings on me, as of late, particularly within the spiritual realm to see and hear His Word in action. So when the LORD recently revealed that my heart would be filled with passion through the perfection of His brokenness, I excitedly looked forward to what was to come next. Little did I understand that His brokenness would flow through my heart to spark great compassion – meaning that I, too, would receive a large personal portion of that brokenness (for others).

You see, the man who now holds me near & dear to his heart and refers sweetly to me as “His Love” – and treats me with the utmost respect in every single aspect of my life – had been living his life as single for the past several years before “we” became an “us.” In that time meaningless expanse of void without me, he was also fairly indiscriminate in accepting the largest majority of all Facebook requests that came his way – without taking much apparently any time to go to each requester’s site to review that person’s character before doing so. Hey, he knew most of these folks from his past, didn’t he? Or at least they knew friends of his FB friends (who he may or may not have known). With such highly unquestionable credentials, he assumed the friends list he was accruing was made up of legitimate connections  – or he was just oblivious, as he carefreely inattentively went about playing online games with his sister and nephew while sporadically accepting and liking humorous, compelling (or attractive women’s) posts that popped up here and there. NO biggie, right?

“Above all else, guard your heart.
For everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23

I have several male friends who view/engage in social media outlets in this same way – as in, “Don’t make such a big deal out this. It isn’t real. Why do I need to pay that much attention to something that doesn’t get that much of my attention?” I, on the other hand, scrutinize every Facebook friend request as if it’s a job application for the Secret Service. Generally, if I don’t know you in “real life” and you don’t pass my character test, or you don’t come with a stellar recommendation by my friend who is your friend, you’re not making the list. Or, if you make it and you turn out to be a character, you’ll get black-listed fast! I have some guy friends who make fun of me for such intense scrutiny; but I have no desire to test the reason for my carry permit on some unknown stalker in the middle of the night.

So without getting too deep into this Mars-Venus issue, or my carry permit…

I’ve been awakened recently to how very often my Christian brothers get barraged with sensualized (and certainly sexually visualized) messages throughout social media and other Internet outlets. Of course, I perceptibly understand that many “offers” arrive through all sorts of outlets (from spam advances in email inboxes to interest requests in Messenger). I, too, receive my share of unscrupulous messages from (real, alias, imaginary) men seeking (my or anyone else’s) company. The difference is, men don’t worry so much about “stranger danger” as the recipients; and they generally don’t indulge so much in the practice of “visual advertisements” as senders. Perhaps the greatest danger isn’t from strangers. In case you don’t get what I mean…

latest_delete

An acquaintance my fella’ knew years ago in “real life” – but never noticed these photos were on the profile page of the year’s life in which he accepted her FB friend request. Granted, Facebook won’t classify these creatively angled shots as pornography, by any means – which is one of the reasons they abound, particularly on women’s social media pages – because they appear “innocent enough.”

About the only rare non-existent times you’ll see men taking photos like this are for movie-created fundraising calendars – and they still probably had to lose a bet! Men disdain the thought of themselves displayed like that. More interesting, the men with whom I’ve spoken (whether professed Christ followers or not) view women who pose sensually in selfies with some level of disdain – and most admit they wouldn’t look favorably on their own wife, girlfriend, daughter, etc. engaging in this type of behavior. Ironically, that doesn’t necessarily keep many of them from looking at other women as long as these women are posing & posting (without regard for how wives, girlfriends, daughters, etc. might perceive their actions).

In my quest on this subject, the more I heard and saw, my primary question became: How many women are actually putting similar types of photos on their sites?!

In my most personal investigation on this matter, I honestly wasn’t prepared for the number of women who had seemingly legitimate social networking relationships with my man (e.g., work, past school or community acquaintances) – along with a plethora of other men – whose histrionic personalities had driven them to engage in (repeated) not-so-innocent selfie narcissistic behaviors (usually with as many other men as possible) such as:
-making active pursuits through seductive words & images (either publicly or privately);
-stalking through social media outlets (or even work connections, such as the Social Security office) to (sometimes illegally) locate men in “real” life (yep, it really happened) to send pictures of themselves;
and/or
-incessantly posting overly-sensualized (and sometimes more times than not photo-shopped) selfies on social media to accrue as many (often rather crude) comments on these posts as possible.

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
Proverbs 11:22

My next question became…beyond setting oneself up to be on the receiving end of unceasingly monotonous “you’re so hot” comments, could these women be after anything more?

histrionic

The selfie-made FB “model” who spent so much time photo-shopping other parts of herself that she forgot to photo-shop out the potentially drug-induced arm scratch marks (until somewhere between her 2nd & 10th posting of the same pic). Likely, most men never noticed anyway – except maybe the guy she took to the cleaners in real life.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” More concerning than what these women might want should be what the spiritual realms want – with the souls of both these men (whether accommodating or unsuspecting) and these vixen-like women.

In essence, knowingly or not, each of these women has essentially made herself the “foreigner with seductive words” of Proverbs 7. As a mother of three handsome sons, I feel the need to resound an associated warning. If I wanted to modernize Proverbs 7:24-27, I might modernize these verses to sound like this:
“Now, listen, Sons! Pay attention to what I’m saying here.
Don’t give that woman your heart, your eyes, your ears, or your attention.
If you do and follow after her, your heart will end up as blackened (dirty) and photo-shop-covered as hers.
Don’t you think she’s carrying on with other men this same way? As in, MANY other men – and trying to bring them down with her too?!
You see her Facebook page with all those sensual selfies? All those men who click that bait with their likes and their crass remarks attest insertion into her Internet portal –
you know, the one that leads a man straight to his death by drawing his wandering eyes to lustful thoughts (and eventually resultant comments and actions). Turn your eyes and your feet the other way!”

Yep. That would be my mom’s advice to her sons.
And it should be a woman’s advice to her man in a godly relationship.
And it was.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
[while] fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

After our discussion on this topic, my Facebook-exonerated fella’ and I began culling both of our pages together (after deciding the nuclear option of removing Facebook wouldn’t allow us access to our bible study page of friends or to keep tabs on our younguns’). Did I mention that my handsome man and I give each other open access to one another’s social media sites at all times? If you’re in a healthy relationship, you should have that same privilege. (Just remember that you have to be the other part of that healthy equation. It’s not always pleasant to read what others might have said to the one you adore – even before he or she adored you.) In removing these so-called “friends,” we went so far as to even remove some past likes where lack of self-control was obvious in others’ related comments, in an attempt to assure all lack of association. In some cases, we went so far as to remove some likes or comments from the past in seemingly respectable friendships – just to assure there were no prospective or even retrospective misunderstandings.

To answer what may be your next curious question…Yes. I’ve read all those past sometimes unflattering, desperate attempts by other women for my man’s attention. And for those who aren’t astute enough to understand that our current picture together on both of our Facebook profiles is meant to denote a “not otherwise interested” relational status (or who apparently don’t care), we’ve read all of those more current messages together too – in case you were wondering why you’d been defriended. To be clear – mild-mannered flirting from the past was of no threat  – those folks are still welcomed in our friend zone. Beyond those criteria, some of you simply had to (and may still have to) go because we acknowledge that:

“Bad company corrupts good character
[especially when associated with foul or suggestive language on social media].”
[Author’s paraphrase of] I Corinthians 15:33.

Primarily, it was the selfies – you know…THOSE selfies – that became the measuring stick for mass deletion. Honestly, seeing such audacious attempts being made by outwardly beautiful women who should never feel the need to work so hard at gaining attention – along with the remarks they were willing to accept by multiple men (and make in return) in what appeared to be series after series of orgy-type posts on their pages – truly did place a crack in my heart. But that’s not what shattered it.

gross

The dime-a-dozen histrionic cleavage selfie shot

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Proverbs 31:30

As I perused the pages of lovely women whose cover pages might cause others to suppose they were Christian sisters (based on things such as bible verses or Godly-sounding phrases posted there), I was taken aback. Why, these faux femme fatale books couldn’t have been known by their covers at all! I was left to question whether such a level of deceit was meant for unsuspecting victims (such as the warning given about the Proverbs 7 woman), or if Satan had bound these women’s own eyes that tightly about themselves. (I had to come to the conclusion that, had it been the latter, they likely couldn’t have spent all that time in the mirror and the camera and the photo-shop program to accomplish those thousands of self-edifying selfies).

phony

Displaying that biblical-sounding sentiment is probably meant to draw men’s eyes upward from this woman’s upwardly-drawn cleavage. Do you suppose she was really trying to say, “Hey, my sorta’-bible-verse-thingy is up HERE?!”

Sadly, in assisting my sweetheart with the purge review, I’ve been forced to see more skin than an on-call taxidermist. Much sadder still, the mom in me quickly came to a worse realization. In every case in which a daughter was depicted on each woman-in-question’s FB page, that younger generation female was already emulating the older “mother figure” adult/mentor in her Facebook affairs. And many of these young women were working just as hard to gain that same male following.

Here’s a good place to insert a word to you upcoming gentlemen: If they were left without a depraved audience of male admirers, women of all ages would lack the motivation to continue in this practice.

daughters

Whether with Mom (as on the upper left) or alone, these girls’ selfie posing tactics seek to emulate older female FB mentors’ alarming histrionic personalities.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

[Men, you] are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled,
sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

[Ladies, you] likewise are to be reverent in behavior,
not slanderers or slaves to [intoxication –
including the high of selfie-derangement].
[Ladies, you are] to teach what is good, and so train the young women
to love their husbands and children [even before they have them], to be self-controlled,
pure, working at [or dedicated foremost to] home, kind, and [surrounding their own selfishness for the betterment of] their own [future or present] husbands,

that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Titus 2:1-5 [with Author’s paraphrase]

Take this lesson from its context. For instance, I’ve always been a career mom; but I understand that my primary responsibility is to my family (my home) – working for their good. I also understand that it becomes much easier for me to surrender my selfish, fleshly preferences for someone else’s needs (the meaning of “submit”) to a man who is being an Ephesians 5:25 follower of GOD: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

With this in mind, I appeal to those of you posting or those of you looking at these types of posted images to STOP. STOP immediately! STOP damaging yourselves, your families, others’ lives, your present and future potential relationships with a godly person who would desire to walk with you and the LORD.  Accountability will come. It will come without apology and possibly without additional warning to us all.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:16

Lest you mistake any of my remarks as equating to jealousy or pettiness, or even self-righteousness, let me assure you – I have taken no pleasure in looking at or sharing photos that make women of any age appear less than self-confident with a Christ-filled measure of self-control. All examples were posted images on genuine Facebook accounts from women who either were friends or tried to friend my sweetheart – all publicly shared (most over and over again) by these same Facebook page owners. (And these were, by comparison, mild examples.) This paltry blog page’s audience can’t begin to measure to the public paramour personas these ladies are seeking to create for themselves through social media. By their standards, I’ve likely helped their cause.

My primary goal is to STOP other women who may be in danger of doing themselves (and others) this same harm before they get started! That’s what a Proverbs 31 type of woman does. That’s who my heart desires for me to be – for a very special man but, most importantly, for My LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. It would be selfish if I didn’t have that same desire for each of my (present or future) spiritual sisters.

Go ahead. Test your own response to this instruction.

Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed that the Proverbs 7 type of woman tends to spit out antagonistic messages to anyone who dares offer correction for her own sake. Remember:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
[while] fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

Memes and messages abound that tell concerned people requesting the removal of these images to mind their own business. These ladies insist that their behavior is Private (even when their images are more often made Public for all to view). Not surprisingly, other memes they post most often denote sexual and/or rebellious connotations. Because these women don’t know how to search out true love, it’s no wonder they believe that any measure of correction equals hatred. Especially if it tells them they shouldn’t display the idol they worship most of all – themselves. After all, shouldn’t others be given equal opportunity to adore them?

Haters

I’m assuming this philosophical woman was referring to all of the perverse commentary she was receiving from men for her zillionth selfie post of the day. My other guess is she’s probably too exhausted from admiring herself to have a truly physical relationship with any of them.

And, lest you still believe my words have some jealousy component to them, let me show you that there are many types of booty-displaying, pride-abiding shapes on Facebook pages beyond those you’ve already had the unfortunate opportunity to now witness (in case your rear has also been exposed, like mine, because your social media head was buried so deeply in the sand).

the_mighties

Sometimes, you’d like to protect people who won’t protect themselves or those they love. (I’m referring to the wall photo of the child I covered on the left.)

Woe to the men who are gullible enough to hope for or seek out relationship with any of these women. It will be difficult for her to give herself to someone else when she’s been giving pieces of herself away daily on Facebook for the price of a few raunchy comments. I’m guessing these women would gasp at my measure of “a few.” Why, some have reached over 200 likes and 37 or more comments in a single post! Surely that is a world-changing event!

Here’s some assurance. The TRUE world-changing event is the Resurrecting Power of Jesus Christ in our lives. And will continue to be. Both men and women who have been involved in the aforementioned – or even worse – practices can still turn their eyes and their hearts away from these wrongful behaviors. The LORD wants to help you hand your thoughts over to Him. He desires to love you with His never-ending abundance of mercy and grace. And yes, the Holy Spirit wishes to convict our hearts toward repentance of our wrongful ways; but not condemn us through them. Such Love covers over a multitude of sins.

“The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34:22

To become Christ’s servant will require a heart-changing event. I don’t expect that anything I write here will change the behavior of these women, or women like them, or the lonely and longing men they both manipulate and serve. That has to be between each individual and the LORD – though I’ll continue to hope and pray so.

What I do expect to accomplish is to challenge my Christian sisters to carefully consider what you post, as well as your intent for posting it – particularly when it can lure our brothers’ eyes and thoughts (or even younger women’s behaviors) in a wrongful direction. And I challenge my Christian brothers to be more protective of all women in your thoughts and deeds, particularly in this regard. Be diligent to assure that you don’t even accidentally become engaged in this behavior.

Colossians 3:1-2  instructs us, as believers: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on [spiritual] things above, not on [fleshly] things of the earth.” 

In other words, practice GODLY thoughts (and resultant actions) – NOT fleshly ones. And help your brothers and sisters in Christ do likewise.

Colossians 3:3-5 goes on to remind us of WHY we do so – and HOW to do so through the Power of the Holy Spirit within us: “For [your fleshly self] died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your [fleshly] members [desires, thoughts, words, actions] which are of the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

If we are to put to death our fleshly self, I recognize that means we shouldn’t be flashing all that flesh around. I would encourage you to read all of Colossians 3, and by the time you get to verses 18 & 19, you should have a better understanding of how and why we reserve such things of our flesh for one – and only one – special one, through sacred acts of love. By first giving the very essence of yourself (your spirit) to GOD, you will be made more spiritual through His Spirit in you. Then, when you give yourself in the flesh to that special someone who has also spiritually given himself to the LORD – and he is the only one who looks upon you intensely with his passionate, longing, loving desire – then no one else’s eyes, thoughts, or opinions of you will ever matter again.

Do you know what drew my sweetheart to me? It surely wasn’t my [in]aptitude for selfie-taking. And it wasn’t uncovered cleavage. Nor did I send illicitly coded messages his way. My secret? He claims that it was my integrity that stood out above all else and that drew him near to me. He apparently thought the LORD had covered and adorned me well with it. Huh. Go figure. GOD’s liberal measure of Integrity was the main attraction.

“Do NOT let your adorning be external—
the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-”
I Peter 3:3

As for selfies…no one said you can’t enjoy them. Go…take lots of them with all those people who GOD has given you to genuinely love. Find a godly mate and be proud to show him or her off! Make the rest of the world jealous of seeing all those joyful selfies of the two of you together – so jealous, in fact, that they want that same grace-filled JOY for themselves. So jealous that they’ll be willing to pay the incomparable price of regarding someone else (and themselves) with our Heavenly Father’s priceless, loving, unrivaled esteem within a Christ-centered relationship to get it!!

Us

Me? Jealous? I’ll let you be the judge.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

The JOY of the LORD is my Strength!

How to Team Up to Lose an Entire Person

It’s true!

Five women teaming up for an entire semester CAN lose an entire person!

Let me refresh your memory, so you can recall how a loss like this could have come about…

Our campus issued a challenge at the beginning of the fall semester for our departments to form teams. These teams could have a maximum of 6 members, and each member could decide individually whether to accept the challenge for logging exercise minutes or weight loss or both.

Four of our members chose to log both exercise and weight loss, and a fifth member chose to log exercise only.

Within our 15 week semester, our 5-member team logged 31,753 minutes of exercise. That’s 529.22 hours, or an average of 35.28 hours per week. That means that each team member averaged 1 hour of exercise per day during our challenge period. Considering that our work days can get pretty long & hectic (with most of us often traveling), and we each have family and life responsibilities beyond our hallowed campus halls, I have to smile over the dedication shown.

Despite those great numbers, there were at least 2 teams who logged more hours. Isn’t that awesome?!

I haven’t heard all the weight loss numbers yet, but as for our four team members who participated in this segment…

Our official weigh-in revealed that we had collaboratively lost 60 pounds!!!!  Why, that means we lost an entire person among us!!!  (Okay, a very small person. Maybe one of Santa’s elves.)

In the world of work, how often do you get to team up with your colleagues in competition to celebrate a corporate loss?! And come out much closer as accountability partners?
This is surely one such loss that can be counted as great gain.

What a blessing this challenge has been. I can’t wait to hear the other teams’ numbers as the fat debit rates get reported in the red.

Mostly, I can’t wait to find out how many more people we lost across campus!

fitness

Hope Melts

Christmas was coming. Lisa was missing her husband, Brian, who was still serving his country abroad. More than that, her children were missing their daddy miserably during that Christmas season of 2011. A majority of our American soldiers had been removed from Iraq by then, but not Brian. He was still one of those remaining, stationed there until May 2012. Lisa brought her little family to church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service that year. She was home for the holidays, surrounded by as many extended family members as possible. Both her children clutched their Daddy-ARMY-dolls that evening, but even a picturesque representation of Dad wasn’t going to stop the melt-down later that night. Santa may be coming to town…but Daddy wasn’t.

Despite their sad little hearts, they sat among us at the Christmas morning service. When our pastor asked if anyone had a praise to share,  7-year-old Nat was the first to respond. Without hesitation, she stood and proclaimed, “I’m thankful to be with my family on Christmas.” The wet drops sliding down many cheeks across the pews attested that all hearts there had begun to melt.

Paul talks about the small child leading us. You see, Nat was surely heartbroken. Yet, she refused to stay focused on the negativity of her situation. Instead, she caught a glimpse of the hope – and somehow instinctively knew she needed to SPEAK IT to make it more real. If she could begin to openly express that May would bring her daddy back to the United States – back home to her family – then she could envision that she and her mother and brother would be with him once again.

Oh, what spring-like joy welled up when May rolled around! Can you imagine what that reunion must have been like? For me, it was an infinitesimal glimpse of what our reunion with loved ones in heaven might one day be!

Oh, and in case you’re interested – their earthly reunion looked something like this…

welcome

_____________________________

I’ve been wanting to share this as a Christmas story for some time, so today seemed a perfect opportunity to integrate it with the Trifecta writing challenge (with a 333 word limit) and the 3rd definition of the challenge word. I stretched my options – and my luck – by metaphorically using the first definition to ultimately depict the 3rd definition. Even if I get called out on a foul, I wanted you to hear this beautiful, triumphant story that I was privileged to witness. It surely made my own heart melt. 🙂

Hope & Joy,

-jody

MELT (transitive verb)
1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat

2:  to cause to disappear or disperse

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.3xwaQzF7.dpuf

How to limit GOD – or at least create immense boredom & an unenthusiastic response

Excuse me.

I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…

Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.

By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.

But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.

Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.

We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.

Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?

The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:

Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.

Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.

So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…

How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?

Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)

Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:

“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”

Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…

Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?

Distant Stranger?

Acquaintance/Friend?

Intimate Family Member?

Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.

For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.

Jesus did.

He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:

Give

Forgive

Lead

Deliver

Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.

By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.

God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)

Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.

That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

***

Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)

Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)

***

Reference:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Related Article:

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.

As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.

Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:

  • Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.

corporate

Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.

As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.

Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):

Lord GOD,
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.

I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.

I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.

You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.

***

*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)

As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:

“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”

(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)

For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.

I pray that all is well with each of you.

-jody

It’s the Little Things

Don’t EVER under-estimate the TREMENDOUS importance of the little things in life.

Have you ever been point-blank asked, “Why do you love me?” and you felt foolish because, maybe – just maybe – you didn’t have an immediate response? (Because you weren’t even sure of why yourself.)

No need to panic! (I assure you.)

I’m going to posit that it’s because your mind (which is a little on the lazy side – sorry, but someone had to say it) immediately jumps across synapses to grasp whatever it most easily can. It reaches for the BIG stuff it can readily access. And maybe it was the BIG stuff that first caught your eye about someone – the things you could more easily measure because there they were, right out in the foreground for the whole, entire world to see!

But we don’t truly fall in love with someone because it’s easy to see that person is easy on the eyes. That’s called attraction. Infatuation. Stalking, if you keep watching them and they don’t want you around. As a matter of fact, I’m guessing that the majority of relationships never progress to their full potential because many people never get past what’s in front of them. They’re so focused on “the BIG,” they forget to nurture “the LITTLE,” so it can grow.

Little things don’t just happen “in the heart” – where the soul part of the brain digs deeply and finds GREATNESS in the tiniest little inflections; they must be carefully tended there. Strangely, these aren’t the same for all people. Any combination of traits and characteristics, which only come rarely in fleeting glimpses, can combine to compel us to love someone – or somehow care for others.

The way a dimple only flashes at the exact moment his eyes light up – and only when you’re around.

The manner in which she drops her head and blushes while brushing your hand with hers.

His guttural laugh over some silly bit of nothingness that drives you crazy.

Her cooing sighs when you whisper in her ear.

The way in which he traces the lines inside the palm of your hand to soothe you when you’re nervous.

The way she stands tall and proud when introducing you to others.

The stupid crook from where he broke his pinky toe – twice.

The scar left on her body where she stood strong and battled cancer.

Each of those little things adds up to equal a GREAT story – one that’s both personal, and shared.

It doesn’t happen exclusively in romance. It’s about any relationship. It’s about life, in general. It’s about personal growth where you finally come to like yourself. It’s about surprising others you may barely know with some random little something – and watching what a BIG deal it becomes in their day!

I came in this morning to a lovely surprise bouquet, left on the conference room table by our new secretary to brighten our work day. (Guess what? It worked!)

I came in this morning to a lovely surprise bouquet, left on the conference room table by our new secretary to brighten our work day. (Guess what? It worked!)

If you find you’ve been too focused on life’s BIG things, as of late, take some time to embrace the little things. (They won’t weigh you down nearly as much!)

And here’s a good place to get you started – with a little bit of music, which always greatly soothes and uplifts the soul!