Tag Archives: Christian

Peel back your lips and expose your teeth

Andy Schleck at Tour of California 2009.
Image via Wikipedia

Depending upon your point of view, you imagined one of two images:  clenched teeth or a smile.  Are they merely facial expressions?  Or do they expose something deeper?  What if a simple facial expression could change your day?

What if we clenched our teeth?

The reasons:

We hold this facial expression in reserve for times when we feel adrenaline pumping through us or wish to produce more adrenaline.  It could show anger or irritation or drive.  Athletes often use clenched teeth as a driving force to push them toward their goal of success.  A pregnant woman clenches her teeth when it’s time to push that baby out of her body. 

The results:

Over time, if this facial expression becomes prevalent, it develops into other things.  It causes excessive tooth wear and decay, jaw  and neck pain, headaches and even sleep disorders.

Within the Bible, the expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is associated with the pain of hell.  Considering all the pain clenching can cause, the hellish connection makes sense.  

What if we smile?

The reasons:

We smile to show happiness, joy, embarrassment, nervousness, energy, excitement, and much more.  Comedians itch to produce that perfect smile in someone else.  Smiling expresses victory at the end of a race.  A smile conceals concerns or ignorance.  Actors smile for the camera, and it makes people want to watch them.  Regardless of its reasoning, a smile makes us approachable and enjoyable.  Some researches believe it increases how attractive we seem. 

The results:

While scientifically there’s a bit of debate on the topic, smiling has shown various pluses.  It can change our mood from sour to light.  Smiling may relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even lower blood pressure.  Subjectively, it can make someone seem more successful.  Some indicate smiling makes people look younger.  As I mentioned, the debate continues, but based on the research I read, no one claims any negative effects from smiling. 

Even Job, who experienced great personal tragedy shared this: “When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.” (Job 29:24)

Which do you prefer?

No matter the circumstance we face, we can choose our expressions.  Today, I watched a bicycle rider named Andy Schleck climb three extraordinary mountains in the Alps.  Occasionally, he clenched his teeth and slowed down.  But when he rode with a smile even up steep terrain, he flew. 

We can choose how we respond to the difficulties of life.  Years ago, I watched news broadcasters interviewing people whose homes caught fire on a Sunday morning.  One woman had been at church while her home burned.  She could do nothing to stop it.  She sat on the steps of her sizzling home, holding her Bible, while a reporter interviewed her on her loss.  At one point, a smile crossed her lips and she said, “Now I know you can have peace that makes no sense even when tragedy hits.”  I believed her.

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, Nehemiah said, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” If we choose a facial expression which exposes the depth of our belief, we may discover more depth than we originally knew. 

My choice today:

Smile.


 

 

 

 

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Are you a shout, a slug, a hug or a note?

Thank you Card
Image by Jon Ashcroft via Flickr

When it comes to appreciation, we all express ourselves in different ways. Which one applies to you?

Are you the boisterous shout in a crowd?  The energy of the moment overflows from your heart and explodes out your lips.  You can’t stop it, it must burst forth.  When things go right, you let out a “Yahoo!” or “Amen!” or occasionally “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Maybe you’re the slug that finds the nearest shoulder.  Some prefer to pat the shoulder more gently, but a slug is still a slug.  You see a person you appreciate and long to thank.  With a twinkle in your eye, maybe a nod of the head, you slug them in the shoulder.  Nuf said.  Wordy you ain’t.

You could be the all-encompassing surround-sound hugger.  To offer thanks to people you’ve known forever or but a moment, you reach out with two arms extended.  You pull the person toward you and squeeze them, as if brains were toothpaste and you need to load up your brush.  When you thank someone, they feel it from within.

Do you pull out the pen or plonk on the keys and search for the proper words to express yourself and your gratitude to its fullest capacity?  You are a note waiting for a recipient.  Speedy or slow, post-it or ebook, when it comes to giving thanks, none but the written word will please you.

There are other expressive thankful forms worth mentioning:  the cook, the cleaner, the gifter, or the kisser.  Whatever your approach,  science and scripture agree.  We experience great pluses in life, when we become grateful and express it to others.

My choice today:

Take time to show gratitude. 

(By the way… Thanks for being the wonderful reader you are!!! I truly appreciate you.  In my heart I’m giving you a hug or maybe a shoulder slug.  Sorry, I can’t cook you a pie or something.)

Warning on pointless arguments, someone always gets stabbed

toms shoes, pic 2
Image by _tar0_ via Flickr

Have you heard of TOMS shoes?  If not, you should.

This amazing company started by Blake Mycoskie has delivered shoes to needy children around the world because of a simple premise.  One for one.  For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, one will be given to a child in need.

The idea started because of a trip Mycoskie took to Argentina in 2006.  He became friends with children who owned no shoes.  Aware that soil contamination spreads disease, Blake found his cause.  He started TOMS shoes and one year later arrived to deliver 10,000 shoes in Argentina.

I met Blake at a conference I attended in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007.  He didn’t present any theological discussions or enter any philosophical debates.  As he stood behind a simple table at the TOMS booth, he spoke of kids in need and ways to help.  That’s it.

Today, his official title with the company, which has expanded world-wide and sells shoes at my local Whole Foods Store, is Chief Shoe Giver.  He attends conferences, speaks before diverse people groups and shares the vision of “One for One”.  I’m certain he makes a living at this role, but his purpose remains clear.  As his quote on the TOMS website states, “Giving is what fuel us.  Giving is our future.”

Having said these things, it surprised me to see that Blake found himself under attack because of a group he addressed.  He accepted the invitation to speak before Focus on the Family.  While it’s clear FOTF holds to a Christian and political agenda, Blake’s purpose remains continual and pointed.  One for One.

The more people who give, from whatever background, the more people receive.  The business model sits on center stage as simplicity in action.

Irin Carmon from Jezabel.com called out Blake for addressing Focus on the Family because of their political and faith stances.  In an effort to keep the peace, as givers often do, Blake apologized on his blog.  This blog moment has received 400+ comments, some questioning Blake’s integrity on the topic.

Am I missing something here?  Isn’t the topic helping people?

Why argue about who can hear the message?  Why create dispute on this topic in the first place?

The only people who will lose in the end are the children. 

Focus on the Family listened and gave.  Those on the attack listened and gave.  People from assorted walks of life give to the cause of helping because generosity is contagious.  People long to become part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference.

We can find ourselves grumbling about who serves alongside us or we can allow an important project to grow.  What a concept if the readers of Jezabel.com and the followers of Focus on the Family happen to agree on something.  Both enjoy helping others.  Amazing!

Instead of letting emotions connected to topics of disagreement become the center, we need to step back sometimes and take in the whole picture.  Perhaps even give ourselves an emotional time out.  So what if we don’t like someone else or what they stand for.  If we value the same mission, we need to put up with and appreciate the heart of others who differ from us.

This attitude applies in business, at home, and within friendships.  Beware, fighting for fighting’s sake leaves someone hurt, but we don’t get to decide who it will be.

My choice today:

Take a breath and pause if emotions stir, then decide if an argument  is worth engaging. 

You can learn more about Blake by liking him on Facebook.  If you agree with his vision, give him a note of encouragement, I’m sure he could use it.  His book “Start something that matters” comes out in September.  TOMS is expanding its “One for One” policy to eyeglasses and books. 

How do two become one?

I adore hearing married people’s stories about how they met.  It’s intriguing to discover the multiple ways two can become one.  It’s also enlightening to realize how many variations God has at his fingertips when it come to creating solid relationships.  Of course the story of a meeting doesn’t determine the success of the couple, but if I know a successful couple, I like to learn how it began. 

One of my friends just became engaged and as I celebrate her joy, it brings me back to how my husband and I first connected.  Let’s face it, in the digital age meeting and greeting have changed.  Believe it or not, my husband and I met through a Christian dating service.  Geeky huh. 

The intro

I had accepted a position as a youth pastor in the town of Sunland, California.  It’s not a huge town.  Whenever I tried to picture dating someone locally, I became stressed by the possibility of failure.  How would it affect the ministry?  Would it make life in town more complicated?  Okay, have I mentioned I’m a worrier? 

Needless to say, those ideas drove me to decide to go to an organization located in Reseda, California called Equally Yoked.  I never imagined actually meeting a spouse.  The thought it might  improve my dating skills.   I determined to willingly put myself “out there”.  I’d place a request to meet 5 men each time I visited the office.  One fun element of this group was the fact that everyone had to profess a faith in Christ to participate, video interviews included one’s story of salvation and relationship with Christ.  What a time saver, I thought. 

I ended up dating several nice men.  In fact, for the first time in my life I scheduled multiple dates with multiple men within the span of one week.  How flattering!  During one visit, I planned to submit the name of one Timothy Whidden as a person I might like to meet.  He, unfortunately, had no video sharing his story.  At the last-minute, I removed his name from my requests.  The lady who owned this franchise noticed.  She quizzed me about my decision and mentioned, “would it help you to know, he signed up partly because he saw your picture?” 

Yes, that did help.

The calls

Following my submission, I received a polite call from Timothy intended to let me down easily.  He was already seeing someone else.  Well then, I guess we’ll just have to be friends (even though we’ve never met).  I accepted his rejection but the conversation continued, for 2 hours.  Interesting.

He called me again on three different occasions.  Each time, our conversations extended for hours.  Eventually, he informed me that he was no longer seeing the original lady and he asked if I’d like to get together and meet in person. Was tomorrow too soon?  We met and our personalities connected immediately. 

The marriage

Ten months later, we declared our love before family and friends at Descanso Gardens.  After thirteen years, we have two children, two dogs, two cats and a friendship that grows stronger every day.

What about you?  Please share your story of how two became one.

Feed children the yum,yum of God’s words

Child Feeding Extreme
Image by Carlos Lorenzo via Flickr

Sometimes my husband accuses me of always being “on” when it comes to our kids.  Prior to our personal parenting journey, we both helped kids and adults to learn about Christ in multiple ways.

As a youth pastor, I saw kids who came to church because they grew up there and lived in strong, supportive, Christian families. Some kids arrived at church for the first time at age 17 with  cigarettes in hand, sometimes slightly tipsy, they showed up seeking…something.  They didn’t always know what.

My heart ached for them.  They were the high energy, high effort people many adults reject.  With little effort, they could cut you down to size and make you think you had nothing to offer them.  Yet, they came.  They knew, they needed something, Someone.

We worked on memorizing Bible verses while having fun together. One set of verses I clearly recall was found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the  door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

 We practiced these verses daily, a little at a time, for a month. As the teens learned, so did I.  I desired to become “that” kind of parent.  It matters to me that we talk about Jesus and His passion for us whenever and wherever.

 If a movie comes on that clearly goes against what God has said, I’ll either eliminate it from what they see (I’m a previewing parent) or pause it and ask them if they think God would like what is happening.  I’ve been known to rewrite endings of movies to make them more Christ-centered in approach. Driving down a road, if we see picketers or interesting signs, I welcome the questions of my children so that I can share with them God’s view for the topic at hand. Even struggling beside my children is a blessing as we join together to figure out what God wants in our lives.

The only way to have this attitude on  a regular basis is to constantly seek to learn ourselves.  Both my husband and I consistently read the Bible and spend time with others who are growing in their faith.  Without the continuous in-pouring of God’s Spirit into our lives, we wouldn’t be equipped to share or understand what we see.

I’m sure we still miss stuff or get it wrong, but we both know these two girls are the only ministry we’ll ever do that no one else can do.  It matters so much that we try our best.  Of course, we have a wonderful support system.  Christ is our leader and we go to Him regularly in prayer asking for His guidance in our lives and in the lives of our children.  We require His wisdom.  Don’t all parents?

When we follow the guidelines of Deuteronomy, we feed our children, spiritually speaking. The word of God provides spiritual nutrition to help them grow.  Those kids who arrived at our youth group had not previously been fed God’s word.  Their hearts were like dirt.  They needed nutrients or soil amendments added into their lives to enable them to receive God’s words for them.

Whether we start earlier or later, the value of God’s nutrition is unmistakable.  Those of us blessed to start earlier may experience an easier journey.  But any good gardener knows, yanking out weeds, removing rocks, and adding nutrients enables all dirt to develop into great soil.