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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time for a Refocus

Photo: imagerymajestic

Do you ever get overwhelmed?

Do you have moments of anxiety?

Does your mind go into overdrive?

I was getting all my insides knotted up. Frustrations and questions overwhelmed my thoughts. I was anxious, upset, and my joy had packed up and gone on vacation. Thankfully, I noticed, and I turned to the best passage ever for people who get uptight. It’s Philippians 4:4-9:

4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

  • Rejoice.
  • Rejoice again.
  • Be gentle, patient, and equitable.
  • Remember God is near.
  • Don’t be anxious.
  • Instead, pray and tell God what you want.
  • Don’t forget to thank God, too.
  • God will give you the kind of peace that defies understanding. This peace will guard your heart and mind.
  • Think on positive and beautiful things.
  • Imitate the godly teachings evidenced in the Apostle Paul’s life.
  • God will be with you.

I wonder how many times I’ve had to go to these verses, reminding myself that this is the way I need to live? Too many, I assure you!

What are your go-to verses for stressful times? Please feel free to share.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Oscar Night Dress

Photo: dan

Last Sunday night, the Hollywood elite showed off couture dresses and tuxedoes, diamonds, and all that goes into the most glitzy-glamorous night on the calendar. As usual, some of the dresses cost a fortune.

One of those dresses particularly caught my eye.* It’s a Chanel gown, worn by Julianne Moore. The dress is a strapless white gown with several pretty rows of green oval accents (Or dark blue. It’s hard to tell.), and it's covered—every inch—with sequins. That one gown took twenty-seven people 987 hours to make.

For a very few hours, that Chanel dress paraded over the red carpet—up and down it—and was photographed who knows how many times. It is, to be fair, a stunning dress, one of the prettier ones on Oscar night.

Imagine twenty-seven people sewing sequins on one dress! They say the green (or blue) sequins were hand tinted. Okay, so several of the twenty-seven were actually dying the sequins that dark color. The rest were gathering around the dress, sewing and sewing and sewing.

The dress took 987 hours to make. That’s 24.6 forty-hour work-weeks. If we were talking about one person working all those hours, it would be almost half a year’s work! On one dress, worn for a few hours.

Think about the expense behind this one dress—both in money and time.

Of course, it was only one of many dresses worn to the Oscars presentation, each representing someone’s brand of fashion genius.

What could be done with those same hours of work, applied to something more important than sequins? What do those sequins (and the pearls, and other special touches) say about our values as human beings, as a culture?

If the seamstresses were paid the U.S. federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour, their total pay would have been $7,155.75 for the one gown, divided by the twenty-seven people, according to their hours. (I sincerely hope they were paid much more than minimum wage!)

In many countries of the world, you can feed a person on less than $2 a day. That means, you can save a life for less than $2 a day. That dress's cost (only counting the minimum wage $7,155.75, not all the rest) could have fed 3,577 people for one day or 200 people for eighteen days. 

In one country, one dress takes the equivalent of almost a half a year’s work to make. Someone paid twenty-seven fashion workers to make it. We don’t know the price of the gown, but it has to be very, very high. (Surely, the Chanel designer is well-paid, plus the materials and work.)

In other countries, thousands of children are malnourished, and so are their parents. Their average life expectancy is 40-50 years.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s morally wrong to have a little bit of glamor or that big occasions are never appropriate. I personally find anything Hollywood produces impossible to watch, but that's not what we're addressing here.**

But, maybe our society could show a little bit of compassion and help those who will die if we don’t. Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 15:32).

Maybe we could hand-sew less sequins on one dress.



** My reason? 1 Corinthians 10:31, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Does any Hollywood film glorify God? Philippians 4:8 also, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Does any Hollywood production keep it pure, lovely, and virtuous? These are my personal reasons for not watching any modern Hollywood films. We can still be friends if you differ with me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Rain in Spain

When Professor Henry Higgins trains Eliza Doolittle to be a sophisticated duchess, he has her repeat, “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.”* It might make a nice song, but it’s far from the truth! The rain in Spain really falls on the northern fringe of Spain bordering the Atlantic Ocean. That means we have green grass all year long. But, it also means it can rain more than 300 days a year! It's raining again, today. 

When we arrived in the '80s, it took some getting used to. There are still times when it rains every single day for weeks on end. I’ll be honest: it dampens one’s morale. (Forgive the pun, but sometimes I can’t resist!) My husband and I, on at least two occasions, have actually gotten in the car and driven to another province, just to see sunshine for a day.

Some years ago, we were in the U.S. visiting my parents. The South was experiencing a drought, and my parents both asked us to pray that God would send rain. I couldn’t! I didn’t want to pray against my parents, but I was thoroughly being blessed by day after day of sunny skies. (Was I bad?)

Our son and his family live in Puerto Rico. They see the sun almost every single day. Palm trees, flowers, tropical plants . . . . Don’t think we haven’t been tempted!

Why am I telling you this? Because missionaries are human beings. (Surprise!) We have to fight very normal tendencies to feel down when it rains and rains and rains. We don’t exactly enjoy wet feet and slogging around, walking and driving in rain, day after day after day.

I even painted the walls of our downstairs yellow, so there’d be “sunshine” inside when everything outside is gray.

We’re well aware our focus is supposed to be on our blessings and on positive things and not on the lousy weather. (Philippians 4:8) We are truly grateful for God’s goodness to us. We can heartily say with the Psalmist David, I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all thy marvelous works (Psalm 9:1).

We’re even aware that God sends the weather He wants where and when and as much as He wills. Who (God) giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields (Job 5:10).

It really is okay.

When the sun finally peeks out from behind the clouds, there is nowhere prettier than the Basque Country! Green, green hills dip down onto beautiful beaches.

We love where the Lord led us to serve Him—especially when the sun shines!

* My Fair Lady. 
All the photos were taken by me, in our beloved Basque Country.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Marriage is Mutual

Photo by: photostock

You’ve heard the saying “it takes two to tango.” It does! However, I’ve seen video clips of one person tangoing by himself, his arm around an imaginary partner. They’re hilarious, because you have to visualize the partner, the partner’s actions, and try to figure out why the individual is filming himself tangoing solo in the first place!

My husband and I often see this phenomenon in marriage counseling. One partner says, “He doesn’t/She doesn’t,” usually followed by carefully memorized biblical quotations about what a husband or wife should do--the other person's obligations. It’s always the other spouse’s fault.

Or, the partner says, “He does/She does” followed by a list of actions that break the rules and could possibly hurt the marriage. Again, it’s a list about the other person.

Very seldom the person being counseled says, “I have failed here and here and here.” There’s usually finger pointing, blaming, and knowing exactly what the spouse needs to hear.

While the Bible has some guidelines for husbands and wives separately, I wonder if we’re looking at them too far apart, instead of how they’re intended. What I’m trying to say is that marriage is mutual. It takes two to “tango.”*

If the husband is tangoing all by himself, it doesn’t turn out right. If the wife is tangoing all by herself, it doesn’t look too pretty, either. Marriage is mutual. It’s for both and by both. It’s a bond. 

My father used to sing a song at weddings. Part of the words were "Each for the other and both for the Lord." That's what marriage should look like!

Why don’t we understand this? Husband or wife always thinks it’s the other person messing up the “dance,” when it takes two working together to make something beautiful.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about the mutuality of marriage:
  1. From the beginning, marriage means two becoming one.Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
  2. Married people please each other.But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:33-34).
  3. The physical relationship of marriage is mutual.The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other (1 Corinthians 7:4-5a).
  4. Married people yield to each other.Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:21-25, 28-33).

Just as a one-sided tango doesn’t look normal, so it is in marriage. When the marriage “dance” doesn’t look good or looks lopsided, it’s time to figure out what’s not working.

Dance studios have mirrors so that the dancers can see what’s going right and what’s not quite as smooth as it should be. Should they dip here? Could they make the glide a little better? Is the footwork as graceful as it needs to be? Are the movements accurate?

We have a mirror, too. It’s the Word of God. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:22-25).

Do you want your marriage blessed of God? Look in the mirror of God’s Word.
  • See where you need to change your footwork.
  • See where you need to glide.
  • See how to strengthen your hold.
  • Find out how to synchronize your turns.
  • Look where one partner can yield to the other.
  • See what you can change to make the whole marriage better.

Marriage isn’t one-sided. It’s mutual. It’s two imperfect people living together so that God is glorified. It’s the blending of two very different people into one. It can be the most beautiful “tango” in the world!

* The tango is for illustration only.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Be Kind

Photo: Serge Bertasius Photography

I’d like to share a Bible verse with you. It’s one that could revolutionize your life.

And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:32)

Let’s explore this verse by looking at one part at a time.

Be ye kindKindness is by definition “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Some synonyms for kindness are: goodwill, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, courteous, graciousness, and mercifulness.

One to another—We’re supposed to be kind, act friendly, generously, and considerately to other people. In our family, we used to misquote this verse, according to the need of the moment. For example, “Be ye kind one to your brother (sister, mother, etc.).” The kids would laugh, but they’d get the point.

Tenderhearted—This word means “compassionate.” Remember how Jesus had compassion on the multitudes? Compassion and a tender heart are by-products of love.

Forgiving one another—When Jesus instructed the disciples to forgive, He made some interesting statements:
  • Don’t give an offering without forgiving first (Matthew 5:23-24; Mark 11:25)
  • God forgives us when we forgive others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 6:37; 11:4)
  • Forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22)
  • God will hold people accountable for not showing forgiveness. (Matthew 18:34-35)
  • Forgive when people ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4)

And now, the most important part: even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you—How did God forgive you?
  • Completely (Colossians 2:13)
  • Willingly (John 3:16; Galatians 2:20)
  • Freely (Romans 3:24; Revelation 21:6, 22:17)

Let’s make this practical. The qualities of kindness (friendly, generous, and considerate) should be shared between born-again Christians and all people. We should be compassionate and forgiving. Our motivation is what Christ did for us—the way He forgave our sins and wiped the slate clean with His blood. This is what it means to live like a Christian.

Do you remember the first-century Christians? People could tell they’d been with Jesus. I wonder if that’s true of us. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

So how do we evidence Jesus in us? How do we show the gospel?
  • By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).
  • Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22).
  • Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous (1 Peter 3:8).
  • We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. . . . Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:14, 16).

And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:32)

Let’s be kind!