The greatest testimony of all, beyond the life of our Lord, is our own life as we live it.
- We can castigate bullies, but if we are one, that means nothing.
- We can warn against the dangers of texting and driving, but if we do it, it means nothing.
- We can champion self-respect, but if we have none, it means nothing.
- We can caution against failing to set healthy boundaries, but it we fail to, it means nothing.
We, the wise, older set, who have lived life and have something to say, are resounding gongs and clanging symbols in the lives of those we love if we say one thing and do another. We become noise-makers, adding additional volume but no more meaning.
This, I believe, is why the biblical Paul so passionately begins his plea to the people of Corinth this way:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
This precedes the beautiful “love chapter” of the Bible often read at weddings. Of the love that is patient and kind and doesn’t envy or boast. The love that’s not self-seeking, isn’t prideful or easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. That perfect love which never fails.
That’s the love we can never quite live up to but which sets an example to reach for in our lives with another, and with all others, including ourselves.
First, we have to let that love come alive and be real in us, before we try to pawn it off on someone else. Otherwise, our hypocrisy is telling, and they will probably waste no time telling us! When we say one thing, but do another, it’s our unloving that’s showing.
We have to start with love, both for ourselves and the other – not an easy task. It requires perspective beyond ourselves to set a right course for our intentions and priorities. When we invite an honest look at the lives we are leading, we can align our thoughts, words and actions with the love God intends.
When we start with love, what we say and do makes a whole lot more sense.
Here are my most recent highlights from the Upper Room magazine devotional reading and writing. Just me and my daily doodlings, courtesy of the little book that reaches around the world. That God, He is always slipping in a good word when we’re not looking.
It is human nature to want to push the limits of what the law allows. But Jesus tells us that even thinking about breaking a law is breaking that law. (When God makes the law, stepping a millimeter beyond it means you’re standing in sin.)
Once my father grafted a pear-tree branch into an apple tree. In time, the grafted branch produced fruit that looked like an apple but tasted like a pear. (On God’s tree, I’m still me!)
When God calls us to do something, God gives us the ability to obey. (and the freedom not to)
(after a prayer of complaint) I expected to feel God’s displeasure, but I felt God was pleased, not with my complaining but with my willingness to trust God enough to express even the unpleasantness in my life. (Every offering has value to God, even the sour ones.)
Job wanted God to be his ultimate resource with the assurance that he was a child of God. “Before, you were only a theory to me,” Job was saying. “Now I know you are my ultimate reality.” (thank goodness my salvation doesn’t rely on me)
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) This, friends, changes everything. (thank goodness for Easter)
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16) (‘Keep up the good work!’ is a slap in the face to someone who can’t.)
People put forth extraordinary effort to get results. God wants us to put forth extraordinary effort to bring about the dreams God has for us. (Why would I work harder for my dreams than God’s?)
We were taught “stop, drop and roll” if our clothes caught on fire. (If our tongues are aflame) we might do well to “stop, breathe and pray.” (Fire prevention safety never goes out of style.)
“Tell her not to worry, because she is ‘strong like me’.” (Three words that will last a lifetime.)
Selah, (written in between stanzas in the psalms) probably means, “pause, and think of that.” (Pause and reflect, perhaps the greatest untapped power in the universe.)
Sometimes as Christians, we focus more on how we look than where God wants us to look. (nuf said)
where we teeter
at the intersection of
RUN FAST and BE STILL.
This little purple band is a curious thing. We have been to challenged to wear it as a reminder of our commitment to the “No complaining for 21 days” effort. We’re to switch wrists if we complain and then start again at Day 1. (for more read more here)
Friends tell me:
- their kids refuse to wear them. Of course not! What kid would willingly give up the power they hold in complaining?
- it is annoying! They don’t like anything on their hands. What is a reminder, if it doesn’t get your attention.
- their grand kids have made it their mission to get them to complain, thus having to switch their band. Clever grand kids.
- they have censored themselves on Facebook. No comment.
- they handled a thrashing on the athletic field as “great opportunity to improve” and this spoken in halting words as they rolled up their sleeve to twang (but not switch) the band.
It’s a purple piece of rubber!
No one else in my family is wearing this band. As far as I know, no one else on my street is wearing this band. Now that the weather has turned cool and we have pulled on our sweatshirts and jackets who could tell? But I am and I know it, because the thing keeps slipping up and down my wrist and flopping in my way and getting caught on my sleeve and falling off when I take off my sweatshirt and sticking on my mouse pad when I try to type and obscuring my watch face when I look at the time and do you take it off in the shower and…well, you get the picture. It demands attention. That’s its job.
Who knew what power a wrist band could have? I’m not sure it’s the band. I think it may be the power behind the band. Our pastor has called the attention to a non-complaining lifestyle a spiritual discipline, and it seems to have claim each of us differently. Which sounds very like the Spirit to me.
For me, it’s a self editor. Not a “shut up and don’t say that” but more of a “check and see if this is what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want them to hear it.” Now, there is a learning curve, my family would assure you. I’ve had plenty of, ‘oops, that was a complaint’ moments. (switch) But increasingly they are, ‘I said that positively, right?’ or ‘lemme think how best to phrase this’ or ‘perhaps this could wait’ or even ‘never mind, it’s not that big a deal’ moments.
Yep, ironically, there’s been a progression in the no complaining process. That band and its prohibition has got me stopping and thinking before speaking. Go figure. I think it even has me dismissing complaint-thoughts more quickly. “Can’t complain?…what’s the point in wasting the energy?”
Which makes me realize that my complaining may have been fueling the thoughts all along. My words igniting the thoughts, which were inciting the words, which were enabling the thoughts. A vicious feedback loop. Now that I’m not giving it the satisfaction. Poof, the whole energy sapper starts withering away. Which is just fine with me. Who’s got time and energy to waste?
I kidded with my friends that the bands were an outward sign of an inward dis-grace. But I fear it’s true. Nothing like a physical annoyance to remind us there is work to be done and it requires our attention.