Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Swearing

The other day I got some plastic letters ready to put on the sign in front of church. They were stacked up in order, placed neatly in a basket. 

I set it down and turned to talk to someone. Crash! The basket fell and the letters went everywhere. I turned to my friend, my eyes wide with surprise. I laughed and started picking up letters, resigned to spending a little extra time getting them back in order.

"At least I didn't say a naughty word!" I joked as I worked.

"Oh, you do that, too?" my friend asked.

"Well, usually it's just in my head, but sometimes, yeah."

Swearing has been on my mind quite a bit lately. 

I wanted to read Trevor Noah's book Born a Crime, but it was always checked out at the library. One day I happened to check and they had the CD version.
I recommend listening to this book on CD - he performs it so well, especially since there are so many
lines of dialogue in African languages. You just have to be ready for a fair amount of swearing.

As I began listening, I was fascinated with his stories about growing up in South Africa. His mother is black and his father is white, which was a crime during apartheid. Every once in a while, he would throw in a swear word, but I could handle it.

As I continued to listen, the swearing became more frequent, and I became more uncomfortable. I had to wrestle with my thoughts a bit before I decided I could continue to listen.

He wasn't taking God's name in vain. The words he used were actually understandable as he told stories about growing up in South Africa. He was poor. He was colored (His word, not mine. That's the term they used for mixed races.) He went through experiences that most of us could not even imagine. He was telling his story and he was using the language he used during those years. I couldn't really expect him to change things to "shoot" and "frick" just to protect my sensitive ears.  

That being said, I think that all of us would do well to examine how we're talking. 

What is the first word we think of when something bad happens to us? Maybe we can't stop a swear word from entering our mind, but we can usually keep it from coming out of our mouths with just a little effort.

True confession time: I remember when Gary and I were first married and living on the farm. It was winter and I had to go outside for something. I was running across the yard and our dog, Skip, got in front of me and made me fall.

For some reason, I told Gary's family that when we got together, and my sister-in-law Helen smirked and said, "What did you say then?"

I probably blushed as I muttered, "Dumb dog." She laughed, but I've always wondered if she knew I was lying. (She does now!)

Truth is, I said a lot worse than "Dumb dog." I said something that starts with an F. I know, it shocked me, too. I hardly ever swore, let alone used that word.

I was in a bad mood, and when that dumb dog tripped me, swearing was the first thing on my mind. Luke 6:45 says it is "out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks."

Don't you find that that's true? When your heart is right, swear words are far from your thoughts. When your heart is messed up, you can think all kinds of nasty things.

My heart was good the other day in the office. I really didn't even think of any naughty words when the letters fell. I don't want my friend to think that I take swearing lightly, because it's serious.

We can overlook the swearing of others, especially when they don't know any better, but we can be careful to refrain from using bad language so that we can be a good example for others.

Even when your dumb dog trips you and makes you fall in the snow.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Do you have a problem with swearing? How can focusing on God help you to get your heart right and use words that are wholesome instead?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus (or not) on Cold Sores


Last night I told my daughter Allison we would be going to the Cedar Falls writing group "if I didn't look too hideous in the morning." I was just starting to get a cold sore and I wasn't sure what it was going to look like today.

I slathered on Abreva before bed and prayed for the best. It was noticeable this morning, but I decided it wasn't too bad to venture out in public.

I would have missed out on a great meeting if I had stayed home just because of a little spot on my lip. 

We are pretty vain people, aren't we? 

We worry about what people will think of us if we aren't dressed the right way or if our hair isn't just so or if we have a big zit on the end of our nose (or a cold sore gracing our bottom lip).

I've gotten over most of that. I don't wear makeup. I don't mind going in a store in jeans and an old sweatshirt on a Saturday. I never spend much time on my hair, but physical imperfections bother me.

Cold sores, big pimples, and other abnormalities make me feel extremely self-conscious.

I remember a couple of years ago at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Michigan. I had a problem with my eye. It was sore and extremely red. I could hardly talk to my friends because I was sure they couldn't stand to look at me or were worrying I had pinkeye and would infect them if they got too close. 

I skipped a workshop and went to the eye doctor and found out I had a contact stuck in my eye and it was getting infected. (When I got back to Iowa I figured out I also had an old one in the other eye. What is wrong with me!?)

Even after I knew my problem was temporary, it was hard to show my face at the conference.

We need to remember that what is important is what is inside of us.

Of course, we want to look nice most of the time, but physical imperfections do not have to bother us so much that we don't want to spend time with people.

Cold sores and infected eyes are temporary.

What about people who have permanent "flaws"?

Scars, skin diseases, missing limbs, drooping muscles after a many things can mar our physical beauty and make us self-conscious.

If we learn to put more effort into becoming beautiful on the inside, maybe we'll be able to make peace with the physical flaws that are part of who we are.

God loves us just as we are. He knows every cell of our bodies and he loves every inch of us. 

Some people will stare at our flaws and stay away if it makes them uncomfortable, but the people who love us will never go away. They will love us for who we are inside. A missing limb or scar just becomes part of how they know us and it doesn't matter a bit.

They can even look past a giant zit or an ugly cold sore, I'll bet. 

(image from

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Psalm 31:30 NIV)

Do physical flaws make you feel self-conscious? How can focusing on God help you to make peace with the imperfections that bother you and move ahead confident that God sees you as beautiful, inside and out?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Rejection

I went in for a tune-up with my counselor in Waverly last week. 

I told her about several situations where rejection had really upset me and sent me spiraling down emotionally. 

In each situation, I recognized what was happening and came out of it quite quickly, but it hurt so much. I wanted her thoughts about how I could deal with rejection better.

She looked thoughtful, then suggested something a bit unusual.

"Your rejection button is broken," she stated. 

"When you feel those feelings, you just have to stop and tell yourself 'I can't process this correctly, so I'm not even going to go there.' Then do something to comfort yourself, just like putting a band aid or ice pack on a wound."
She acknowledged that there definitely is pain associated with rejection, but I could just do something to make me feel better instead of over analyzing.

"Could it involve ice cream?" I begged.

"Sure, sometimes. Just do something that will help you feel better. Listen to music, read a book, do something fun. Go spend time with someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally."

I looked at her blankly and realized I had another problem. I don't feel that way with very many people (probably because my rejection button is broken!). I think I'm always looking for a reason for them to reject me or reading more into the slightest hint of rejection they might show.

"I guess I'll have to talk to God about that," I said.

"Well, God. There you go!" 

I realized she was right. He's the only One I know loves and accepts me unconditionally. The Bible tells me that over and over again. 
When those situations come where I feel rejected, I can run to Him and pour out my pain to someone who understands.

And maybe I'll have a little ice cream, too.

"He [Jesus] was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." (Isaiah 53:3a NIV)

Is your "rejection button" broken? How can focusing on God help you to let go of the pain of rejection and get back to a healthy way of thinking?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Possessions

Not my basement...but pretty typical. (I got this from Google images.)

Gary worked hard this week, but he didn't have to prepare a sermon. We're having a special concert by the Randy Aalderks family tomorrow morning. (If you're in the area, please come at 9:00!)

That's why he had a little extra time today. 

I was just starting to brown hamburger for dinner when he announced, "I think I'll work in the basement for a while."

You know how basements are. 

We had a big pile of cardboard boxes we didn't need at the bottom of the stairs, so he started hauling those out to the van so we could recycle them. Once he got through with those, he said he'd keep organizing for a while.

I was surprised at how anxious that made me feel up in the kitchen. 

I kept working to get the "Crusty Mexican Bean Bake" ready for the oven, but I really wanted to rush downstairs and make sure he wasn't touching any of my stuff.

What's he moving around now?

I know my crafting area is a mess. I was going to work on it this weekend. I hope he doesn't start throwing away the papers on the floor. I want those!

Why can't he just organize the "man shelf" instead of getting into my areas? (Pretty much the whole basement)

I always ask him before I get rid of any of his stuff, but I was just sure he was going to start pitching all of my perfectly good junk without consulting with me first.

I managed to not have a panic attack and he didn't spend too long down there, so I think my things are safe...but it got me thinking.

Why was I so worried about my stuff? 

I don't use much of it regularly, but it's down there, safely out of the way, but close enough that I can get to it "just in case."

When I do try to find something, I usually have to dig through lots of other things before I finally put my hands on the wanted item. 

I have so many interests and projects going on upstairs. I could probably get rid of everything in the basement and still have plenty to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

We would do well to apply that to our spiritual lives, too. If you'll indulge a very rough analogy: We have so much going on upstairs that we could probably get rid of everything here on this earth and still have plenty to keep us busy for the rest of our lives.

Some people have done that. Minimalists, they call themselves. They sell everything and live in tiny houses or travel with just one suitcase and a couple of changes of clothes.

I don't think I'm ready for such a drastic change, but I'm going to move slowly in that direction. Keep filling boxes for Goodwill. Try not to buy things I don't need. Use what I have. Hold on to things loosely and be willing to give things away to people who need them more than I do.

I want to concentrate more on storing things up in heaven instead of here on earth. 

Maybe I'll tackle the basement this week...while Gary is working on his sermon.

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:15 NIV)

Are you too worried about your earthly possessions? How can focusing on God help you to hold them loosely and store up more treasures in heaven instead?