Friday, October 26, 2012

Savor the Flavor

“Tell me what you really think.”

Perhaps you, too, wonder sometimes if the above message is tattooed across your forehead or printed on a sign around your neck, considering the freedom some people feel to speak their opinions about your life, often at the most inopportune times. In my experience those moments seem to come most often in public venues when I’m surrounded by a host of listening bystanders. The latest left me standing before the man open-mouthed and speechless:

“I can see that you’re gaining weight, and that‘s alright, except that you used to be such a slender little thing.”

Aside from the fact that I can’t even remember the last time I was “slender “(it may have been in the fifth grade) I couldn’t believe the gall of the man to bring up such a sensitive subject in the middle of a crowded grocery store line. Yet if God can get past our pride, He can often use such comments to provoke positive change.

While not everything people say to us needs to be received, in this case I had to admit that the man was absolutely right. Having recently reached a new high on the bathroom scale, I had downloaded a calorie counter app onto my phone just the day before. What I lacked was the motivation to start using it, which this customer unwittingly provided. And in the month and a half since that day I have been carefully abiding by my calculated calorie allotment per day, considering my food options and making choices based on the calorie counts I now read on nutritional labels, googling the same in their absence.

Several things have happened in the weeks since I started. The first is that I became aware of just how many calories I was consuming per day, especially in caffeinated liquid form. I’ve noticed that with less food on my plate I eat each meal much more slowly, taking smaller bites and savoring the flavors of each individual meal element, instead of simply gulping it all down due to the abundance before me. And I love the rediscovered feeling of control over my diet and my weight, to know that I can still eat whatever I want, just not all on the same day. I budget my calories now, and plan ahead for meals out or special treats (pumpkin spice lattes come strongly to mind) so that I can enjoy them at the time and not regret them later when I next have to step on the scale.

And then another day, another customer, and another opportunity for life change.

This shopper told a fellow cashier that he was once married to a woman who talked as much as I did and was reminded how glad he was to be rid of her! At the time I simply wrote him off as a grumpy old man having a bad day, but he got me to wondering what a difference it would make if I had an app that tracked the words that come out of my mouth the way my diet diary tracks the food that goes in. If I was only allotted so many words per day, wouldn’t I take care to make every one count? I’d be careful not to waste any on foolish conversations, instead conserving my daily allocation to communicate the important thoughts on my heart and mind or to speak a blessing or encouragement to somebody in need.

The customer isn’t always right, despite the saying to the opposite, but in this case I had to agree with mine that there are people we avoid because of the ceaseless babble that comes out of their mouths, even friends we are afraid to open conversations with because we fear they will never end. The more compassionate hearts among us seek to find the reason behind their need to speak in long-winded diatribes; the rest of us just run from them. I don’t want to be counted in their number.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are those whose words are carefully considered and chosen before they’re spoken, people whose inner thoughts come out in short and stirring messages of wisdom, hope, or enlightenment. While they don’t speak in volume, what they do say has a definite impact, and the people around them have learned that their conversation is worth the wait, however short their communication may be. This is the word-watcher group we should be anxious to join.

It’s interesting to note that my calorie-counter app takes into consideration any exercise I do, and allows me extra calories to consume each day according to the number I burn off in activity of some sort. It seems that everything short of sitting in a chair burns off some calories; the list of  possible physical exertions to engage in seems endless as I scroll through page after page of them on my phone. I don’t visit the list often, as my “exercise” usually consists of a short walk on the road in front of my house and maybe a stretch or two. But I’m reminded of the correlation with my faith, that my opportunities to speak for God and the life-changing power behind my words are increased with the active pursuit of His presence through prayer and Bible study and the exercise of my faith in ministry of some sort. Again the opportunities to serve are endless and should be ever on our minds instead of tucked away and ignored as we go about our days.

Some day God will tell us what He really thinks…about our lives…our love walk…our spiritual weight… and the value of the words we spoke. His opinion will count for all eternity, so we should make sure it’s one we’re going to want to hear. Let’s strive to live in such a way that God Himself will savor the flavor of what we have to say.

“…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
(Matthew 12:34-37 MKJV)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tired and Tardy, Lazy and Late

I looked up at the clock over the microwave, and gasped. Knowing I had to be at work by 11 a.m. that morning, I had timed the events of my day so that I’d be ready to leave home at exactly half past the ten o’clock hour. One by one I had ticked off the tasks on my list as I completed them until I stood ready to grab my purse and head out the door. One last look at the clock, and….what on earth had happened?! Somehow I had lost an hour! It was already 11:30, not 10:30, and I was headed to being a full sixty minutes late by the time I reached the time clock to punch in!

Quickly I grabbed my phone and called in. How on earth do you explain an hour’s tardiness when you have no explanation yourself?! No flat tire, no lost key, no excuse. I simply lost track of time. Thankfully my supervisor thought my horror over the situation was amusing, told me not to make a habit of it and to hurry in to work.

All day long I was amazed by my belated arrival, as I am rarely more than a minute or two late, at most. The bagger at the end of my checkout lane enjoyed it immensely, however, and teased me endlessly about losing my grip on life, this being the first evidence of the start of a downhill slide. I finally shook it off as just one of those things that happen from time to time…until I walked in the door the next morning (thankfully, on time!) and ran into my bagger buddy once more.

“Guess what happened to me today!” he said.

“Were you…late?” I asked.

“Yes!” he responded.

“Were you…an hour late?” I queried.

“Yes!” he answered again, and we both broke out into laughter over the absurdity of the situation. Like me, he had no real excuse, he simply overslept.

At least then I felt better about my own tardiness, understanding that God was using our tandem experiences to illustrate a point. Simply stated, it’s later than we think…for us as believers, for our coworkers in the Body of Christ, and most especially for the lost among us who need our witness and work in the ministry to lead them to a saving knowledge of Christ. And in God’s view of things, it’s no laughing matter.

A group of women in our church went away recently for a weekend of fellowship, shopping, and spiritual regrouping. They came home newly awakened to the call to pray, to seek God’s face, and to intercede for the Church, our fellow believers worldwide who are increasingly under attack. Resisting the urge to dally under the warm covers on cool autumn mornings now they instead get up and meet with their God, speaking His will and Word over the lives of their loved ones and canceling any plans the enemy may have against them with their active intercession. They reserve the first moments of the day for that which is most important, long before their schedules fill up and their energy runs out. “RIP those blankets off!” has become a spiritual battle cry that echoes from one corner of our sanctuary to another now on Sunday mornings as they meet, greet and encourage one another to remain faithful to the call.

It matters because we have an enemy who simply never takes a day off. He is ever on the job, looking for those whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) and seeking to steal, kill and destroy the lives of our loved ones and the lost among us. If people truly die at the rate of 2 lives per second, then each minute that we are “late” is costly indeed, especially for the unsaved, who will pay for our tardiness for eternity.

The situation was graphically illustrated the other night when a pack of coyotes attacked a neighbor’s dog. My husband listened in horror as the sounds of the fight came through the open bedroom window. The neighbor’s pet was clearly outnumbered and getting the worst of it; he wondered if it would survive the night. Quickly he got up to make sure our own animals were inside where it was safe. It brought back memories of  a night years ago when our own beloved golden retriever was wandering in the nighttime hours and met a similar fate. Thankfully he survived, but he was never quite the same after that attack.

Too many of us are living with a false sense of security, oblivious to the ploys of the enemy who waits till we’re not on the lookout to slip in his subtle temptations and lead us astray. Likewise we have loved ones who are wandering in the darkness of these times, oblivious to the danger that surrounds them. Perhaps if we had a better picture of the fate that awaits those who stumble into his clutches we would be similarly impelled to arise from our physical and spiritual slumber and begin to pray for their spiritual safety and security.

But God asks more of us than that we just pray for ourselves and the people we know. He, too, has loved ones that have yet to come safely Home, as well as those out searching for them who likewise need the protection of our prayer covering. And He’s looking for workers who will throw back their covers and rise to the challenge…while there’s still time. 

Remember that it was while His disciples were sleeping instead of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that God’s own Son was set upon by a pack of dogs. He allowed it to happen so that we would not have to suffer a similar fate. But perhaps that’s why God doesn’t find our tardiness amusing. The consequences affect more than a paycheck or a company‘s bottom line; the lives of people who are dear to Him hang in the balance. For the love of God, then, let’s rip off the life of ease that lulls us back to spiritual sleep, and get to work.

 “When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.’” (Matthew 26:40-41 MSG)
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