Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beautify our world -- thanksgiving.

Before you go out into the world, wash your face in the clear crystal of praise. Bury each yesterday in the fine linen and spices of thankfulness.  

 Charles Spurgeon


My friend Margaret, who owns Mom's Sign Company.  Isn't she cute?

One of the Thanksgiving signs that Margaret makes -- She does all kinds of decorative signs for the home.

I know it's a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving Day, but I'm already looking forward to it.  It's the favorite holiday of both my husband and my daughter.  Actually, in our family, we all have happy memories of Thanksgiving.  Seeing how my family does love it keep some from rushing ahead to Christmas. 

I don't relate much to the "horror" elements of Halloween decorating, so I tend to focus on a fall theme that carries me from September through Thanksgiving Day.  Decorating wise, I don't go overboard for any holiday.  I do, however, like to change things up a little for the seasons and also to set holiday themed tables.
Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast. Shakespeare

November's such a great time to train our own hearts to be grateful, and to help train our children's hearts to be grateful, too.  If we all take one month to just camp out on the practice of being grateful, imagine how much that would infuse the other 11 months with gratitude, as well.   The old saying is that it takes 21 days to build a habit; the 30 days of November are more than enough time to cement the habit of gratitude in our minds.   

I love this verse from Colossians:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Wouldn't it be fun if everyone, everywhere was overflowing with thankfulness?  How happy would our homes be if we were all so full of thankfulness that it brimmed right over into our words and our actions.  Imagine waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room if everyone there was generally grateful.  Think what neighborhoods and workplaces would become.   Of course, I need to start my dream by looking in the mirror.  :)   



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beautify our World...Nurturing

I love the dictionary definition of nurture:

to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring.

to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians. to bring up; train; educate.
I'm sure we can all think of nurturers in our lives.  One quality I think of regarding nurturing is the quality of making someone feel warm, safe, and accepted so that person can flourish.  I know people who have an extraordinary gift for nurturing, and I see Christ in them.  That's a quality that I want to grow in.

In our culture, we associate women with nurturing, and some women fear to be seen as nurturing for fear that they won't be respected on the same plane that men are.  Yet, the Bible portrays God as a nurturer and also calls husbands and fathers to be nurturers, too.  Paul, the apostle, said that he had lived among the Thessalonians in a gentle way, with the same nurturing quality that the mother of an infant might have. 

Isaiah 49:15  (God speaking to Israel) Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 

Ephesians 5:4  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I Thessalonians 2:7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.

Ephesians 5:25ff  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Nurturing is a beautiful quality, for it is a reflection of God's own heart.  It takes strength and faith to nurture others.   It also takes prayer and wisdom.  It also requires that we know when to step in and when to let go, so that we don't cross that line from nurturing into smothering. 

What are some practical ways to nurture?

1) Study God's nurturing, as revealed in the Bible.  Note in the gospels how Christ always saw what others didn't:  the beauty of the widow's two coins, the tax collector in the tree, the woman who touched Jesus' garment in a huge crowd, the blind men calling for help by the wayside, etc.
2)  Rejoice when others succeed, grow, or mature.  Rejoice when others experience happy things or have reasons to celebrate.

3) Cultivate your own domestic skills.  If you particularly enjoy a certain skill -- such as cooking or sewing or keeping a home tidy or fostering great relationships in the family -- learn and practice.  Use that skill to nurture those in or outside your family.
4)  Do you have occupational skills?  These, too, can be used to nurture others.
5)  At any gathering, two questions are useful in nurturing: what can I learn and what can I give.

You don't have to be a wife or mother to be a nurturer, but being a wife and mother is good training ground for learning how to nurture.  By the time our nest empties, we have usually learned how to tune into the needs of our husband and children.  Yet, our children are adults and, while they still need and appreciate our nurturing, they need a more subtle form of nurturing. Likewise, our husbands need us as much as ever, but, again, nurturing a husband is a tiny bit different than nurturing children.  Instead of bemoaning that we have worked our way out of a parenting job, it's better to celebrate!  We just graduated from a school of nurturing.  Our grown children are our diploma!  Now, we have lots of tenderness and love to give.  We've developed some skills.  So, we nurture our husbands, our grown children, and our grandchildren according to their needs, and we funnel all that extra nurturing sensitivity into loving others, as well.  If we keep our hearts and our eyes open, we'll see lots of little ways to invest in the growth of those around us.

Likewise, a single woman can be a nurturer.  Paul, after all, was single, and he nurtured the spiritual growth of countless people.  


Friday, October 05, 2012

Beautify our World...Respect

Respect is a balm that, when applied to human relationships, brings beauty to our lives.  defines this quality as

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.
 In Romans, God says:

Romans 13:7
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
I Peter 2:17 tells us:
Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
Speaking of the church, Hebrews 13:17 says
 Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Have you ever felt disrespected?  Have you been given a task to carry out or people to lead and, yet,  your role wasn't given the respect you needed to carry it out?   That's tough; isn't it?  Have you ever felt disrespected simply as a person, as if you didn't matter?  Oh, how that cuts our hearts.  We all function at our best when we are given respect.

Knowing this, it's important to respect people on at least two levels:  1)  We respect the basic person-hood of others, even of others over whom we might have some authority and 2) We respect the authority of those who are performing some sort of leadership role in our lives.   

Respecting people rightly comes from respecting the Lord.  (I Peter 3   We respect that others are made in his image, even if they, themselves, don't respect that fact.  We respect that he has ordained certain roles, such as government authorities or leaders in the church, to make our world function smoothly.  We respect the fact that while we must make judgements in many situations, we are not anyone's final judge -- God is.   He is the authority to whom we all must give account; in that regard, we are all on equal ground and we respect this fact.

We are able to overcome our fear of respecting those who have authority in our lives because we know that the Lord is ultimately caring for us.  (I Peter Chapter 3).   Fear of being hurt is a biggie for me, and there's where I lean on God.       

It's easy to respect people who are respectable.  It's easy to respect them when they, in turn, respect us.  Sometimes, however, a person to whom we owe respect isn't respectable in his or her own right.  Perhaps, they have poor judgement, or they are unfair.  Perhaps, they are making a mess of the job that they are called to do.  Here's the thing that's hard for us as moderns to grasp: We must show respect even to those with whom we disagree.      

For example,we may or may not like the President, but do we show respect when voicing our opinion?  We should.   The same is true when interacting with a parent, a teacher, a husband, the PTA president, our neighborhood watch, the policeman who's writing us a speeding ticket, etc.  In the U.S. and most European countries, we are fortunate to have a high level of free speech.  If we are to exercise that right responsibly, we must do so with respect.  

In the household, it's especially pleasant when all treat each other with respect.  It's also sobering when we realize how quickly children pick up on our respect or lack of respect for others.  Our impatience turns into their rolled eyes and crossed arms.   It's up to us to teach our children to respect others, and that begins with cultivating the quality of respect in our own hearts. 

Of course, in respecting others, there are times to speak up.   When Peter and others were rebuked for teaching the happy news about Christ and his kingdom, Peter replied, "We must obey God rather than men."

Likewise, we are not to show favoritism:

James tells us that we are to show basic respect to all and not to favor the rich.  

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  James 2:9
We are to treat the poorest and those of least influence among us with honor, just as we treat others.

How can we show respect for each other in the household?  Here are a dozen ways:
1)  Keep the common areas of the house neat; pick up after ourselves; don't borrow without asking; treat other people's private spaces with respect.
2)  Learn how to express feelings, even negative feelings, with respect.  The same thing can be said either with a heart of respect or with a heart of disrespect.  Choose respect.  Also remember that being tired, hungry, or sick is not an excuse to be irritable or disrespectful.     
3)  Listen when others express themselves.  Hear someone out even if we do not come to the same conclusion.  Make sure that children and the elderly know that someone cares enough about them to listen.  Listen to your spouse.  
4)  Use the old magic words:  Please, thank-you, Sir, Ma'am, etc.  Teach children how to show respect to adults and the elderly.  Teach them how to interact with peers.  Teach and use good manners.  Especially, teach children good manners regarding cell phones, texting, and social media.  Courtesy and manners are respect in action.
5) Pray for friends, family, neighbors, countries, political leaders, enemies, etc.  
6)  Care for the family pet with kindness.  Proverbs 12:10
7)  Make everyone who comes into the home feel welcomed.
8)  Respect neighbors' property.
9)  Teach children healthy limits and expect them to obey.  Don't exasperate children by laying overly heavy burdens on them.  On the other hand, don't let them indulge in disobedience or disrespect.   
10)  Help children navigate difficult interactions with peers, teachers, etc.  Help them not to lose confidence in God's love for them even if they face difficult times in school or on the playground.
11)  Be grateful!  Showing gratitude to others helps them feel respected.

And, most of all, honor God as individuals and as a family.

Respect will adorn your home and make your world a little more beautiful!