Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Sunday, January 15, 2017

This will make somebody mad

I’m not a country music fan, but on weekday mornings while dressing for work and making my bed, I listen to a local station for news and weather. Hearing the latest country songs is a sometimes questionable fringe benefit. One song that seems to be getting a lot of air time lately is “Better Man,” recorded by Little Big Town and written by Taylor Swift.

I’m not surprised this song is gaining popularity. I imagine multitudes of women relate to it, and I confess these kinds of thoughts have tromped across my own brain and emotions many a time. This could have worked out if only you were a better man. I don’t doubt that many a regret-filled man listens to this song with a woulda-coulda-shoulda nod of his sorry, sad head.

But just hold on a minute. Let’s imagine that a guy were singing the same song, wishing his lost love had been a better woman. How might we react to these lyrics:

I hold onto this pride because these days it’s all I have
And I gave you my best and we both know you can’t say that
You can’t say that
I wish you were a better woman
I wonder what we would’ve become
If you were a better woman
We might still be in love
If you were a better woman
You would’ve been the one
If you were a better woman.

Do you find these words offensive? Anyone? And if so, why is that? Why, if the original version is okay? All I did was switch the genders.

I think this song might be equally popular if a man were singing it, saying “We might still be in love if I were a better man.” Women everywhere would nod, possibly fall a little bit in love with this guy who’s finally seeing the light.

But let’s turn that idea on its head. Some woman singing, “We might still be in love if I were a better woman,” would incite an outpouring of female support for this poor soul suffering so heavily from rock bottom self-esteem. You just need to be you, Honey. You don’t need to make yourself over for no man. You’re fine just the way you are!

Help me understand this. Without falling back on the “centuries of oppression make it okay” argument. How is it not sexist to say it’s acceptable for a woman to sing this song, but not for a man? How is it not childish to want it both ways? Thinking that the success of a relationship falls solely on the man being “a better man” turns women into the helpless stereotypes women have fought against for years. 

We say we want to receive the same respect as men, but how can that ever happen if society as a whole doesn’t respect men any more than this? Am I missing something?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Meeting Yourself

The other day, I came across this definition of hell from an
unknown source: “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”

It was meant to motivate us to achieve our potential. But that could go either way, couldn’t it? 

Let’s say today is my last day on earth and I get to meet this fabulous person I could have become. Let’s say she’s accomplished far more than I did. She’s published hundreds of novels that have sold millions of copies because she started much earlier and learned the craft at a younger age. Her marriage, family, and friendships are thriving because she invested in them selflessly. She’s physically fit because she resisted all that junk and applied herself to exercise. She licked all her issues with jealousy and resentment years ago. No one’s heard a sarcastic comment from her mouth in decades. She’s fearless. She’s kind and encouraging and genuinely compassionate. Her social calendar is full, because people can’t wait to spend time with her. She’s overflowing with energy, daily extending generous hospitality in her well-appointed home. 

I kind of hate her.

And I suppose that would be hellish torture, knowing it’s now too late.

But what if the person I could have become is entirely different? She’s all alone because she gave up on her marriage. She’s worried about becoming homeless because she just couldn’t handle work anymore and there’s no money coming in. She quit writing because the rejection and criticism were too much. She’s turned to alcohol for an escape. She smokes because it settles her nerves. She rarely gets off the sofa (which, by the way, is covered in cat hair) because all that weight is just too challenging to move around. She’s wallowing in self-pity and takes it out on her children who never come around or call. Convinced life has dealt her an unfair hand, she’s well known on social media and at the public works department for her constant complaining and demands. Even her cat is growing weary of her company.

It’s not really that big a stretch to think I could become her. Well, except maybe for the smoking part. Eww.

Frankly, both scenarios are a little depressing.

Here’s the thing. God made each of us with far more potential than we can imagine. And no matter how hard we work, we will never live up to it while we’re on this earth because we are broken people in a broken world. It’s great when we can rise above circumstances, when we can achieve much through our diligence. But if this life was all there is, I don’t think I’d be motivated to do or achieve anything. What would be the point?

I’ve got something better driving me.

You see, I’m not going to meet the person I could have become. I will become the person I could have become—when (and only when) I meet my Creator face to face and he finishes transforming me into the me he had in mind all along. All the hang-ups gone, forever. A perfect new body. A heart that carries inside it only love. A mind that knows only truth. Joyful. Radiant. And the more I can look like her in this life, the easier it will be for my friends to recognize me in the next.

2017 has arrived. Maybe today won’t be your last on earth, but it’s coming. Sooner or later. And each day between now and your last can make you a teensy bit more like the person your Creator had in mind—if you let him begin his transformation work now. Ask him. 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” –Revelation 21:4-5

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Grinchiest Grinch

I was delighted to discover How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Netflix. The one with Jim Carrey. It’s pretty much my all-time favorite Christmas movie. I laughed all over again at parts I’d forgotten or maybe never noticed.

My favorite bit is when the Grinch sets up his dog, Max, to play Santa’s reindeer and goes into his Ron Howard impersonation, complete with ball cap. (Ron Howard is the movie’s director—any wonder it was such a success? I’ll watch anything that guy creates.)

Anyway. The story unfolds. The Grinch’s history is explained, making him a sympathetic character in spite of his contemptible behavior. Cindy-Lou sings the sweetest song ever. The compassion and courage of a little girl raise the bar for all of Who-ville. The Grinch is welcomed into their circle. The mayor is duly penalized for his meanness. The audience is left with the appropriate warm fuzzies. One might say the lesson here is that we need to be kind and accepting toward someone who is different. And that’s not a bad lesson.
But there’s so much more. 

I think the lesson is that Christmas comes. Regardless. Ready or not.

I don’t know whether Dr. Seuss intended his story as an allegory, but it works. You see, the very first Grinch was none other than King Herod, the evil ruler who felt threatened by the Jew’s promise of a coming king. He tried to trick the wisemen into disclosing the whereabouts of the Christ child in order to destroy him. When that failed, he had all the baby boys in Bethlehem under the age of two killed. (See Matthew 2 for the full story.) Talk about contemptible behavior.

Try to imagine this occurring in your home town. I’ve got a grandson in that category. Unthinkable, right? Not a family would go unaffected. Not to mention the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this mass murder. I’m sure no one called it “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome” back then, but I’m certain it existed just the same.

But even that evil scheme didn’t work. Christmas came anyway.

Christmas came because Jesus gave up everything to come here and live and teach and do miracles and then, ultimately, to die for us. He knew what he was in for. He did it anyway. Out of love.

So I suppose one reason I like this movie so much is because when I see all the Whos in Who-ville gathered around the tree singing—I know I’m one of them. I stand in church on Sunday mornings with my fellow believers and sing about the one who brought us Christmas. And I know one day we’ll be gathered around his throne, relishing eternal life, peace, and freedom. Because he came. Anyway.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

But where does the pig go?

This year, with little energy to spare, I’ve scaled back on Christmas festivities. I skipped my work Christmas party and will gladly stay home while my hubby attends his. Our big tree still sits in its box. The six Rubbermaid tubs of ornaments downstairs remain mostly full. Our house is not lit up outside. Gift shopping was done online from our living room. I plan to bake only one treat. (Lest I look like a complete Grinch, I did manage to set up an 18-inch tree, hang a wreath on each door, and dig out a Christmas tablecloth for the dining table.)

I’m fine with scaling back. I wanted to keep the focus on Jesus this year anyway. But how exactly does one do that? 

This might sound weird coming from someone who claims to follow Jesus Christ, but I’ve never owned an actual nativity scene. When our kids were little, they had a Fisher-Price farm set. We’d set it up like a nativity scene, dress the little people in scraps of fabric, and the “baby” in some fuzzy felt. The horse transformed into a donkey. We never felt sure where the pig might fit in, but the dog, chicken, and rooster? Why not? We added an angel candle who behaved perfectly. The children could tell the story and play with the characters as much as they wanted. While we read the story aloud from Luke 2 on Christmas morning, the kids took turns moving the people and animals into place.

Once the kids outgrew the farm set, we gave it away. Now I wish I’d found somewhere to store it. At the time, having grandchildren seemed a lifetime away. It’s crazy how fast that happens, though, isn’t it?

And until now, I’ve never invested in a “proper” nativity scene. Most of them look too religiousy and fancy for my liking, with their bright colors, gilded edges, and halos. I wanted something a little more down-to-earth.

So, this was the year. Yesterday I took myself to Heritage Book and Gift Shoppe and purchased this basic six-piece Willow Tree nativity set (I already had the two little angels you see here). I love it! And I think this old German wine crate makes a fine stable, don’t you? The set can be expanded many times over (hint, hint family!) with additional shepherds, animals, wise men, and angels. There is no pig.

I’m deeply grateful Jesus didn’t “scale back” his grace and mercy, but came here to save us. I hope my little nativity set helps us focus on the real reason for Christmas for many years to come. When I look at it, one thought prevails: Emmanuel. God with us.