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Wearing Clean Clothes?

2 Sep

While waiting for my husband to try on some clothes at Macy’s the other day, I remembered a joke someone told me:

A man sat in the “husband chairs” as his wife tried on clothes in a fancy store.

After almost an hour of watching his wife parade outfit after outfit for his “approval,” the poor man had definitely had it!

So the next time his wife came out of the changing room, he exclaimed, “Wow, Babe. That’s a knockout! Why don’t you buy that one?”

His wife frowned. “Oh, right,” she said, “This is what I was wearing when we CAME IN!”  

LOL … and hold that thought.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I had a spiritual revelation when I heard that joke.

I heard this little voice ask me, “Are you wearing what you had on when you came in?”

Let me explain.

I thought about the day I came to Christ ~ that wonderful garment of holiness I received when I became a Christ-follower. I remember how clean and pure I felt when I first gave my life to Him.

But I get my spiritual “clothes” so soiled sometimes. Don’t you? That’s why the writer of Hebrews urges us to “Make every effort… to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14). It takes effort!  Yes, it’s true that when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9), we are clean through the blood of the Lamb ~ but the scriptures tell us some things to “put off” and other things to “put on” (Ephesians 4:22-24). When we do, our spiritual garments stay fresh and clean.

The apostle Paul uses the words “put off” to illustrate that we need to “divest” ourselves of some things … to strip them off just as we would some dirty clothes. We need to do this daily, because the corruption in the world tends to cling to us.

What kinds of things do we “put off”? We put off anything that belongs to the corrupted old self. Things that we repent over and leave behind. Various lusts within and influences without make our spiritual garments spotty and smelly!

I read recently that harmful bacteria can linger on clothes we think are clean. In the same way, we may think we are “clean” before the Lord … but it’s good to ask Him if there is “something else” lingering in our lives ~ a “hint” of the unclean (see Ephesians 5:3), or perhaps something we need to see from God’s  perspective.

After we “put off” the unclean things, there are things that we “put on”… things that relate to the new self. It’s not a matter of us trying to “launder” our soiled clothes, but rather to strip them off and allow the Lord to give us fresh, pure garments as He transforms us from within. We are a new creation in Christ … created for true righteousness and holiness. And God’s Word lists many ways that we can put on the pure character of Christ. 

This is not an exhaustive list* by any means, but simply some suggestions for consideration:

Can you imagine how exciting and effective your life would be if you Put Off and Put On all of those things? Wow!

The important thing is that we realize we have the opportunity every day to wear clean spiritual garments, just as when we first came to Christ.

His grace, mercy and forgiveness are powerful, and our Father God is working to transform us every day into the image of Christ. And ONE DAY, we will receive a spotless garment ~ “fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:14) for all eternity! Praise God!

* There are many such lists on the internet… here is one.

– Dawn

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How to Live a ‘Golden Rule Lifestyle’

26 Aug

Three young boys keep my young friend Deedra Lindsey Sherm busy these days. I had to laugh at this exchange she shared on Facebook:

Son #1: “Mom! He hit me!”

Deedra to Son #2: “Son, did you hit your brother?”

Son #2: “Yes, but he hit me, so …uh …you know … the Golden Rule!”

LOL, right?

Obviously, Son #2 didn’t have a clue about the true meaning of the Golden Rule. The biblical maxim is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, we are to treat others as we want them to treat us. Son #2 would re-write that to read, “Do unto others BECAUSE they just did to you!”

The same Golden Rule concept is found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 ~ “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Other than the obvious fact that this will make our “neighbors” (or anyone we have contact with) enjoy greater blessings, it also does something for us. We feel better about how we relate to others; we feel happier and we know we are pleasing God. When we are generous in our interactions with people, God blesses us in unexpected ways (see Proverbs 11:25).

So what are some practical ways we can live out the royal rule in relationships ~ the Golden Rule? Here are eight simple ways:

(1) Think and reflect. Take time to consider how you’d want to be treated. Use your imagination. Create some scenarios and think, “How would I want someone to respond? What would I want someone to do or say?”

(2) Ask God for a sensitive heart. Try to understand, as best you can, what a person’s need is or why he or she behaves in a certain way. Walk a mile in a person’s moccasins (or Jimmy Choo heels) so you can empathize. Let a Golden Rule lifestyle begin with you! Pray for opportunities to bless others.

(3) Act with kindness and compassion (see Ephesians 4:32). Have you ever noticed that once you “get” the suffering or circumstances of others, you are drawn to help them or at least pray for them? Rather than practicing random acts of kindness, be proactive. Ask, “What can I do, if anything, to relieve this person’s pain or struggle?” When God speaks, follow through.

(4) Open your ears before you speak. It’s so easy to give advice before we have the whole story (Proverbs 18:13); and sometimes all a person needs is a caring person who will listen. Understanding comes through listening, not talking. Consider how you would want to be heard, and respect others enough to give them the same courtesy.

(5) Be a helper and healer. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision ~ to only see our own needs. Once our eyes are open to needs and struggles, it’s a sign of great personal strength to be helpful in practical ways, or even to find ways to bind up (bandage) a person’s heart. (I recognize that sometimes, only Jesus can help and heal; but maybe you can remind a person that a loving God has all the power and help they will ever need. You may need to introduce them to Him.)

(6) Be a true friend. Be careful and respect others’ boundaries, but ask God to help you reach out in friendship in a meaningful way. Open your heart and arms and welcome people into your life. Let them know you care and want to be with them.

(7) See the individual, not your differences. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan ~ the man who reached out to care for the desperate victim saw him as a man, not through the lens of prejudice. Think about any prejudices you might have that would prevent you from practicing The Golden Rule:  age differences? skin color or nationality? gender? appearances? Ask God to help you see people the way He sees them. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has needs. Be humble and Christ-like, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-7).

(8) Sometimes, turn the other cheek (see Luke 6:27-31). Some people are just plain mean and uncaring. But that doesn’t mean we retaliate or “pay them back” for their bad treatment. The Golden Rule isn’t an excuse for retaliation when others act extreme; but rather, encouragement to treat others well, regardless of their behavior. We allow others to own their feelings and behaviors, and we rise above circumstances as we put on the character of Christ and respond as He would.

The simple truth is, a Golden Rule Lifestyle will bless us as we bless others. Live it out “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7).

Does someone come to mind that needs to experience the Golden Rule, applied from your life to theirs? How will you respond?

– Dawn

The Writing on The Wall

19 Aug

Although much of graffiti is tasteless and nasty, there are some clean, clever graffiti scrawls:

  • On a Beware of the Dog sign … the words were added, “He is very sarcastic.”
  • On a sign for a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger, the word “Cheeseburger” is covered over by the word “Bypass.”
  • On a blank billboard, freshly painted for a new sign, someone wrote the words, “The joy of not being sold anything.”
  • And my favorite … on a sign for a graffiti removal service hotline, someone drew a stick-figure man with a bucket of blue paint and paintbrush … and the little man painted over the ad’s phone number!

Last week, I wrote about facing death and dying… but hopefully, we’ll have some time before we have to deal with that. This post is about dealing with the now.

In a twist on graffiti, for two months in April the citizens in New Orleans were invited to write their “bucket list”-type thoughts on walls at two locations on the opposite sides of the city. The walls ~ painted in chalkboard black over a formerly graffiti-marked structure ~ had an attached receptacle filled with chalk, and passersby were encouraged to fill in the blank after the words, “Before I die I want to …”

New Orleans artist Candy Chang first created the “Before I die” project in 2011 on the side of an abandoned house. Much of the neighborhood was still a wreck after Hurricane Katrina. She felt the project would help ease the city’s pain and give a voice to the community. “The wall,” Chang said, “becomes an enlightened way to get to know your neighbors and discover what matters most to the people around you.” It became a cross-section of citizens’ thoughts and dreams.

The Savannah project team said there was only one requirement. The scrawlings must “Be profound, Not profane.” Many expressions do include the profound: Before I die I want to … “discover who I am” … “love someone” …  “make a difference” … “save a life” … “make the world a better place” … “be someone’s cavalry” … “abandon all insecurities.”

But others are more lighthearted or reflect personal goals:  Before I die I want to … “swim without holding my nose” … “complete my PhD” …  “be published” … “live with the Amish” … “learn French” … “own a monkey” … “sing for millions” … “straddle the International Date Line.”

Some writers tagged off of others’ comments. One that made me laugh was this chalkboard post:  Before I die I want to “marry someone else who wrote on this wall.” Off to the side, in bright pink chalk were the words, “Me, too!”

Another scribe wrote, Before I die I want to “understand.” Below it, a writer said, Before I die I want to “be OK with NOT understanding.”

Wall spin-offs have shown up throughout the US, Mexico, Canada, Portugal, Holland, England, South Africa, and even in Kazakhstan. A wall in Lebanon changed the concept up a bit, asking people to fill in this blank: Lebanon would be better if ….

We might consider that, too:  America would be better if …. Then we can consider whether there’s something we can do to make it better instead of depending so much on the government!

[I know this is off-topic, but I couldn’t help thinking of some writing on a wall (words of judgment) that changed the course of an entire nation (Daniel 5:1-31). I wondered what God might write on a wall concerning America … or our churches. But most of all, I wondered what He might write on a wall concerning my own life.]

But back to those chalkboard walls … how would I finish that sentence: Before I die I want to…” The Bible says, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) ~ and this is talking about a revelation from God, a word from the Lord.  I want my answers to reflect God’s truth and biblical wisdom for myself, my family, my church, and my nation.

So many people have bucket lists today. Some bucket lists have huge, grandiose dreams like visiting the Great Wall of China or standing atop the Eiffel Tower or having lunch with a favorite sports hero. A friend of mine, Laura, has simple, attainable items on her bucket list (like having lunch with a certain couple at church) … and that’s a good way to go, because the more accumulated goals we reach, the more potential for celebration we achieve!

Come up with sports you want to try or something in nature you want to do or see; a language you want to learn or subject you want to master; an instrument you want to learn or something challenging to try related to music; an animal you want to adopt; a book you want to read; a monument or museum you want to visit; a hobby you want to learn;  a mission you want to accomplish; a project you want to fund … the possibilities are endless! You are still alive and life is an adventure ~ fill your bucket list and see how many you can accomplish!

How about you? What would you write on that chalkboard wall? Is there anything you can do ~ choices you can make ~ to get closer to achieving that goal?

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