Friday, October 23, 2015

The Joy Thief

Back when I was working, I used something called a comparison microscope on an almost daily basis. In that setting I was using it to compare toolmarks to see if they were made by the same tool.

For some reason a few days ago thinking of the term "comparison microscope" made me realize that's sometimes what we do with our lives, our looks, our love, our lifestyles. We compare.

Like so many quotes you can see in pretty lettering with a chalkboard background these days all over the internet, I can't give proper authorship to this one (most say Theodore Roosevelt or Dwight Edwards). Whoever said it it is true ...

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Yet we often take a microscope to ourselves and look at all the ways we aren't like that girl on the fitness video, or that mom that wrote that one book or blog, or that wife whose husband can't say enough wonderful things about her.

Sometimes in reading about fitness I find quotes that encourage us to compare to ourselves. Friend, I am 37 years old ... I have had two beautiful children ... I will NEVER look like I did in high school. And I wasn't even happy with myself then.

If I compared every day of our marriage to our honeymoon ... that's just not really fair is it? I love our home, but our room is not nearly this opulent and fragile and child-free. Great for romance, but lacking in rambunctious family clamor that is music to my ears (at least, when my ears aren't trying to listen to Tim or another adult attempt to converse with me). They both have their place and I would have wasted my honeymoon sighing over children to be or I could waste the girls' precious years at home sighing away over that once in a lifetime vacation.

I don't know about you, but I don't have multiple chandeliers and a hot tub in my bedroom ... (though I will own up that I have a chandelier over my claw foot tub and that's pretty close to being on vacation)
Arguably worse is when we take our microscope and put someone else on the stage. "Well, at least I didn't do THAT/have THAT disease/have THAT happen to me."

Bless her heart.

In case y'all ain't from the glorious South ... bless her heart is often another way to say "perk up your listenin' ears y'all cause I'm about to gossip!" Ain't pokin' fun ... when I get riled up I recon I still talk like this.

It isn't a blessing at all but a curse on them and on ourselves. Man, you won't find me in line wanting to be a Pharisee ... but if we aren't careful sometimes in trying to make ourselves feel better about our own situation we become modern day Pharisees and separate ourselves from the people we should be serving alongside.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you, God, than I am not a sinner like everyone else ...' - Luke 18:11

In Biblical days, no one had mirrors in every room and HD clarity screens reflecting polished and airbrushed lives back to them. Most translations of 1 Corinthians 13:12 ("For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face." - NIV) use adjectives that do not imply the modern devices of perfect glass coated with pure metals: imperfectly, puzzling reflections, dim, darkly, in obscurity, indistinctly, blurred. They weren't even capable of knowing their features well enough to waste the time of them we do.

But comparison must be part of human nature, because there are warnings against it.

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galations 6:4-5

When Satan keeps us busy comparing ourselves to others ... at the park, on the jogging trail, at work, on Instatwitface ... we aren't carrying our load. We aren't helping others carry theirs.

And here is joy ... picking up the burden shoulder to shoulder with others whose lives do not mirror our own. Love and peace and fullness of spirit in serving each other as we were intended. Not looking at our differences or ourselves but looking at The One we serve.

Remote village in Nicaragua 
School in Nicaragua

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Let It Shine

As a Christian, I am called to reflect God's light.

I can't do that if I let something come between Him and me. Like anger. Or frustration. My focus is so fickle. And as a mom, when my light goes out it can easily take two little lights with it.

This morning I was packing up a picnic lunch for after story time at the library. I had a to do list and I was doing it. Suddenly I got that "too quiet" feeling any parent dreads.

The ENTIRE contents of Victoria's chest of drawers
They had used the hand-washing stool from the bathroom to empty the chest of drawers in Victoria's room. Every last item of 18 and 24 month clothing was on the floor. Mixed up. In a heap. Jumbled together like nobody's business.

My focus swung from God to the fact that it was 10:05 and we needed to be in the car and ready to roll by 10:15 to make it. My to do list, on which I had been making great progress, suddenly stretched long against one of the busiest days of the week. The light surely dimmed.

What I wish had happened next is that I had gotten down on my knees and said in a soft, kind voice that mommy was upset that they had done this and lets pray together because mommy needs to cool down. You can see from sweet sensitive Shelby's posture that wasn't what happened right away. And another precious light dimmed.

Sometimes I have to polish up with tears in order to get back to reflecting God's light. Sometimes I need someone else to reflect His light into my own dark places.

Depending on which version you read, John 1:5 says:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not/has not overcome/extinguished/comprehended it.

I want to bring light to darkness, and God's Word says the darkness cannot overcome the light. It is a moment by moment choice I make to let God's light shine. In my home, and in the world.

Waxing poetic about how dark sin is ... how abortion wrecks lives and slaughters innocence, how modern slavery grasps at so many around us but we largely ignore it ... doesn't brighten the darkness. It is the clanging of a gong without love. Love is the way we bring light.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. - 1 Corinthians 13:1

Bringing God's light is the only way to expose and defeat the darkness. While there are many ways I feel like God has called me to bring light, one of them is becoming a Noonday Ambassador. I was still considering this a few weeks ago but now I have embraced that torch.

The name Noonday comes from Isaiah 58:10:

if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

This is a way for me to show others, show the world, that I care. And I get to play with beautiful jewelry and get out of the house and be social. Until I went to Austin Christian Fellowship I thought you weren't serving unless you were completely uncomfortable and ... well, miserable. But I now believe God gives us different passions and abilities. And He wants us to use them and part of our joy is that we enjoy using them!

Noonday was founded by Jessica Honegger when she sold paper bead jewelry from two artisans in Uganda to her friends in Austin to help bring Jack, their adopted son, home from Rwanda. In five short years it has grown. Y'all - they are doing things right.

October is Fair Trade Month and Noonday practices fair trade. Another purpose of Noonday in addition to supporting adoptions is to help the artisans making these beautiful pieces rise up out of poverty against oft impossible odds. Responsibly. Sustainably.

Light. God's light. I am here to bring God's light into the world in whatever ways He chooses to use me. I'm not always the best reflector - I let life eclipse what He wants to do through me. I pray every day He will polish these bumps and dings to refract His light all the more and show other's His beauty.

Have you ever been outside during the full moon away from the city lights? Our barndominium is out in here in the country. It is astoundingly dark when the moon is dark. But you might as well have a security light up when that moon is full. My ability to reflect God waxes and wanes depending on how much of me is turned toward Him. I don't want to shift like the moon. My face longs to be fully turned to Him in all circumstances - even when there four seasons of two sizes of clothing all over the floor and places to be.