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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pearl Casting

Criticism is hard and I do not take it well (that’s the honest truth and has held me back from writing this post for a couple of months—some of you might not like it or me). Recently I was talking to a friend who had taken a couple of e-blows on her blog from people who don’t like some personal decisions she has shared.  Of course I got defensive and swung first to the “let’s slash their tires” mode.  

So I got on Pinterest….I waded through some of my favs like these. (Please note, there are no links to these on this page, that would defeat the entire purpose of this post  - read on).

I made these and they are amazing.  

This one just cracks me up......

I really do want this spoon, I would use it everyday......

And then saw this reminder of one of my favorite verses about getting along, and got back to the issue at hand, how can we live at peace with another when we disagree so often?

I began to think about two passages and their connection.  These have been bouncing around in my head for awhile now. They both apply here.  I think that finding the balance between these verses is a key in making a wise response to criticism. 

[Verse Number One]
Don't give to dogs what belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don't throw pearls down in front of pigs. They will trample all over them.”  Matthew 7:6 CEV

[Verse Number Two]
“Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life.  Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.”  1 Peter 3:15 CEV

In my “tire-slashing I’ll take on anyone who dares say a word against those I love” mode Verse One was the one I quoted to my friend.  But later as I was still ruminating, Verse Two came to mind too.  I believe that there is a holy balance that comes with following Jesus in everyday life, and these verses are just one example.  It’s hard to live out both of these verses.  No, not hard – impossible. 

And that’s the point.

So, what about these verses? Disclaimer regarding the dog-pig thing: the use of this imagery would’ve been understood as Jesus spoke these words in cultural context to refer to those who live apart from God.  He’s not necessarily dogging anyone (pun intended). Jesus is not calling names, He is instructing us to distinguish between those who understand and those who don’t; between those who are listening to obey His Truth and those who just aren’t.  I love this footnote in my Study Bible regarding Verse One; “Believers are to be merciful, forgiving and slow to judge, yet they should wisely discern the true character of people and not indefinitely continue proclaiming the gospel to those who adamantly reject it, so that they can move on and proclaim the gospel to others.”  ESV Study Bible, note on Matthew 7:6. (See also 10:14, Acts 13:46, 18:6).

Now, balance Verse One with the amazing challenge of Verse Two and you’ll end up in the right place.  To honor means to treat something as heavy….. [valuable things back then were heavy]: it means to give something weight and value in your life.  If Jesus is the Rock that holds down the rest of my life and faith and reactions and emotions and decisions and everything I will be hopeful and I will be ready to tell the Truth when I’m asked about my hope because He steadies me regardless of circumstances.  Please see with me, there isn’t room for judging people who disagree with you or are farther behind you in the journey toward spiritual maturity.  Keep telling the Truth with mercy, but don’t make the mistake of believing God needs you to defend Him.  He invites you to know Him, live in that relationship, and tell the Truth about HIM. If your life or the life of another misrepresents Him it doesn’t change Him.  In fact, a life mis-lived for a season then laid down in submission to Him represents God better than any of our manmade versions of Christianity that make us feel so proud.  Should we aspire to this? No. (Romans 6:1-3) But we should be as afraid of being over-religious as we are of being pig-dogs.  If we are relating to God first and then others the way we should we will encounter opposition.  Big deal, that’s not really the issue and not even close to what Jesus endured (Heb.12:3-4).  The real decision comes in what to do next. 

If you share a part of your story in a public manner, you have to be prepared to take all sorts of reactions…..but, BUTthis is a big ole’ but… don’t owe a defense of your honestly told story.  When someone reacts negatively to something you share you need to listen, pray, filter, and then choose.  Is this a Verse One or a Verse Two opportunity?  Both opportunities should be answered with kindness and grace that points toward the Truth-telling merciful nature of Jesus, but one opens up more details and more access to your heart than the other.  Sometimes, when we take a critical blow we make the assumption that the person lobbing the grenade deserves an all-access entrance into our story.  And that’s just not so.  When we feel misunderstood or disliked and just open up our precious stories of God’s faithfulness (pearls) without His guidance we are being idolatrous, because really we are saying that the person’s acceptance is more important than God’s.

Honor God.
Let Him be Lord.
Recognize Him as the Pearl-Maker.
Treasure His faithfulness.
Share your stories.
Listen to criticism.
Filter criticism through the Word.
Ask God to help you perceive who is really listening to HIM.
Tell them the Truth.
Show kindness and a QUIET defensive-less attitude to those who aren’t.
Keep honoring God as you refuse to be drawn into meaningless battles.
Keep the peace…..
            But only as far as it depends on YOU.
Leave the rest to Him.  He can handle it. Perfectly.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ice Chest Tea

A few years ago I was invited to be a hostess for a baby shower.  I can't remember what I was in charge of but it wasn't punch.  When I walked into the kitchen I saw two other hostesses scurrying around the kitchen baby shower style trying to work around a large ice chest right under the kitchen bar.  I imagined it was full of bags of ice or maybe had been used to carry in some marvelous "watermelon carved in the image of the baby's ultrasound picture fruit salad" or some such nonsense.  But no, it was the punch, directly IN the ice chest.  We ladled this most amazingly delicious stuff straight out of the ice chest into a beautiful crystal punch bowl in the center of the shower table.  It was delicious and sweet and citrusy....beverage perfection.  I begged and begged for the recipe and I finally got it.   [Wanna hear something  hilarious?  The friend who gave me the recipe admitted to me the other day that she has lost it and needs it back!]

Since then I have changed it up some to go directly into one of these 3 gallon beverage containers but it's still so good straight out of an ice chest.  No kidding, my parents made this for a Sunday School party they hosted the day before we were all coming for some family shindig.  We drank the leftovers right out of the ice chest spigot all weekend....and it just kept getting better and better.  I must admit that some think this tea is too sweet, but most beg me for the recipe.

This tea is just lemons, limes, and oranges cut up and squeezed and mixed with instant (YES, I SAID INSTANT) tea, sugar, and lots and lots of great ice.  The great ice really is a must.  When my friend makes it she cuts the fruit up into little bitty pieces that can be ladled into the cups....I'm too lazy  for that.  I also use more tea mix and less sugar. I'm not even going to tell you how many pounds are in the original recipe.  I just quarter (for the limes and lemons) and double quarter (for the oranges) the fruit and squeeze the juice into a bowl dropping the fruit right in with the juice. Then I mix up the sugar and instant tea with some water....enough to dissolve both.  Then I pour in lots of ice and the fruit and fresh juice and fill it up with water.

For a 3 gallon container (like the one in the picture) or for an ice chest:
  • 12 lemons
  • 6 oranges
  • 6 limes
  • 1 - 28.5 oz container sweetened Lipton Iced Tea
  • 2-3 cups sugar
Cut limes and lemons into fourths and squeeze juice into a large bowl.  Cut oranges into eighths and squeeze juice into the same bowl.  As you squeeze the juice drop the fruit into the bowl. Pour tea mix and sugar into the beverage container or ice chest and add water to dissolve both. Stir VERY well.  Add ice (to fill about halfway) and pour fruit and fruit juice in.  Stir very well.  Add water and ice to fill and to taste.  Use more ice if the beverage container will be sitting for a long time or if you are serving in warm weather where ice will melt more quickly.  Be sure and taste the tea especially if you started with 2 cups of sugar to see if you need more.  That is not a joke.

For a 2 quart pitcher you might use at home, use these amounts and follow the directions above:
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 2/3 cup ice tea mix
  • 1/3 - 2/3 cup sugar

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Grown Up Bedtime Devotion Lesson

Don't you love how you plan out lessons to teach your child and God gently reminds you of the lessons that still need learning in your own life?  (I totally started that sentence out to be sarcastic, but am smiling as I realize that I really do love it; there is such joy in being loved enough to be corrected with intentional grace).

This is a short excerpt from a bedtime devotion time with my youngest this week.....who is 4.....and the most imaginative child EVAH!

“Eve….Eve, wake up,” the gentle voice
[This is a BIBLE?]
{Well, it’s a book that tells the stories of the Bible.}

gentle voice whispered.  “Who is it? Who’s there? Eve mumbled stretching her arms and wiggling her toes for the very
[Sometimes I chew my toes.]
{That is super sick and utterly disgusting, don’t do that anymore.}

for the very first time.  Eve stretched again and sat up.  When she opened her eyes she couldn’t believe
[Is that water?]
{No, I think it’s just a little road in the Garden of Eden, but I’m not sure why they have a road in the Garden of Eden. Maybe it’s just a path.}

she couldn’t believe what she saw. Carefully trying her brand-new legs Eve ran through the garden, touching things for the very first time.  Suddenly she glanced behind her
[I was good mostly tonight at Cubbies, but a little bit bad.]
{Really?  Why were you bad?}
[Now is that water?]
{Yes, that’s the waterfall that God is showing Eve. How were you bad?}
[Eve and Adam ate the apple and God told them NO but they ate it anyway and got in big trouble.]

 Insert entire MUCH NEEDED teaching moment on obedience 
here during which we totally lost our place.

Wow, she’s pretty Adam whispered.  Yes she is. And she will be a better friend for you than the animals are.  She can talk and
[Look those two birds are in love and so are the Adam and Eve!]

Prayer time….. [ABCDEFG, Thank you God for loving me. I’ll be good and do nice. Amen.]

{Thank you God for this precious daughter and for your patience with me.  I’ve grown tired and impatient with her and expected her to react like I do instead of exactly like she should as a 4-year-old learning about life and family and friendship and You.  Help me to show the same patience toward her that you show to me, welcoming her distractions and interruptions as the gifts they are and as the reminders they are of grace and beauty and humor and faith.  Strengthen me in my weakness to give my kids the best of me and not the leftover - in instruction and energy and affection and example.}