A foul odor …

“No matter how hard you work, you’ll have nothing to show for it— bankrupt lives, wasted souls…. You’ll press apples but never drink the cider.” Micah 6:14,15

I keep a pint-size bottle of Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar by my bed. If you aren’t aware of this product, you may want to Google the benefits of it and buy a bottle. All my life I’ve had leg cramps during the night. I discovered that taking a quick gulp of the vinegar makes the cramp leave in the matter of seconds. It’s also great for indigestion.

Last night I dropped the bottle of vinegar on the hard floor and the cap shattered, spilling nearly the whole pint on to the floor next to my bed. Besides being frustrated that I wasted a bottle of this precious liquid ($4.00 a pint), the smell of vinegar permeated through the room. While leaning over the bed, I became light headed from the fumes. I couldn’t help but think that a product so good can become caustic. With a little Febreze refresher, the odor eventually subsided enough for me to get to sleep, and gratefully, I had no leg cramps last night.

It is amazing that something as sweet as an apple can become vinegar when allowed to ferment. Pope John XXIII said, “Men (mankind) are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” Let’s all try to be the “best.”

Lord, help us to seek goodness in our lives. Amen.

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Body language …

“Your anger tears at me, your teeth rip me to shreds, your eyes burn holes in me—God, my enemy!” Job 16:9

“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!” An elderly friend spoke with her eyes. I’d be chatting with her and suddenly I’d see disapproval, or felt as if I were being judged, by the way she shifted her eyes, rolled them a bit, or stared at me. I doubt if she knew her eyes had a negative effect on the way she communicated with people.

We know people who speak with their hands. The swinging of the arms, wringing of the hands, or the way they appear to be conducting an orchestra  makes me want to take a step backward to avoid being clobbered. These gestures overshadow anything someone might be saying.

Public speaking coaches teach the importance of understanding body language  while verbally communicating. The way we stand, especially if our arms are in a closed-off position, makes it appear the speaker is not engaging with his or audience.

A professional videographer captured an hour-long presentation I made. It was a humbling experience to watch it. “Is that really how I look and act?” I thought. I critiqued the way I presented myself, “Did I look too casual? Too stiff?  Engaging?” It was a good experience—one everyone should do regardless if a public speaker or not.

Lord, help us see how we communicate through the eyes of those who see and hear us. Amen.

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Seal the tongue …

“Observe the people who always talk before they think— even simpletons are better off than they are.” Proverbs 29:20

Yesterday I was reminded that sometimes I need to batten down the tongue until my thoughts can catch up. I’ve always said one of my strengths is my ability to communicate and one of my weakest is that I communicate too much or fail to think first before speaking. I become excited about something and just have to share. However, if you tell me you’ll cut my tongue out if I share something confidential, I can do that, too.

Communication is an art developed early in our lives to say what we think, convey what we want, or acknowledge what we’ve heard. Ghandi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I keep a statue in my office of the three monkeys–no see, no hear, and no speak–to remind me of the importance of communication. Yet, when engaged in lively conversation, I find it difficult to think faster than I speak.

Communication is an art developed early in our lives to say what we think, convey what we want, or acknowledge what we’ve heard. Blogger Jim Rohn wrote about communication, “It’s as though we start with a giant blank canvas and we then begin to paint a picture, any picture we desire.” However, when an artist is unsatisfied with his or her creation, it can be scrapped by brushing a layer of paint over the original piece. A comment made can’t be brushed over.

Lord, seal my lips until my thoughts are satisfactory to you. Amen.

 

 

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Wanted: True friendships …

“This isn’t the neighborhood bully mocking me—I could take that. This isn’t a foreign devil spitting invective—I could tune that out. It’s you! We grew up together! You! My best friend! Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.” Psalm 55:12

Friendships remain a topic of interest to me. I’ve stated before, I hope to write a book this year on finding and nourishing friendships after reaching turning 50—the AARP group of people. Perhaps since I was raised with brothers, I’ve held close to my heart my girlfriends. On rare occasions I’ve had to deal with the loss of a friend, and such as David laments in Psalm 55, you wonder what went wrong and examine your heart for clues. It’s painful, especially when you consider all the life experiences you’ve had and the times when you supported one another.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, wrote in his book, “The Inner Voice of Love—A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom” what is a real friend. He says, “Many of your friendships grew from your need for affection, affirmation, and emotional support. But now you must seek friends to whom you can relate from your center, from the place where you know that you are deeply loved.”

Nouwen also writes that when we dare to love and become a real friend, we become closer to Jesus, our everlasting friend.

Lord, help us develop true friendships to enjoy our days on Earth. Amen.

Author note: If you have a friendship after fifty story you’d like to share with me, please message me or email me at lindagillis@yahoo.com

 

 

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Here I Am, Lord …

“In a dream, for instance, a vision at night, when men and women are deep in sleep, fast asleep in their beds— God opens their ears and impresses them with warnings …” Job 33:15,16

From time to time, I’ll awaken in the middle of the night with a thought on my mind, not like God’s calling to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:4, “Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” But as if an alarm went off in my head and awakened me out of a deep sleep. I feel calm and able to think clearly. I consider this time to be a blessing. Sometimes, I pray. Or, I will crawl out of bed and journal my thoughts or head to my computer and write. When my eye lids begin to feel heavy, I go back to bed and immediately fall to sleep.

One of my favorite hymns is “Here I Am, Lord” by Daniel L. Schutte (1981)
Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

When the time is right, I want to enter into the mission field somewhere in the world. I pray that one night I’ll be awakened by God who will reveal to me his plans for me, not just my own dreams.

Dear Lord, I pray when you call me into a new ministry, I will be able to say, “I’m ready.” Amen.

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S.A.D.

With winter invading parts of the U.S. and days are cloudy, I think of my time in the Midwest, especially January gray days. Today’s post is reprinted from my book, “The Donut Theory.”

SAD

God made two big lights, the larger to take care of the day. Genesis 1:16

I am convinced God inspired someone to put Christmas Day on the calendar near the shortest day of the year to brighten the dark December nights. I look forward to the bright lights that adorn houses and yards during the holiday season. The color extravaganza lifts my spirits during my drive home from work. I only wish the lights could shine on until the first day of spring.

While living in the Midwest, I always dreaded the months after Christmas, especially the cloudy, cold days of January, that made the eight hours at work seem more like ten. I’d get restless, walk the hallways of the church, and end up in the copy room munching on stale Christmas cookies. By mid-afternoon, I’d have to fight the temptation to surrender to the couch in the youth room that beckoned me to lie down for a nap.

During the first winter I worked in the Valley of the Sun, I took advantage of the sixtyish-degree days and spent my lunch breaks outdoors basking in sun rays. By the end of March, I realized that I had not gone through the winter doldrums and could only conclude that while living in Illinois, I had been a victim of SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Not everyone can live in a state where the sun shines over 300 days a year! That’s why brilliant engineers (perhaps from Antarctica or Norway) developed a special light-therapy lamp for people with symptoms of SAD, and why doctors sometimes have to prescribe anti-depressants for those who can’t shake the doldrums.

Even though the sun shines brightly in Arizona during the winter months, it is dark before I arrive home from work. I continue to wish that the holiday lights that brighten my spirits during December could shine until spring.

 Dear God, shine on me during cloudy days. Amen.

 

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Stop and listen!

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.” James 1:22

Today I made an automated payment for a store credit card. If I had chosen to talk with a representative, it would have cost me $10.00. Our society is becoming less connected with one-on-one conversation. Occasionally,  stop by to visit an elderly neighbor. However, it is hard to get away, as when I begin to inch toward the door, he says something like, “Have I shown you the afghan I crocheted?” And, the conversation continues.

While working in the church office, a few elderly members would come into the office during the week to pick up a bulletin, drop off a check, or to ask questions about an event. They didn’t fool me. They wanted someone to stop what they were doing and chat for awhile. One of my volunteers said, “I feel as if I’m not doing much around here. All I do is answer the phone and chat with people when they stop by.” I assured her nothing is more important, and I added, “You make it possible for me to get my work done.”

Sometimes I think I have a neon sign on my forehead, “Tell me your story.” I’m blessed to have time in retirement to listen for a while and may be the only one willing to do so.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us ears to hear. Amen.

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Beware of obstacles …

”You were running the race beautifully. Who cut in on you and stopped you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7-8

Today I went to a motor cross race for the first time. Around 100 teens, both boys and girls, left the starting point at the same time. One young man that we were watching jumped into first place and soon became entrapped behind a wiped out competitor and road blocks. It must have seemed like minutes waiting to resume the race while watching around 40 bikers fly by on their bikes and then try to catch up to the other racers. Unfortunately, the young man finished somewhere below his expectations for the day but took it well. There will be more races.

For the next three months, I have tenants living in my home in Sun City. I’ve already had my first phone call from the realtor, “The tenants said the water in the washing machine spilled on to the floor in the laundry room.” I had to think on my feet and act like I knew how to handle the situation. I remembered I’d had the same problem a couple of times in the past. Apparently, the machine when overfilled causes water to flow over the drum. I suggested the tenants try the machine again using a smaller load. Fortunately, the realtor reported the machine had not malfunctioned again. I can hardly wait to see what other obstacles I’ll face in my new role as a landlord.

Dear Lord, help me face challenges one at a time. Amen.

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Smile!

“Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him.” Psalm 34:5

One year after handing my elementary school photo to my mother, she said, “Your smile looks fake.” From that day forward, I’ve hated to have my picture taken—fearing my smile was not genuine.

I remember when my granddaughter was a little girl, we constantly took pictures of her, our first grandchild. She became so accustomed to the camera pointed at her that she instantly posed. Her toothy smile looked the same in every picture. I’m sure she thought that is what we wanted to see. However, I never said to her, “Your smile looks fake.” Now, at nearly 17 years old, her smile is beautiful and genuine—one that shows her internal beauty and melts my heart.

God knows when we are faking a smile or a laugh. He sees our heart and sees are pain and how much we are hurting. Someone said “A smile is a frown upside down.” When we attempt to smile during tough times, those who know us best know the frown is still there. Yet, when I smile often enough, I feel better about the situation.

Digital cameras have helped me develop a new confidence in having my picture taken. I suggest the photographer take as many shots as necessary for me to find one acceptable for anyone to see–one that makes my smile look genuine.

Lord, let my smile reflect my joy in your love for me. Amen.

 

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Be compassionate …

“Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble.” 1 Peter 3:8

In politics, I often hear a member of congress cut down a fellow member for their position on an issue. Later, they’ll be having lunch together and admit they are good friends, but just don’t agree with each others philosophy. This attitude should be an example of how everyone should act toward one another–agree to disagree–but love one another.

Yesterday, I read a post on Facebook that instantly put me in a defensive mode. The issue was a farewell speech President Obama gave to the military and a picture of many open seats at the event. The original poster commented that because of the empty seats, the military hates the president.Personally, I don’t care if anyone likes or dislikes the Commander in Chief, but I am saddened by people who get pleasure from running down or poking fun at one of the most important persons in the world.

Being compassionate means we look for something good in a person. President Obama will soon be out of office, and new threads of hateful comments will begin to appear on social media the moment President Elect Trump is installed. Nothing good will come from ugly comments. My mother always said, “If you don’t have something good to say about someone, keep your mouth shut.”

Lord, help us learn to be compassionate people and more loving and grace filled. Amen.

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