It’s Your Choice

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “yours.”

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Boy is it ever easy to get sucked into the shallow thinking and arguments of the world around us. What I really want people to get is that the choice of whether or not to go to those places is completely theirs.

I used to tell my kids this all the time: You have no control over how someone reacts to something you do, but you can totally control your own reaction. If you choose to get mad at small offenses, then that’s your choice.

If you choose to engage in reckless rhetoric or intentional shaming or hurtful speech, that’s your choice.

If you make the decision to be more like Jesus in all that you do, think and say, that’s your choice as well.

What you need to know, though, is that each and every choice has a consequence. Will you be a peacemaker or will you contribute to the vitriol?

Romans 12:18 in the Common English Bible says, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”

To the best of your ability.

That’s huge. Because there are some things we can’t control. The weather, the stock market, our kids’ decisions. Other people. But we can control our tongues, and we can control our reactions.

Ah yes, you might say, but easier said than done. Granted. But if you are submitted to the lordship of Christ, then that control is given over to him as well. And he is able.

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photo by Aaron Burden from UnSplash

Stepping Up and Cleaning Out

A couple of years ago, my second son took a class for his Environmental Studies major at the University of Central Florida that had a community service aspect to it. So, like many of the other students, he volunteered at the on-campus Arboretum.

On Halloween day (somehow that seemed appropriate)  he went with a handful of other workers to clean out a wooden storage shed that was in the back of the childcare area on campus. This shed was used for all the random things like old equipment, projects, and old toys that weren’t currently being used. And, like many such storage areas, it had been badly neglected.

What had once been useful was now junk and thrown into the shed haphazardly. Since volunteers were available, this was a good project for them. Clean that thing out.

So, armed only with gloves, the guys entered  the long, narrow building. Nathan’s first thought when the doors were flung open? “Oh boy this is going to be a lot of work.”

You can probably picture it. The unit had all this stuff just crammed in, wall to wall, and it was extremely dusty. There was also a loft area equally crammed with stuff. Item by item they just started pulling everything out.

The stuff they were keeping they kept to the side and the stuff they were throwing away they piled into a dumpster.

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One of the hundreds, trying to get away.

Before long, the most disgusting part of the job was discovered. After the items stuffed up against the wall were removed, suddenly hundred of cockroaches began skittering out of what used to be their nice, dark hiding places.

The guys reacted as you would expect: disgust. But they were also amazed at how many there were. Literally hundreds of these disgusting creatures had been living in the shadowy places that hadn’t been disturbed in years.

So, killing them when they could by stomping on them and bashing them with plastic baseball bats, the guys persevered in their task.

By the time they were done, the shed was emptied and everything was swept out (and most of the cockroaches were dead or back in hiding within the walls) the team felt pretty good about what they’d accomplished. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than before. Only about 20% of the objects from the shed were deemed worthy of saving and everything else was hauled off for the trash.

But you know what was notable about that job (besides vast quantities of cockroaches)? Not one of the people assigned the task stood looking at the mess and thinking, “I didn’t make this mess. I didn’t allow those cockroaches to be in there. I didn’t even know this existed. Why should I have to do anything about it? It wasn’t my problem to begin with!”

They were assigned a job, they saw the huge mess, and they went in and did what they could to get it cleaned out.

IMG_3149The problems we’re seeing in our country with police brutality, abuse of power, and systemic racism didn’t begin with us. The problem predates the current administration. It predates the administration before that, and the administration before that, and the administration before that.

In Genesis 6:5, way back in the beginning of mankind, it says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

This isn’t just a cultural problem, this is a spiritual problem, Pastor Tony Evans, founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, and founder and president of The Urban Alternative, said recently in a video, “Don’t try to change the nation if God can’t even change your heart.”

We’re seeing the disgusting mess that has been allowed to pile up through years of neglect. We’re experiencing the fallout of a system left to its own devices. And once the doors have been opened and the ugliness has been uncovered, something has to be done about it. Just shutting the doors and letting the cockroaches take over is not an option.

And let me just say this: I don’t think all cops are bad. I don’t agree with the idea that we can do without law enforcement. Believing that people will just “do the right thing” when given the chance has been proven by all the looters to be naive. But I definitely support reform and an abolishment of the brotherhood that says we take care of our own no matter what.

Did we cause the mess we’re in today? No, but we’ve let it stay hidden for far too long.

Not The Same Old Refrain

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “refrain.”

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with the lyrics of an annoying song running through your head? It’s nearly impossible to get them out, isn’t it?

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Just like some of the words we’re so used to hearing in our own minds.

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“Nobody really likes you.”

“You’re so dramatic!”

“That bad thing you did years ago? Yeah. You’ll never be forgiven for that.”

All of these things are lies coming from the Father of Lies. And they need to be replaced by a new refrain, “He has loved you with a steadfast love. He will never leave you nor forsake you. God so loved the world (that includes you) that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

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When the same old refrain starts running through your head, replace it with a new one. You are loved. You are valuable. You are a child of the king. Royalty! There is a place reserved for you in heaven. As far as the east is from the west, so far have your sins been removed from you. And He remembers them no more. You have been given gifts by God to be used for His glory.

And that amounts to a lot!

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“Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got Nobody”

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “another.”

I don’t think Sam Cooke, the writer of “Another Saturday Night,” had our current situation in mind when he wrote the song. If you’re not familiar with it, the lyrics go on, “I got some money ’cause I just got paid. How I wish I had someone to talk to. I’m in an awful way.”

My husband’s 76-year-old mother with COPD lives with us, so we have been strict about anyone coming in the house who doesn’t already live here. We make an exception for my sister-in-law who has taken on the task of buying her groceries. That means that my sons and my grandson have not been here in at least 3 weeks.

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My mother in law feels badly that we’re making these sacrifices of having long-distance relationships during this time because of her, but that’s just what you do with a loved one. You do what’s necessary. You exercise caution. You spend another Saturday night (or Thursday, or Monday. Really, any night will do) watching a movie or doing a puzzle or playing a game. You turn to virtual venues like FaceTime or Zoom or Facebook Messenger or Google Meets to do what you need to get done.

Zayne and I have tried virtual story time with Nana, but he’s not much to sit in one place for very long. He just looks at the phone, looks at his dad and says, “I ready go Nana’s house.”

Breaks my heart.

But it’s not forever. Even though he’s used to spending 5 days a week here since he was 5 weeks old, he won’t forget we exist. I hope.

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Hang in there, bud. We’ll be back together again soon.

Who are you missing in your time of sheltering in place?

 

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What Do Now?

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “now.”

I have a 26-month-old grandson who was an early talker, so by now, he’s really got a grasp on the English language. When he was coming to our house 5 days a week (which he’s not now thanks to the stay-at-home orders and the job losses of both his parents) he would often finish doing something, or just tire of the activity he was engaged in, and he would come to me and say, “What do now?”

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It was so cute. He got that from us because we would often say it to him when he looked like he was moving on from whatever he was doing.

It occurs to me that we’re often like that with God. We always want to be doing something. But in this time of pause in the world, it seems like we shouldn’t be asking that question. Maybe the right question to ask is not “what should I be doing?” but rather “Who am I becoming”?

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