Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just sayin'...

Deb and daughter Cricket at Canadian Niagara Falls
The masculine sex has finally found their answer to the female's long-time, cover-all-sins catch phrase, "Bless her little heart."

It's long been amusing to me how women - especially southern gals - can say anything they want about someone, no matter how catty, scathing, or gossipy, and as long as they end it with "Bless her/his little heart," it's completely socially acceptable.

It's the vocabulary equivalent of ketchup.  

One of my college gal pals from Alabama was the queen of this acquired skill. She could roast a rival crispy over an open verbal fire but because she always closed with a smile so warm it could melt butter and gushed a "bless her sweet little heart," no one took offense. Quite the opposite. We even considered her extraordinarily compassionate to be blessing all those hearts all the time.

And now I see males have finally gained equality. They've taken up a slang phrase that enables them to disagree, speak their minds, spew venom, and even to ruthlessly ridicule without apology. And it's not only publicly acceptable, it's considered completely hip. Ultra-cool. Tooled. I'm just sayin'...

In case you're not completely hip, ultra-cool, or tooled, I'm not just saying nothing here ... that's the phrase: "I'm just sayin'..."

It's all over FaceBook and Twitter, used by women too, but I notice it seems to be more prevalent among guys. And rightly so - how many of the muscled, macho, hairy gender can get way with "Bless his tiny, mangy, blood-sucking heart" when they disagree with someone? Now they can rent, tear, and rip apart other people with a smile on their face just like us girls.

Recently I've seen statements like:
"That's the stupedest thing I've ever heard. I'm just sayin'..."
"You can't believe anything he says, he's such a liar. Just sayin'..."
"You're not really going out with her? Just sayin'..."

It might behoove us all to remember one of my favorite scriptures about now: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." No, wait. Oops. That's the gospel according to my mother.

Actually, it's Proverbs 21:23 (NLT): "Keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble."

Now there's some sage advice. Plain. Wise. Always hip.

And if you refuse to heed it, you deserve to be stung by ten thousand angry bees and swell up bigger than the Good Year blimp.

Just sayin' ...


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rising Above Haves and Have-Nots

I felt my face prickle with heat but this time it wasn't a hot flash. It was the humiliating realization that I was a Have-Not in this particular place and time and there was nothing I could do to change that.

We all know they exist: the Haves and the Have-Nots.

First there are the Haves. Those who are accepted in a specific environment - the peeps, the gang, the Sistahs. They're quietly respected; the natural leaders who others seem to automatically fall in line behind.

Often they're the ones with the highest skill level or who have achieved the most acclaim or accomplishments within the tribe. They aren't necessarily boastful or cocky; some are actually quite humble. But they definitely belong and everyone knows it. It's a given.

Then there are the Have-Nots. They're the ones who might hang out with the group, but somehow are not the same. They're on a different level - a slightly lower level - and although the Haves may be friendly enough, and include them as part of the whole, there's an invisible barrier that separates them and they're never really in the group, only with the group.

You know exactly what I mean. Right?

We've all been in situations where we're the Haves, and other situations where we're the Have-Nots. Naturally, we gravitate toward the former and avoid the latter if at all possible. Nobody wants to feel like a K-Mart purse in a rack full of Pradas.

I recently came across the terrific advice, "Go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated."

A good idea to bolster sagging self-esteem, surely, but not something we can always do. Sometimes, the circumstances of life toss us into groups of people where we may be unknown, disrespected, unappreciated, and dreadfully uncomfortable. But we must stay there for one reason or another.

I was in one of those just last week. In fact, it won't be the last time; I'll be affiliated with that same group of people superior to me for many weeks to come. After I came home feeling wretched from being repeatedly stuffed onto the bottom shelf, or worse yet, ignored completely, I realized that I was going to have to find some way to endure the situation, because it wasn't going away.

It was going to feel like being chosen last for the 8th grade kickball team every single week for the entire school year.

So I prayed. Lord, throw me a life preserver - some sort of tool that will help me hold my head up and shoulders back when I'm with these people. I know they're better than me at this particular activity, and my best never will be good enough from their perspective. So please help me endure. No, not just endure, but enjoy myself ... if that's even possible.

And wouldn't you know? He sent me a message. A very important message that helped me glory in my smallness. A special reminder that Papa God delights in making small things great.

"His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly," Luke 1:51-52 (NLT).

So I'm going to return to that group this week with a new attitude. I will be smiling. I will be gracious. Because I have a secret. I know something they don't. It's okay if I'm on the bottom rung of the ladder, because one day we lowly's will be exalted. And I may even get to be the kickball captain!        

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shedding the Snakeskin

You know, now that I'm past that half-century mark in age, I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and realize that the new me is now the old me.


I guess this thought crystallized last Saturday when I arrived at my first Senior tennis match of the season. Yes, Senior.


In tennis terms, that means 55 and counting. But the two gals my partner and I were playing against sure didn't look like seniors. They looked like hard-bodied, uber-energetic thirty-year-olds who had forgotten their moisturizers that morning. I mean really, until you got up close enough to see a few crows feet and forehead creases, you'd never know these trim, pony-tailed, cellulite-free gals were past the potty training years.

I had to fight the temptation to demand they cough up their driver's licenses.

Without meaning to, I became acutely aware of the gray sprigs sproinging wildly from beneath my terrycloth headband and the ample thigh skin that kept jiggling long after I stopped running.

Hey - why can't women shed old loose skin like snakes do? Every spring, we could simply scrape that saggy, baggy, crinkly wrapper encasing our youthful insides off on a sharp rock. We could start over fresh, with unmarred, supple, beautiful new skin, soft as a baby's bottom.

Reminds me of the day last April when I walked out my back door to empty a trash can and encountered a perfectly intact four-foot snakeskin caught in the vines atop our wooden fence. It was the perfect shape and markings of our serpent friend, Servius (Spouse and I named the pleasant reptilian fellow who likes to drape himself along the top of the fence). Only Servius wasn't in there. He was about 3 yards further down the fence basking in the sunshine. He looked so happy and carefree - as happy and carefree as snakes can look - to be rid of that itchy, peeling, confining shell that probably felt like a too-tight sausage casing.

He appeared so jubilant, I thought he might burst into song at any moment, "I feel pretty, oh, so pretty ..." 

How utterly wonderful for him, I thought. He gets a chance to start all over. To discard any flaws, pimples, age spots, or imperfections that might have marred him in reptile world, and enjoy a do-over. Better luck next time. A full body make-over.

But alas, for some reason, Papa God didn't think this system would bode well for us humans. Pity.

So instead I'll have to figure out ways to encase the jiggling thigh-u-lite in spandex, squeech out the facial wrinkles with alligator clips behind the ears, grow bangs over the forehead furrows, and invest in vats of moisturizer.

And be grateful that the new old me is still here to distress over it :D

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating the New Year

While reading Michael Hyatt's "Intentional Leadership" blog post this week (if you don't subscribe, you really should!), I was skewered by a life specific principle Michael quoted from his mentor, best-selling author Robert D. Smith. It went like this:

"Eat dessert first. Learn to celebrate life and then live out of that celebration."

I think the reason these wise words resonated with me is because of the "Life Saver of the Month" (like Flavor of the Month but much sweeter) scriptures I had recently written on the first day of each month on my 2013 calendar.

Life Saver of the Month scriptures are an idea I came up with to help me focus on a short, pithy, powerful new verse each month of the new year, so that by next December, I'll have 12 new weapons to add to my spiritual arsenal. On the first day of the month, I jot the Life Saver verse on sticky notes and post them in all the places I'll be sure to see them daily ... my bathroom mirror, car console, the Godiva stash in my desk drawer. You know, the go-to  hot spots.

Then, every time I run across the Life Saver, I repeat it aloud and let it marinate in my mind. Savor the Saver. Suck the joy out of that spiritual treat until it's completely digested and permanently implanted in my innards. 

As I encountered Robert Smith's clever advice, I was struck with how very similar it was to several of the Life Saver's I'd chosen to focus on this year. I noticed a repetitive theme: praise and celebration of life. The concept is obviously as important to Papa God as it is to Mr. Smith.

"Let your living spill over into thanksgiving." (Col 2:7, MSG)

"Let's not sleepwalk through life like those others." (1 Thes 5:6, MSG)

"May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lifes and splashes over on everyone around you." (1 Thes 3:12, MSG)

"It's the praising life that honors me." (Psalm 50:23, MSG).

Altering my pessimistic thinking so that my mood stays out of the gutter is something I've always struggled with, and I suspect that's why I was attracted to these particular verses for my collection of Life Savers during my quiet times throughout 2012.

And then Papa reinforced that more celebration needs to be my New Year's focus by the pertinent words of Michael and Robert (both vibrant Christ-followers).

Okay. I get it. Thanks, Lord. Simple but profound. And very do-able.

So how about you? During this time of listing New Year's resolutions, have you decided what's going to be your New Year's spiritual focus? I'd love to hear it.