{Practicing Affirmation}

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“Sam’s book is a healing balm for cranks, misfits and malcontents who are so full of self they scarcely see, let alone celebrate, the simple beauties of imperfect virtue in others.  Or to say it differently: I need this book.” 

— John Piper, from the Forward to the book Practicing Affirmation.

I just finished reading Practicing Affirmation by author / pastor Sam Crabtree.  My borrowed library copy is almost due and going back into circulation, but I plan to exchange it for my own purchased copy.

I want to remember this book.  More importantly, I want to practice what I learned.  Here are some thoughts that grabbed me:

—Think about how often we correct / complain / criticize. This causes “drag” on a relationship, especially because corrections / complaints and criticisms tend to outweigh affirmations.

“It takes many affirmations to overcome the impact of a criticism, because criticisms are heavier and sting more.”

–Affirming others acts like a key, with the potential to unlock relationships.

“Many people are puzzled as to why their relationships seem stuck and uncooperative, yet they are not putting the key in the ignition. It’s not too late to use the key.”

–Affirmations should be consistent in a relationship.

–Affirmations should be God-centered. Focus on character, not outward appearance. Look for God’s character seen in people of all beliefs and backgrounds. Commend sincerely without flattery.

“In doing so, we’re pointing to something very valuable, and we’re saying, “I see it in you!  I value it… and the God who is the source of it!”

–When we are affirmed, it makes us happy. But the affirmation giver gains a                         mysterious joy as well.

–Affirmations are for everyone and everywhere. Use them in the workplace.  At home.  Use them in a “stuck” relationship.  Give them to your children.  Give them to your spouse.  Give them undeserved…and give generously.

–One of my favorite parts of the book was chapter 9, where it listed 100 Affirmation Ideas for Those who Feel Stuck.

“When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” – John Piper

Photo credit: Alejandro Alvarez

Word of the Day Challenge: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/potential/

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{ Betsy & Laura}

When I tiptoe into

Betsy’s Deep Valley home

Or Laura Ingalls’ dugout

There’s magic

And melancholy.

 

Long-Ago and Right-Now

Mix inside my heart

like oil and water

 

I seek

proof,

connection,

and solace

 

These treasures are surprises,

As miraculous

as discovering

artifacts in Betsy’s cellar

or a forgotten

slate pencil lodged

Within the banks of Plum Creek.

 

I grasp ghosts

Snugly trapped in time —

Forever bound in

Favorite books

 

I see Betsy and Laura —

They are as close as the Big Hill

And the ripples of Plum Creek —

But as far away as the moon.

 

 

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

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Today we visited the childhood home of Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the Betsy-Tacy book series.  Mankato Minnesota — July 2018

Inspired by the Betsy-Tacy tour and because I also felt this when visiting Walnut Grove years ago (even though I was dressed in calico and a sunbonnet.)

Does anyone else feel a bit of magic and melancholy when visiting the historic place of a favorite person? Comments welcome 🙂

Word Prompt of the Day:  SOLACE

 

 

 

 

{ Jabez — Resurrected. }

samuel-martins-631378-unsplashAn obscure Bible character, Jabez doesn’t live in the historical spotlight — like Moses, David, or Paul. Jabez is featured in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.  We don’t know much about him, except that:

  • His mother bore him in pain
  • He was more honorable than his brothers
  • He prayed to the God of Israel
  • God answered his prayer

In 2000, The Prayer of Jabez became a bestselling book.

After months of reading the book, seeing the book everywhere, hearing references made to the book, listening to radio programs about the book, and finally seeing the book on thrift store shelves, I was done thinking about Jabez for a while.

But last Sunday’s sermon centered around Jabez and his prayer.  So, maybe it’s time for me to think about Jabez again and look more closely at his sincere conversation with God.

Jabez probably prayed many prayers, but one of these prayers is written out in 1 Chronicles for us to ponder.  Like other seemingly unimportant details found in scripture, God included the prayer in His inspired Word for a reason…and it’s worth examining.

The prayer is pretty short and simple, easily fitting into a 280-character-limit Twitter tweet.

Jabez says to the God of Israel:

Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.’ 

(And God granted him what he requested.) 

Since there is a 93-page book written about this simple prayer, I won’t try to dissect it myself. I just want to randomly, digitally scribble down some thoughts that come to mind when I think about the real person that prayed this prayer, and what I can learn from the whole thing.  (Without peeking at the book.)

  1. Jabez’s name means “pain, or born through pain.”  His prayer states “….bless me that I may not cause pain.” I love that he accepts his birth, his circumstances, the part of life that he cannot change.  But, he prays to go beyond his lot in life.  And God can do that. He did it for Jabez. He can do it for me.  I need to ask God for it.
  2. Jabez prayed like a child would ask a parent:   “Give me!  I need!  I want! And I want a lot!  I want more!” But he asks with good motives: so God’s hand would be with him.  That means Jabez wants God around — to watch over him, bless him, lead him. He wants to please God, follow God and have God smile at what he does.  He is willing to be obedient and live in fellowship with God.
  3. Jabez trusted God to keep him from evil (or harm.)

There’s more to learn about Jabez and his prayer — I might have to pick up that book again, after all.

But for now, the obscure, honorable, praying Jabez of 3,000 + years ago has prompted me to write my own prayer.

So, here is the unfamous, non-bestselling, yet sincere Prayer of Lisa:

God, would you please help me overcome my natural, inborn weaknesses?  My sin…my flesh…my selfishness?  I need You to help me walk by Your Spirit — I can’t do it by myself!. I need so much more of You and so much less of me — every day. Make me to see Your workings in my life. Yank me (gently, please?) out of my comfort zone, where I tend to hang out. But always remind me You are there, and give me courage to go beyond the borders of what I think I can do.  There’s nothing too hard for You to accomplish — even through imperfect me. Keep me from veering off into evil —deviating from Your Path. May I never cause pain to Your Holy Name.  Amen.

Word prompt: deviate

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/deviate/

Photo Credit:
Samuel Martins

{ Family 4th of July }

We braved a stormy 4th of July forecast and were rewarded.  God gave us a beautiful day and even the mosquitoes were respectfully absent until dusk.

Our ambitious and hospitable friends host an annual Independence Day picnic, which includes:

1. The Dessert Contest.  Three of my girls entered desserts, including a patriotic pie and decorated s’mores brownies. And, these cute little eagles were made by my oldest daughter.

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Using melted white chocolate chips as the “glue”, these coconut-covered marshmallows are sitting on an Oreo platform. Thanks, Pinterest.

 

 

 

2. The Family Games: 3-legged races, gunny-sack races, balloon toss, family relay and tug-o-war.

My husband emcees the games. This is not a bad thing. His game-coordinator-job gets me out of the couples’ 3-legged race.

So my sister-in-law Susie and I competed together in the balloon toss….and won it!

It was only a balloon toss.  But, since I seldom win these little contests, it stood out as a landmark victory.

We are pictured below with our giddy smiles, cradling our winning pink balloon.

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3. The Husband & Wife Blindfolded Pudding Race.  My husband and I did not win this. But we are still speaking to each other, so I consider it a success.

4. The Dunk Tank. This was a new addition to the annual picnic. The dunk tank was a fundraiser, brilliantly dreamed up by my husband.  He coerced shamed coaxed several victims into being dunked to raise money for moms in crisis situations.

The dunkees actually seemed to enjoy their starring roles, but my husband was not among them. Someone had to hold the money jar.

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That’s the man I love.

The day also included patriotic hymn-singing, special music, a potluck (that’s when we get to eat all those scrumptious desserts) and fireworks!

Our father’s God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

Last verse of our country’s national hymn, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.

Find out more about the  FIRST YEAR OF LIFE project….

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Fireworks photo credit:

Stephanie McCabe

{ Evanescent }

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Word Prompt of the Day: Evanescent
 “Soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing”

Things that are Evanescent in Life at Large:

  • Time
  • Trends
  • Styles
  • What’s in the news

Things in My Life that are Evanescent: 

  • My eyesight, teeth, hearing…(okay, my whole aging body)
  • Memories of unimportant things (and some important things, too)
  • Youth & Beauty (if I had any to begin with)
  • Loved ones
  • Home routine with my little ones (because they are growing up)

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Things in a Christian Life that are Evanescent: 

  • Seeing the incomplete picture of life (I Corinthians 13:10)
  • Dragging around a sinner’s body (Romans 8:21)
  • Trials & suffering (Revelation 21:4)
  • Life on earth (Isaiah 65:17)
  • Death (Isaiah 25:8)

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© Lisa M. Luciano 

Photo credits:

Fireworks: Ben o’bro

Wooden Body: Kira auf der Heide

Heaven:贝莉儿 NG

{ Mob Mandate }

 

I went to a writing conference last weekend.

Within the microcosm of art and literature, I experienced our culture’s strict new, mob driven mandate.

“Do This and don’t do that.

Say this but don’t say that.

Think this new way — it’s the right way.”

The trend-driven mob has one standard:

The current new wave of thought must be accepted by all. 

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So, I sat listening to writer-presenters.

I sifted through the emphatic agenda-speak.

In session 4, the presenter handed out a stapled packet; an excerpt from a published memoir.

“We’ll go line-by-line around the room, reading aloud.”

I looked it over:

  • Line one: an innocent memory of making pickles in a farmhouse kitchen.
  • Line two: Uncle Earl wearing a plaid shirt and leaving in his rusty old truck.
  • Line three:  some x-rated fodder about a first-time sexual encounter.
  • Line four: making cookies with Grandma, who smells like roses and garlic. 
  • Line five: twisted sexual scene with graphic details. And so on….

Nope, I’m not going to read that. 

I slunk awkwardly out of my landlocked seat. A Muslim woman and her son exited, too.

We are now at a place where virtue* is made to look odd, and sin** is made to appear normal.

There is a plumb line for a misguided, trend-driven world.

  • It transcends decades and centuries and cultures and rulers and norms.
  • It’s outlived despots and tyrants and empires and dynasties and wars.
  • It contains underdog victories, fulfilled prophecies and surprising heroes.
  • It’s a book of love and loss and brokenness and eternity.

 

The Word of God has all the answers.  It is the timeless standard.

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*virtue: behavior showing high moral standards. Synonyms: goodness, righteousness, integrity, dignity, honor, decency, nobility, purity, worthiness.

**sin: a word, deed, or desire in opposition to the eternal law of God.

 

Photo credit: Vitaliy Paykov

{ Dear Me as a New Bride }

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~~ Celebrating our 28th Anniversary~ 06/23/1990 ~~(We don’t look like this anymore.)

 

Dear Me as a New Bride,

You look really happy and content.

Stay that way.

Right now, your new husband seems as kindred as one of your female friends.

But, he’s a man.  Don’t forget that.

On the surface, you two speak the same language.

But your heart language is different.

When you love him in FemaleHeartSpeak,

he won’t understand.

Speak LOVE in his own language:

Respect

Loyalty

And Intimacy

(The physical kind.)

If you ever get discouraged,

Always, always consult your User’s Manual first.

You will have bad days…

…but don’t wallow in self-pity.

A Christian marriage is not about YOU,

any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.

Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.

Someday, you will look back and see

the big picture

and the footprints of God

who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.

Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.

With God,

You got this.

Love, Me

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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6/23/2018

 

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/possibility/

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

{ Birthday Jealousy }

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It’s hard when you are nine years old, and your brother is having a birthday.

It’s harder when your own birthday is 5 months away.

That’s what’s happening at our house.

Big brother Marco’s birthday is approaching and younger brother Jonny is preparing to be jealous.

We try to encourage the idea of being a good “birthday brother.”  That’s when the non-birthday person tries with all their might to rejoice at the blessings given to the birthday boy.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes this fails miserably.

I took a walk with my younger son Jonny today — my arm around his shoulder, pep talk on my mind.

Me: “Let’s ask God to help you be a really good birthday brother.  I know it’s hard.  It’s nicer when you are the one getting the presents. I’m sure he will share his things with you.”

Jonny: “He never shares.”

Me: “Look at my eyes. That’s not true.  He’s a good sharer. You are a good sharer too.  And you’re good at reading….and running….and speaking Spanish….and drawing…”

Jonny: Silence and trying not to smile.

Me: “So, let’s try, ok? I don’t feel bad when it’s your birthday, or Marco’s birthday.  I’m happy for all the birthdays, even when it’s not my own birthday.”

Jonny: “You don’t have a birthday.  You have Mother’s Day.”

© Lisa M. Luciano ~ a birthday-less being who was brought by a stork with a nametag around her neck marked “Mama.”

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/squabble/

{ National Weed Your Garden Day }

“Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.”  ~ Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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My peonies — the only flower blooming right now.

Today is a busy day.

On the National Day calendar, it’s:

  • National Random Acts of Light Day
  • National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day
  • National Sewing Machine Day
  • National Weed Your Garden Day

If I had to choose,  I would pick the last one, because the past few days of rain have caused my jungle garden to almost require mowing, not just weeding.

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Introducing….my weed-rich garden. I think there are some tomato plants in there.

A life garden needs weeding too.

Reading Proverbs 13 today reminds me what needs to be weeded out of a life:

  • resisting correction
  • a runaway tongue
  • sin that will eventually overthrow
  • neglected discipline

Weeds:

  • Choke.
  • Stunt growth.
  • Block sunlight.
  • Prevent hydration and nourishment.

Note to self: Isn’t it about time to get rid of weeds, making room for what is fruitful and beautiful?

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Not so many weeds surrounding my hearty little cucumber plants.

The benefits listed in Proverbs 13:

  • a preserved life
  • rich supply
  • light
  • favor
  • knowledge
  • healing
  • honor, good, and wisdom
  • satisfaction
  • wealth (spiritual and / or financial?)

 

“Little deeds are like little seeds, they grow to flowers or to weeds.” ~ Daniel D. Palmer

“Your minds may now be likened to a garden, which will, if neglected, yield only weeds and thistles; but, if cultivated, will produce the most beautiful flowers, and the most delicious fruits.” ~Dorothea Dix

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears,  let him hear.” ~ Matthew 13:1-9

 

 

 

 

 

{ Kindness & Key Lime Mousse }

When a speck starts to irritate you, it becomes a stone, which becomes a boulder, which gets so big you can’t see past it.
So, yesterday, I was having a speck-to-boulder day…

My boulder weighs me down, sinking me into mid-depths of bummed-out-ness.

In my wilted state, I head to a social function with the family.

Smile pasted on, I weave through people traffic.

On the way to the bathroom, one person thinks I am Chris.

On the way back from the bathroom, another stranger thinks I am Chris.

I looked down at what I am wearing and feel slightly better.

It’s a good thing to be mistaken for Chris.

I pluck a 1,000 calorie key lime mousse from the food table.

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Then Peggy approaches me.  I don’t know her well, but she’s a warm and sparkly person.

She treats me like a long lost friend.

She whispers “I’m an introvert and I will be heading back to the kitchen soon” but she seems glad to see me before she hides.

Then she asks me a sincere question, her kind eyes searching.

They stop right where the boulder sits in my soul.

And that powerful kindness, with its innocent question, unleashes healing waters that wash my wounds.

That’s me with the key lime mousse and the tears– being hugged by Peggy in the middle of a busy driveway.

We are an island of feelings in a sea of toddlers, teens, fajitas and a jumping castle.

I feel better now.

 

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” — Mother Teresa

“Lord, help me say the kind thing at the right time to the person who needs it most.” Amen.

© Lisa M. Luciano