Smart and Sexy?

My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder. ~Emma Watson

Earlier this year Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, was under fire for a photo in Vanity Fair. She was dressed in a sheer shirt with a crocheted shawl that draped suggestively, hiding enough of her breasts to make the copy permissible on most grocer’s shelves.

The arguments arose because Watson is often a voice for the feminist movement. Some leaders in the movement tweeted and shouted that showing your breasts silences your voice. Others returned the outrage with the argument that you can be both sexy and smart.

Being mostly uninterested in popular culture, I only noticed the kerfuffle last week. Since the photo didn’t startle me, I’m not sure why the article irritated me so much. I don’t really have a dog in this fight.

Except that I do.

I mentor young girls. I expect in a few years or so to have a couple of daughters-in-law. I have two nieces who are entering that stage of life when what they look like will speak louder than anything else.

And I believe both sides are right.

You can be smart and sexy. You also lose your voice when you allow sexy to speak.

The very idea of sexy is that you want to attract someone in an enticing manner. You want to be noticed in an exciting way.

Plain and simple, sexy is for the one you wish to have sex with.

Attractive, on the other hand, allows you to retain your voice. You can be noticed, will be noticed. But the first thought someone has of you is I’d like to get to know her better.

You have something to offer that lasts longer than a rumpus in the sack.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t send signals to someone that you are interested sexually. But don’t send them to the whole world.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. Ezekiel 28:17 NIV

10 Things I Learned This Summer

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~John Lubbock

Watermelon flags are on clearance and candy corn can be found at the grocery. One season has unofficially ended and another begun. It’s time to look back over the summer and see if I am any better off than when it began.

  1. Every summer I travel a LOT and then decide that next year I will stay home more. This summer I once again learned that I would rather stay home. I love the trips while they are happening, but the return home to chaos and a lawn ready to winter a herd of cattle sends me into despair every time. Here’s to next summer when I will master the skill of staying home.

2. Practicing what you preach is difficult, but so necessary. This summer I gave a lecture on the importance of nature to nurture the soul. My ending suggestions were 30 minutes a day outside and once a week 2-3 hours. Once a month should include a day retreat- or at least half a day if you can’t find an entire day- of uninterrupted nature, rest, meditation, and reflection. I have successfully managed the daily and weekly, the monthly is getting better.  The solitude gives me peace, the outdoors gives me perspective.

3. Trees are astounding, amazing, stunning . . . I could go on forever. The Hidden Life of Trees was part of my research reading this summer, and it opened my mind and eyes to things beyond my imagination. Trees talk to each other, and even to trees of other species. They intentionally plan mass reproduction cycles, tell giraffes to go somewhere else, and kill off their enemies. Read it. You will not regret it.

4. Medical personnel no longer use real venom to counteract snake bites. The artificial ‘antivenin’ costs $3900 a bag and you will gladly pay more than that for your baby to survive. Some things you could do without learning.

5. Chinese students are given homework to do over the summer. Not little packets of busywork in case they get bored, but books of homework and online assignments. It is not wise to inform young Chinese children that this is not the habit of American schools. If there is a rebellion, it is not my fault.

6. Bureaucracy at universities is exasperating. An incorrect charge applied to my son’s bill took nearly FIVE months to get taken off of his account. This meant classes were dropped and registrations were denied. Even going in person and hand delivering letters will not guarantee that business gets taken care of.

7. Losing a loved one mentally does not lessen the pain when they actually leave you physically. It was hard to say goodbye to Grandma, but I know it’s only “See you later!”

8. Peaches at the Virginia Farmer’s Market peak in August. Oh. My.

9. It will take an entire year to fix a kitchen after the ceiling falls in. We still don’t have cupboard doors up.

10. The idea of writing a one-syllable essay sounds horribly monotone, but in actuality is a beautiful  form of art. I’m so excited that my essay was chosen for publication in Short and Sweet, Too. All proceeds benefit World Christian Broadcasting. I’ll let you know when it comes out.

It’s been a summer of reflection swimming in peaceful waters, sometimes deep and murky, other times shallow and clear. I’ve discovered that peace does not mean the absence of pain, and love provides unexpected strength.

What did you learn this summer?

While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease. Gen 8:22 NASB


 

Successful Failure

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill

I have written lots of things over the years. Some have been great and others have been tossed in the recycling tub before they ever fully developed. The only writing contest I ever won was in sixth grade. My first book, Devotions of a Gerbil, was sent to twenty or more publishers before it was picked up by a small press.

The failures outnumber the successes, but in spite of all these failures, I continue to write.

Peter was a professional fisherman. He had boats- plural!- so we have to assume that he was usually successful. Yet, after a night of fishing on the sea, he sometimes came up empty.

A stranger walking along the coast yelled out some great advice, “Try throwing the net on the other side of the boat.” Of course! He’d forgotten that fish only swim on one side of a boat. As ridiculous as it was, Peter threw the nets over to show this stranger that there were no fish to catch, but up came the net with a boatload of fish.

Peter spent the next three years or so learning about fishing for men. He had some successes, but he also had many failures- failures that have lived through thousands of years and been shared with millions of people. How do you like those fish?

After the resurrection, Peter went back to fishing for fish. He didn’t know what else to do.

On the dark sea he did all of the things that professional fishermen should do– out at night, good boats, strong nets, deep water–  BUT NOTHING. After throwing overboard three years of following Jesus, here was yet another failure.

Then, a stranger called out, “Try the other side of the boat.”

The water was shallow. The sun was up. It made no sense, but Peter did it anyway.

He pulled in 153 big fish and nearly sank.

What is Jesus calling you to do? Begin a clothing ministry? Clean people’s teeth in Honduras? Write songs? Start a neighborhood Bible study?

Will you throw your net out and be a successful failure? Or will you turn back to the boat you’ve been sailing in for years and keep on pulling in empty nets?

Only when we work with Jesus do we succeed. Even if we are trained and doing all the things right, true success takes a call from Jesus.


But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7 NIV

Rule the Roost or Rest

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. ~Og Mandino

 

We have two roosters.

The gray-barred rooster is younger and carefree. He chases his own bugs, wanders through the cornfield, and plays with the chicks.

The black rooster is older and believes he rules the roost. He chases down the hens, pecks the chicks, and flogs the other rooster.

I was reading in the hammock when the younger rooster and a hen headed off to the corn field for some dinner and necking. The ruling rooster was on the other side of the fence with the goats, but he saw what was happening.

He frantically ran back and forth in front of the fence unable to get out because of his anger. He couldn’t think to fly over the fence, or to go a few steps more and under the gate, or even to try hopping through the wires. I found it very amusing.

And then I thought about how much energy it takes to feed the hunger for power.

You can’t relax because there are others trying to get your hen- even though there are enough hens for everyone. You can’t enjoy your meal because you’re busy snatching bugs from babies. You don’t have friendships because you fear everyone.

Both roosters have hens. Both roosters eat well. Both roosters could be content, but one isn’t.

Which rooster are you?


 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NIV

God’s Way of Life

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain

I asked a man recently about his wife. “She’s alright. She had to go to a family funeral for an uncle. He was hard to get along with and won’t be missed.”

It was said matter-of-fact and pragmatically, without contempt or malice.

How sad to have that be the epithet after your death.

Abram was a good man. He invited strangers in for a meal. He gave the best land to his nephew.  He defended the helpless and rescued the captive.

God says about him, “Yes, I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe God’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly, so that God can complete in Abraham what he promised him.” Genesis 18:19 MSG

Did you catch that? To live God’s way of life is to be kind, generous, and fair.

You find yourself on another committee at school when the younger teachers haven’t put in as many hours. Do you complain about already paying your dues, or do you smile and offer your expertise?

The dog- that you didn’t ask for- has just vomited a trail to the door. Do you throw up your own hissy fit or do you quietly clean the mess?

Another letter comes in the mail asking for help with a mission trip. Do you grumble about trips to exotic countries and the lost in your own country, or do you give your date night money and go serve dinner in the shelter?

I never knew my friend’s uncle-in-law, but I would guess he didn’t live God’s way.

What will be said about you when your time is ended?


If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. . . . Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15: 7-8, 10 NIV

Community For the Individual

“I believe that the community- in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures- is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.” ~Wendell Berry

Our children were born in the Philadelphia area. I was pregnant with the first when we moved there, so finding a pediatrician/family doctor was high on the priority list. I was blessed to find Dr. Warren.

Dr. Warren “examined” the whole family, regardless if it was a sick or well-visit. At every appointment he asked about all of the other family members. If the baby wasn’t eating right, he wanted to know what Mom was eating and doing. If Matt had strep, he wanted to know everyone’s temperature. When a horrible stomach bug visited, he doctored the whole family, even the ones not yet affected.

I’m part of a group of women that is meeting to read the Bible together. We read it, confess it, dig into it, and look for it in each others’ lives. When something isn’t working for one of us, we question what the rest of life looks like. Is there a virus somewhere else that’s slowing healthy growth?

This past spring I paid to be part of an online writers’ community where I could learn from the masters and make some contacts. It was helpful, and I think I have seen some positive results, but it wasn’t the same as being part of a live group who knows me intimately. It was not sustainably formative, correcting, or encouraging.

Are you spending most of your social time on Facebook? Do you find Instagram looks better than the faces in front of you? Do you text your family more than you sit down to eat with them? Does breakfast together take less time than a Snap Chat quip?

Maybe it’s time you developed a new community, an in-person, live, face-to-face community. Christ formed communities and even sent disciples in pairs. He understood that this life needs encouragement and support. He understood the importance of a touch, a tear, a nod, and a hug.

Community is important to the entire individual, body and soul. What are you doing to improve your health?


Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered,two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 NIV

Rocky Garden

Gardeners instinctively know that flowers and plants are a continuum and that the wheel of garden history will always be coming full circle. ~ Francis Cabot Lowell

My grandfather plowed the field that would be the extended family’s garden. It was across the driveway under the big pine where the swings sat untouched by children.

There was work to be done. No time for swinging now.

Every year we tilled the soil and picked up rocks. The rocks grew in the cold churning of winter; then in spring they burst forth unable to stay beneath the surface.

The rocks had to be removed in order to plant the new crop, to give the tender shoots sunshine and soil that would produce a great harvest. My job was to pick up the rocks and stack them in some fashion at the end of the field.

Spring turned to summer and the garden grew. Weeding and watering were followed by the harvest and canning. The seasons cycled on summer to fall to winter again.

Then spring rushed upon us with a new crop of rocks. No matter how many times we tilled the same garden there were always more rocks in the spring.

You think you’ve kicked the smoking habit, then the cold wind of unemployment blows your way and you light up again.

You manage to control your tongue at the community soccer game, but then that little rascal throws an elbow at your daughter and words fly out of your mouth like snow in a blizzard, blinding everyone in your path.

You succeed in paying off most of the credit card bill, but your favorite patient passed away and that little sundress will make you forget the snowbank of pain that is drifting higher against your chest.

Every winter brings more rocks, and every summer another opportunity to clear them out.

To everything there is a season . . . but summer is the most productive. Why not stack a few rocks this week?


Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

Garden Work, Garden Rest

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. ~May Sarton

I didn’t enjoy working in the garden as a kid. It was my job to pick up the rocks that had surfaced over the winter and stack them at the end of the field.  Once the rocks were removed, it was time to weed. If the weeding was finished it was time to harvest, and that meant chopping, peeling, and cutting.

The garden was never-ending work.

I enjoyed other gardens over the years, though. Flower gardens spray color over well-tended lawns. Arboretums cast shade over well-worn paths. English hedgerows meander around historic mansions and palaces. Those were gardens provided for me, unworked by my hands.

They offered rest and thoughtful meditation.

The Bible narrative starts and ends in gardens. And just like my experiences, there are two ways to look at gardens. They can be unhappy remembrances of Satan’s first battle with mankind, or gardens can be reminders of the future walled garden that sustains us and is watered by a life-giving river that runs through it.

Summer is a great time to meditate on the garden. We share our garden bounty with friends and family. A child offers a fistful of flowers to a mother. We bring in a bouquet of flowers cut for the dinner table that groans under the weight of fresh corn, green beans, and new potatoes.

But garden gifts don’t come without labor. We bend and stretch after a long morning weeding. We apply ointment to calloused hands that have hoed many rows. Dirty footprints track across the kitchen floor after an evening spent watering the garden.

Just as Eden brought work and pain and frustration, it also lingers in our common consciousness as the place where we met with our father, the Great Gardener.

Find some time this week to walk through a garden and meditate on the time, perhaps not so far from now, when we will once again walk with God through the garden paradise.


Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. Revelation 22:1-3 NIV

Running Away

I started running away when I was five years old. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what I really wanted was somebody to come after me when I was running away. ~Willie Aames

Last night I asked Matt if we could go to England. He looked at me dumbfounded.

“I just want to run away,” I explained.

We’ve had a chaotic month and I’m feeling done. The kitchen is torn apart for some remodeling. Our younger son was bitten by a rattlesnake. My mother-in-law had emergency surgery and her 102 year old mother had a stroke. I went away for a little over a week to attend a conference and then a little vacation, but that meant that the yard has needed constant attention ever since. My shoulders ache, it’s hot and humid, and some people aren’t nice.

Running away sounds like a good idea.

Running away is a common solution. Adam and Eve were the first to bolt. Then there was Jacob; his brother was making homicidal plans. I would have run, too. The most famous runner must be Jonah. His plan was kind of fishy though.

Maybe you want to run away, too.

You’re in the sandwich generation with aging parents and young children.  . . . You’ve been called into the boss’s office but aren’t sure why. Rumors abound. . . . The doctor’s report wasn’t what you wanted to hear.  . . . Or like me- everything is happening at once and chaos reigns.

There is a story of a man who tried running, but God told him where to run.

Ahab was out to kill Elijah, and Elijah knew it. So he took off running. He was exhausted and terrified; fear and defeat were all he saw.

God told him to go to Horeb. Elijah obeyed, hiding in a cave near the summit. It was scary as a fierce storm blew across the mountain. But Elijah stayed put this time.

And he actually got to meet God. He was encouraged and instructed by God.

Are you waiting on God in the scary times or are you running away and hiding?

Stand firm in the storm, so that you can be encouraged and instructed by the only one who knows the safe places to run.


The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV

Deception

God shows us the path; the devil shows us the possibilities. ~Ljupka Cvetanova

The family of Israel is divided, but after many years of divorce, the two heads try getting along with each other. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and Ahab, king of Israel, are united through a marriage. They couldn’t be united as one kingdom in God’s family, but evidently thought they could get along as earthly kin. Go figure.

So Jehoshaphat goes down to Samaria to visit Ahab. Ahab, the school bully, asks if they can go together to war against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is amenable if they first ask a prophet of God.

Ahab brings in 400 prophets who all say, “Yep, go for it. Good idea. Attack Ramoth Gilead with God’s blessing.”

But when everyone tells you it’s a sure thing, you might want to ask someone with a different perspective. So Jehoshaphat asks to hear from another prophet- enter Micaiah, son of Imlah.

Micaiah tries to tell the kings what they want to hear, but they don’t believe him. So Micaiah lays out truth like a Thanksgiving feast . . . and Ahab is the turkey.

The prophet says that there was a brain storming session in Heaven. A bunch of spirits got together with God to come up with ideas to get rid of Ahab, because, you know, school bully and whatnot. One of the spirits has the brilliant plan to tell Ahab what he wants to hear and deceive him.

“Go for it.” God approves. A deceiving spirit is sent, and now here we are.

“You’ll die in battle,” Micaiah predicts.

Now don’t you think that would turn Ahab back?

Nope. He goes into battle in disguise to fool the enemy.

Guess what.

He died.

My point here isn’t, how stupid do you have to be to hear the word of God and flippantly ignore it. No. There’s a bigger issue.

And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there? . . . “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” 2 Chronicles 18:19, 22

The bigger issue is how long will God suffer your bad behavior, your flippant attitude, your nose-thumbing, sand-kicking, bullying behavior? You see, at some point, God has enough. He is long-suffering, no doubt, but there is a limit to his patience.

What consequences are you suffering now because God put up with something as long as he could? Do you really want it to get worse?

Don’t be an Ahab and die in battle.

Listen to the Lord and turn back to him.


 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the breastplate and the scale armor. The king told the chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening. Then at sunset he died. 2 Chronicles 18:33-34

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