Watch Out! It’ll Get You!

A Christian writer was asked to speak at a large conference of believers.

Later, he wrote this about that experience.

He said that on his drive home from the conference, he thought, I’m an excellent public speaker. I captivated my audience today.

He realized then what an arrogant thought that was. He was ashamed of being prideful.

So, he uttered a prayer in which he confessed his prideful attitude and asked God to help him be humble.

Immediately after he said “amen,” he thought, That was a great prayer I just said.

I appreciate that writer’s honesty, because I struggle against the sin of pride.

The Bible is strong in its condemnation of pride.

The book of Proverbs warns that disgrace, destruction, and strife await the prideful person.

James 4:6 reads, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Most Christians are familiar with the parable of the prideful Pharisee and the humble tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14.

Not one of us wants to be guilty of the sin of pride. But pride, also called hubris, can be hard to identify in oneself.

How can I know if I am prideful?

I can start by asking myself some hard, soul-searching questions.

  • Do I use my abilities to bless or to impress?
  • Am I happy with my accomplishments, even if no one knows about them?
  • How important to me is my level of attractiveness?
  • How much thought and effort do I put into self-promoting?

You may think the movie Amadeus is about the famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is not.

Amadeus is the story of a lesser known composer, Antonio Salieri.

Salieri, a pious composer, prays for greatness but recognizes true genius has come to a vulgar, distasteful man in the person of Mozart.

At every turn, Salieri’s efforts at composing are bested by Mozart’s work.

Talented though he is, Salieri cannot overcome his hatred of Mozart. He demands that God tell him (Salieri) why Mozart, and not himself, has been gifted with genius.

Salieri lives a miserable life of disappointment that culminates in his killing Mozart out of envy.

As I said, I struggle against the sin of pride.

I want to be a kind, generous person. I want to be a good grandmother. I want to write well.

Having those goals is not sinful.

But if I accomplish those goals, I will likely receive recognition.

It is in that recognition that the devil can get a foothold.

Satan will tempt me to cherish the recognition so that:

  • Instead of wanting to be a kind, generous person, I crave applause for my kindness and generosity. 
  • Instead of wanting to be a good grandmother, I seek recognition as Grandmother of the Year.  
  • Instead of wanting to use my gift of writing to glorify God, I focus on receiving more “likes” on Facebook, more “reposts” of my blogs, and more gold stars than my contemporaries.

Satan tempts me to make everything in my world about me. And my fallen nature sometimes sucks me into doing that.

Life, for me, is a continual effort to fall out of love with myself and to fall in love with Jesus.

And my biggest obstacle to doing that is pride.

What Is That in Your Hand?

When we had our other house, the house where the kids grew up and where we lived for over 30 years, I grew African violets.

This house had a south window, and my violets thrived there.

Purple Flowers

In our current house, I have no south window. I have no north window, for that matter. I have tried to grow violets everywhere in this house, but they will not thrive.

So, I resorted to having a philodendron plant, the one plant no one can kill. It grows despite placement in a disagreeable location and even neglect by its owner.

 

And I do neglect my philodendron.

We had to move it when we put up the Christmas tree.

A poor, pitiful thing it was.

Dead, brown leaves; crooked, misshapen vines; and a rootbound under-life, I’m sure.

When we moved the plant, pangs of guilt attacked me, for it was as dry as a rock bed.

So I watered it.

I went to the kitchen and counted the steps needed to carry water from the sink to the plant stand.

Eighteen steps.

I let weeks go by, months maybe, between waterings of that plant, and why?

It wasn’t because I didn’t have the water it needed. It wasn’t because I was unable to walk the 18 steps from the kitchen to the plant stand.

It was because of apathy. I didn’t care enough about that plant to ensure its survival.

My attitude and actions said to the plant, “Go ahead. Die.”

I wonder how many other things/people/situations exist toward which I feel apathy.

I have what they need, but I withhold it from them.

Do you remember when God met with Moses at the burning bush?

After Moses was well into his discourse against doing the thing God commissioned him to do, God asked Moses a question.

“What is that in your hand?” (Genesis 4:2)

You know it was a staff. Moses threw it on the ground, and, in a frightening display of power, God turned the staff into a snake.

The story of Jesus feeding 5000+ people with a boy’s lunch of five small loaves of bread and two little fish is recorded in all four Gospels. (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6)

This story is familiar to you. Great hungry crowds surround Jesus.

The disciples want to feed them.

Jesus asks (paraphrase), “What have you got?”

You know the rest of the story.

God can use you to accomplish wonders with things you’ve already got.

Let’s take an inventory.

What have you got?

A warm smile? A hug? A stash of encouraging, unaddressed greeting cards?

Clothes, shoes, dishes, furniture, toys, machines you don’t need or rarely use?

Excess money you can’t take with you when you leave earth?

The ability to change a headlight, babysit a child, oversee a funeral meal, provide transportation to a doctor appointment, or do yardwork?

God put those things in your hands for you to use. If you need them for yourself, okay.

If you don’t need them, rest assured someone else does.

Maybe, like Moses, all you have is a stick and a stuttering tongue.

Or, similar to the disciples, all you have are two frozen Banquet pot pies.

Not much in your hands.

But in God’s hands?

WOW!

What is that in your hand?

If you have it, aren’t using it, and someone else needs it, your apathetic attitude may be saying to them, “Go ahead. Do without.”

And, by the way, you are not expressing that attitude just to the people who need what you have. You are expressing that attitude to the One who gave those gifts to you.

Of course, the best thing you can give anyone is an introduction to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

OPENING MY HAND WITH OFFERS TO YOU

  1. I can edit. God put that ability into my hands.

If you need a document edited, send it to me. I promise either to edit and return it to you, or to respond telling you why I am unable to edit it.

Send me your family Christmas letter to enclose with your Christmas cards. Send me an apology or thank-you letter you want to send to someone but are uncertain about its grammar and punctuation. Send me your letter to Santa.

Please do not send me:

  1. A doctorate dissertation.
  2. An angry rant.
  3. Sensual, steamy scenes from a romance novel you’re writing.
  4. Your child’s homework.
  5. Scientific data containing crazy symbols I don’t recognize.

Send your document, up to two, double-spaced pages, to dscales24@yahoo.com, and I will edit it and return it to you.

2. I can teach. God put that ability into my hands.

I will give your child (or you) two free tutoring sessions in any of the language arts subjects (reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, etc.) or math, up through pre-algebra.

You will need to provide transportation and textbooks, worksheets, etc. If the subject is upper elementary math, I may need the textbook to prepare ahead of the tutoring session.

Email me at dscales24@yahoo.com or call me at 812.350.8122 to set up a tutoring session.

What is that in your hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMILE!

Here in central Indiana, we’ve endured a long stretch of dreary, sunless days.

I don’t know how many days the sun hid itself from us, but I’m guessing around 47.

Anyway, yesterday and today the sun has shown brightly.

I am so happy to see it, I could dance in the street.

But, I’ll restrain myself.

Instead, I’ll try to send a little happiness your way by sharing a few of my favorite jokes.

I would credit the originators of these jokes, but I don’t remember where I heard or read them.

Here they are, and you’re welcome.

Joke #1 Crayfish Haystack

A certain man had the unfortunate name of Crayfish Haystack. He was a friendly fellow and knew almost everyone.

He and his friend, Benny, traveled quite a bit, and everywhere they went, Haystack saw people he knew.

Benny was astonished!

“Do you know everyone?” he asked.

“Pertnear,” said Crayfish.

One day Crayfish and Benny visited Washington, D.C.

There they saw a crowd of people who were waiting, apparently, for some important person to speak on an outdoor platform.

Benny and Crayfish joined the crowd.

Within a few minutes, Crayfish saw President Trump step onto the stage.

Crayfish, of course, knew President Trump, so he made his way to the platform, shook hands with the President, and chatted for a few minutes.

When he returned to his spot in the crowd, he saw Benny lying flat on the ground, out cold.

“What happened to Benny?” Crayfish asked another person in the crowd.

“I don’t know,” the man answered. “I just asked him if he knew the name of the man on the stage talking to Crayfish Haystack, and he fainted.”

Joke #2 The Seatbelt

A driver was cruising along a city street when he saw flashing blue lights behind him.

It dawned on him suddenly, that law enforcement officials had announced they would be stopping random cars to make sure everyone in the car was wearing a seatbelt.

This driver was not wearing his seatbelt.

As quickly as he could, he reached up, grabbed his seatbelt, and buckled it securely.

He pulled to the side of the road, and the trooper pulled his car up behind him.

The trooper walked to the driver’s side of the car. The driver lowered his window.

“Look at my seatbelt,” said the driver. “I always wear it,  just as I’m supposed to.”

“License and registration, please,” said the trooper.

The driver reached toward the glove box to get his paperwork, but he couldn’t reach it.

“See?” said the driver. “I’m wearing my seatbelt.”

“I’m getting to that,” said the trooper. “License and registration, please.”

Again the driver tried to reach the glove box but couldn’t.

He stalled.

“Officer,” said the driver, “I know you’re checking to make sure I’m wearing my seatbelt, and, as you can see, I am wearing it. I always wear it.”

“Yes,” said the trooper, “I’m sure you do. But do you always loop it through your steering wheel like that?”

Joke #3 The Nearsighted Spinster

A certain spinster was advancing in age and was becoming desperate to find a boyfriend.

She knew men were not attracted to her because she was piteously nearsighted and wore thick-lensed glasses.

Finally, a man showed some interest. He went by the spinster’s house a few times and sat with her in her porch swing.

Things didn’t move along very fast, and the spinster was certain it was her glasses that stood in the way of her having a long-lasting relationship with this man.

One day, when she knew the man was coming for a porch swing visit, she walked far out into the pasture near her house. There she stuck a tiny sewing needle into the bark of a tree.

She went back home, removed her glasses, and sat in the swing to wait for her suitor.

He came, and as they talked, she looked intently toward the pasture.

“What is it?” asked the man.

“Why, I believe I see a sewing needle in the bark of one of those trees out there.”

“What?” asked the man. “You surely can’t see a needle from this distance.”

“Of course I can,” said the spinster. “I’ll go get the needle and prove it.”

The spinster went running out through the pasture, arms outstretched toward the tree, and tripped over a cow.

BRAVO!

Dan and I enjoyed one of our best evenings of 2019 last Monday.

Our six-year-old grandson, the one I refer to online as Shine, performed in his first piano recital.

The event was held at a beautiful residential center. The room sparkled with holiday lights.

The attendees consisted of about 20 performers; parents, grandparents, and friends of those performers; and several residents of the center.

Performers’ ages ranged from about 6, like Shine, all the way through late teens.

On cue, each young pianist introduced himself or herself, announced the title of the piece, sat on the piano bench, and played.

Every performance ended with a shy bow from the performer.

Some of the pieces played lasted less than a minute. Others, from the advanced players, were longer.

The audience was enraptured.

The spectators held their collective breaths and wished each participant nothing but complete success.

After each performance, the audience applauded enthusiastically.

When Shine’s turn came, he walked hesitantly toward the grand piano at the front of the room.

In a quiet voice he faced the audience, gave his name, and announced he would be playing Spooky Halloween.

I tensed, and tears filled my eyes as he seated his small body on the bench.

His teacher had instructed him to play his short piece twice.

Shine played Spooky Halloween once. Then he halted.

He looked at his mom in the audience. She gave him a smile, a nod, and a thumbs-up.

He then looked at his teacher, who also smiled, held up her pointer finger and whispered, “One more time.”

The audience listened to the song being played again.

Shine rose, bowed, and received an approving applause.

What a picture of the way life should be: Each participant doing his or her best at a chosen honorable endeavor, and everyone else applauding and encouraging.

All the pianists were outstanding. I would award first place to each of them.

But the grand prize I give to the supporting cast, the audience.

They were spectacular.

Each of us performs individually, but life is a team sport.

 

 

 

GEESE

Yesterday, as I walked down the driveway to put a letter in our mailbox, I saw and heard a flock of geese overhead.

The familiar black, v-shaped pattern was painted against the blue sky.

How beautiful is the example of geese who, like squirrels, hummingbirds, and other animals, make annual preparations for winter.

Seeing the geese, I offered up a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

I thanked God for instilling animals with instincts for their protection and preservation.

I thanked Him that these animals follow the pattern He gave them.

Geese don’t abandon God because His ways don’t make sense to their enlightened minds.

They don’t question the codes He implanted in their natures.

They are and they do exactly what they were created to be and to do.

If only humans were so wise and so faithful.

On Thursday, I will celebrate Thanksgiving.

My heart will overflow with gratitude for the numberless blessings God has given me.

But on Monday, I celebrated geese.

NO

When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, my dad owned a general store. It wasn’t an impressive place, but it offered most of the things people needed.

It sat just up the road from our house. Every day at noon Dad walked home for lunch.

I don’t know that “hours of operation” were ever posted, but everyone knew when the store was open.

One old man always wanted to shop between noon and one o’clock.

He did not drive to the store because he knew the store was closed.

He drove to our house, where Dad was eating lunch.

The man didn’t park on the side of the road by our house. (We had no driveway.)

He drove his old-timey, heavy, black car up to the verge of our yard. There he sat, scowling, and waiting for Dad to come out and open the store especially for him.

From behind our living room curtains, my siblings and I watched him: an angry old man sitting in our front yard, inside a gangster car, its shiny grill aimed right at our front porch.

We kids knew (and the old grouch knew) Dad would not be intimidated.

After he finished his lunch, Dad walked back to the store, with the black car trailing him.

Dad didn’t feel obliged to meet unreasonable expectations of others. He was not a people pleaser.

For years, I had trouble refusing any request.

Early in our marriage, when Dan and I had almost no excess money, I opened the front door one day to a lightbulb salesman.

This man was selling lightbulbs guaranteed to last forever.

“These bulbs will never burn out,” he said.

I bought a box of five for $25.

I didn’t want or need the lightbulbs, but I could not find the courage to say no to the salesman.

Dan came home soon afterward. When I told him what I had done, he got back into his car, carrying the box of lightbulbs. He found the salesman, who was still peddling in the neighborhood.

Dan retrieved my $25 check and gave the lightbulbs back to the seller.

I simply have trouble telling people no.

Back when friends had parties for the purpose of selling cookware, wall art, makeup, vitamins, and the like, I went when I was invited.

I never wanted to go. Usually I found the least expensive item for sale and bought it.

I went to those parties simply to be nice.

I want to be nice, and you probably do too.

But recognize the difference between being nice and being a people pleaser.

When I am nice, my concern is for the other person. That reflects kindness.

When I am a people pleaser, my concern is for my own image. That reflects selfishness.

According to an article I found at www.learning-mind.com, being a people pleaser leads to unhealthy consequences.

  • People use you.
  • You suppress far too much.
  • Nobody will ever know the true you.
  • You have extreme pressure to keep up appearances.
  • You become a control freak.

Jesus’ concern was always for others. But a people pleaser, Jesus was not.

He spoke the truth. He carried out His God-given mission. He was not interested in being popular or enabling people to be selfish.

My mission is to serve God and other people.

This means I should say no when saying yes is harmful to the other person.

I should say no when the other person’s expectations are unreasonable.

And this is the hard one. I should say no when I am tempted to say yes simply to be a people pleaser.

A GREAT RESCUE

I grew up in a rural area in the Ozarks.

My siblings and I knew our boundaries, and by today’s standards, they were wide.

I made multiple trips daily up the road to the general store my dad owned.

I walked to my Grandma and Grandpa Stephens’ house, which was about a mile away.

I made treks to the Bill Tyree Branch and to my friend Kay’s house.

Within those wide limits, my parents had placed specific restrictions.

I wasn’t to bother neighbors for a drink of water or the use of their bathrooms.

Since I was the oldest child of four, I was to look out for my younger siblings.

And I was never to go inside the house of Herbert and Peggy (not their real names), an old couple who lived in our community.

Herbert waved and said howdy from their front porch every time I walked past their house.

I helped Peggy pick her strawberries, because her old, bent back hurt.

One day as I walked past their house, Herbert called to me, “Come in for a while. I’ll let you play my organ.”

I loved getting a chance to play an organ.

My Aunt Freddie had one. I had spent hours pushing its knobs and pressing its keys. I had learned to play I Dropped My Dolly in the Dirt.

Aunt Freddie also had a hymnal, and I worked to learn to play Love Lifted Me and other hymns.

Anyway, when Herbert invited me inside to play his organ that day, I went with him.

I sat on the organ bench and played my Dolly song.

I don’t know how my mother knew I was inside that house.

I know only this.

Without knocking, Mom walked through Herbert and Peggy’s  door.

She stepped behind me, and with loving arms, she lifted me off the bench and took me home.

She rescued me from a child-molesting beast.

My mother’s actions reflect the message of the old hymn, Love Lifted Me.

The spiritual application of this story is hard to miss.

Out of great love for His children, God set limits for our protection.

I have crossed God’s boundaries many times and played into the hands of the greatest beast of all.

God knew I would.

So He sent One who, with loving and bloodied arms, would reach out and rescue me.

The old hymn speaks the truth.

 Love Lifted Me.

THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION

When I serve potatoes, I rarely begin with potatoes.

I begin with a box or a bag.

In my freezer are bags of hash brown potatoes and french fried potatoes.

In my pantry are boxes of potatoes au gratin and bags of instant potato flakes.

In my refrigerator sits a container of factory-made mashed potatoes ready to be heated in the microwave.

I do have a five-pound bag of “real” potatoes, a shriveling, budding mass of semi-solid ovals that will probably be thrown out.

That sums up my list of “potato” items.

In my mother’s kitchen, the only “potato” item was a ten-pound bag of raw potatoes, replaced weekly.

More days than not, Mom first scrubbed and peeled, and then fried, mashed, baked, or boiled potatoes. They were a staple in our diet.

But I seek speed and convenience in my relationship with potatoes.

In fact, I seek speed and convenience in almost every area of life.

You probably do too.

We want quick gas station stops and drive-through ATM’s.

We snatch information from Siri or Google to avoid visiting a library and doing research.

We zip in and out of grocery stores to buy foods our parents grew in gardens.

For the ultimate in speed and convenience, we drive up to a window on the side of a building, and someone hands out our dinner in a bag or box.

We’ve got speed and convenience down to an art.

We may even seek a quick and easy relationship with God.

We don’t have time for a relationship nourished with daily prayer and Bible study.

We go to church when we can, and we limit our intake of scripture to what the minister reads aloud each week.

Or we skip the drive and stream a church service online.

We utter our only prayer of the day after we go to bed, and fall asleep in the middle of it.

As for that old-time religion practiced by earlier saints?

Nah.

We don’t have time for that.

—————-

I am adding my usual autumn caution. NEVER drive through a deep pile of leaves.

DARK DAY MUSINGS

Occasionally, I look at Dan when he appears to be deep in thought,  and I ask, “What are you thinking?”

As often as not, he says something like, “I don’t know. Nothing.”

But that can’t be true.

We’re never not thinking. (Forgive my double negative.)

I know this because I’ve tried not to think.

I can’t do it.

The best I can do is think: I don’t want to think this thing I’m thinking.

On a recent dark and rainy Saturday, my cooped-up-in-the-house-too-long mind wandered to these places.

I thought:

 

 

What is that one tiny germ or group of germs (0.1% of all known germs) that no household cleanser in the world can kill?

 

 

 

Why do they make a sleeping bag bag ALMOST big enough to get the  re-rolled sleeping bag back inside it?

 

 

 

 

 

Why don’t they make trash bags out of the same strong plastic they use to hold Happy Meal toys? You know, that plastic that requires gardening shears to open?

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I always have more lids than storage bowls?

 

 

 

Why do I fret about the grandkids mixing Play-Doh colors? There’s no way for a kid to make a reasonable facsimile of a salad or a representation of worms climbing up a Neptunian mountain without using multiple colors of this cheap artistic medium.

 

 

Why do I painstakingly put Legos, Lincoln Logs, Peppa Pig figures, toy jewelry, and My Little Ponies into assigned and labeled totes when, after the grandkids have been here for five minutes, each tote contains what look like the leavings of a four-day yard sale?

 

 

 

If I would spend less time trying to get sleeping bags back inside their bags, putting trash into new bags because the original bags burst, matching lids to bowls, putting Play-Doh into the right cans, and sorting puzzle pieces from Lincoln Logs and toy jewelry, I might discover and destroy that tiny germ that thwarts every effort by household cleansers to kill it.

The world would then be a better place and I would be a happier person.

Or, maybe I should give that trying to think about nothing business another try.

 

PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE

A reporter once asked the celebrated orchestra conductor, Leonard Bernstein, to name the most difficult instrument to play.

Bernstein replied, “Second fiddle! I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . .  now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

People with a passionate desire to master an instrument, an art, or a sport want to be best.

But the word best, by its very definition, is limiting.

Think of well-known characters who played second to a best:

  • Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson
  • Vicki Lawrence to Carol Burnett
  • B. J. Hunnicutt to Hawkeye Pierce
  • John Watson to Sherlock Holmes

Carson, Burnett, Pierce, and Holmes might never have achieved “first place” in their fields without the help of their sidekicks, their so-called “second bananas.”

But let’s look at these duos in a different way.

Maybe McMahon, Lawrence, Hunnicutt, and Watson were playing first in what they did.

Not everyone could have played their roles. They were the best at what they did.

People sometimes yearn to be best in something when they have no chance of even being good in that area.

How ridiculous would it be if I set as my goal, at age 67, to become an award-winning LPGA player or a world renowned chess champion?

The sooner I recognize my abilities and opportunities and work toward being best in those areas, the higher are my chances of success.

I won’t lie to you.

I would love to be the next Erma Bombeck.

In the field of writing homebased humor, she was the best.

I would even like to be the next Max Lucado.

But why stop there? What if I could be the next C. S. Lewis?

The truth is this: I will never be the next anybody.

I am the first and only me. (Grammar purists, forgive me.)

I must not make it my goal to achieve other people’s successes.

Their successes do not diminish my success.

God’s Word instructs me to strive for excellence in whatever I pursue.

It is up to me to decide what I will pursue.

This is an area in my life to which I must apply the truth laid out in God’s Word.

1 Peter 4:10 (TLB) reads: God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.

Though I sometimes fight against accepting this truth, I preach it to my grandchildren. I even found a graphic I intend to include in their scrapbooks.

 

 

But my grandchildren are not the only ones who need this reminder.

I have printed this and posted it near my laptop, where I do my writing. When I read it, I substitute the words “person and people” for the words “kid and kids.”

I have been a Christian for over 50 years, but Satan still attacks me. He knows where I am vulnerable. He targets my soft spots.

He targets your soft spots too.

Print and post this wherever you feel a temptation to outdo, outshine, outachieve, outcook, outdrive, outclass, outwrite, or out-whatever other people.

Life isn’t a competition.

You have been given an instrument and a position in life’s symphony.

Play well and in harmony with others.

———-

(The Bryan Skavnak quote “Some Kids Are Smarter Than You” message can be purchased as a wall plaque, canvas hanging, or desk sign at www.etsy.com.)

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.