I’m No Gossip, But I Have This One Friend…

I had no idea that I had a raging problem with gossip until this past year.  For the purpose of this post, I define gossip as any kind of talk about a person or institution that is unhelpful, harmful, or slanderous.  (I just typed that and realized that it is a pretty standard definition.  Whatever.)

I spent the last year kind of checked out of personal relationships outside of immediate family.  I did not do this for the purpose of rehabilitating my gossiping ways, but because I needed time to heal my mind and emotions after 18 years with MS and then the very real trauma of having an international bone marrow transplant to get rid of the MS.  I’d go back to Russia and do the whole thing again in a heartbeat if I had to, but there is no denying that the experience was way bigger than I was prepared to deal with in a social setting.

Being checked out of the fast paced world of girls’ night out and meeting up for coffee made me keenly aware of how often those get togethers devolved into lengthy conversations about people – bless their hearts.  Even worse was when I realized that talking about others was my own personal default setting for chats.  I never considered it gossip for a couple of reasons: 1) I was going to talk about the person’s problems in an effort to try and help that person.  2) I would never want my words to hurt others and my intentions made all the difference, right?

Here is what I now know: talking about people is almost never helpful.  I say “almost” because there are a few instances when talking about others is extremely helpful.  Examples: 1) “Hey, do you guys think it looks like Suzy is choking?  Hey!  She is choking!  Let’s heimlich maneuver her back to life!”  2) “Don’t tell Pam, but I’m buying her a new car.”  3) “Because her drinking is out of control, and we are among her most trusted and loved friends, we should have a loving talk with her.”

All the instances I just mentioned involved one final outcome: the person of topic is eventually made aware in a loving manner of the behind their back conversations.  In all of the mentioned scenarios, the person is only being talked about because of genuine concern and love.

Gossip also involves love and concern, but it is love and concern for self.  Talking about the failures of others highlights my own lack of failure in the same area.   I can easily convince myself that I am a health nut if I only talk about the idiot Mom I saw feeding her kids high fructose corn syrup, bless her heart.  I can excuse my own hoarding by exposing the obscene hoarding of others.  I can easily forgive my occasional bouts of anger when I spend hours discussing how others have a problem controlling their own.  Give me enough idle hours picking someone apart, and I can even become convinced that I am the very hero who needs to sit that person down for a chat about how far they have fallen.  (Chats born of such gossip never end well.  I am ashamed to admit how many times I’ve had to repeat that occurrence to realize it.)

I like talking about ideas and this often means discussing the people who present the ideas.  That’s okay.  I like talking about ways the Church can be more effective in spreading the Gospel and this sometimes means talking about the ways it is failing.  That is okay.  I like sharing recipes and that sometimes means talking about people I know who are terrible cooks and have no business pretending they are good at it.  That is not okay.

It is extremely rare for talking about someone to be a good and helpful thing.  It is extremely common for it to end miserably for all involved.  It grieves me to know that I’m a gossiper and I flinch at the memories of certain conversations.  This blog post comes to you from my recovery ward and I hope it causes all of us to consider a different level of chatter.

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10 Ways You Are Getting Parenting Right

Have you heard of Facebook?  If you haven’t, then you are in an elite class of human.   Facebook is a place to announce your plans for the day, share pictures of your kids (pets, recent meals, feet propped up in various locations) and, most importantly, share blog posts about how you can be a better parent (spouse, employer, employee, pet owner.)  These posts are rarely written by experts, so I naturally decided to add my voice to the noise.

Instead of telling you tips, I have decided to give you a pass and tell you ten ways that you are getting parenting right.  Scoot the laundry off the sofa and plop down for a little bit of affirmation.

1. Your kids are sometimes bathed and rarely ever smell awful for company.  Go you!

2.  You have provided your kids with a pet.  Experts say that pets… whatever.  You got a pet and the kids seem to like it.  Can’t argue with results.

3.  You refused to get your kids a pet because you don’t need the hassle.  You know your limits and that makes you a model parent.

4.  There is food provided and they have eaten enough to continue existing.  People may dicker over details, but this blog gives you a gold star.  Good job keeping them alive.

5.  There are clothes in your home and your kids wear them.  Left all by themselves, they’d run around like naked heathens, but you put a stop to that nonsense with your keen parenting.

6.  Your kid was/will be potty trained before kindergarten.  It’s possible to over plan these things, but you made it.  Congratulations on those diaperless bottoms.

7.  You make them go to bed.  Bed times vary, but you’re no dummy and you make them sleep.

8.  Your kid refuses to sleep and you have not killed your child.  Let me be among the crowd that offers you a standing ovation.  Those six mind numbing hours that you spent staring at Facebook today are not on your permanent record.  You were up all night and your kid still lives.  You get a pass.

9.  That one thing that your kid wanted so badly, whatever it was, and you made it happen?  That puts you on the good parenting team.  Like food, people will argue and post all kinds of things on Facebook about how, when, and why good parents buy their kids certain items, but this blog is going to swipe all that off the table and just say, “Good for you.  Your kid wanted it and you made it happen.”

10.  You worry often that you are doing a terrible job.  Horrible parents do not worry that they are doing a terrible job.  Part of the reason they are so awful is because they don’t second guess any of their awful choices.  You worry, you second guess, you lay awake at night feeling certain you have blown it: all good signs that you are getting parenting right.

 

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On Memorizing The Word

“Believing God’s word is vastly more crucial than memorizing it. But O the mighty service rendered to faith by such memory.” -John Piper

Much has been written about memorizing Scripture.  I can’t intend to write a post about why you should commit to memorizing bulk portions.   What I can do, is tell you how it has matured my walk in ways I couldn’t have known when I started and then let you decide if maybe this is something you can do as well.

I began my efforts for no other reason than to see if I could.  I cannot pretend that I started with high spiritual reaches in mind.   I did include talks with God in my efforts, and I felt I walked closer than usual with Him while I worked.  I memorized the book of Ruth.  I chose it because it was that or Esther and Esther is 10 chapters, while Ruth is 4.  Seriously, I had no intentions that this would also be an exercise in my faith walk.   I am a very slow student, but God is a patient Teacher.

After Ruth, I added the first 3 chapters of Genesis.  The time I spent in those chapters remain very precious to me.  I felt like God was constantly saying, “This is My story.  This is Who I Am.”

Still, I plowed through my work as though it was more an assignment than important meal.  I added the book of Jonah, Genesis 4 and 22, Isaiah 51-54 to my list in this same way: Always treasuring the very real introduction I was receiving from God in His Word and how it was transforming my daily life, but not making the connection that the key factor in those seasons was that I was committing His Word to my mind and heart.

Such a slow learner.

During the time that I was cured of MS, I spent 9 days in isolation.  My nurses spoke no English and I spoke only during my doctor’s three times daily visits.  I entered that time with the full knowledge that God was in the middle of it.  I felt Him prowling that room like a Lion.  I woke up from my transplant with these sweet words on my mouth,

Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for there shall no more come into you
the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

I was healed.  I knew it and He had put His Words in my mouth to seal it.  That was about the time that it occurred to me that I had stumbled onto something much bigger than a simple brain exercise.  Slow and steady wins the race.

After we returned home, I began working on Esther.  Because I also present these Scriptures dramatically, I had decided to only do the first 8 chapters because it felt like it ended well there for staging purposes.  I worked on those 8 chapters with a performance date on the calendar.  If you haven’t read it lately, you should know that there are seven eunuchs, seven nobles, 2 regions and a lineage in the first three chapters.It was glorious work.  I don’t know that I have ever gotten it 100 percent right on stage, but I have all by myself and it’s a joy to have it rattling around in my brain.

By the time I got to Esther, I’d had my light bulb moment.  I knew that every word mattered, every name, every town.  These were people.  They lived and this is how God operated among them.  This is how God operates.  I took that Word and I memorized it, I meditated on it, I let it seep into my marrow.  More than any Bible study I’ve ever attended – and I’ve been to some great ones – more than any good spiritual book, more than any anything I have ever tried or had suggested, this has been the one thing that has finally settled my soul.

I have found much gain from fasting, Bible study, small groups, good books, and a host of other opportunities in this land of plenty.  Through it all, I still wrestled with wanting to really know Who God is.  Bulk Scripture memorization settled my soul.  I don’t know if it will do the same thing for you, but I wanted to let you know what happened to me when I did it.

 

 

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