Category Archives: Lessons Learned

A Big Slice of Humble Pie

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Last week I gave a lesson on the need for both humility and self-esteem. The result for me (that didn’t really hit me until yesterday,) was a big slice of humble pie, and a little voice inside my head with the question: “did you even hear yourself?”

It was not a good presentation (and I am not, NOT, NOT fishing for reassurance, so please don’t go there.) I stumbled over my words. I tanked on trying to explain “asceticism” and tie it in to the lesson. My power point wasn’t readable. I relied too much on my notes. I was boring. (Wow, there are a lot of “I’s” and “my’s” in that paragraph…my first hint that something is wrong!)

So, I’ve been fretting over it ever since. There are a lot of other frets that took up valuable brain space (and heart space) last week, too. Like my fret about my continuing fight against fat, and how I looked, and how my clothes fit (or didn’t), and hating my glasses and how I have to forever take them off and put them back on and how they make my eyes look like I’m ogling the person I’m talking to…and how my scaly heels needed a good pedicure (just keepin’ it real, y’all!) And then, did I hurt someone with my words or opinions given in the afternoon forum that same day? Did I mention that the reason I have these opinions is because I’ve made these mistakes and learned from them? Does someone think I’m a hypocrite? (Wow, do preachers wonder these things every week??) Will someone think less of me if I admit these insecurities? Will someone think I’m somehow disingenuous if I write about my own lack of confidence and humility – and then post it publicly? Fret, fret, fret.

Wow, lots more of those “I’s” and “me’s” and “my’s”.

Back to the lesson last week. What I was trying to relay to the audience was that our confidence and self-esteem shouldn’t come from how we think others perceive us…or from things or looks or smarts or from the admiring masses. Our humility shouldn’t be “pretend” – all the while enjoying the attention that our “modesty” attracts.

The light bulb came on yesterday morning. I already knew that the more I focused on me, myself, and I, the more Satan could distract me from my task at hand. But what really hit me yesterday is how he REALLY uses it against me when the me, myself, and I isn’t a matter of pride at all, but rather disappointment with me, myself, and I. My self-esteem had taken a hit because I was not pleased with how I might have been perceived or misunderstood. Basically, I was simply preoccupied with myself.

In last week’s lesson, I tried to convey that Godly humility looked like the heart of a servant, like Jesus. That humility says “I came not to be served” (or, I suppose, “liked”, or “admired”, or “fawned over”) “but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).  Humility is doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” but counting “others more significant than yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3-4). Hard for me to do, when I’m only focused on myself.

I hoped to show that regardless of how we look or sound to the world around us, God sees our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The Maker of the universe knows me better than I know myself, and the precious blood of His only Son redeemed me. I am a daughter of the King (Romans 8)! That, truly, is the only confidence I need. Feeling like you’ve presented something with clarity is a good thing. Complimentary, supportive friends are nice, too! But I think they’re the “gravy” in life. My confidence and self-worth has to come from God.

“Physician, heal yourself” came to mind yesterday morning while cleaning the kitchen and thinking of the things I wished I’d said and done differently last week. How sadly ironic. Did I even listen to my own words? I know I believed them. But did I apply them to MYSELF last week?  Evidently not.

I’m trying, now!

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Meet An Old Lady

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An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.

Do Nouns Make You Happier Than Verbs?

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I just got an email from eBay that said “Carla: still looking for a handbag?”

Hmmm. Is someone watching me? I’ll admit, I do have this tiny problem with handbags: I like them. And cute dishes, and Tervis tumblers and Yellow Box flip flops. And I like it when John takes me out to dinner. I don’t really like being the center of attention, but I don’t mind – on a small scale – when it’s “all about me!”

But – the world doesn’t revolve around me.

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Shocking, isn’t it? Here’s more: it doesn’t revolve around you, either.

We all want to be happy. I want to be happy. You want to be happy. Our kids want to be happy. We want to make them happy. “Happy, happy, happy!” (Thanks, Phil.)

Here’s the problem, though. Where does our happiness come from? Nouns, or verbs?

Recently, while preparing a lesson about ways to influence and teach teenage girls, I was thinking about how we tend to use NOUNS (people, places, and things) to make our girls (and GUYS, for that matter) happy. Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s go buy you a new pair of shoes. Bad day at school? Let’s go to the movies. Your friend got a new purse? We’ll get you a more expensive one. This will make you feel better, baby.

It’s sort of like the drain in the bathtub with no stopper…we keep trying to fill it up. But something else will always come up…a new want, another bad day, and the THINGS just keep pouring down the drain.

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But what if we used VERBS to make our kids happy? What if we used verbs to make US happy? Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s stop right here and ask God to soften their heart and also to open our eyes to our own insensitivities. Bad day at school? Let’s go by and see how we can help this hurting family in need. Your friend got a new purse? Let’s go through your closet and see what we can share with someone who REALLY needs it.

Believe me, I’m talking to Carla, too.

This isn’t anything new. God said it centuries ago.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, for they shall be satisfied…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:6, 16 (emphasis mine)

Nouns make us happy, but it’s a temporary happy. We are always going to want another new pair of shoes. But verbs – now THOSE will really make a difference. Not only in my life, but in the lives of those I am helping! Our kids might balk at first. They might drag their feet (or we might have to drag their feet for them…) 😉 but given plenty of opportunities, they (and we!) will see the lasting happiness that comes from being a servant of God.

Then, instead of a draining bathtub, we can be like those beautiful infinity pools we see in magazines…the kind of pool that spills over and shares beauty and flows out with God’s living water. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

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Come On, People!

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Monday night, we went to a 7th grade girls basketball game. It was held in a gym where Jordan and Jacob played in high school. I wonder what it is about the squeaky floors, uncomfortable wooden bleachers and sweaty, basketbally smell of a familiar gym that can send you spinning into nostalgic overload? Those years of watching basketball in that gym were fun. And cute little Micah with his chili-bowl haircut would shoot baskets during halftime at his brothers’ games.

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Watching the boys (especially Jordan – yes I did just say that – sorry, Jake and Micah) play basketball ranks right at the very top of my list of favorite things to do. (I enjoy watching their football games too, but spent most of my time cringing behind my hands.)

But I digress.

Back to Monday night. We sat near a man we did not know, and he was quite vocal during the game.  He did not hesitate to voice his loud irritation with his daughter when she did not perform as well as he thought she should. Over the years, we’ve heard a lot of parents complain and yell and gripe. They got mad at their kids. They were furious with the coaches. They yelled at the refs. (Sometimes I had to tell John to pipe down. Sometimes he had to tell ME to pipe down. Sometimes I had to pinch him.) I remember one man who was thrown out of basketball games with regularity because he was so obnoxious. I’ll never forget the near-brawl that took place at one of Jordan’s 5th grade little league football games. 

Get a grip.

It’s a game.

They’re just kids.

I think we need to remember why we want our kids involved with youth sports. Is it because we want them to win at all costs? Is it because we want our son or daughter to be athletically superior to the next kid? Even if we have hopes for a college scholarship, does that justify rude behavior, angry outbursts and the stress we put on our kids?

Here are the good things about youth sports: our kids learn teamwork and responsibility. They learn that hard work and practice pays off. They learn that life isn’t always fair. They learn that not everyone is easy to work with. They (hopefully) learn how to lose gracefully. They learn self-discipline. And if we do our parenting job right, they learn to put God before all other activities, even when it’s tough.

Come on, people. Remember what’s important.

Wanna Watch your Weight – or Lose It?

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I’ve been using the Weight Watchers app for two years now. I KNOW it works. Weight Watchers teaches you to make better choices than most programs. But – I’ve tried the Lose It app also, and in some ways I like the app (though not necessarily the program) more. It’s easier to use, and the bar code scanner is far better than the one Weight Watchers provides. And it’s free! HOWEVER, when I am using the Lose It app, I find it harder to lose weight. I’ve been trying to figure out why!

Yesterday, I tracked my food in both the Lose It app (top photo) and the Weight Watchers app (bottom photo.) In the Lose It app, I was 461 calories *under* for the day. But in the WW app, I was seven points OVER my allotted 27 points for the day – with the same food and exercise choices.

The obvious answer is that not all calories are “created equal.” Which is pretty sad to me, because I would like for the 136 calories from pasta to be the same as 136 calories worth of broccoli.  But alas, it is not. Pasta calories might as well be rubbed right onto the thighs and broccoli calories likely head straight for your biceps.

One piece of Oroweat Oat Nut bread (which I love) is three whole points. But it’s only 100 calories in Lose It. One ounce of my favorite cocoa roast almonds is FIVE WW points. But only 156 calories in Lose It. When I’m using the Weight Watchers app, I think twice before I eat that bread, because it “costs” more.  (I usually eat the almonds regardless, because I love them that much.)

Long story short, I still believe the Weight Watchers program works the best because it teaches you a better way to eat. Fruits, vegetables, proteins, fibers…things that will keep you feeling full and not just empty calories. Lose It will work, too, but you have to be careful when considering how to spend your calories.

That’s just my two cents worth!

 

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Rooted in Forgiveness

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“Let me tell you something: I am a man. A sob hit me somewhere around my ankles; it came surging upward…I was just bawling, as I hadn’t since I was a baby. ‘Meester Kinte!’ I just felt like I was weeping for all of history’s incredible atrocities against fellowmen, which seems to be mankind’s greatest flaw…” (Alex Haley, describing his journey back to his ancestor’s African village in Roots: The Saga of An American Family200px-Haley_roots

“Abolishing slavery settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions in bondage but of unborn millions to come. Shall we stop this bleeding? We must cure ourselves of slavery. This amendment is that cure. Here stepped out upon the world’s stage now with the fate of human dignity upon our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment.” (Abraham Lincoln, from the movie “Lincoln”)

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“A confession, which…comes too late…It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” (John Newton, former slave trader turned abolitionist) john newton

Last week I finished reading Alex Haley’s saga Roots. Then in Sunday’s sermon, John mentioned the slave-trading captain John Newton, who late in his life penned the words to what we now know as the song “Amazing Grace”. And yesterday, John and I went to see the movie “Lincoln”. Not surprisingly, my mind has been a muddle of questions about how mankind is capable of participating in — and tolerating — the wrongs committed against one another. How could they live with the guilty bloodstains on their souls?

The description of the conditions aboard slave ships is horrific. The separation from home and loved ones; the lack of warmth and nourishment, the rampant disease and widespread filth are conditions that are nearly unimaginable to someone like me who has never experienced true want or mistreatment.

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If my son / husband / father (or any of my loved ones) had been stolen, beaten, shackled, chained, starved, tortured, sold, forced into slavery, and humiliated, I don’t know that I could ever forgive the ones responsible.  Can God forgive them of such?

Could God forgive David of reckless adultery, or of plotting the violent murder of an innocent man? Could God forgive Saul/Paul of his participation in the violence against early Christians? Could God forgive the ones responsible for crucifying His Son, as Jesus asked Him to do? Can God forgive ME?

In the face of his shame David said “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” (Psalm 51). Despite the guilt he must have felt (and the temptation we often feel to deny ourselves forgiveness,) Paul said “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Phil. 3:13-14). John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

I’m so thankful that anyone – ANYONE – can make the choice to turn from their past, be obedient to God and receive His forgiveness – even the worst slave-trader and murderer. And I’m so thankful that God is not like me, with my unforgiving, stubborn, prideful, grudge-holding tendencies. HIS grace and forgiveness are full and complete:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8-12

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!

Conversations With Yourself

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At 5’3″ and 231 pounds, I was classified as “morbidly obese”. Whether or not I agree with that label is another story. But according to all the professionals, there it was in black and white, a body mass index of 40.9%.

Over the 25 years I spent being overweight (which I still am, by the way – according to the professionals) I often wished I could *see myself* at a healthier weight. Every new year I’d think “well, if I start in January and lose 8 pounds per month, I could be thin by Thanksgiving!” And then I’d fail to follow through, and Thanksgiving would roll around, and I’d still be hefty because all I did was THINK about it, and again I’d be ashamed of my lack of self-discipline.

There’s something about this commercial that really speaks to my heart.

I don’t know anything about Medifast. But personally, I think it’s good motivation to “visualize yourself” where you’d like to be. And in this commercial, in the two tearfully spoken words: “Good job!” – I sense her embarrassment over her current shape, her desire to accomplish her goal, her doubt over her ability to gain control, her hope that this time she’ll follow through, and the pride she knows she’ll feel when she does. Maybe I’m reading more into it than is really there, but I see me in her.