Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lessons in the Check-Out Line


Do you have times like I do when you just don’t feel like shopping for groceries? Occasionally my husband will offer to drive me to the store to encourage me. (Sometimes he has hidden motives, like being out of his favorite snack or having a sudden craving for a frozen treat.)

Though David usually remains in the car with his Kindle or his  I-phone, one day he came into the store after he parked the car to “help me shop” (which most often means we end up with a lot of “not-on-the- grocery-list” items in the cart). I didn’t realize he had entered the store and was startled when he dropped something into my shopping cart.

David had been following me around for a while to see how long it would take me to notice him. I don’t normally pay attention to other shoppers in the grocery store, unless they make noise – children throwing tantrums, frustrated moms trying to keep their kids from grabbing things off the shelves, someone talking loudly on his cell phone.

My husband pointed out that someone could be stalking me and I would not know it. (I pictured the headline, “Grocery Store Stalker Strikes Again in the Produce Aisle”.)  Anyway, I am beginning to notice people near me in a store now – particularly the people in the check-out line.

Recently, I was shopping at a grocery store located in our vacation spot and chose the one check-out line that was not “self-check”. There was a woman in front of me with a large cart-full who offered to let me precede her through the line since I had fewer items in my cart. At that moment I remembered an item that was not in my cart, so declined her offer, wheeling my cart to the laundry soap aisle.

As I returned to the check-out line, a woman slipped in just ahead of me who had a cart-full. Not only did she not offer to let me go first, but she remembered an item that was not in her cart and left her cart in line to go find the item. She returned to the line with two different flavors of yogurt and proceeded to call someone to ask which flavor the person preferred. She then placed some of her grocery items on the conveyer belt and slipped out of line to return the unwanted flavor. By this time there were two more customers behind me.

The woman returned to her cart, still talking on her cell phone and thought of yet another item she needed. She again left the check-out line, phone still at ear, without saying so much as a “please excuse me for my rudeness”. She returned with her item, and though I felt a sudden urge to trip her, I politely moved aside to allow her to finish unloading her cart.

At about that time a friend of “Ms.my-time-is-more-important-than-anyone’s-else-in-this-line”, who was the fourth customer behind me in the line, called out to ask what was planned for the kids for dinner. To which question the self-absorbed shopper responded, “Let’s do macaroni and cheese. Could you get a box of noodles for me – and a package of flour?”

The cashier had a befuddled look on her face, but said nothing. There was also an incredulous expression on the faces of the couple behind me who were hand-carrying a few items but were now trapped in this forever-check-out line. I was thinking “Is this really happening? And why doesn’t anyone say anything – including, me?”

When the unbelievably thoughtless customer finally departed the check-out counter the clerk said, “I’ve never had a customer like that. I didn’t know what to do.” I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, not letting on what I had felt like doing.

When I later shared this encounter with my husband, his response was, “I would have asked, ‘Lady, what are you doing? Can’t you see this line of customers waiting behind you? But I would say it in a nice way.”

Which reminds me of a quote in Colin Powell’s book, It Worked for Me: the quote was from a Sunday message by an elderly priest in an Episcopal church that Powell attended. The priest concluded his message with this exhortation: “Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.”

This caused me to wonder about the woman in the grocery store check-out line; maybe she’s not usually rude or inconsiderate. Maybe she just had a bad day and was expecting a crowd of people that night. Maybe she left a 5-year old home alone with a 10-year old sister and knew she needed to get back ASAP. But even if she didn’t have an excuse for her lack of consideration, maybe she needed “more kindness than necessary” in her life to help her to see how it works.

Knowing that nothing in my life happens without purpose, maybe it all happened for me, to put the final blush on some spiritual fruit in my life. We all need to be reminded of the following verse:

Phil. 2:3-4 “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.”

Maybe God is saying to all of us through the difficult people in our lives, “Show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it may need it more than you will ever know.”

©2012, Marcy Alves

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The God of Love and What He Hates


Did you know that even though God is a loving God, He also hates? How can you hate if you are depicted as a loving being?

There is a philosophy floating around that if God is a loving being, He accepts everyone and makes exceptions for all of our sins and weaknesses. If God is love, He will not judge anyone. If God is love, He can’t hate, because love is tolerant, not easily offended, never gets angry, holds no one accountable, etc. He is a God who has no feelings, except positive, generous, magnanimous ones towards all people, in all nations, at all times.

While I do not want to believe that God hates anyone, from my reading of Scripture I find evidence that would be very unsettling for many people. There are many passages that deal with what God hates – and even people he hates. In the Old Testament God had Israel wipe out entire cities because of the wickedness of the people and their disregard for human life.

“Hate” is a pretty strong negative feeling.

Dictionary.com defines the verb “hate” as “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest”.

“But how can God hate?” you may ask, “Because are not love and hatred opposites?”

Yes, they are. And therein lays the center point of my argument. You cannot love someone and not hate things that hurt that person. For instance, you can’t love people and love murder, lying, stealing, cheating, backstabbing – things which hurt people. You can’t love a person and accept their sin, because you know that the outcome of sin is harm to the person committing it and to other lives touched by that life. There is not a sin you can name that does not hurt someone – and always more than one person.

God hates sin. Let’s take a look at the evidence from Scripture.

  • God hates false religion and false displays of religion

Deut. 12:31 . . .You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”

Amos 5:16-21 16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:  . . . 21 I hate, I despise your feast and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”

God hates false religion because it keeps people from spiritual life, which is only found in His Son:

1 John 5:12 – “He that has the Son has life and He that does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  NIV

  • God hates wickedness:

Jer. 44:3-4  “ . . . because of the wickedness that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods . . . I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate!”

  • God hates false self-security:

Amos 6:8 “The Lord God has sworn by himself . . . “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his fortresses . . .”

There are those who feel they can get along very well without God, that they don’t need Him. And for a period of time, that may appear to be true. But there will always come a time when that false self-security will break down, at death if not before.

  • God hates divorce

Malachi 2:16 “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel.”

This one is a no-brainer. Divorce always hurts people – especially children. It leaves people feeling betrayed, inadequate, deserted, unloved, rejected, often burdened with debt, discouragement, and bitterness. I realize that there are good reasons for some divorces – that God hates the sins that lead people to the need for divorce – but He still hates divorce.

  • A few other things God hates

Prov. 6:16  There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:

haughty eyes, [pride]
a lying tongue, [lies]
hands that shed innocent blood, [murder]
a heart that devises wicked plans, [plans for harm]
feet that make haste to run to evil, [eagerness to sin]
a false witness who breathes out lies, [the liar]
one who sows discord among brothers. [the one who stirs up strife]

God’s extreme love for mankind is reflected in his hatred for sin – no matter how “harmless” or minor it is – no matter if we attempt to excuse it or hide it or rationalize it by saying, “Everyone guilty of something.” Our Heavenly Father has to deal with it, or He doesn’t love us.

Is there a way back to God if we are guilty of some of the things God hates? Yes. We come back to Him the same way we get to Him in the first place: through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.

1 John 1:9-10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

God has no need to be politically correct or culturally positioned. He is God. He is not responsible to us, nor answerable to us. We did not create Him, He created us. He does not have to excuse our sin or accept our excuses for spiritual bankruptcy and outright rebellion.

Which side of God’s love are you walking in? The blessing side, or the side He has to discipline because He hates what it will do to you?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Thoughts on Motherhood: How It Really Is


There are times when I run across something that has been forwarded (and forwarded, and forwarded, and forwarded) to me in an email that is a “keeper”.  I save them for future use. Sometimes I don’t know who originated it or who wrote the piece being forwarded. The Evolution of Motherhood is such a piece. I do not take any credit for it, except to have the sense of humor to enjoy it, the ability to recognize “truth” when I see it, and the “thoughtfulness” to share it with my readers. Let me know if there is a resonating chuckle of recognition out there – especially if you are a mother. 

The Evolution of Motherhood

by ??

Yes, parenthood changes everything. But parenthood also changes with each baby. Here are some of the ways having a second and third child differs from having your first:

 Your Clothes

  • 1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN confirms your pregnancy.
  • 2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
  • 3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

The Baby’s Name

  • 1st baby: You pore over baby-name books and practice pronouncing and writing combinations of all your favorites.  You check out the meaning of the names.
  • 2nd baby: You name it after your mom or dad or favorite uncle or great aunt.
  • 3rd baby: You hear a name on the 11:00 news and it sounds kind of nice.

Preparing for the Birth

  • 1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
  • 2nd baby: You don’t bother practicing because you remember that last time, breathing didn’t do a thing.
  • 3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your 8th month.

The Layette

  • 1st baby: You pre-wash your newborn’s clothes, color-coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby’s little bureau.
  • 2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
  • 3rd baby: Baby boys can wear pink, can’t they?

Worries

  • 1st baby: At the first sign of distress – a whimper, a frown – you pick up the baby.
  • 2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn.
  • 3rd baby: You teach your 3-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

Activities

  • 1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour.
  • 2nd baby: You take your infant to the park.
  • 3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out

  • 1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home 5 times.
  • 2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached.
  • 3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home

  • 1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
  • 2nd baby: You spend a bit of every day watching to be sure your older child isn’t squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
  • 3rd baby: You realize little children love to watch TV – you finally get some free time.

Marcy’s ending note: There are just some times in life that you have to learn to laugh, and with motherhood those times are continuous. The longest laugh is when seeing your child take off on her own, with her accumulated “stuff”– followed immediately by a good cry in her empty room.

How’s motherhood treating you? Are you surviving or enjoying every moment? (Well, most of them.)

©2012, Marcy Alves

Embracing the Mess by Cathy Moryc Recine « Muse In The Valley
bestisyettocome.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/embracin…72.233.2.101

What’s in a Name?


Do you know what your name means? How about the names of your children? How did you choose your child’s name? Did you do the “let’s name him after our fathers” or “let’s name her after your great aunt” – to keep the family identity thing going?

Some of us were not named after a relative, but after whoever happened to be famous at the time we were born, a movie star, a political figure, a popular singer. Or maybe something that occurred at the time of our birth, like a moonbeam shown in the window, or it was the autumn of the year.

Recently the daughter of a friend had an emergency C-section; the baby boy was delivered 10-weeks early and weighed 2 lbs. 14 oz. The parents had not yet settled on a name for the child. The hospital informed the mom while I was visiting her that she only had 5 days after the birth to name the child or the birth certificate would say “baby Frost” (the couple’s last name).

I cautioned the mom to be careful to check out the meaning of the name before settling it on the child. There is an old saying that people tend to live up to their name – which could be good or bad, depending on the given name.

There’s another saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s just not true. I’ve known people who were called a certain thing so often that they began to doubt their value, their abilities, or their chances in life. Such names as stupid, dumb-dumb, worthless, whore, idiot, sex-offender, trash, nigger, addict, fatty, etc. (which may or may not have been prompted by a personal action that led to the name calling) resulted in a conscious or subconscious negative self-image in the person called by that negative name.

Though many of these people have overcome the stigmas of the names they were called, there often still lurks a shadow of self-doubt in such areas as relationships, career choices, job searches, motivation, dress and physical appearance, attitudes toward people who have achieved more in life, or bad attitudes towards life in general.

Negative names can and usually do produce negativity of some sort in the character, performance, or thinking of the people who have been on the receiving end of those names.

Positive “name-calling” has the opposite effect of building up the person’s self-concept, producing encouragement, and creating people with a positive outlook on life.

But I want to get back to the idea that it makes a difference what we name our children. Names are important. Do you realize that names often have a prophetic meaning?

Throughout the Bible, names had meaning. Names changes were frequent as situations changed. For instance, in the Old Testament book of Ruth, Naomi changed her name to Mara after losing her husband and two sons, which left her a widow with no hope for a better future. Naomi means “pleasant” and Mara means “bitter”. (Ruth 1:20)

Also, in the Old Testament God gave people new names when He singled them out for His purpose. For example, “Jacob” was renamed “Israel” in Gen. 32:28:

“Then He [God] said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Jacob means “he grasps the heel” or figuratively “he deceives”, which Jacob lived up-to when he stole his older twin’s birthright and blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac.  Israel means “he struggles with God”, because Jacob had wrestled with an angel all night – which resulted in a dislocated hip for Jacob, but also a blessing from God. (see Gen. 32:24-30) From Jacob came the 12 tribes of Israel, through his twelve sons – who, by the way, all lived up to their names.

God also changed Abram’s name to Abraham.  Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “father of many”.

Gen.17:5  “No longer shall your name be called Abram,but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

That name change had significance for generations to come, including our own, as most peoples of the Middle East claim Abraham as “father” – both Jews and Arabs.

In the New Testament Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas (Aramaic) which translated into Greek is Peter. (see John 1:42) Simon is probably the same as the Old Testament name Simeon which means “he hears”, while Cephas and Peter both mean “rock”. This was not based on what Peter was when he first became a fol lowerof Jesus, but on what he was to become.

To get personal, my birth name is Marcella, which is from Roman origin and means “warlike, martial, and strong”. It could also mean “young warrior”. I certainly lived up to that name as a child and had a tenacious nature to “discuss” until proven right; or if not right, then surely logical. In first grade I changed my name to Marcy because I didn’t like writing out the full name Marcella on my paperwork. It was years later that I found the name Marcy means “brave”. Which I don’t always feel, but my husband says I am.

My husband’s name is David Clark. David means “beloved” – and he definitely is that to me and many others. Clark means “cleric” which also means “pastor” – my husband has been a pastor for the past 20 years.

Finally, there are literally hundreds of instances in Scripture where God’s name was praised. All of God’s various names in the Bible had meaning. People weren’t worshiping  mere words, but the character, the substance, the meaning of those names, which God personifies.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

If you want your children to have a positive self-concept and a good future ahead of them, be careful what you name them and what names (adjectives) you call them. Remind them of what their names mean and how you were led to name them.

For those who are Spirit-born followers of Christ, even if your birth name or the name you earned by the way you lived are not “good” names, the Scriptures say that God has a new name for you in heaven. And He sees you in the light of that new name, not the name of our old nature.

What about your name? Are you living up to it? And if you call yourself a Christian, are you living up to the reputation of the one for whom you are named, Christ your Savior?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Marriage: When “Me & Me” Becomes “Us”


What’s the biggest accomplishment in a marriage relationship? And what’s the hardest part of getting there?

It’s that time of the year when wedding bells are ringing, bridal shops and tux rentals are flourishing, and caterers are gearing up for the season. The work of getting ready for a wedding can be summed up in several words: excitement, anticipation, fear and panic. Often the starry-eyed couple has no idea what they are getting into. It’s no longer courtship, it’s the real thing.

It all started with God in the early days of creation: He had made the earth, seas and dry land, night and day, the sun, moon and stars, plant life, animals, and crowned his work with the first man, Adam. God realized that though the man had lots of work to do caring for the animals, he needed a companion. Voila, woman was created!

Gen. 2:21 “So the Lord God caused adeep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Eph. 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

That  biggest accomplishment in a marriage relationship and the hardest part of getting there are one and the same: two becoming one. This can only become a reality in a relationship that is based on “commitment” and a sense of “teamwork”.

I have been acquainted with couples who have dated for several years, some who have already lived together for a period of time, who decided it’s time to “get married”.  And either just before the wedding or within a year after, the couple tired of the work of becoming one, and split-up.

There is a clue to this strange phenomenon. Couples who are in a dating relationwhip, or even those who live together, know that they can always leave the relationship. They are not bound by law or obligation to stay. There may be emotional pain to the break-up, or financial stress to establish separate living quarters (if already living together), or social turmoil (his friends are mad at her, her friends are mad at him – in what social group do I now fit?) – but, unless there are children already involved, each party is free to do whatever, wherever they choose to do so.

Whether in a marriage or a dating relationship, the difference between the couple that survives intact and one that splits apart is to what degree the two people are committed to each other and to the relationship. For Christians, it also involves each person’s commitment to the Lord and their willingness to let Him work in each person and in their relationship.

There are some questions that should be asked and answered prior to marriage:

  • 1. Am I in this for the long run – or am I just a sprinter.
  • 2. Can I really make it in a committed relationship, as in “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, as long as we both shall live”? Or do I only visualize “for better, for richer, in health, for as long as it stays interesting or until something better comes along?”

What can make a committed relationship work? It is not having children. You can have a child together and still not have a committed relationship. Canines do that all the time; unfortunately, so do many humans. The fact is, if you don’t already have a committed relationship, it’s better not to have a child together. We have too often seen the devastation in a child’s life when the parents’ marriage ends in divorce or one parent just drops out. Plus, when a couple is not committed, there is added frustration in dealing with the child’s needs.

The work of a committed relationship pays off when “one + one” becomes “one”. It’s when the “me” and “me” becomes “us”; when the “I” and “I” becomes “we”; when the “my” and “my” and the “mine” and “mine” becomes “our” and “ours” – that a marriage has realized it’s greatest potential.

Commitment means giving up my selfishness to consider the needs and wants of my spouse. To not always have to have it my way. When both people in a relationship are doing this, nobody feels cheated.

This does not mean that one person ceases to be, while the other dominates. It means thinking “team” and working “team” and living “team”. This includes division of labor, or doing it together – whatever the “team” agrees on.

Commitment means being there for each other in times of sickness, distress, want, need, tiredness, sadness, loss, and failure. But also being there in times of personal opportunity, accomplishment, and success.  Becoming one means sharing each other’s joys, victories, successes, interests and friendships as well as the negative stuff. Becoming “one” does not allow for jealousy of my partner’s achievements, but causes us to be each other’s cheerleaders.

So, if you are married, how are you doing with the 1+1=1 scenario? How high do you score on the commitment test? Have you made room for running or are you there to stay?

If you are not yet married but haven’t met the “right person” yet, or you are already headed toward a marriage relationship, are you ready and willing to pay the cost of commitment inherent in God’s original plan for “two to become one”?

©2012, Marcy Alves

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