Dirty Words

You know you have reached the epitome of boredom when you create personal challenges for yourself.  Here is my newest challenge.  It came after a discussion with my BFF’s the other day when we talked about all the ways we pretend, especially around people who might “judge” us or call us hypocrites.  We all wear masks when we need them.  We never gossip and we never cuss.  Right?  Oh, my, Ladies, we have work to do.

I was inspired this morning by a rather LOUD fight my neighbor and her boyfriend were having this beautiful Sunday morning.  I never really heard his voice, but hers was unmistakable.  There were “B words” and “BS words” and many, many, many “F words”.  It’s a sign of our social decline that makes it unnecessary to “spell out” these words.  I think we all get it.  As I watered the plants on my patio, my ear alert and aimed in their direction, I pretended not to notice the verbal assaults taking place next door.  That’s when the Holy Spirit whispered Matthew 15:18-20.

 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders.  These are the things which defile the man…”

 And Ephesians 5:4.

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving…”

[Note:  I’m not that awesome.  I had to look up the references, but the words came through perfectly.]

God can even use the wild ranting and raving of one lost sinner to convict another sinner, who thinks she’s kinda got it all together.  Listening to the young woman across the way screaming obscenities, made me think about the words I use when I’m frustrated or angry.  Many years ago, when I was still a young woman and before I came to know the Lord, I remember my Dad telling me that my language was so vile I embarrassed him.  My Dad was a sailor in his younger day and he still had the vocabulary to prove it.  And I embarrassed him.  That hit me pretty hard.

God loves us enough to change us from the inside out whenever and however He sees fit.  It was a Wednesday evening 34 years ago when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, save my soul, and be Lord of my life.  The next morning as I was getting ready to go to work, it became glaringly evident that I was completely incapable of uttering even a single expletive!  Well, that was weird.  When I drive my car is usually where my very best and most heartfelt verbal expressions are the most fluent.  But suddenly, nothing.  Speaking without cussing became my new normal.  But time moves forward and when we are not diligent, we can slip back into our old ways.  And, sometimes worse.  Luke 11:24-26 says,

“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.  Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there…”

I must confess, the cleaned-up version of Roni has taken a few hits…all of which I have brought upon myself.  I’m ashamed to say, the cussing has returned, but now it’s only in secret where no one can hear.  Let us not forget, however, God is always listening.  It has occurred to me that if God thought it was important enough to clean up my mouth the very first thing, not cussing must be kinda important to Him.  And I feel terrible.  Oh, how I must be disappointing my God.  So…

I have challenged myself to watch my language.  I may go so far as to learn to eliminate even those “substitute” cuss words.  You know the ones.  Shucks, darn, OMGoodness, and fudge.  Do we really need even those?  It’s going to be a rough road, but I want to try.  I’ve begun to write down the words that so easily fall out of my mouth.  I’m still trying to be careful, but I vow to write them all down to increase my awareness and then find an appropriate replacement; even if that replacement is nothing more than an enthusiastic grunt or growl.

Challenges should always come with a warning.

[WARNING!  Be on your toes, for you never know when you will be tested.]

I think I should never drive again.  What in the world happens to people when they get behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound weapon of mass destruction and are given a license to do so?!  I was me, the sweet adorable me, as I drove happily along the winding mountain roads and hills, even slowing abruptly to let a doe and her fawn cross the road.  That made me smile.  I love living in the woods.   Soon enough, I entered the huge parking lot of one of our two local big box stores.  Just a quick stop to pick up a loaf of bread, some bananas, and some cat food.  As I happily cruised the parking lot searching for a suitable parking space, an even bigger weapon of mass destruction backed out of the space it was vacating and nearly hit me.  It startled me so badly and happened so quickly, it jolted sweet, adorable me somewhere into oblivion and ugly, snarling, spewing, cursing me took the wheel.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to repeat the obscenities I was sure was blistering the interior of my vehicle.  It is incredibly embarrassing to admit that I am still capable of uttering those terrible words.  I realized, in that moment, that there really is an ugly, snarling, spewing cursing me who I do not like at all.  That part of me exploded into action the moment I was caught off guard.  In that moment, I remembered,

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man…”

 Is that the condition of my heart?  I humbly hung my head and appealed to the God I love with every ounce of my being.  “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  Oh, yes, Ladies, I have a lot of work to do. 

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Lessons from a Cracker Jack Box

Matthew 6:19-21   “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Cracker Jacks

Yesterday I bought a 3-pack of Cracker Jack.  I didn’t see any single boxes, so I was forced to buy in bulk.  A wave of nostalgia swept over me as I carefully studied this familiar treat from my childhood.  The box is pretty much the same, except now it sports a bar code and nutritional information that I didn’t care a hoot about in the 1950’s.  I smiled back at Sailor Jack with his happy perpetual salute and his little dog, Bingo.  I guess I was a little bit bugged when I realized that Jack looks pretty darn good for being 120 years old.  Opening the box is as difficult for me now as it was then.  I struggled to open that box with my tiny little girl fingers that were too small to even wrap around the box.  Mom to the rescue.  I watched in amazement as she punctured the perforated area on the side of the box with her talon-like thumbnail.  Today arthritis still makes it difficult for me to puncture that same “Push & Tear Off Top” spot, and Mom is no longer around to call on.  But, armed with a large paring knife strategically hacking away at that perforation did the trick.  That sudden sweet aroma of caramel corn wafting from the opened box made me swoon.  It took a little doing, but I finally ripped the cardboard top off, now lined with industrial strength silver paper lining, and tossed it aside.  I gazed deeply into the box and took my time studying the puffy golden globes of caramel covered popcorn.  I have to say, I gasped a little when I spotted The Prize tucked against the inside of the box.  A flood of memories swept over me as I recalled other Prizes.  Oh, the wonder of it all!  The feeling that crept over me was childish and hopeful.  What would I find when I opened the red and white striped wrapper concealing this mysterious treasure?  It’s been more than 50 years since I found tiny ballerinas and decoder rings and magnifying glasses and miniature story books.  Times have changed.  Prizes could only get better.  Right?  I could only imagine the sophisticated and glitzy treasure hidden inside.  A diamond ring?  No.  The object is flat and square.  A Visa gift card?  No.  Too small.  How many times have we heard it said that the best gifts come in small packages?  Well, this package is certainly small.  Roughly, 1 ½ inch by 1 1/2 inch.  That would definitely be the smallest driver’s license ever.  It must be something delicate.  Fragile.  Carefully, I found a place to pull the two pieces of wrapper apart with my fingernails.  Careful.  Don’t tear it.  Careful.  With great care, I opened the tiny paper folded in half.  A note.  Aha!  A secret message directing me to the ultimate Prize of all?  I wonder if I’m supposed to eat it once I’ve read it.  There it is!  With sweaty palms, I read the message:

The Baltimore Orioles

came into existence

in 1954 when the

St. Louis Browns

franchise relocated

to Baltimore.

What?  WHAT?!  Are you kidding me?!  What kid cares about franchise politics?  I know I’m not a kid, but, seriously?  Wait!  There’s more.  Carefully I peel away another layer of paper, barely visible.  Behold!  The Prize.  A paper sticker boasting the Orioles baseball team logo.  Well, I know where I’d love to stick that…

Then I heard a still small voice say, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I guess it doesn’t take much to realize that sometimes my treasure is in the wrong place.  In Luke 12:14, Jesus warns,

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Yesterday I learned how easy it is to be distracted by material things.  When I allowed myself to get so bummed out because I placed my hope in a silly little piece of paper, I forgot that there really is a Prize to look forward to.  That Prize has a name and it’s Jesus Christ.  Messiah.  Savior.  God.  The Great I Am.  That little Baltimore Orioles baseball sticker will lose its appeal and will eventually fall off of whatever it gets stuck to.  It will be lost at some point.  Jesus won’t let me get unstuck from Him.  If I lose my way for a little while, I am one of those sheep who He loves enough to find me and bring me back to Him.  How could I ever seek joy in a little trinket in a Cracker Jack box, when I have all the best of everything in Jesus Christ?

Where is your treasure?  What is your heart’s desire?

In His Service,

Roni