Saturday, April 23, 2011

charm and grace

When I was very young, my mother enrolled me into an evening class at a nearby charm and modeling school with hopes to turn her tomboy daughter into a lovely young debutante. The goal set out for me was to walk away (or more to glide away) with the understanding of how to execute proper etiquette in any situation. It was a unique experience that I both loved and hated. Loved: because it proved to be really girly. Hated: well, because it proved to be really girly. Ha ha.

My class consisted of about twenty girls, mostly in their pre-teen and/or teenage years, however, I was much younger. Our instructor, Mrs. Kent, was an older, refined woman who frequently wore blouses that tied at the neck. I remember noting that the tie of every Mrs. Kent blouse was always knotted in the most pristine bow. You see, in my mind Mrs. Kent was always perfect and her ties were no exception to this theory. She set the "charm" standard for us all. Sure, some days the tomboy in me would daydream of running up to Mrs. Kent to untie her perfect bow so that she would become a common mortal like the rest of us... or at least like me. Of course, I never did such a thing. Instead, I began to mirror the ways of Mrs. Kent and wear blouses adorned with bows tied neatly at the top. Thanks to this kind woman, I was able to demurely set aside my childish shenanigans and learn the art of becoming a lady. (A lady with moxie, mind you... but indeed a lady.)

In addition to Mrs. Kent's influence, there was an older teenage girl who stood out above all others in our class... Bethany. Without a doubt, Bethany was the most beautiful and lovely of all the girls who attended charm school that season. Everyone adored Bethany for she was clearly a natural when it came to social graces. Bethany's posture was straight. Bethany's table placement knowledge was unmatched. Bethany's dinner manners were delicious. If you ever needed help learning any given charm... Bethany was the friend to know. For without any former coaching, on the first day of class Bethany glided in with a dictionary balanced on her head, with her pinkie finger extended and ready for tea time, and with a lovely hostess gift for Mrs. Kent. (OK, maybe not - but she may as well have.) Her demeanor was soft-spoken. Her complexion flawless. Her appearance neat and tidy. Her conversation skills top drawer. I sooooo wanted to be exactly like Bethany. She was just gorgeous both inside and out. Bethany oozed charm. (I'm talking the good kind of charm... not the fake "Rico Suave" kind of charm common to shifty car salesman.)

Needless to say, I learned many wonderful and helpful lessons in charm school. But what intrigued me the most about the experience was the impact that these two ladies had made on our class from the very beginning. Neither Mrs. Kent or Bethany walked in as stuck-up or snooty individuals like the popular girls who form exclusive clicks in school. Neither went out of their way to demand special attention from anyone. Neither desired to bask in a spotlight or be showered with fame or fortune. No, these ladies simply mastered the art of graciousness. As a result, their presence could not be ignored. Their way grabbed your attention and caused you to want more. Why? Because their way was simple and good. They were respectful and thus were respected by those who noticed them. They were lovely and thus were loved by those graced with their presence.

In retrospect, I think the ministry of Jesus has had a similar effect on me as the impression of these two ladies from charm school. For just like Mrs. Kent and Bethany's example, Jesus has never shown up as overtly loud or obnoxious. Rather, He is naturally gracious and unquestionably impressive. No matter how people may react in agreement or disagreement to His message of hope, it is clear that Jesus cannot be ignored. We cannot forget Him. For He is just that important. He is just that good.

And whether loved or hated, Jesus' way has always been about action and improvement. He is full of substance with zero hype... zero pride. He is proof of all that is pure and lovely and has the ability to leave every human being awestruck when His glory is revealed... when His fullness is realized.

Yes, there is no other way to say it, Jesus is the most attractive. He is the most charming. He is the most beautiful. He is the most gracious. He is the Most High who made Himself the most low in order to grant us the most of His kingdom for all eternity. He is The Light of the world who shines brighter than any other and is simply perfect because He is. Jesus is the standard! What an honor to be given the opportunity to mirror His image. What a privilege to follow His steps and live His way.

Just like Jesus... yes, that is my goal. To be just like Jesus. When anything I say or do is noticed in this life... may it only be in acknowledgement and agreement with my Savior and nothing more. For I am nothing without Him. He is THE MOST. Let me forever walk upright and deliberately in His holy and pleasing ways.

Give me more of your graciousness, Lord. Let me always enter into your gates with sincerity and thanks. Let me sing in your courts with praise and share in your giving heart. Let my posture be your posture. Let my demeanor be your demeanor. Let my conversations be your conversations. For you are the standard! Teach me, dear Jesus, to pristinely model your love... your perfect, holy, unmatched charm and grace.



Friday, April 15, 2011

be better with Jesus

Dear Reader,

Contrary to the popular opinion of those who wish to bomb me with hurtful words and threats... for the record, I am not your personal punching bag. Nor do I hold any authority to change God's Word in order to accommodate anyone's comfort and/or sinful desire... not even my own. No, I am alive for one main purpose - to glorify Jesus' Name! I am here to love my King with the very life He has given me. His Word teaches me to love others (including you), and I am resolved to do so until my very last breath has concluded.

So you... you who express a desire to hurt me... you who attack, threaten, bully, and attempt to silence my voice with hateful, mean rattlings... please know that although I do not enjoy your scorn against my faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ, I will never stop sharing His message. I will always sing His praise. Always!

As I continue to absorb your punches with prayer, deep down I know that your anger is not really directed toward me personally, but rather toward God. For you really don't know too much about the depths of my life, opinions, feelings, heart, etc. Nor do I know these things about you. You have only heard me echo His scriptural truth. My identity and stance has always been about establishing His image, for God is my foundation! So much so, that I have surrendered my life to His service. And now, through this journey, our paths have somehow crossed. Why? I do not know... but God does.

Mind you, I have not deliberately singled you out. I have not sought to make trouble in your life by sharing His Way. Rather the very opposite. I love you. I love you because Jesus first loved me. I love you because God calls me to love you. I love you because I am no better or worse on my own as an individual... for scripture tells us, in God's eyes we all fall short. We are all incomplete, lost, hopeless. But with the aid of Jesus, I know that hope is indeed available. I have found eternal treasure... everlasting life and holiness in His Name! By His authority and grace, I have received His free gift of redemption and have been saved from sin and death! I have real purpose in His plan! As such, my prayer is that you too will come to intimately know this same relief and receive His new life. I pray that you will stop denying your Maker and instead receive His beautiful, everlasting future.

So today, as I continue to read through your many, many harassing messages filled with animosity, I will still rejoice in my Savior's security and love. I do not fear you. I forgive you. For despite your hurtful words and abusive behavior, I know God is always in control of my eternal future. And I believe He has sovereignly brought you to DW to hear His good news and be challenged to walk His new Way. Clearly, He has gotten your attention or you would not still be reading. So now, how will you proceed? Will you continue in your own hate or will you receive His gracious love and new life?

I'm praying that you will choose to follow His love! For His love is just better! I encourage you, dear reader... be better with Jesus! He's worth it!

Always in Christ's service,


Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Friday, April 8, 2011

are you listening and doing... or just listening?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

My husband and I were discussing this topic over lunch today. We were praying over the lifestyle and actions of an aquaintance of our family. Their situation is actually a bit scary when looked at through eternal eyes.

Here is a person that we know well, who verbally can recite the entire Bible to both my husband and myself. However, when it comes to actually living as God has called them to live... well, that's a different story. For their actions and decisions clearly are ignoring scripture altogether. In discussing their situation with Chuck, it forced me to think about these verses in James 1 and, in turn, examine my own actions and lifestyle.

In searching my own heart, I had to ask myself, "Am I living like this acquaintance? Am I fooling myself into believing that my listening to the knowledge of God's Word is merely enough? Am I someone who is savvy to study scripture (someone who hears the Word daily, indulges in Christian books and resources, etc.) only to pat myself on the back with a euphoric feeling of "spiritual wellness" simply because I showed up? However, after that, do I forget how Christ has called me to live and ignore all opportunities that He brings forth so that I might actually live out my faith?"  Serious questions that will impact my future, for sure!

James warns believers that unless our hearing is accompanied by the commitment to follow through and LIVE holy, we permit God's Word to become more of a spiritual malpractice that leads to self-deception and the illusion of false spirituality.

Ezekiel 33:31-32 says, "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice."

Ladies, I am concerned that we are abandoning our pilgrimage after we hear God's message by failing to follow-through and practice our said obedience and devotion. Jesus notes in John 13:17 how important following Him is (not just hearing about Him), “If you understand all of this, you are blessed whenever you follow my example.”

Reading on in James, we see that someone who listens to God but does not do what He commands is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, then goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. Here, James is saying we could examine ourselves for hours and uncover all our sin and shame, but the process would render itself worthless if we walked away from the mirror and failed to commit our sinful image to memory. If we walk away and immediately forget how low and desperate we truly are without Christ, we will not take action to correct any visible imperfections to become more like Jesus in how we live. If there is no recollection - no action can be taken. We then stay lost... stuck in our sinful ways. This is not how Jesus intends for us to be! Hearing of the Word is rendered ineffective if its admonitions are not obeyed through appropriate actions! We must hear Christ's commands... and then we must actually "do" what He says!

From what I can tell in scripture, there are three points that describe best how a Christian should live out his commitment to the Lord: Looking, Continuing, and Doing. (1) Looking connotes the desire to search, learn, and gain useful knowledge about God. We must study to show ourselves approved and hide His Word in our heart so that we don't sin against Him. (2) Continuing suggests the commitment to sustain our efforts of looking so that we know best how to model our lives after Christ. This requires consistently staying faithful, making the devoted effort every day to know Him as much as possible. (3) Doing affirms our pledge to put into practice what we have learned and to abide by the principles we have acquired in studying His ways.

Barnes said, "If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached. Of its influence on their lives, and its claims to obedience, they are utterly regardless."

I leave you with this last thought... "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does (emphasis on the word "does")... only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Live out your faith and be blessed as you focus on resembling His image... His holiness! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ for providing salvation from sin and death and giving us the gift of a new life in Him! Let's get out there and LIVE that new life, shall we? Let's do what our Savior has told us to do! Let's be holy because He is holy!



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