Tattoos are incredibly popular. There are tattoo parlors all over the place – in storefronts, in malls, in the city and the country. There are upscale tattoo parlors, non-smoking tattoo parlors, tattoo artists working alongside make-up artists and hair stylists. Tattooing is a statement, it’s art, its fun, it’s meaningful…
But it’s not for me.
I’m not saying it’s wrong. Lots of people I know and love have tattoos. I’m just letting you peek in my head (be careful, it’s messy!) and see how I came to my conclusions. You, of course, are free to make your own choices. Unless you’re still living at home or being supported by Mom and Dad. Then you need to do what they say, whether you like it or not. When you’re making your own money you can go out and get a tattoo of you getting a tattoo while your parents look on in horror. Until then, just content yourself with doodling on your hand with a ball point pen.
But I want to get a tattoo of a cross or of Jesus so everyone will know I’m a Christian.
Seriously? We show our love for Jesus by our actions, by how we treat others, by how we forgive, how we encourage, how we help those in need and comfort those in pain. No one is going to come to Jesus because he lives on your shoulder. But they will come to him when they see that he reigns in our hearts.
I want to get a “Mom” tattoo because I love her so much ?
Let me just say, as a mom, I would much rather have flowers. Or chocolate. I’d rather have you visit me when you’re grown, have you take care of me when I am old and sick. But tattooing me on your body? Not so much.
I want a tattoo of my favorite (sport/hobby/TV show/superhero). When I was in college, a classmate came into our Communications class sporting a shiny, huge, incredibly colorful tattoo of Sylvester the Cat on his forearm. A cartoon character. On his forearm. I looked at him and shook my head. We were seniors. He’d be out interviewing for jobs soon. With Sylvester the Cat on his forearm. I could hear the resumes being shredded. Don’t put something on your body that will embarrass you at any point in the near or distant future. Which brings me to the last argument…
I’m going to get my tattoo in a location no one will ever see. It’ll just be my fun little secret. So what’s the point? Why get it? And don’t tell me it’s so you’ll remember something or someone special. If you need a tattoo to remember someone or something, he/she/it isn’t really as important as you think he/she/it is. Seriously.
That is why I choose “Not” to tattoo. That, and this….
I have several talents I am grateful for, that I hone and try to improve, that I practice alone and with groups. But I have one particular talent that brings me far more shame than pleasure: speaking without thinking.
I have used this talent in far too many places with far too many people to far too disastrous results. It’s not always end-of-the-world stuff. But it is always annoying at best and damaging at worst.
When I was in college, my friends would laugh at me because, no matter what was being discussed, I’d have a story for it. Rather than listening to what others were saying, engaging them, asking them questions about their story, I sat waiting, mentally preparing for when I could speak and regale the group with my story. Looking back now, I realize how incredibly gracious my friends were with me. They just let me talk, rather than turning to walk away because – invariably – I would be telling a story they’d already heard.
And that’s a more positive example. Let’s not even talk about when I yelled at a good friend, calling her a selfish jerk in front of a whole crowd of our friends. Or when I told a young man, in a very unkind manner, that he was not worthy of the girl he was dating. Or when I completely lost it in front of the entire cast of a play I was directing (more than once, for more than one play).
In every case, I let my mouth run while my brain raced to catch up. By the time I realized how ridiculous, rude, and/or arrogant I had been, it was too late. The damage had been done. What I needed to do, in every case, was to just shut my mouth.
I am going to get frustrated, I am going to get angry, I am always going to think of stories I could tell. But that doesn’t mean that I need to say everything that pops into my head. I need to think over what I am going to say, I need to make sure that what I am saying is kind, beneficial, necessary. I need to guard my mouth so that what comes out builds people up and doesn’t tear them down.
“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.” ~Psalm 37:30
“A Letter to my Eighth Grade Self” – that’s a journal topic I assign my twelfth grade English students every year. I love reading these entries – insightful, funny, sarcastic. My students are brilliant!
One theme that I read over and over again, every year, is “Don’t get caught up in the drama.” These 17 and 18 year olds realize that they had wasted some valuable time getting worked up over issues that really don’t matter at all.
I think that’s something we are all guilty of – from those in middle school to those in middle age. Think back 5 years — do you even remember the stuff that made you mad? I remember getting upset. Really upset. But what was it that got me upset? Who was involved? No idea. Even though it was, I’m sure, VERY important then, it is not important now. Unless, in my anger, I lost a friend or hurt someone I loved. But I don’t recall anything good coming from getting unrighteously angry.
What do I remember when I think back 5 years? I remember fun times with my husband and kids. I remember what God was teaching me then. I remember friendships that impacted me. I remember places I visited, books I read. You know, the important stuff. The rest – whatever it was – just doesn’t matter now.
So how should that affect today? I need to ditch the drama. I need to let go of petty things that make me mad, petty people who want to steal my joy, petty issues that cause me to lose my focus. I need to spend my energy on what matters – on WHO matters: my Savior, my family, my friends and my students.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” ~Phil. 4:8
I am related – distantly, by marriage – to Edgar Allan Poe.
I’m not sure how the relationship works. Poe never had kids. But my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece all have Poe as their middle names. And that middle name has been passed down for generations before them.
So we’re related.
Once, when my three kids were little – 8 and under – I wanted them to connect with their literary ancestor. So I read them “Tell Tale Heart” (A short story where a guy kills an old man – possibly his father - whose eye annoys him; then he dismembers the body and buries it underneath the floorboards. Brilliant work of fiction. Brilliant.) By the time I finished reading it, my two daughters were in tears, clinging to my husband. My oldest looked at me and said, “Why would you read that to us, Mommy? Why?”
This is what happens when your mother is an English major and your father is distantly related to Edgar Allan Poe.
Moral of the story: Reading stories about deranged psychopaths to small children is not as good an idea as you’d think.
This weekend, I got a call from Calla, my three-year-old neice. In her adorable, super-excited, Kentucky-accented voice, she said, ”Aunt Krista, guess what? I’m going to be a big sister!”
I squealed with her and told her I know she will be a terrific big sister. Then she handed the phone to her mom – my baby sister – and I squealed with her. A new life is growing inside her. It is wonderful.
The same day, we got an update on my mother-in-law. Unless God chooses to work a miracle (which He could!), she is is facing her final days. Cancer is growing inside her, torturing her, ripping the life from her. It is awful.
Life and death.
Joy and pain.
Happiness and grief.
I wonder, as I give praise for one and prayers for the other, how anyone can survive the radical ups and downs of this life without knowing Christ. He is the source of all good gifts, the giver of life. And he is the Rock we cling to when the storms of life threaten to drown us.
Knowing Christ doesn’t insulate us from life. Jesus himself said that we should expect difficulties. He modeled that for us – enduring temptation, persecution, and even death – an excruciating death that he did not deserve. This life isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect. We will experience pain. But this life is good, too. There are incredible joys, beauty all around us that we sometimes forget to see when circumstances weigh us down.
But the greatest joy I have – in both the happiness and the heartache – is knowing that this life is not our only life. In fact, compared to what is in store for us, this life is nothing – a vapor, a mist, dew on the grass. The greatest joys we can experience here pale in comparison to the joy that awaits us. And the greatest pain will be forgotten when we step out of these sin-trapped bodies into our eternal home.
So I will rejoice with those who rejoice, and I will weep with those who weep. I will live this life with the next life in mind. Because, as the beautiful old hymn teaches, “My hope is built on nothing less/than Jesus’ blood/ and righteousness.”
“If you could have a superpower, what would it be?”
My son, Thomas, asks me that question every few weeks. His dream superpower changes every time he asks – from flight to invisibility, to super-human strength.
At this point in my life, my dream superpower would be Super-Metabolism: Being able to eat as much chocolate as I want without gaining an ounce. My costume would be dripping in chocolate syrup and lined with chocolate-covered strawberries. Every nibble would count as a mile run.
It’s a fun question to think about, a fun dream to dream. Super human abilities are so appealing. Being better than we are – Krista 2.0 – is exciting.
A while back, my pastor spent a couple weeks talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness is tough. Really tough. We’d rather eat glass than forgive someone who’s really hurt us. And asking for forgiveness?? We’d rather eat glass while rolling in it. At least I would. I hate saying “I’m sorry.” And, sometimes, I hate offering forgiveness. It seems too simple. When someone hurts me, I want to hurt them back. Forgiving them is so nice. It feels like I’m just letting them off the hook. Where’s the payback?
And then it dawned on me: Forgiveness is the greatest superpower ever. True forgiveness is something we can only truly offer if we have accepted it in our own lives. God offers us forgiveness through Christ. Complete forgiveness. No asterisks, small print, no “but I’ll never forget what you did…” And our response — complete devotion to this wonderful Savior who lavished his grace on us, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ’s forgiveness frees us from slavery to sin, it allows us to know we will spend eternity in heaven, it gives us joy and freedom here on earth to do what God has called us to do. And yet, while we are quick to accept God’s forgiveness, we Christians are sometimes very slow to offer it. Which is sad because it should be the opposite. We, who have been forgiven so much, should joyfully, lovingly offer it to others. We should humbly request it from those we have hurt.
This “superpower” has the ability to do greater good than almost anything else on earth, yet we often neglect it or reason it away. On our own, we can’t “tap into” its power, but we “can do all things through Christ” who strengthens us. We can offer forgiveness. We can accept forgiveness. We can seek forgiveness.
What a super world we would live in if we just used this power that God makes available to us, this Super Power called Forgiveness.
As a high school teacher, I see students in all manner of emotions – the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Yesterday, I came across a student in the throes of misery. It was painful to look at her – her mouth was stiff, her eyes squinted in anger, waves of disgust fairly rolled off her little body. What was so awful, what did this to her, you ask?
She was asked to do something she didn’t want to do.
I tried to joke with her, to get her to smile, to lighten up, to realize that life really isn’t that bad. But to no avail. The scowl stayed, deepened, in fact, and she left school with a chip on her shoulder and a frown on her face.
I’d like to say that I never have “misery” issues, that attitudes like that didn’t follow me from high school into my adult life. But that’s not true. I can sulk with the best of them. Especially when I have to do something I don’t like.
But here’s what I have learned – being miserable doesn’t actually accomplish anything beneficial. Not one thing. Sometimes we think we’re punishing others with our misery, but we’re not. At best, we just drag our friends into our misery. At worst, we lose friends over it. Misery and its sidekick, Anger, make us sick – literally – eating way at us, a little bit at a time.
What God has taught me is that when I feel these emotions, when the “I hate this!” thoughts seep into my brain, I need to change the way I am thinking. I need to replace those negative thoughts with biblical ones. I need to remember that I have the Holy Spirit living inside me, and I need to let Him help me control my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to control me.
The campus pastor at the Bible college I attended told a story that I have never forgotten:
He and his wife were visiting a church and ended up sitting behind an older couple. After the first song, the elderly woman turned around and said, “What beautiful voices you both have. I feel like I am being serenaded by an angelic choir.” My campus pastor was embarrassed and shook his head, saying, “Oh, we don’t sing all that well. But it’s nice of you to say that.” To which the elderly woman replied,
“False humility makes me want to vomit.” And promptly turned around.
He used that story to challenge us to learn to say “thank you” – without a qualification after it (“We don’t sing all that well…”). He also used that story to challenge us to acknowledge the gifts that God has given each of us. Because God has given gifts to each of us.
Now stop right there. I know some of you reading this just thought. “Nuh-uh. Not me. I can’t do ANYTHING.”
Do I need to bring the old lady back?
Here’s the problem — I think we can all acknowledge there are things we like to do. We like to sing, we like to play sports, we like to draw. But we know we aren’t the best at any of those. And we figure since there are so many others who are better, we are being arrogant to say that we are any good at all.
But our abilities are gifts – given to us by God. If we are praised for our abilities, we thank the person who was kind enough to complement us, and we acknowledge that those gifts are from our Savior. It’s not arrogant to accept a complement, nor is it arrogant to recognize that we are gifted in certain areas. Taking credit for our gifts – that’s arrogant. Making fun of those who aren’t as talented? That’s just plain mean. But saying “Thank you”? That is not just polite, it is affirming – to both you and the person complementing you.
Moral of the story: A ‘thank you’ is better than a barf bag.
My oldest daughter, Emma, played Tinkerbell in the musical “Peter Pan” a few years ago. It was a fantastic production, and Emma was the cutest Tinkerbell ever!
If you’ve seen that play, you know an important scene is when Tinkerbell’s “light” goes out. Peter Pan, almost in tears, looks out at the audience and tells them they have to clap, to show Tink they believe. And when enough people clap long enough and loud enough, Tinkerbell’s “light” returns and she goes on to help Pan defeat the evil Captain Hook.
This is perfect…for a story. In a theater.
But I’ve known too many people whose prayers look a whole lot like Peter Pan’s. The “power” is in the belief. Believe hard enough, and you get what you want. If you really, really want it, then you’ll get it. Just have faith!
That sounds good to us. We’re Americans, after all! We like positive, we believe in belief. We can do anything we set our minds to.
But those thoughts, no matter how deeply woven into the American psyche they are, are just not true.
Jesus, not Peter Pan, tells us how we should pray. He says, in Matthew 6:9-13
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Jesus teaches us to focus our prayers on God – His name, his kingdom, his will, his forgiveness, his deliverance. He teaches us to focus on being in right relationship with him and with others. The only “selfish” requests in this? “Give us today our daily bread” – give us what we need. Not what we want, what we believe, what we think positively about. What we need. And let’s not forget - ”Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation like believing Tinkerbell prayers are biblical.
Prayer is powerful. And prayer is biblical. Let’s just be careful to pray biblical prayers.
Today at lunch, I ate the nastiest frozen meal ever. The picture on the box showed mouth-watering barbecue with creamy mashed potatoes and crisp corn.