The articles here are some of my work as presented and originally published.
The Power of Words
I have this love hate relationship with words. I have posted about it before and I am drawn today to write about it now. It is strange to me how something as small as a word can hold so much power. Our belief that words can heal, hurt, comfort and love is evident by the millions of posts on social networks by millions of people every day that consists of quotes and personal expressions of emotions. Words should not be ignored or taken lightly. They are weapons of mass destruction or healing medicine that can heal as quickly as they can destroy.
Words are my constant companion. I have them spinning in my head all the time just begging or sometimes screaming to get out. I am thankful for this canvass here to unleash them, as I often get cramps in my hands from writing them with pencil and on paper. It is like they are alive and demand attention. I have given my obsession over to God. I know I sound crazy and if I were to talk like this out loud the men with the white coats may come to take me away. I am not insane, at least I don’t think I am. Words are living when we give them life, however, God is the one who gave us the power to birth words.
Words are a gift from God. He created them. He used them to create in universe and everything in it. The Word was powerful enough that Jesus was called the Word. He is the living Word of God. Jesus was at one point God in physical form. He was the walking around, talking to people, breathing the same air as we do, real life Word of God. Our entire relationship with God is based and must be founded on the Word which is Jesus. In addition, we must take the permission that God gave us to use words as an honor that we must cherish. It is a big responsibility to write words, God gave that responsibility to the writers of His book and every one of them took that responsiblity seriously. People have given their life for that Word, for the written word of God. Our country was founded on the Word and with words. People were murdered because of the Word, burned at the stake because of the Word, convicted to a life in prison because of the Word, honored because of the Word. The Word was protected from molesters by being hidden in caves and buried. At other times, the Word was assaulted, burned, degraded, praised, loved and held upon high. The Word of God was so significant that in biblical times only the rabbi or the teacher could read and speak the Word. Later the church gave that responsibility to the priests. Much later it came to average people like you and me.
The spoken word is more powerful than the written word in the sense that once it is spoken it can not be erased as the written word can. Both written and spoken words can be retracted, but once you say a thing that is strong, significant, hurtful or derogatory, the recipient on the other end will never forget it, no matter how hard you try to get them to. God spoke the world into existence, He did not write it, He spoke everything into being. Jesus spoke demons out of people, he calmed the waves with words, he saved us with the death of the Word on the cross, the physical death of the Word. Words are the life force of all of us, whether we believe it or not. We will be judged by God with the Word of God.
We must find the balance between ourselves and words. When words are taken harshly they can be damaging and if they are taken too lightly they may seem insignificant. The idea that words hold power to control you, taunt you and hurt you may seem foreign to you. You may be thinking that it is not the word that has the power but the user of the word, who is the source of that power. That is in part true, but the receiver is also the one who can give the word power or take the authority away. If you allow certain words to soak into your being and live there you then allow the power of the wielder and of the word to exist. You can as easily not allow that word to enter into your soul and cause the intended result of the word to disappear.
We must use words wisely. When we write words or say words, any words, even on a simple seemingly significant social media platform, we must take the responsibility of words to heart. They are our defining element that makes us who we are and who we can be. We will have to answer for our words one day, and the answer we give should be an honest one. We should be able to say that we used the gift of words responsibly and aligned with the will of God.
© Lori Leigh Riddles 2012
Saving the World One Penny at a Time
I am in a financial summer cleaning frame of mind. It is something like a spring cleaning for my money but in June. I have made some minor changes and I keep hearing God tell me to do more. I see at least eight homeless people on the road on my way to and from work every day. Some with signs asking for money, pleading for work or some just on the move. How does that happen? I know exactly how that can happen. I am not proud of the fact that I can see how that could happen to me. I am not talking about the ones that just don’t want to work but the ones who do. I am not talking about what you are thinking in your head, the homeless drunk, I am taking about the homeless mother with a child, the worker who got evicted after loosing his job, or the disabled veteran who’s monthly government check won’t do much more than feed his dog. I am talking about you and me. Yes, it could happen to us.
The job market is not in the best of shape and not everyone who looses their job can get unemployment. I have a decent job, but I could loose it just as easily as a layoff. I work by year to year contract. Any time my employer can say, “We are so sorry but you will not have a contract next year.” One simple letter and I am unemployed. With jobs few and seekers many here in Pensacola, I could have a hard time finding a job to make the kind of salary I am used to and would have to learn very quickly how to survive on a lot less money. If my mortgage did not get paid, I too could be homeless.
The economy is on a roller coaster of highs and lows. I am not big time investor, mind you, but I have some stocks and bonds. I have a fancy financial advisor working on my retirement accounts trying to get me the best returns. I have lost money fast and gained it back slow. I could loose it all in one bad investment. I am counting on that money to make up the difference from what is happening to my state retirement. I am one sure thing investment made by a suit and tie guy that crashes instead of soaring away from being homeless.
It shames me to admit this, but the truth is the truth. God’s word says in John 8:32 “The truth will set you free.” I can’t tell you how many times my checking account balance has been less than one hundred dollars, a lot less. An unexpected thing pops up during a month and I am writing a check to cover it. Yes, I am just one emergency away from my savings being drained and I could be homeless.
All of this got me thinking that I need a financial make over. I looked on line and in the book stores for advice. It is ridiculous how much you could pay for some of that advice. Books on how to budget or find a better job are expensive. Even Christian organizations that offer financial counseling charge fees. How can every day people, like me find help. I did a little bit of internet research, some Biblical research and a lot of prayer. I came up with a few ideas. I am not to proud to say, I am one bad decision away from being homeless.
God’s word is almost stunningly plain when it comes to the answers about Christian’s and our money. In Acts the early church gave all they had to each other. No one was in want. They shared everything. We call that Socialism, but it was the best way for them to take care of each other. Maybe it was not a bad idea. No homeless people in Acts. Matthew chapter six explains how we are not to worry about what we are going to eat or wear, but to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” God’s word tells us that our heart should be on other things not to worrying about our money. As I sit and ponder the bills for the next month, I can’t but think I am being disobedient to God by worrying if I will have enough to meet the expenses. On top of that, we had a break in and things were stolen. God is speaking in big ways. “Clean up your finances Lori, I have things for you to do.” Here are a few simple things I am doing to clean up my finances. Just maybe one or two of them may help you too.
First, I am looking at each and everything I spend money on. I am discovering that I waste many small amounts of money during the month. A couple of dollars here and a few over there. Don’t even get me started on my Starbucks expenses. If I don’t really need it, I am not reaching in my pocket to pay for it.
Next, I am discontinuing any service that I can live without. For example, satellite radio is only about twenty dollars a month, but add it up over a year, $240 dollars . Isn’t that silly when we have decent Christian radio stations for free? Can you hear your grandmother? “Were you born in a barn, close the door.” or “ Must you have every light in the house on?” All those little things we know to do save a little bit off our bottom line. That was a no brainer.
Then I am creating a budget (gulp) and sticking to it. I am not leaving anything off. I have a sort of budget. I know what I have to pay and to whom, but I left out small things that add up. For example, birthday cards I send out to relatives, that night out to a restaurant, or the flowers I put out at the cemetery. A budget must be complete if it is to work. Also, I am budgeting what I give to church, to the homeless, and to others. I can’t help but think to the story of the widow’s mite. I am going to give not out of my left overs but out of my first fruits and give even if I think that giving will cut me short somewhere else. Where is you heart Lori? I hear you, God. I am even going to put one dollar bills in my car for homeless Joe on the corner and money for food for the Alfred Washburn Center in my budget.
Another big thing in my sprucing up is paying off debt. It can be done. I had my doubts, but I managed to pay off my first group of small debts, and it can be done. After all my expenses are written in on the budget I am looking at what is left over and applying what I can to principle balances. I have a written plan for being debt free all but my mortgage in less than two years. Debt is the kind of thing keeps me up at night. That is not what God wants, no worrying remember?
I feel the need to fix this world’s financial problems, but since it is too big of a project I am going to fix my little chunk of it. God wants us to be responsible for what He has blessed us with, so I am starting today show my thanks to Him by action. What you decided to do is between you and God, but Brothers and Sisters, if you think God does not care what we do with our money, that He has bigger things to think about, think again? We are all one small thing away from being homeless.
© Lori O’Gara
What is Lent?
(Here is an article I wrote for “THE CRUCIFER” Volume 37 No. 4 – April 2011, as it was published and printed.)
I spent most of my life as a Baptist or a non-denominational church goer. Lent was never a tradition that I had to pay much attention to. Since becoming an Episcopalian, I see how Lent should be important to all Christians. It brings to the forefront of thought some very important lessons Jesus taught us through His life here on earth through human experiences. Lessons like when Jesus was tempted and he gave us a vivid example how we are to respond to Satan with scriptures. The lesson of respecting others who are different from what society says they should be, such as the woman Jesus met at the well.
The lesson of sacrificing for the good of others who may not deserve it, like the great sacrifice of God’s Son for us and we are not worthy to be even dust on His feet. These lessons and others should be in the forefront of Christian thought all the time, especially during Lent. With the distractions of modern life, however, we sometimes put the lessons of Lent in the back of our minds.
For the past several weeks I have not been thinking about Jesus, his lessons, or Lent. Instead I have been in a selfish search mode, searching for a version of a Christian life that suited me. Searching for God in various Churches and Bible study programs. Looking for the perfect place to serve God that fits what I want from a church. I did not find the perfect place, it does not exist. I did find that I should be in a church where God wants me and it is not my choice. Also, in the past few weeks I have been in a self centered pity party. Oh poor me, my job is stressful, my life is not perfect and I am so dissatisfied. When in reality, I have a job when so many people do not, I have a life that is just fine. I came to the conclusion that I should get off of this whining, oh poor me carousel that keeps me spinning out of control and get my head screwed on straight. I had a sort of epiphany or maybe it was God smacking me and saying,”Snap out of it!” Either way I have decided to stop whining, be thankful for what I do have, serve God where He put me, honor the commitments I have made, and give what I can to others. That leads to my plans for Lent.
I have a different idea about Lent for this year. Instead of giving up something for 40 days, I am going to give to others. Giveverses give up. I have no formal plan for this giving, but I am going to seek out opportunities to give. I am not a wealthy person, but I can give some money. I can certainly give of my time even though I have very little spare time and I can give of my talents for what it’s worth.
I know I am on the right track with this line of thought about Lent giving, because God gave me a very obvious confirmation that this is what He wants me to do. I attended the early 7:00 A.M. Ash Wednesday service at my church, Holy Cross Episcopal where in his sermon the priest, Father Jeff said, “This year try giving to others instead of giving up something.” Hello Lori this is God did you hear that? This God given idea gets even more clear when I put the entire thing in perspective. I have never attended an Ash Wednesday event before even though I have been an Episcopalian officially for three years and I have not attended Holy Cross for a few months. God told me to return to Holy Cross that morning and get myself right. So when I attended a church that I have not been attending for a while and the priest says exactly what God has been saying to me in my prayers, I thought I better pay attention. “Give to not just give up.” What more do I need God to do? Drop a brick on my head from above? Send a messenger angel? Shout it from a burning bush? I don’t think so.
I offer this challenge to you, instead of giving up a type of food or some other thing try giving to people in your life that need something. Maybe do both, give up the thing such as French fries, smoking or Facebook, and be a giver this Lenten season. Whatever you decide is between you and God, but the point is to use this time of Lent to learn the lessons of Jesus, follow His example and listen to God.