Tuesday, February 28, 2012

on the tastiness of gossip


So last night I met up with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while, and of course, in the process of catching up on everything we'd been up to over the past twelve years, she told me about some things that had happened between herself and a mutual acquaintance.

Now I use the term "mutual acquaintance" loosely, because while that person - let's call him Peter - is a friend of some sort to several people I know, I've only met him perhaps once, and then it was of the most insignificant, fleeting nature. He'd had some sort of negative impact on me in the past, but either it was so long ago, or of such a vague nature, or both, that I can't even remember now what it was he did.

However, because Peter knows a few of my own friends, I'd heard enough about him to confirm the negative impression I'd had of him over the years. I'm ashamed to admit that on the odd occasions his name would crop up in my conversations with friends, I'd mentally shake my head, or smirk, or snort, or all three at once.

So anyway, last night my girlfriend told me some things about Peter which, I'm afraid to say, included the word "psycho". And so of course you can imagine me doing the mental head-shake-snort-smirk thing, the whole time I'm listening to the gory details. Naturally, my girlfriend noticed my expression, and asked how I'd known Peter was, indeed, a "psycho".

And as soon as I opened my mouth to say that yeah, I'd always had a negative impression of him ya-di-ya-di-ya, I felt the Holy Spirit convict me. Isn't it Psalm 34 that says, "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit". Or Proverbs 16 that says, "A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates close friends".

Anxiously, I tried to salvage the situation, by backtracking and saying that I couldn't even remember what Peter had done to me, and that really, most of my feelings were based on hearsay, but of course it all just added to the unfortunate picture we were painting. Because by just looking negative, I'd only confirmed what my girlfriend already thought, and encouraged her to share even more; I'd done nothing in all fairness to help Peter, or to help repair the hurt between the two.

Since starting to walk more closely with God, I've really been trying my best to curb negative, judgmental thoughts and words about others. Sometimes that would entail stopping mid-sentence to literally slap myself and admit to the person I'm talking with that I'd just had a mean thought or was about to say a mean thing.

However, as most of us know, "Gossip is so tasty — how we love to swallow it!" (Prov 18:8). I mean, goodness, people actually publish gossip, and they sell like hotcakes off the newsstand. What is it that makes us talk of, or listen to, the faults and failings of others? Why do we judge and criticise, as if doing so somehow makes us feel or look better? "But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak" (Matt 12:36).

It takes a real, conscious effort to refrain from indulging in gossip, or unkind, judgmental thoughts and words. Gossip is so subtle isn't it - we usually substitute it with words like "caring", "worry" or "concern". When we ask our friends to share their stories, or information about people or situations, I think we really need to check our intent and objectives. Are we really hoping to help, or comfort, or heal? Or are we simply being malicious, mean, idle, or plain nosy?

"Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth," Paul writes in Ephesians 4, "but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God's favor) to those who hear it".

In Romans 1, Paul speaks of those who have rejected God and embraced a sinful lifestyle:

"And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,

"Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,

"Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.

"[They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.

"Though they are fully aware of God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them" (Rom 1:28-32).

It's horrible to realise that backbiters, gossipers and slanderers are hateful to God; murder, yes, but bad-mouthing? Yet by no stretch of the imagination, one can easily see how gossip feeds enmity, contempt, spite - or worse. How often do we check our hearts for ill-will, cruelty or lovelessness? And how can we walk in love, or make the world a better place, if we keep going around saying such-and-such about so-and-so? For "with his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor" (Prov 11:9).

And oh man, what do I find in my devotional when I get home? "The Critical Mind". And the quoted verse? "[My] brethren, do not speak evil about or accuse one another. He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not a practicer of the Law but a censor and judge [of it].

"One only is the Lawgiver and Judge Who is able to save and to destroy [the One Who has the absolute power of life and death]. [But you] who are you that [you presume to] pass judgment on your neighbor?" (James 4:11-12, from Battlefield of the Mind devotional, by Joyce Meyer).

Of course, I am certainly not going to repeat anything of what my girlfriend told me, and, with regard to the Peters in my life: "Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips" (Ps 141:3).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

on Euryale, and Mel Odom

Euryale cover art, by Mel Odom

For some reason, while I was helping B put together her list of book recommendations today, I was suddenly reminded of a book I myself had enjoyed very much when I was a kid. The book was Euryale, by Kara Dalkey; as a teenager, I'd bought it for four bucks and had been very struck by both the story and the cover art. In a vague panic, I ran downstairs and scanned all the bookshelves to see if I could find it - wonderfully, I did; it was still in its plastic book cover from the 1980s.

It's quite an original story really - a romance, set in ancient Rome - about Euryale, one of the three Gorgons. Yep, I told you it was pretty original. I remember reading the book several times, for I've always had a soft spot for the Gorgons. You know what happened to poor Medusa of course; the movie Clash of the Titans has helped keep that legend alive in our modern times. But I was always puzzled why it was that, in the movies, Perseus is shown riding Pegasus to go slay Medusa, when the story I know from classical mythology says that Pegasus, along with Chrysaor his brother, sprang from Medusa's body when Perseus beheaded her (she had been pregnant by Poseidon at the time).

In any case, Euryale was one of Medusa's sisters. There were three Gorgons, did you know, but unlike poor Medusa, who was mortal, her sisters Euryale and Stheno were immortal. Ms Dalkey's book is a fascinating look at life from a Gorgon's point of view - I heartily recommend it if you can find a copy (it was published in 1988; I plan to relive my youth and read it again this week!).

Now the cover art - that's the picture above - is by an artist named Mel Odom. Isn't it lovely? Strange, mesmerising, otherworldly. Even as a teenager, I'd been very taken with the illustration's atmospheric, Art Deco style; the depth of the eyes; the soft, fluid lines and colours. But, being the 80s (and a kid), I couldn't learn anything about the artist or see any more of his work. There was just his name in small print on the inside of the book, and that was all I knew.

mel x

Now, more than two decades later, with all the wonders of the Internet at my fingertips, I've found Mr Odom's biography and art online - even his own website. Among other things, I've learnt that Mr Odom was the creator of the Gene Marshall doll, a gorgeous fashion doll intended primarily for adult collectors. Check them out here (I'd personally love to have Madra Lord!). You can also see - and purchase - Mr Odom's lush, dreamy work here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



I love a steaming cup of Darjeeling or English Breakfast, and I love dinosaurs too! Isn't this t-rex tea infuser just the cutest? You fill the dinosaur with loose tea leaves and infuse -- brilliant! Tea Rex infuser, available here.

treasury clipping

Simplicity, by Oh Dear Watson, purveyors of gorgeous vintage goodies for the home. The entire list is here.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

let me tell you a story

My girlfriend called me up today, lamenting this fear she had, which would invariably drive her into a panic every time it reared its ugly head. It reminded me of this story I read once long ago. It's an Ethiopian folktale, I believe, and like many such tales, illustrates a universal, fundamental moral and truth.

It goes something like this. There was once a boy who was so fearful and timid that he was called Miobe, or 'frightened one'. When he asked his family why they called him that, they laughed, and said it was because he was always afraid. Miobe pondered this, and decided that he had to find out how to conquer fear. That night, after everyone had gone to bed, he packed a few things and set out into the great unknown.

After walking a great distance, he came to a village. There he found the villagers gathered together, talking among themselves in great consternation. "What's the matter?" Miobe asked.

"Our village is doomed," said one of the villagers. "There is a monster who lives up on that mountain who threatens to devour us all. It is a gigantic beast, a fearsome dragon who roars like thunder and breathes fire out of its mouth".

As Miobe looked up the mountain, he too began to see the gigantic beast at the top, dark, loud and terrifying. Everyone hurried back into their homes, too afraid to do anything. The village was desolate; no one ploughed the fields or farmed, or went to school or played. "The monster will kill us all!" they said.

Miobe was afraid too, but he saw how miserable and oppressed everyone was, and decided that he had to face this monster. "No, no, don't!" everyone cried, but Miobe took his courage in both hands. "I will conquer fear!" he said stoutly, and set off with determination.

When he reached the base of the mountain and looked up, he saw that the monster was larger and more frightening than anything he could ever have imagined. It breathed fire and roared ferociously. Miobe shivered with fear, but then, he began to climb.

As he did so, he was suprised to see that the monster seemed to be growing a little smaller. Halfway up, he realised that the monster was actually a lot smaller than he'd thought, and it wasn't as loud and fiery as it had seemed before.

Finally, he reached the summit and walked cautiously around. He could see no sign of the monster anywhere. Then suddenly, he heard a tiny croak at his feet. He looked down and saw a little creature like a toad, looking up at him with big, frightened eyes.

Miobe bent down and picked the little creature up in one hand. "Who are you?" he asked. "My name is Fear," the little creature replied, and then it vanished away into nothingness.

I trust you've been having a fearless, indomitable weekend :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

treasury clipping

Everywhere the Glint of Gold, by The Wildasins, photographers, and makers of luxurious body products. The entire list is here.


the "Outside World"

O hahaha.. I was reading B's latest blog post, and I couldn't help chuckling:

021612c - mom

This is a picture of one of my newest Sylvanians -- Mrs Roo! She is carrying her baby in her apron pocket -- isn't she cute? Today Mrs Roo is looking for some baby books to read to baby Iris. They are on the first floor of the school, which my Mom built for me. On sunny days, the light comes in through the big windows and is perfect for reading. Iris says she wants to look at the picture book on gorillas.

021612d - mom

Now let's take a quick look at what's happening in the courtyard. As you can see, some of the grown-ups have gotten together to talk and have tea. Mrs Badger is telling them about how all her mince pies -- at least ten of them! -- went missing during the night. This is a very serious matter, because the kids need their food for breakfast and lunch, and also, no one likes to have their things stolen. The grown-ups are worried because this is not the first time it has happened. Mrs Polar Bear's fish pies went missing the night before, and Mrs Honeyfox's raspberry pies went missing last week. The grown-ups know that no one in their village would do something like that, so it must be someone from the Outside World. They are coming up with ideas on how to trap the thief. Obviously, it is someone who likes pies a lot, because whoever it is never touches the stew or cake. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!

You can see the entire post here. Have a super Thursday!

Monday, February 13, 2012

on love, and staying happy together forever

Bear with me - this is kind of a long post. But I felt strongly in my spirit that it was important, and I put it together anyway. Valentine's Day is just around the corner. According to Wikipedia, it's "traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as 'valentines')". For whatever reason, many people make an effort on this day to express their love for each other by giving or exchanging tokens of affection, yet fail to perform truly meaningful acts of love the rest of the year (there's Christmas too of course, and I think the same thing then).

Now I certainly don't mean to sound cynical by any means. But when I hear a dear friend sobbing her heart out over her husband's infidelity, I just feel sad. Does real love exist? Or are people just in love with love? Why are these heartbreaking stories so commonplace now? Like that song goes, "I wonder why, doesn't anybody stay together anymore?”

I was reading this magazine article on a famous actress whom I'd often thought very pretty and talented. Through the article, I learnt that she had a 19-month old child, apparently out of wedlock, because the article referred to her "fiancé". Then I saw a quote from the actress in a sidebox: "I'm not about to create scandal in my life. The last thing I want is for my daughter to have that kind of legacy". The article mentioned her own parents' divorce when she was a child and her present procrastination about getting married. "I just don't see [marriage] as the only way to sustain a relationship", she said.

It's the norm now, isn't it? Once upon a time this sort of thing would have been a terrible "scandal", but not anymore. We're so used to these scenarios, we're so accustomed to hearing of people getting together and breaking up as if they were changing clothes, or of people divorcing after just a few years, or even months, together (what exactly happens to the kids?) – we hardly blink an eye.

Actually, I don't think marriage is "the only way to sustain a relationship"; I don’t think marriage is a means of sustaining a relationship at all. That's one of the worst reasons to get married. To me, marriage is in fact a solemn promise, confirmation and proof before man – and God – that husband and wife are committed to each other for life, "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death us do part". But that actress, like many people today, is quite content to be in a relationship – producing children in the meantime – without making any such lifelong, life-impacting vows.

Remember Howard Jones back in 1983? "What is love anyway?" he sang mournfully. "Does anybody love anybody anyway?" Many people welcome, indeed, wholeheartedly relish, the sexual revolution of our age. Jumping from partner to partner, and having sex and kids outside of marriage, has become completely acceptable in our society, and yet many of these same people – while modelling such behaviour – say they wonder and worry about teenage delinquency and pregnancy, crime and broken homes, STDs, and drink and drug abuse. They don't see any connection at all between our lifestyle choices and sexual laxity, and all these terrible social evils with their far-reaching repercussions. The meaning of love seems to have gotten horribly distorted, and chiefly self-centred.

Serendipitously, I'd listened to this Andy Stanley message some time ago, but went back to listen to it again, partly because it's Valentine's, and partly because I was so perturbed about my friend. The 4-part message is entitled Staying in Love, but I believe you can apply much of it to all your relationships, not just your romantic one.

Pastor Andy introduces his message in Part 1; he asks, "Is it possible for two people to be happy together forever?" In his introduction, he refers to the movie Juno, the 2007 film about a teenager dealing with her unplanned pregnancy. Juno says to her father, "I guess I wonder sometimes if people ever stay together for good... like people in love. Dad, I just need to know that it’s possible for two people to stay happy together forever".

"There’s several reasons why it’s so difficult [to stay in love]," Pastor Andy says. "Part of it is what you saw growing up, part of it is what you experienced... the truth is, very few people have ever been around a healthy romantic-marriage-couple relationship... Here's what a lot of us grew up with: do unto others as they deserve to be done unto. Do unto others as they do unto you. Do unto others as your mood would have it. Do unto others so as to get them to see things your way. Do unto others until you wear them down and get your way. Do unto others until you’re ready to leave...

"And then there's another thing which makes it really difficult... our culture has a really low threshold of pain relationally... which means, it doesn't have to hurt too bad, and we decide to get out. Gone are the days where I said 'I do', and I do means I do, and I'm gonna keep doing whether I like it or not... in our culture, the message you and I get every single day is, if you're not happy in your current relationship, it's because you're with the wrong person, you need to re-choose... and if you'll just keep looking, you'll find that soulmate... and if you'll keep moving from relationship to relationship, eventually it's going to happen to you...

"But if you talk to people who've been married 20 years plus, who are still in love, and ask them about that approach, they will tell you: there were times along the way these 20 years that I wondered if I had the right person. But I decided, that the person I chose was going to be the right person, and we’re so glad we worked through those difficulties. Because choosing the right person is part of it; but learning to be and to become the right person is the other part of it...

"Two thousand years ago, Jesus gives us the foundation for enduring relationships... if two people will simply accept this basic teaching of Jesus: 'A new command I give you: Love one another'.

"Jesus takes a word that we normally use as a noun, and he makes it a verb... [Jesus says] I know love is something you fall into like a pool, and out of like a high chair; I realise love is like a noun. But I'm making it a verb... You [complain], 'She does this, she does that...' and Jesus would look at you and say, 'Well, are you loving her? You're confusing noun and verb, you’re saying you’re not 'feeling it'. You got to do it, and then you feel it.

"Your relationship started off 'feeling it', and then the feeling went away, and you're trying to get the feeling back, and you're thinking, the only way to get the feeling back is to meet somebody new... Jesus says, Here's how it works... the foundation of staying in love is to make love a verb.

"The goal isn't to recapture a feeling... in the relationship, the feeling is the kaboose of the train; it ain't the engine. It starts off as the engine, but then it goes to the back of the train... When two people actively love one another, it rekindles and continues to kindle and enrich and make better the 'in love' part of the relationship...

"But He doesn't stop there... 'As I have loved you, so you must love one another' [John 13:34 (TNIV)]... He says, I don't want you to take your cue from culture... or your parents or your in-laws... when you think about what does it mean to love like a verb, I want you to take your cue from Me... I will teach you how to love – not how to be in love – but how to stay in love...

"Years later, the apostle Paul comes along, takes this same idea and says it in a different way... he just uses a different word than love, but it's the very same thing: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21)... It's the same as 'love one another'... The bottom line for people who are going to stay in love is mutual submission.

"Mutual submission says, 'In our relationship, you're the priority'... It's a decision you make... I am choosing to place myself under you, and you are choosing to place yourself under me... You stay in love when every single day you decide, and he or she decides, 'Today he's first, today she's first’... And when you do, that thing that's so wonderful about meeting and falling in love can be maintained; it can even get better".

In Part 4, Pastor Andy talks about the "magic formula" of how happy couples stay in love: they've learned what to place in the gaps between expectations and reality. "Everybody who's in love makes this kind of choice almost every single day," he says, "and the habit you have, the way that you approach this choice, will have a lot to do with whether you're able to stay in love".

Then, he refers to 1 Cor 13:4-7, the famous "love chapter": 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres'.

"Paul is getting at one of the most important habits or practices in a love relationship... In every relationship, there is a gap between our expectations and how people behave... here's the choice you make all the time: in every one of these gaps, we put something. We either choose to believe the best, or we assume the worst - every single time...

"We begin to develop an attitude when there's a gap... We all put something in that gap, and what we put in that gap begins in our minds, and eventually comes out of our mouth, or out of our behaviour...

"People who stay in love learn to believe the best... which means they are generous, generous in their explanation [as to why there's a gap]"... When you choose to assume the worst – every time you choose to go negative – you have contributed to the demise of your relationship.

"Let me tell you something about your fiancé, the person you love, your spouse – the last thing they want to do, is disappoint you. I don't care who you are – no one wants to disappoint the person they're in a relationship with. When you go negative, what it communicates is this: no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you will never measure up, you will never hit the standard, you will never get to where I expect you to be.

"And every time you overtly or covertly or subtly communicate that, you push them further and further away... When you choose to believe the best, even when there's a pattern of the person not being everything you think they should be, it creates margin, and a healthy person responds to that margin and begins to move in your direction.

"If you have consistently assumed the worst, they're afraid of you, they dread the response, they're scared to death of what you're going to do and they put off [facing you] because they don't want to disappoint you, they don't want to be made to feel like they can't measure up – nobody wants to feel that.

"When you believe the best, by choice, what you communicate is, 'I trust you'. Trust in a relationship means 'I accept you'. Acceptance means 'you have not disappointed me'... Our hearts are drawn toward environments of acceptance... Here's how Jesus summed the whole thing up: Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31)...

"Let me tell you why all this is so important. Yeah, it's important because we want to have happy relationships, happy marriages... the other reason is because those of us who are adults, have coming up behind us a generation of kids, many of whom may have never seen and may never see a great relationship; they won't even know what they're shooting for when they become adults. We have the opportunity to model a brand new kind of relationship... But there's something that makes this even more important. There will be nothing that speaks louder to our culture about Christianity than our marriages".

As you're wrapping your roses, and boxing your chocolates, I strongly, strongly encourage you to take some time to listen to Pastor Andy's entire message. You can find it here. Interestingly, in Part 1, he mentions a study that had been done to find out what it takes "for a child to grow up in a very nurturing environment and to leave adolescence emotionally-equipped to engage in long-term relationships.

"Here's what it takes – you need to grow up in a home where you get respect – and this is like massive doses of all of this – respect, encouragement, comfort, security, support, acceptance, approval, appreciation, attention and affection". Let's bear this in mind every day we raise our own little Valentines.

Friday, February 10, 2012

treasury clipping

Prairie Home Companion, by brilliant jewelry designer Marie of Markhed Design. The entire list is here.

tc - m

wheee it's a

Leo clay shop sale2
Get 14% off shopwide with code VAL12. Happy shopping :)

I, Elizabeth


I'm mad about history, and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I'd managed to catch a 5-part documentary on Elizabeth I of England (unfortunately, I don't know the name of the documentary, or who produced it, as the person who'd uploaded it cut those out).

Well, if you know anything about Elizabeth I at all, you'd know that despite her various shortcomings -- including exceeding vanity, aggravating indecision and a hot temper -- she was widely admired for her prodigious intellect, willpower, energy and drive. She was generally loved by her people, and ruled England for over 44 years.

The documentary featured several authorities on the queen, including a couple of well-known authors, and I was struck by what one of them -- Rosalind Miles, the author of I, Elizabeth -- said. Contrary to expectations, Jane Grey had just been executed, and Mary, Elizabeth's half-sister, had become queen.

"Elizabeth at this point must have just got her eyes on the ball and thought, 'Walk carefully. Watch your step. Do as little as possible, and it will come to you'. And throughout her life, that was her policy. Masterly inactivity -- watch and wait".

In Part 5, Ms Miles closed the documentary with these words, worthy enough for an epitaph: "She had everything that women want. She lived her life to the full, she knew the love of good men and a good country, and she died at peace in her own bed".

Sunday, February 5, 2012

treasury clipping

Front Page Bright, by fabric gifts and clothing designer Maria of Wise Sewcial Ties. The entire list is here.


Valentine Bikbik

The light wasn't very good for photographs by the time she was done with stuffing. She'll be in the shop by tomorrow :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...