Monday, February 25, 2008

Catching Up

Well, it's been quite a while but with good reason. I was out on the road for most of last week and then worked most of the weekend. Hopefully this respite will have allowed me a great deal of introspection. Don't hold your breath.

Being on the road last week allowed me something I hadn't had in a long, long time: cable. Eric, Pete, and I don't do cable. For us, it's a wasted expense. We're not home very often and barely get to watch what we have on those precious 4 channels we do get. So, there's no reason to buy extra channels. We do rent a lot of movies (Martian Child= adorable, The Brave One= Jodi Foster goes nuts) but we have just decided it's not necessary. So what this has meant for me throughout lent is that I have had no temptation for E! Entertainment Television, Vh1's Best Week Ever, or any of the other multitude of gossip shows. On Monday when I went to see mom and dad, I saw all of those options and was completely overwhelmed. And what does my mom do? Turns on "The Soup" on E, of course. Well, no one argues with their Momma, right!? OK, so maybe I am using her as an excuse. She did say I could turn it. But I watched 20 minutes of Soup. It's funny, it's interesting, and it's against the rules in lent. Oops.

I had another "oops" moment last week. I was standing in line to buy bananas and chicken breasts at Wal-Mart and before I realized that I had picked up People, flipped to Christina Aguilara's baby photos, and looked at every page. Yeah, oops. I really did this without any thought. That's the sad part. Her nursery was adorable and I loved every second. But it was hard to feel guilty for something I didn't realize I had done until it was over. I know there should be a religious discussion inserted here about the relevance of that statement, but I will spare you. Mostly I will tell you that I have held on to that one piece of gossip all week and shared it with the world as a talking point. Why is that? Why do I feel I have to talk about that sort of stuff, even when I have committed not to even be looking at it?

The Oscars also happened last night. I love movies. LOVE movies. And I love dresses. And beautiful hair, and costly jewels borrowed just for the night. I love the whole thing. So I allowed myself, guilt-free, to watch the Oscars. I got on today to watch the fashion, but I did not get on any sites to see what they thought about the fashion or any other gossip for that matter. It's a tough journey.

I am doing a study right now on learning how to pray. Why is it that talking about other people to other people comes so easy but talking to God about anything comes so difficult? He is our maker, creator, father, resting place, shepherd, and so much more. Yet, it's hard for most of us to even feel competent enough to pull together a two-minute conversation with this amazing deity. To me, the struggle comes from many places. One, being a busy person myself, I figure the creator of this and every universe has to be busy. Why does he want to hear how much I adore him, or why I am frustrated, or what I need. He knows the basics. He needs to spend his time worrying about Sudan or babies addicted to drugs, not to a small-town, relatively comfortable, self-centered working wife, right? Plus, sometimes prayer reveals what's really in my heart and sometimes I don't want to know. I mean, it makes me realize how much I worry about silly things. I want to have eloquent, deeply meaningful prayers worthy of being cross-stitched onto some old lady's pillow. Instead, I come out sounding like a bratty teenager. I just want to be more. I guess that's what it comes down to. I can't pray until I am more and I can't be more until I pray for God's guidance. I must overcome that little annoyance called pride. UGH!

Here's to humility. JWS

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

I don't have too much to write on this Valentine's Day. It's pretty exciting to have my first Valentine's Day as a married woman! I was never a big fan of Valentine's Day in years past. This year, though, it makes me very appreciative of the wonderful husband I have and the times we get to share every day.

The gossip thing has its ups and downs. I have to turn my head from computer screens in my office or strategically tune people out throughout the day but I am really not missing the celebrity gossip. I have no idea where the celebs will be for Valentine's Day tonight or what they bought their sweeties. I am not upset about this.

The everyday gossip is harder to control. I think gossip and complaining go hand in hand. I hear myself starting a lot of sentences with, "ugh! You'll never believe what this person said to me," which is both a mix of gossip ("let me tell you how much better I am than this person") and complaint ("let me tell you how much worse my situation is than anyone elses"). Ultimately I think it comes to ridding your life, and vocabulary, of the negative wastes. I mean, I have found I have a lot of free time to think about my life, my finances, my faith, and so many other topics when I am not wasting my energy on negativity. I read a caption today that said, "Celbrity photos are good, bad celebrity photos are better." We watch celebrities because we want to see them screw up, I think. We want to see how we are so much better off than they are, even with their fame, money, status, etc. I have to become a more positive person.

On a different note, I have been totally bummed for the past few weeks because I have lost my Bible. I am not sure if it is in a car, shoved in a box from moving, shoved in a room from cleaning, or missing altogether. Still, I need it. I am getting sick of online scripture. And I might just buy a new one, but it won't have the commentary and notes and highlighting that the old one has. I'm totally bummed (not to be negative:-)) and I have to find a new solution soon.

May all of you enjoy the love of those around you today, whether it be your family, significant others, or just truly basking in the love of your creator. Here's to a day remembering that each one of us really is loved...JWS

Monday, February 11, 2008

Week Two: Harder than I Thought

Between going to the Midwest Barista Regional Championship (which was very fun, everyone should attend!), getting sick, and doing the traditional Sunday stuff, I haven't written in a while. I am so ready for cold and flu season to be over! Sheesh!
Anyway, as far as my quest for No Gossip goes, it is a little more difficult in some ways than I anticipated. I am trying to cut out both gossip on a local level and especially celebrity gossip. The tricky part about the celebrity gossip (my main focus for now) is that it is EVERYWHERE! I mean, EVERYWHERE! Radio, regular news, front page of news websites. It's impossible to live in today's society without hearing somebody talk bad about somebody else--particularly about somebody they've never met. Though I am taking this challenge very seriously, I am not going to the extreme measure of turning off the radio. I am changing TV channels, and trying to ignore websites and checkstand magazines. But this stuff is everywhere!
On the personal gossip side, I found myself writing an email today specifically with the sole purpose of badmouthing someone. Not the mean, lying sort of badmouth, but the everyday, I-can't-believe-this-person-isn't-the-exact-person-I-want-them-to-be sort of thing. The good news is--I deleted it. Hooray for small steps!

My task reminds me greatly of the sermon my pastor (who tells us never to introduce him as pastor) Keith preached this Sunday. It was about Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gesthemane and, specifically, about temptation. He talked about how the Bible is our first line of defense against temptation, since it tells us the specifics of Satan's tactics. It tells us how, when, and who will tempt us. It blows all of his methods right out of the water. The best way to avoid temptation is to know when it's coming and ready your defenses. So I started to think about when I am most succeptible to temptation. I was looking at all forms of temptation, not just gossip. I dug back into my life to think about when I gave in in the big ways. Keith told the story of a girl who was a committed Christian who met a man and slowly turned her life to Islam, cutting off her family and all of her friends. And I think this demonstrates greatly the fact that the devil doesn't really have to tempt us when we are not following him. He really has to lure us when we are following our commitment to Jesus. Looking back at my times in college, the times when I started to follow closely with God and push for a deeper relationship is when Satan really let me have it. Up until yesterday, I couldn't figure out why I had such deep swings in college--from heavy commitment to complete abandonment. Then it hit me--I was not preparing myself, even amongst my great commitment, for the sneaky, small temptations the devil would use to lure me away from the good stuff. Had I prepared for temptation, or even thought through some of the small, bad decisions for sin, I would have realized that the riches of God were so much greater. But that is the trouble... Satan is studying our every weakness while we are not preparing ourselves for the battle.

I have now realized that when I get cocky in my faith, Satan gives me little slips to make me fall away. When I am firmly planted, the devil gives me doubt. When I am solidly standing above gossip, Satan makes me lonely and gives me someone who just LOVES to talk to me about all the stuff other people are doing wrong. And when I am on top of the world, Satan lets me know just how much better I am than everyone else, and the pride sinks in.

I don't know all the answers on how to defeat sin. But I do know two things: 1) It's all in the Good Book and up to me to find at 2) Knowing my weaknesses is the very first step into making them strong.

Matt 26:41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak."

1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Luke 22:46 "'Why are you sleeping?' he asked them, "Get up and pray so that you may not fall into temptation."

This has been incredibly long and a little more philosophical than I intended. But when you aren't gossiping about others, you have a lot of time to think about yourself. Here's to a lent of self-exploration...JWS

Thursday, February 7, 2008

So lent started yesterday. I have found that, in my life, one of the hardest things for me to rid my life of, is GOSSIP. It's awful. Maybe it's because I am a woman, and, while the men in my office chat about SportsCenter, we women are fully engaged in the latest celbri-scandal. Nonetheless, I have decided it is sin and is detrimental to my growth, both with God, and as a person. I have decided that lent is a great time to start weeding out the gossip in my life. So, for the next 40 days, I will be very strict with myself on this issue. That is not to say I will not continue to pursue a life without gossip after lent. This is just a starting point.

I have created this blog for two reasons. One, I need accountability. So, this will allow me to freely talk about how this pursuit is going for me and force me to be honest with the online world about this sin. Two, I will need something to do when I am not scouring one of the multiple gossip sites I have committed to memory or headed over to one of my co-workers' desks to discuss the aformentioned sites. Instead, I will be bloggin here or trying to find more beneficial readings online and posting about those.

I am horrible at coming up with creative online handles or names for blogs. Thus, the name is just my goal: a time of lent without gossip. This name may outdate itself, but for now, it works. Feel free, if you happen to find this blog, to post about my journey or about yours. You can also post interesting articles, verses, or other media for me to check out. I may be writing several times a day.

Here's to an enlightened 40 days, sans the gossip. JWS