Actions Versus Words

“Actions speak louder than words,” goes the old saying. And there’s truth in that.

If I tell my sister I love her, but I never spend time with her, never show interest in her interests, never give her a nice gift, never let her choose the movie, never help her with a task, never go out of my way to serve her, how is she supposed to believe that I love her?

On the other hand, if I give her the best birthday and Christmas gifts, regularly do chores for her, always let her choose the movie, always drop my own work when she needs me, but my mouth is full of cut-downs, insults, teasing, and rebukes, don’t you think she’ll doubt the sincerity of all my loving actions? Won’t she wonder why under the sun I do nice things for her when I apparently can’t stand her?

She’d think me a hypocrite with some ulterior motive. And why shouldn’t she?

“Actions speak louder than words,” they say. But maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out.

Maybe words are actions.

If we say actions are stronger than words, then we could assume that words don’t really matter that much. And if words don’t really matter, then we can let our tongues run away and spout whatever we feel at the moment. If words don’t really matter, then we can berate and mock our friends whenever they get on our nerves. As long as we do nice things for them otherwise.

That doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, does it?

Of course not. Because our words need to line up with our actions. We ought to be kind in practical, tangible ways. And we ought to make sure our words are kind as well.

Take a look at this passage from the book of Job. When disaster befell Job and all his goods and even his children were stripped away from him, three of Job’s friends came to “comfort him.” Their version of comfort was to accuse Job of wrongdoing and urge him to repent so God would bless him again.

Here’s how Job felt about it:

“How long will you torment my soul,
And break me in pieces with your words?

-Job 19:2 (NKJV)

Can you hear the pain in his voice?

His “friends” never raised their hands against him. But their words crushed him. Maybe long ago his friends had done him a good turn, and he them. Maybe their actions had proclaimed their mutual friendship. Yet here they are tearing him apart with their words.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones…” But words can torment the soul and fragment the heart.

Words have power.

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.

-James 3:5-6a NKJV (emphasis mine)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

-Proverbs 18:21a NKJV (emphasis mine)

Job also had this to say about his friends’ words:

“I have heard many such things;
Miserable comforters are you all!
I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul’s place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.

-Job 16:2, 4-5 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Job’s friends used their words to make him miserable. They pushed his soul toward despair and death.

But they didn’t have to. They could have chosen to speak words of comfort. Words that urged his soul toward hope and life.

We shouldn’t go around assuming that our actions are loud enough to convince our loved ones that we love them. What message are our words sending?

Maybe we’ve gotten very good at guarding our tongues. Maybe we hardly ever let anything unkind slip out. And that’s great.

But do we keep silent when we have opportunity to speak a word of encouragement? Sometimes silence is a form of speaking. Make sure your silence is saying what you want it to.

One more thing: not everything Job’s friends said was wrong of itself. Their statements weren’t necessarily untrue or unrighteous.

But the right word at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or to the wrong person is the wrong word.

Words can have power coming from anyone, even a stranger. But words have the most power with people we’re close to. If I don’t know you, your insults aren’t going to hit home the way insults from my friend would.

So should we not be extra careful how we speak to those we love?

Don’t ever think words don’t matter. They can kill. Or they can heal.

When you speak, that’s just as much an action as when you punch someone in the nose.

So go love someone with your words today. (Just make sure your other actions aren’t contradicting you.)

-Miss Darcy

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A Tale of Two Fish

I got my first pet fish a little over a year ago–a gorgeous blue half-moon betta with metallic aqua on his tail. I named him Caspian, after Prince Caspian from Narnia. Cass for short, or for people who couldn’t pronounce Caspian.

I had him almost eleven months before he died. (Amazing how attached you can get to a leetle fish.) I didn’t want that tank to sit empty, so I scrubbed it clean and went to the pet story that very day and bought another betta. I almost bought a red one, but apparently I can’t resist the blue ones. I came home with a dark blue veil-tail, which I named Rillian (after Prince Caspian’s son).

I guess I expected them to be almost identical. A betta fish is a betta fish, right?

But these two fish weren’t the same. They had different personalities.

Yeah, I see you rolling your eyes, but most people acknowledge that dogs have their own personalities, so hang with me a little longer.

Caspian was an arrogant little thing. Loved nothing better than to admire his reflection. If I traced my finger along the outside of his tank, he ignored it. And he hated it when I cleaned his tank. I had to chase him round and round the tank before I could scoop him out into the holding cup. (I always figured he’d work himself into a heart attack, but he never did.) He’d just sit and sulk until I put him back in his freshly cleaned tank.

He had the funniest way of turning his nose up at you. He wasn’t the sort of pet I baby-talked.

Rillian is very personable. When someone puts their face up to the tank, he swims over to say hi. He wiggles and flares his gills and follows your finger along the tank. He’s better at aiming for his food than Caspian was. And he doesn’t mind it when I scoop him out of his tank for cleaning.

Altogether, he’s more approachable. I can call him Rilly sometimes without his being insulted. 😉

So perhaps their “personalities” have to do with the way I interpret their behavior. But the fact is these two fish behave differently.

God cares about His creation so much that He bothered to give two little betta fish different “personalities,” so to speak. Two betta fish that might have died in the hatchery or at the pet store, and absolutely no one would have cared beyond the fact they’d lost a very small amount of cash.

The God who made the stars also cares about little fish no longer than my finger.

He makes them beautiful, and He makes them unique.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

-Luke 12:6-7 NKJV (emphasis mine)

-Miss Darcy

I Am Thankful, 2017

I’m gonna try to keep this short and sweet. (Here’s where you roll your eyes at the idea of me writing anything short.)

In semi-random order, I am thankful for…

  • …the stunning truth that the Creator of the galaxies considers me someone worth dying for.
  • …my priceless relationships with friends and family. I may be an introvert and a writer, but friends that exist only on paper and in imagination don’t really compare to friends who breathe the same air I do.
  • …grace. From God, from my family, from random strangers. I make mistakes. I need grace.
  • …the necessities: food and clothing. I also have a warm home, hot water, a car, modern conveniences, technology, and a host of other things. Maybe if I didn’t have these I could justify my complaining. As it is, I have no reason to complain.
  • …language, written and spoken. Communication through language is an awesome gift from God that I usually take for granted. And it would leave a huge hole if it suddenly disappeared.
  • …the Bible. I don’t know how I’d live without this Book. And it’s in my mother tongue. Invaluable.
  • …that I can write. Even if no one else reads it, writing is a deep source of joy to me.
  • …beauty in nature. God didn’t have to make the world pretty. But, oh, didn’t He?
  • …rest. Sometimes I need it desperately, and it is sweet.
  • …music. Music affects the soul in a way words can’t. Which makes it far more powerful than we think.
  • …health. So many don’t have it, and I’ll enjoy it as long as it’s mine.

Under three hundred words. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Miss Darcy

Aurora’s Folly, Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, I wrote about Princess Aurora from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and how short-sighted she was. When she discovered she was a princess, all she could do was cry over a man she’d only met once. And we are so prone to be like her. When God asks us to follow Him fully, all we can think of are the worldly pleasures we’ll lose instead of the eternal riches we gain.

Yes, such behavior is foolish.

It’s also dangerous.

See, after Aurora cried her first storm, her aunts took her to the palace where she would be presented to her parents that evening. They sneak her in carefully, lest the witch Maleficent spy them. Aurora is still miserable. Her aunts give her a gold crown, symbolic of her royal rights and royal duties. She looks at herself in the mirror, puts her head down on the table, and bursts into tears again, poor thing.

So her aunts kindly give her a moment to herself before she actually has to meet her parents and the man she’s betrothed to.

And it’s then, when Aurora is weak, sad, and not herself, that Maleficent comes. She comes invisibly with a bizarre, mesmerizing ball of green fire. Aurora sits up, entranced. Then she stands and follows the dancing green ball through hidden passages in the castle up to a tower where the ball becomes the fateful spinning wheel whose spindle is to prick Aurora’s finger.

By now, her fairy aunts are looking for her, calling to her. But Maleficent’s voice bidding her to touch the spindle is more powerful, aided by the enchantment. Aurora touches it and is instantly cast into a magical, ageless sleep.

You see, Satan is a huge proponent of hitting a fellow when he’s down.

Bad guys in stories sometimes have a sliver of conscience left. Satan doesn’t.

In fact, the devil’s absolute favorite time to strike is when his victim is already weak.

Aurora was weakened because of her grief. But it was self-imposed grief. Sorrow because she couldn’t have what she wanted exactly when she wanted it.

Following God requires us to give up the things of this world. And when we pout about it, or downright refuse to do it, we put a wedge between ourselves and the God who loves us so much.

What starts as slight discontentment can fester into self-pity, depression, frustration, even resentment or rebellion towards God. All of those things can quickly distance us from our Lord.

When we are not walking close to Jesus, we are dangerously weak.

And Satan is only too happy to attack when we have drifted away from our Source of power.

It’s easy, and tempting, to think that a little complaining or a little rebellion won’t hurt anything. After all, it’s such a little bit.

But little things grow. Ever watched a bruise on a peach consume the whole fruit with rot? Ick.

But with Jesus, there is always hope.

Even if the devil has come in our weakness and cast us into a horrid pit from which we have no energy to rise, Jesus can pull us out. We need only to call to Him in repentance, and He will come and rescue us. He won’t leave us even if we have to endure certain inevitable consequences.

Still, don’t you think prevention is more desirable?

-Miss Darcy

P.S. Here are the clips of Aurora’s arrival home and Aurora’s enchantment, in case you wish to see them. It’s a mercy I never saw the latter as a young child–would have creeped me out to no end.

Aurora’s Folly, Part 1

I’ve mentioned before that I love the Disney animation of Sleeping Beauty. Today I’m going to pick on Princess Aurora.

In case you’re not familiar with the tale, Princess Aurora was cursed at birth by the witch Maleficent. Before her sixteenth birthday ended, Aurora would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. The good fairies changed the curse so that Aurora would only fall into a deep sleep until she was awakened by true love’s kiss.

So, being extra cautious, the good fairies take on their human forms and hide Aurora in a peasant’s cottage where no one knows who they really are. Then on her sixteenth birthday, the fairies send Aurora into the woods while they prepare a celebration.

And there Aurora meets a handsome young man and falls in love. (Which is actually a funny scene, but I digress.) Aurora finally has to hurry home, but she tells the young man to come to her cottage that night, meet her aunts and all that.

Aurora arrives home and her aunts kinda pop the news on her that she’s a princess betrothed to Prince Phillip.

Now if someone told me all of a sudden that I was a princess in hiding, I think I’d be shocked first and then wildly curious about the details. I think I might be excited about meeting parents I’d always thought were dead. I think I’d be apprehensive, but very intrigued to see what life for royalty is like.

But Aurora seems to miss all that. She bursts into tears because she’s told she can’t meet her handsome young man again. (Here’s the clip of the announcement if you care to watch it.)

Because she’s only sixteen and she’s lived in extreme seclusion, I give Aurora a break when I’m watching the movie. Today, I’m cutting her no slack: if ever a girl acted like a besotted, infatuated goose, it was Princess Aurora.

I mean, she was a princess!

Her father ruled the country. She could have anything money could buy. She had a mother and father after always believing herself an orphan.

And all she could think about was never seeing this man again, a man she’d met only once. (And, yes, I believe true love is one of the strongest things on earth. I even believe in love beginning at first sight. But I don’t believe you can know it’s true love after only a few hours. Maybe I’m wrong.)

Aurora had just been handed the splendor of royalty, yet she’s upstairs weeping on her bed because she cannot have a man she met only that day. Short-sighted lassie.

But, after condemning the poor girl thus, let me add that we can be just like her.

A Christian is a child of the King of Kings. The King who holds the stars. The One who created us. The One who shed His own blood to free us from sin, its power, and its punishment.

And yet we are reluctant to live sold-out to this King, our Father.

If I follow His laws to the letter…

…I won’t be able to watch all the entertainment of this world because it glorifies wickedness–wickedness which put Jesus on the cross.

…I won’t be able to do all the things my worldly friends do at parties because they pollute my body, which is the Lord’s temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

…I won’t be able to dress in all the faddish clothing because it places superficial value on the body and devalues the soul, thereby causing me and others to stumble.

…I must forgive everyone who wrongs me, no matter what they’ve done.

…I won’t be able to spend all my time on myself because the Lord will ask me to use it for His eternal kingdom, or simply to serve others.

…I will have to speak what people don’t want to hear because I must spread Jesus’ gospel and warn them of sin’s punishment.

…I’ll have to give up this or that because it isn’t edifying or it squanders time or it flat-out honors wickedness.

…I won’t be able to stay up late because I’ll get up too late to meet with Jesus the next morning. (Confession: staying up late can actually become an idol in my life. I spend the latest hours with novels or something for my own pleasure, then I can’t rise early enough the next day to read my Bible. I say I’ll do it later in the day, but I don’t always do it, and if I do, it tends to be rushed or even half-hearted.)

…I will have to reshape my entire way of thinking to align my life with the King’s laws.

We complain about all we have to give up.

But we somehow forget about all we gain.

We gain forgiveness of sin and a home in heaven.

We gain incredible power in our daily lives to overcome all the snares, temptations, and attacks of the enemy.

We gain incomprehensible peace in the midst of turmoil.

We gain joy we can’t explain.

We gain love for others that cannot be matched.

We gain a Father who cares for us and takes our worries upon Himself.

We gain a purpose we can never outlive.

We gain a Provider, Defender, Friend, and Savior.

And, yes, we gain pure pleasures that He gives us simply because He loves us.

How can we complain about what we must sacrifice when there is so much more to gain?

Are we as short-sighted as Aurora weeping over her royal birth?

All those things we’re giving up are only temporary anyway. The things we gain are eternal.

-Miss Darcy

P.S. Yes, I realize that the law of irony dictates that, after berating poor Aurora so, I’m destined to fall like a ton of bricks off the Eiffel Tower for a man someday. May God grant me grace. 🙂

Writing Is a Gift

A lot of writers feel insecure calling themselves writers. Can’t say I haven’t been there. After all, it’s hard to make a living as a writer–always has been. You can’t say, “I’m a writer,” and command the same respect as saying, “I’m a nurse,” because people have a lot of preconceived notions about writers. (Some of which are quite accurate, some of which are true for certain writers, and some of which aren’t true at all.)

But, when it comes down to it, all of that is beside the point. I’m a writer because I write.

And writing is a gift.

I don’t mean that the way we say, “He’s a gifted painter,” or “She’s a talented musician.” I mean, writing is a gift from God, wrapped in the plain brown paper of education and tied with a gorgeous colorful bow of creativity.

This is a gift partly for my enjoyment. Stringing words together in sentences, putting thoughts into coherent text, painting pictures with black marks on white paper, gives me a great deal of joy. (Why do you think I’m so apt to get long-winded, hmm?)

And if I never wrote for anyone except me and God to see, it would still be a precious, delightful gift that never grows dull.

But I do get to write for others to see. I get to try to amuse people, challenge people, encourage people, and bless people. That is a lovely gift. (Granted, I don’t always succeed, and that’s one difficulty of being a writer–we are never perfect, much as we’d like to be. And because we put our imperfections into the semi-permanence of written words, they can sometimes haunt us more strongly.)

Yet when I succeed in writing something people are glad to read, I’m delighted all over again with this gift.

Best of all, I have the opportunity to glorify God with my words. To unveil Him to this world. To capture a tiny facet of His glory. To point others, and myself, to the God who created language in the first place.

Hard to describe how I feel when I think about that. Kind of overwhelmed and kind of disbelieving.

Writing isn’t always a rose-garden gift.

Some days what I write wrings me out and I feel physically tired. Some days the words refuse to come–they feel clunky, they won’t fit, and I erase almost as much as I write.

But the Lord never said our gifts wouldn’t mean work. Contrary to popular belief, work is a good thing.

Then some days this gift feels like a burden.

“I’m not reaching my word-count goals.”

“I can’t say this the way I want to.”

“I can’t find the passion to write this.”

“I can’t get into this character’s head.”

But for me, and I can’t speak for any other writer, I’ve discovered writing becomes a burden when I’m focusing more on the gift than the Giver.

“God, I want to write for you. Why can’t I find the words? Why can’t I write better? How am I going to write all the stories You’ve given me?”

But it’s not about the words. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about what I can do.

It’s really about Him. He gave me a gift, just as surely as if I found it under the Christmas tree one year.

This gift is to push me to Him. To give me joy as I use it under His direction. To challenge me. To serve others. To glorify Him.

God gives us many gifts.

Family. Friends. Pets. Jobs. Possessions. Food. Land. Beauty. Feelings. Knowledge. Music. Skills.

But these are all to point us to Him, to inspire gratitude toward Him, to bring us joy in Him.

The gifts must never be more important than the Giver.

It doesn’t help me to pressure myself, saying, “You must write such and such for God. You must write more words for God’s glory.” But when my relationship with Jesus is in the right place, when there is nothing coming between Him and me, then I can write freely. And even if it’s hard work, it’s satisfying and good.

You can’t brag about a gift. (Well, you can, but it’s silly because you didn’t acquire it through any merit of your own.) But you can make use of a gift. You can revel in it. And you can talk about the goodness of the Giver whenever you get the chance.

-Miss Darcy

When I Grow Up

I’m twenty-two. An adult. Sometimes I don’t feel like it.

When I was little, I’d say, “When I grow up…” and I meant when I reached about the age I am now.

There’s a certain dry humor in that.

I’ve always wanted to be grown up. Mature. Respected.

But I’ve come to realize that however old I get (and I hope to get quite old before I leave this world), I don’t want to forget what it’s like to be a child.

  • How to throw myself into a physical game, playing hard until I’m hot, sweaty, exhausted, and perfectly happy.
  • How to transform brooms into horses and baby strollers into automobiles.
  • How hard and tedious it is to learn to read.
  • The drudgery of practicing an instrument before you’ve begun to master it.
  • The childish, but very real joy of saying or doing something particularly “grown up.”
  • How it feels to want to say something but have no grown-ups interested.
  • How it feels to not understand why your parents are arguing: you just hate the tension. Or worse, the subtler, but even more unnerving tension of an old grudge in the extended family.
  • How it feels to meet one of your mom’s old friends, and hear them say to her, “Oh, my goodness. Are these your kids? I haven’t met the youngest, but I remember this one when she was in diapers.”
  • The painful self-consciousness when you overhear your parents tell an embarrassing story about you before you’re old enough to laugh at it.
  • How it feels to compete with siblings for adults’ attention.
  • The joy of making a perfectly useless gift of questionable artistry for your parents or friends.
  • The scathing injustice of getting an equal punishment as your sister when you know she was more guilty than you. 😉
  • The importance of adults’ approval.
  • The way it felt like forever until you’d get older.
  • The small delights of ice cream, swinging at the park, hide-and-seek, and new school books.
  • The scheming to get more time to play with friends.
  • The begging of “the dads” or “the moms” to play with us kids instead of just talking.
  • The indignation when an adult won’t listen to your side of the story.
  • The wonderful feeling of your first successful bike ride without training wheels.
  • The frustration when your parents are lecturing and you know they’re right.
  • The uncertainty when you get older and you’re hovering somewhere between the worlds of children and adults.
  • The stupid rivalries between kids and how they somehow matter then.
  • How it feels to admire a teen or twenty-something and have them treat you as a cute kid, a twerp, or a nuisance.
  • How it feels to have a “big kid” or teen pay genuine attention to you.

I had a good childhood. And I don’t want to forget the good things. Or the bad things.

I want to keep part of my heart in childhood as long as I live.

(Side note to any teens or twenty-somethings reading this: Let me encourage you to engage kids. Listen to them. Treat them like equals sometimes [unless, of course, they’re acting up and you need to straighten them out]. Wear yourself out playing with them. Give piggy-back rides. Let them make an idiot of you once in a while. Be the cool teen, the cool young adult you would have wanted to play with when you were small. It’s fun.)

Now, as a Christian, I do not want to always be a child.

A Christian who never grows more like Christ. Never matures in knowledge. Never learns to display Christ in everything I do.

No, I want to be a Christian who matures.

I’ll never be a truly grown up Christian until I die. But I always want to be a Christian who is growing up.

Interestingly, the path to mature Christianity is counter-intuitive.

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,

and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV) emphasis mine

Notice He says little child. I’ve known older children to develop a bit of pride. Don’t ask where I discovered that. 😉

But we must come to God as children.

With all a child’s awe at God’s power and grace. With all a child’s undiluted love for a good parent. With all a child’s unquestioning trust in a trustworthy caretaker. With all a child’s sorrow when struck with a true understanding of wrongdoing.

With all a child’s joy in the life given to them.

It doesn’t pay to be a grown-up too soon. Maybe when it comes to serving Jesus, it doesn’t pay to be a grown-up at all.

-Miss Darcy