Sunflower on Blue

“Gator Hater! Gator Hater!” the kids yell throughout the van while I scan our surroundings for the cause. There it is: the license plate on the car in front of us reads G8TRH8TR. Gator Hater.

I’ve lived in Georgia long enough to be familiar with the rivals on our southern and western borders. One of the strongest sports rivalries even polarizes Georgians: Georgia Tech vs. the University of Georgia. We transplanted from Arkansas, a place without professional teams where an entire state unites behind the Razorbacks.

Staring at that license plate while the kids chant its message I hold onto one thought: how sad to be defined by what you hate rather than what you love.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. ~John 13:35

I ponder this for days, turning it over and over in my mind: how often do I live like the driver of that car, allowing myself to be defined by the wrong things?

Do I want to be known for having a clean house and feeding my guests well, or for truly making them feel welcome?

Am I known for having something interesting to say or for listening with my full attention?

Do others know more about the things I oppose or the things I support?

Sunflower in Macro

I start to catch myself when I frown and admittedly it’s more than I’d like. Is it easier for me to show disapproval or love? Do I tell my children and my husband things I wish they’d change or revel in the things I love about them?

It’s easy to point out weakness in others or areas that need change. I do it often enough. But my shoulders hunch and pride blinds when criticism points in my direction.

Lord, soften my heart. Make me quick to show grace, slow to censure, ever teachable. Let my life reflect what and Who I love and not petty grievances and thoughtless words spoken.

by Dawn Camp, My Home Sweet Home

{If you’re looking for an August desktop calendar, you can download one here.}

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  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    Dawn,
    This world would be a kinder place if we, as you said, took the time to revel in what we love about others (particularly those we love). Sadly, I catch myself doling out words of criticism to those that I love the most. Why are we more gracious with our words to strangers than to our own family? I pray that God would cause me to bite my tongue when critical words are about to come out and that I would be a person defined by what I love instead of what I hate or dislike. Thanks for a poignant reminder!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Bev, you’re so right. Sometimes we show strangers more grace than our family. Let’s work on that!

  • Andrea

    Thank you Dawn!!!!!!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      You’re so welcome, Andrea. :)

  • http://lavidaleipprandt.blogspot.com Katie

    This was SO convicting and much needed this morning. Thank you for the reminder that we are to be defined by our LOVE and nothing else. Thank you!!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Katie, thanks for stopping by this morning. You encourage *me*.

  • http://www.hisbenefits.blogspot.com Cheri

    As a Gator lover, I can relate on the other end of that spectrum! Not only is it easy to be identified with what we hate, it’s easy to be identified with what we love. Too many times I have allowed myself to be defined by the gifts I’ve received and not by The Giver. It is a never-ending temptation and choice.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Cheri, I love this point of view. Thanks for your comment!

  • Angela

    Thank you so much for this post! You see, this song has been singing in my heart for months. I have been living apart from my family periodically while my young son is in the hospital (7 months). As I have gone through this experience, I have been faced with the ugliness of whether or not I am encouraging the positive qualities of my spouse and children, or emphasizing the negative. It is never easy to look inward, but when I do, I feel better. I feel free. And it is so nice to read your post and know that I am not alone in what I have been working on. For months, everyday when i wake up, I’ve been asking the Lord to open my heart, and I try to remember that only he can heal the wounds in my heart. Spending time with the Lord on purpose has also helped. I know I have to surround myself with positive thoughts and positive people in order to have the strength in my situation. Blessings to you!!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Angela, what a difficult time for you! It sounds like the Lord is using this time of separation to convict and heal you. Blessings to your family.

  • Patty

    What a wake up call!!! Thanks for the reminder.!

  • http://aheavenlyjourney.net Melissa

    That perfectly sums up how I feel about one of the most polarizing topics in our world today: abortion.

    All the hatred being thrown around on the battleground of pro-life vs. pro-choice has distracted us from what we REALLY need to do. Love. The most vocal pro-life groups (or at least the ones getting the most media attention) are the ones condemning abortion. It’s no wonder we have so many women in the church who had abortions in the past who are hiding that part of their story in shame and fear that they will be rejected.

    But you know what this whole thing needs? Love. Women who have had abortions need love and compassion. They were alone, and scared, and felt like they had nowhere else to go, no other choice. They need a place to heal. And how about instead of viciously fighting to end abortion at a government level or protesting outside clinics with graphic pictures, we create places where women and girls in crisis pregnancy situations can go and feel safe and supported. Because let’s be honest – we’re probably not going to see abortion end before Christ returns. And in the meantime, there are wounded, frightened women out there who need a sanctuary. Who need love. The enemy has got the church so distracted by the hatred that we have lost sight of love.

    We’ll never forget the babies who have already been lost – but let’s remember, vengeance is the Lord’s. He will avenge those little lives. We, the church, need to care for the walking wounded. The mothers.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Powerful words, Melissa. What a force Christians would be in this world if we showed this kind of love to those in need.

  • http://www.carolynsmithdesigns.com Carolyn Smith

    I’m reminded of the verse, “the joy of the Lord is my strength…”
    What a great way to start the day!

  • Wendy

    Thank you Dawn for these words! To be known as people of Love…it’s my heart’s desire. And thank you, Melissa, speaking with much grace about this difficult subject. As one who is walking wounded, quietly and fearfully, for 37 years…I have shared about my great sadness only very carefully. As a pastor’s wife, my choice from years ago has been kept well protected from public view because of the fear of judgement from others. Yet…God has brought others who have been wounded in this same way…right into my life. In our very small church I have 3 dear friends who had their first babies as teens, who made a different choice than I. And 3 others who made the same desperate choice. Another friend was herself a pre born baby whose mother was considering abortion but the doctor persuaded her to continue the pregnancy. We need a safe place where we can talk about these painful choices…& God calls us miraculously together, as He has done in my life, to listen and touch each other’s hearts…so that healing may finally be completed. Praising Him for His mercy…in my life and in so many other wounded hearts.

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Wendy, I’m thankful God has put these women in your life, women who can talk together and open up to God’s perfect healing.

    • http://aheavenlyjourney.net Melissa

      Thank you, Wendy. :-) God clearly placed you where you are for a reason!

  • Sandy Renaud

    Thank you so much Dawn for that much needed reminder. I so many times need to take heed to the words of wisdom in James 3 about the ‘tongue’. The end of the Chapter says: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure: then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacmakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
    Oh to be a ‘peacemaker and an encourager’. Yes, I need to guard my tongue and my heart!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Peacemakers and encouragers are much needed in this world. What a beautiful way to act in love.

  • http://www.givinguponperfect.com Mary Carver

    I live in an area that has a major sports/state rivalry, and it annoys me to NO END when my husband participates in it. (OFTEN.) I realize I “don’t get it” because I’m not a huge sports fan…but what you’re saying here is what I’ve thought. About him. … But…um…have I bothered to question myself? Nope. Thanks for making me think this morning, Dawn! It’s way easier to point fingers than it is to examine my own heart…which I definitely need to do!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Mary, I remember hiding as a child while my parents and grandparents watched Razorbacks’ games on TV. It scared me! Yes, people get awfully involved in their teams. I had a 96-year-old aunt with a love for the Braves and a passionate dislike for Barry Bonds. I guess we just have to keep perspective and maybe not customize our license plates with what we hate (I’m waiting for someone who lives close to me to tell me they know the driver of that car!). :)

  • Cheryl Downey

    As a teacher I need to remember this and make this my goal. Too often the kids I teach are only told how bad they are…I pray I don’t fall into the habit of only seeing the bad. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Cheryl, I substituted a few times many years ago, and it was always easy to spot the kids who’d been told (probably both at home and school) that they were bad. Those kids were so eager for attention and a fresh pair of eyes to see some good in them.

  • http://www.operationleapoffaith.com Katie Phillips

    Dawn, such truth here. Let us not be defined by what we hate (or fear or misguidingly obsess over). Thanks for pointing out that just a slight change of perspective can make a world of difference in our walk.

  • http://www.heartsonguard.com Vanessa

    Love the desktop calendar :) Thanks for sharing that. And your words ring true. We know that we must guard our words and use them to lift up and encourage, but do we watch our facial expressions, our gestures and our body language? The only line I don’t necessarily agree with is the “interesting to say” vs “listening with full attention” – if we were all just a bunch of listeners, what would we listen to? I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to be known for what we say, as long as we keep it balanced with listening to others. :) Happy Wendesday, Dawn!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Vanessa, I think you’re more balanced than me. I’m too much of a talker. You’re quite welcome for the calendar! :)

  • http://wearegospelgirls.com Kim

    Dawn, I so needed this today. THANK YOU! I think I’ve stumbled into the territory of being known for what I’m against in the past few weeks. Not intentionally, but at the very least I don’t think people are seeing the joy I say I live with. Thanks for sharing this. It’s been a teachable moment for me for sure. Loved your story and how it spoke straight to me!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      Kim, I’m so thankful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Izuba

    The Lord used this post to answer my prayer for direction this morning. Glory to God!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      I pray you have a great day, Izuba!

  • Laura

    This is so timely for me. My prayer is that I leave people with nothing less than kindness and positive thoughts. THANK YOU!!

  • http://www.leighpowers.com Leigh

    So true. Jesus said that others would know us by our love, but often the church is characterized more by what we’re against. We have to stand for truth, but I think our goal should be more to promote love and justice. We’re supposed to be seed planters, not weed pullers. Plant enough seed and the weeds don’t have room to grow. Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://myhomesweethomeonline.net Dawn Camp

      “We’re supposed to be seed planters, not weed pullers.” – Love this!

  • http://www.jeansblogs.com Debra

    Dawn, your post is exactly along the lines of what I have been asking God to help me accomplish in my life these past few weeks. To bring about a greater awareness of my critical spirit, so that I will stop and consider all the goodness, and joy each person brings to my life. I have been making a conscious effort (and it hasn’t always been easy), to find, and focus, on the things I love about others, rather than correcting them, or finding fault.

    I don’t know when loving less became more normal to me than loving others as Christ loves me. I have grieved over this for several weeks now. It is a struggle. There has been a major change in my life (involving family), along with a move, health issues and overall stressors. None of these issues constitute this negative behavior. Jesus never acts this way toward us, no matter the circumstance. So, I certainly have no right to act this way with others. Especially those I love dearly.

    Thank you, Dawn for this post. I will continue to work on my ‘stinkin’ thinking’ allowing God to mold me again into a vessel whose fragrance is sweet.

    Blessings

  • Benjamin Nof

    It’s always extremely interesting to acknowledge that a spiritual awakening & through growth starts exactly from the place or situation in all of us (human beings) are passing more,or less through our every days life….
    The one very important message we should revile from that is that the light force of the creator always wants to give us everything all the time in every aspect in life & we “human beings” are blocking the manifestation of that all to come through by our reactive behavior we are led to from that “for self along” way of behaving….the real true behaving is to “proact” to any& every situation & challenge the the light force of the universe gives us….because there is a reason for everything that happens in our lives when we “LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE OF OUR LIVES”. .

  • Melissa Teets

    This post was like reading my mind all month long! I needed to know that other felt the same way. There are times that you (I) feel like I am the only one feeling this way! I wish it could be like a fly and I could just shoo it away :)

    God Bless

  • Joann Calderone

    Hi Dawn, It is so easy to be critical of others and not envelope them in love. Used to be friends with someone and quite truthfully we were quite often critical of others. We used to put others down for things that we thought were so important. I stepped back and said I didn’t like being this way. I did not like the way I acted and if I didn’t I was pretty sure God wasn’t exactly thrilled either. I stopped being so friendly with the other person because I didn’t like the way I acted around her. She is still the same way but I have changed and the person I am responsible for is me. I can’t alter other persons behavior but I can mine. Am trying to be kinder and more loving of others.
    Dawn, thank you for the post. By the way I am 65 and if I can change so can anyone else. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

  • Gwen

    Good thoughts! I think I’m always wanting to use every opportunity to teach or try to figure out what im supposed to learn when actually it may just be that I’m to be listening. So I did see my self (gasp is right) in these lists. I too agree with Joann that as we age we tend to grow as a Christian and I often find myself slipping and my friend and I will just pray for the situation instead of talk about it. It does help too.

  • http://www.ruthayreswrites.com Ruth Ayres

    Dawn,
    I appreciate how you turned this seemingly insignificant moment of your day into something powerful. Your prayer and these two words — “ever teachable” struck me. This is my prayer too. Thanks for writing, Ruth

  • Cherie

    It still amazes me, how when God brings has something He wants to teach me, I start hearing it from so many different places! Our pastor was just teaching on Sunday about the power of words– power to either build up or tear down. We have the opportunity each day to choose both our attitude and what we will do with our words. I am trying to choose words that give life, especially in the lives of those closest to me! Thank you for your words, Dawn, that encourage us to celebrate the good and the positive in our lives, and in the people God has placed around us.

  • http://preciouspagesbypaula.blogspot.com/ Paula McLane Jennings

    What a wonderful post!

  • Valerie Hohenberger

    Dawn,
    My husband and I are Razorback fans, but some of the more sedate ones! I try to have a greeting card ministry with my friends and church members. I send cards for birthdays, anniversaries, when illness strikes, or just to cheer someone up! I always take the time to send hand written thank you notes, even when my arthritic hands are protesting! Doing these things takes my mind off of me!

  • Beth Williams

    It is oh so easy to spew out hatred for this or that–be it good or bad. We should, as Christians, be spreading love & especially God’s love for all!

    Our women’s Bible study is all about the power of a Women’s Words. What we say, tone & loudness of our voice when vocalized. We should try to say the same things in a more loving caring way. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. So sweeten your words.