The overwhelming scent of a woman

Chanel-No-5-perfumePerfume smells nice unless you are in Seat 1A, next to the overly fragranced flight attendant, 35,000 feet high, on a tiny express plane with circulated air – which is where I am at the moment.   My seat is conveniently located near the door.  It is also next to the flight attendant seat where she performs most of her duties.  If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for “Excessive Perfume Wearing” her picture would be next to it.  If it had a category of “Most Consecutive Gags”, my photo would be there.  At that close proximity, perfume becomes more of a taste than a smell causing you to sneeze more than sniff.   What is it with some ladies and perfume and the generous amounts they apply to their skin?   (To be fair, I imagine that the same could be said of men and cologne.)  What’s supposed to be pleasant becomes putrid.   What’s supposed to be attracting becomes distracting.   As she was publicly reviewing the safety procedures, less than 12 inches from my side, all I kept thinking was how I wished the oxygen masks would drop.   Now.   Before I do. 

I’ve never been one to appreciate perfume.   If anyone ever tried to use it to attract me, they would be severely disappointed.   For one, my sense of smell is by far my weakest sense.  I could see dead people with my 6th sense (movie reference) before I can smell anything.  Although I understand the importance of stopping to “smell the roses”, it seems to be a futile exercise with my nose.  Some lack taste buds making food taste bland.  I lack a keen sense of smell making it difficult to appreciate most odors.   Unfortunately, the only odors that seem to have a straight line to my nostrils are obscene amounts of ladies perfume, the smell of manure from the farmlands of Lancaster, PA and the occasional stray fart conveniently claimed by no one in public settings.   It is for this reason, I never serve baked beans in my home, though rumor has it they are “good for your heart.”   Apparently, the more you eat, the more you… well, never mind.   It’s just a theory.

I also never walk past the perfume section of department stores.   Ever.  The only difference between the ladies at the perfume counter and a trained military sniper is clothing.  They both hunt you down, aim with deadly precision and can disable you within seconds.   The snipers merely wear camouflage, you can’t see them coming. 

My 12-year-old daughter has recently discovered a renewed interest in make-up and perfume, to my chagrin.  When she has a friend sleep over, her room begins to smell like a perfume factory.  Amidst the giggles, the odor is so powerful that you would think that perfume was being created there.   It wouldn’t surprise me if my daughter has the meth-lab equivalent of perfume in my house.  I’m waiting for Chanel 5 to raid her room.   I’d go see for myself, but I can’t get past the door before I have to stop, drop and roll.  I have since placed a Haz-mat sticker on her door.   

So, this post is for the ladies that wear perfume at nauseating levels.   Though some men really enjoy your odor… many of us don’t.   May I offer two suggestions?

Less is more.   Yes, it smells good.  But just like one piece of gum makes your breath a bit fresher, it does not mean that 10 pieces of gum are better.  No one wants to watch someone chew on 10 pieces of gum at once.  In the same manner, no one wants to smell a perfume factory in their olfactory.  A little perfume goes a long way.  

Consider your environment.  If you are about to run the Boston Marathon and feel like creating a pleasant trail of scent for the people behind you, by all means – drench yourself in perfume.   The outdoor environment can handle your excessive application.  If, however, you plan on being in an elevator, office, plane or other enclosed space, please re-consider the amount of perfume you place on yourself. 

All joking aside, I’m less troubled by the amount of perfume that is worn and more concerned as to why it’s there in the first place.  Like most things in life, perfume is not inerrantly bad but the motive it is on could be.  Motives, I have come to learn, are the playground the mature play on.  What we do is important.  Why we do it is equally important, particularly as we get older.  

Today I find myself raising a teenage daughter who is (daily) becoming more aware of her body and image.  In spite of her appearance on any given day, I want her know that she is loved unconditionally beyond her wildest imaginations. Her outward appearance is merely a shell – not who she really is.  Underneath her beautiful hair, winning smile & trimmed eyelashes is the apple of her Daddy’s eye.  And a bad hair day, the addition of a few pounds or the sprinkling of perfume cannot change that. 

Sadly though, this is not the message the girls in our culture hear – particularly in our beauty-centered environment.   Because of this, an apology is due…from my gender to theirs.  

“Dear Ladies, as I wait in line at the grocery store, I see the models on the covers of the magazines that you are supposed to emulate.  I have watched the beauties in the pageants and the impossible standard they set for all women worldwide.  I watch the commercials of the companies that sell the products that you “need” to buy to become a better you.  And I hear the comments made by men on sitcoms and around water coolers about women and how they should look.  And if I’m honest, I have contributed to the problem more times than I care to admit.  No wonder women run to make-up or perfume or hair spray or weight loss programs.  From your earliest memory you have been taught that you are not good enough (or smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, etc).  And you never will be, with that criteria in place.  You are destined to fail in pleasing a man as that man is destined to fail in pleasing you.  Pleasing each other was never supposed to be our first priority or highest goal.  Forgive us, the men in your life, who have misled you into chasing lesser things – our shallow affections.”

In fact, even two thousand years ago, Roman culture reflected our current shallow culture today.  The pressures women face today (to be beautiful) have not changed, just the products available to them.  So prevalent was this problem among women that God, through His biblical writers, shared what adornments were important to Him.   His tastes have not changed today.

 “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  (I Timothy 2:9-10)

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”  (I Peter 3:3-5)

What if we had more Moms (or women) that pursued the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit“?

We would probably have more daughters (or girls) who dressed modestly and had a healthier perspective on make-up and what it could and should do for them.

And this may not happen until we have more Dads (or men) doing a better job of sharing what is truly important in the females entrusted to us. 

It’s not the cover of the magazine that should get our attention but the content within.   Character, not cosmetics, should turn our heads.   That should be the overwhelming scent in all of our lives.

Banning guns, rocks and apps

snapchatIf you have your finger on the pulse of new technology, you are already familiar with the wildly popular app called Snapchat.  About two months ago a trusted, technologically savvy friend introduced this app to me.  She explained that it was a fun, new way to send pictures to others with the same app.  I did not quite understand how it was different from simply texting a picture to others with my phone.  The way it was explained it to me was that this app has two unique features:


  1. The picture you send is only viewable for 10 seconds (maximum).
  2. Immediately after the image is viewed, it is deleted from the app, never to be seen again.

Over the last month, I have dabbled in the world of Snapchat – even enjoying some goofy images with my teenage children, both recent Snapchat members.  

For the last two months, I have been under the assumption that this was just another innocent app created for the promotion of fun and creative communication.  I hadn’t even thought about the dangers of it, until yesterday, when I was in line at a store and noticed the teenager in front of me on the app.   Glancing at his screen, I realized that he was sending something inappropriate to a “friend.”   And then it hit me.  This app is perfect for sexting or being generally inappropriate with other members.  It provides the perfect cover since it can only be viewed for a brief period of time (literally seconds) with the picture being deleted immediately after sending.  Ah, sneaky creators of apps!!   

And then another thought hit me… my kids use this app!  Oh no!!  Even if they are not sending inappropriate images, they can certainly receive one without warning!  

And then another thought hit me… I have to warn others, particularly parents, who may be in the dark about this app’s subtle dangers.  Consider this the Paul Revere of parenting post.  “The Sexters are coming!  The Sexters are coming!”   At first glance, this app seems harmless.  How can a cute little ghost steer you wrong?  This app is not as innocent as we might think.

Even if Snapchat only allows an image to be viewed for 10 seconds and deletes it after viewing, that does not mean that the picture cannot live or travel beyond its intended purpose.  If someone were to take a picture of the Snapchat picture within that 10 second time frame, you can see how the “soon to be deleted” image could live in infamy, against the sender’s knowledge or wish.  Snapchat’s own privacy policy recognizes its limited ability to protect the content sent through its app when it writes:

“Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. For example, users may take a picture of the message contents with another imaging device or capture a screenshot of the message contents on the device screen. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.”

Even if the makers of this app had entirely pure motives in creating it, it should not surprise us that others are quick to corrupt the medium.  Most things created with a good purpose can be twisted towards evil.  Once again, it serves as a reminder to us all that as technology advances, so does our capacity for abusing and misusing it.

As soon as I realized the potential danger this app posed to my children, I thought about immediately removing it from their phones.  But then I realized they could just text inappropriate messages instead.  So then I thought about removing texting as an option for their phones.  But then I realized that they could just have inappropriate phone conversations instead.  So then I thought about taking their phones away.  But then I realized that they could just send inappropriate letters to others via the postal service. So then I thought about removing all paper, pens, envelopes and stamps from their room.  While I am at it, I might as well remove happiness, trust and my relationship with them in the process. 

The reality is, the app is not the problem – our misuse of it is. Similarly, guns are not the primary problem in our current culture (as some claim), people abusing them are.  Could we create some additional laws that would help protect more of our citizens?  Sure, but that won’t stop those committed to breaking them.  Before there were demands for gun control, there were demands for sword control.  Before there were demands for sword control, Cavemen politicians demanded club control.  And before club reform initiatives were in place, there was a need for rock control as that appears to be the first weapon ever used. 

Our first family (Adam & Eve) were misusing the intended purpose of rocks before the third generation.  Just outside the Garden of Eden, Adam’s son, Cain used a rock to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  The patriarch Jacob used a rock for practical purposes – he needed a pillow (Genesis 28).  We are told that the prophet Elijah used the cleft of a rock to hide from an enemy (I Kings 19).  We know that Nehemiah used rocks to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.  The church’s first Deacon, Stephen, was stoned to death with rocks (Acts 7).   Rocks are not the problem.  They were created by God and serve a multi-purpose. However, a rock in the wrong hands can obviously be deadly, just ask Cain.  And last time I checked, no one needs a special license to use one or look very hard to find one.

While there are some out there who would just prefer to ban certain weapons or technology or “throw out the baby with the bath water”, that isn’t really the heart of the issue.  Snapchat is not a bad app, even though it does allow an opportunity for bad decisions.  Every generation has to address each technological advance and determine how to protect our youngest ones from its eventual misuse or abuse.  The back seat of a car is a tremendous feature even if teenagers have been using it inappropriately for decades.  Television can be a wonderful tool of education for some, while others choose to use it for more sinister viewing.  A baseball bat, the internet, money, cough medicine and guns can be used for both good and bad, depending upon the user.  Banning any of these from public use not only limits how each can be used for good, but it also misses point.

We can ban guns and rocks and those who desire to kill will still do so with a knife or club.

You can remove Snapchat from a teenagers phone and those who desire to sext will simply find another app or way to do it. 

Perhaps we should invest more effort addressing the heart of the problem, which is the heart of people.  As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations, alike.” 

I think it is safe to say, America, though still considered a super power in the world, has lost its way.  Our character, as a nation, is not where it used to be.  French historian (Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville) visited America in the mid 1800’s looking for the secret to America’s success.  Where He found it may shock you.  His observation is profound,

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there.  I sought it in her fertile fields and boundless forests – and it was not there.  I looked in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there.  I looked in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

To truly change a nation, you must change the character of its citizens.  To truly change the character of its citizens, you must change their behavior.  To truly change their behavior, you must change their mindset.  To truly change their mindset, you must change their heart.  And to truly change a human heart, God must be involved as the heart is His domain. 

A changed heart produces a changed mind.  A changed mind produces changed behaviors.  Changed behaviors produce changed characters.  And people of character, change nations.  Abraham Lincoln, William Wallace, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela are some examples, just to name a few.

We don’t need gun control or a different app, we need heart surgery, one citizen at a time.

After confessing his affair with Bathsheeba and the murder of her husband, King David penned these words in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.”   He recognized his need for a new heart.  

Do you?


“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

Cursing at the customer service people

Back in the day I used to do a lot of speaking for various groups.  Some of it was motivational and inspirational.  Some of it was Bible teaching for teenagers and college students.  Occasionally I was asked to lead a seminar, speak at a conference or even do a school assembly.   One church even asked me to deliver a Sunday sermon.   I don’t remember what the sermon was on.   I do remember the response from the congregation – graciously positive.   What a relief.  I really hate speaking in the midst of flying tomatoes!   Afterward, I went home and went on with my day.

The following day was, as you might expect, a Monday.   When I took a moment to check the weekend mail, I discovered that my local utility company had overcharged me AGAIN for the second month in a row.   The hassle to get my money back after the first overcharge was nothing short of infuriating.   Now they are doing it again?  I immediately called the 800 number and navigated through a seemingly endless number of prompts.

  • Press 1, for English.
  • Press 1 if you are a current customer.
  • Press 2 if you know your account number.
  • Press 5 if you know any numbers.
  • Press 7 if you know the square root of Pi.
  • Press 4 if you want a pie.
  • Press 8 if you are tired of pressing buttons.
  • Press 9 if we are wearing you down.
  • Press 6 if you are about to commit a felony.
  • Press 8 if you are voting for Dancing with the Stars.
  • Press 3 if you still remember why you are calling.

UGH!   After what seemed to be 90 minutes, I finally got past that non-sense and was able to speak to an actual human being.   In that moment, a flood of emotions were upon me.  I was glad to be out of the purgatory of prompts.  I was furious I was having this conversation again.  I realized that this customer service woman is not the cause of my problem.  I also realized that she worked for the evil organization and needed to hear my frustration.  I wanted to yell and curse and scream, which is unlike me.

But my conscience and character were telling me to be patient and gracious and kind in my speech.   In that split second, I had to decide what voice was going to win.  I honestly did not know.  There were two beings on each shoulder, the devil and the angel, and they were battling over my mind and tongue.  Against my true desires, the angel spoke softly to the woman and explained my repeated frustration with her company and their costly mistake.

Customer service people are trained to handle idiots like me.  This lady was great.  She was helpful.  She was understanding and patient.  She spoke in a very disarming and soothing manner.  Within about ten minutes, my problem was solved and the money issue was fixed.   I could feel the blood leaving my head and watching the hulk-like figure lose it’s shade of green.   What she said to me next sent chills down my spine…

  • Customer service lady: “Mr. Arters, is there anything else I can do for you?”
  • Me: “No, Ma’am.  You have been very helpful.  Thank you so much.”
  • Customer service lady: “You are very welcome.  Before you go, I need to tell you something.”
  • Me: “What’s that?”
  • Customer service lady: “I just wanted you to know that the sermon you gave yesterday at church was very powerful and it really impacted me.  I was glad that I had visited your church.”
  • Me: (long silence)  “You were there?”
  • Customer service lady: “Yes, when I saw your name on the account I realized it was the same name on my church bulletin.  At any rate, I just wanted to say thank you.”
  • Me: (long silence)  “Um, you are welcome.  Thank you!”

I hung up and honestly wanted to cry.   How close did I come to discrediting my sermon?  I was about three seconds away from steamrolling a visitor at my church, without even knowing it.   In this case, my lips and my life matched.  Fortunately for me, what she saw in the pulpit and what she heard on the phone were the same.  The truth is, my heart was far from speaking kindly that day.  There was rage in my heart and only because I was raised right and living in the South, did I realize that such behavior never solves problems.

There have been plenty of times that my life has not matched my lips.  I’m working on that.  I have to constantly remind myself that I am always being watched – even when I am alone.  The customer service reps on the phone and the people behind the ticket counter at the airport, they both have ears.   The grocery bagger and the guy who works at the gas station, they both have eyes.  They watch and hear what we say, what we do, how we treat them.  And they know more about you then you think.

It has been said that “character is who you are when no one is watching.”     So, who are you?

It’s easy to look good on a platform or behind a pulpit or in a pew.  Anyone can pad a resume, impress on an interview or dazzle on a first date.  But how do you behave when you think no one is looking?  How do you speak when you think no one is really listening?   What does your web history reveal about your free time surfing?

Remember, we all live before an Audience of One.

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3