A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Fighting never makes it better

Have you ever heard yourself say something and cringed inside? I have. When I’m overly tired or stressed out, sometimes my mouth runs away with me. I have a sarcastic streak too, which can be very funny when it isn’t being used for the forces of evil.

I’ve learned, firsthand, the truth of today’s verse.

A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 15:1.

A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.

People don’t like fighting. Maybe they like arguing or disagreements, and arguing and disagreement are part of every healthy relationship, whether you’re best friends or married or even family. But from my experience, people don’t like a real fight, especially between two people who care about each other.

So why does it feel like we go out of our way to start fights sometimes? Our culture has certainly dramatized relationships to the point where people like to see domestic strife on the television, but in real life it’s not always exciting or romantic–it’s miserable.

Whatever kind of relationship you’re in, it’s important to understand that answering a cruel word with more cruel words will only make a situation worse. If the person who started the fight is already that upset, fighting back isn’t going to scare them. It’s just going to make them angrier.

Yes, it’s true that some people just want to fight. Some people are just angry as a general rule. But generally speaking even people who start fights don’t really want to fight. There’s usually something else causing their problem, and they’re either too scared or too insecure to talk about it openly.

So what do we do? What can we do? It’s hard to stay calm when someone comes at us in a fighting mood, but I promise if you refuse to engage with them like they’ll run out of steam. And most of the time, if you’re close enough friends, they’ll tell you what’s really going on. Or they’ll give you enough clues that you can figure it out yourself.

And if you’re the offender–well, first pray that you have friends close enough who understand your moods. Again, when I get stressed out or really tired, I say things I don’t mean. Or I say things in ways that I don’t mean. And I am so very fortunate to have friends who understand that and forgive me for my harsh tone.

The point is, whether you’re the offender or the victim, harsh words never help anything. They may make you feel slightly better when you’re saying them, but that good feeling only lasts until the fight starts.

So when you’re tempted to snap back, when you’re tempted to say something you know you shouldn’t, when you’re tempted to release your frustration in the form of harsh words, don’t. It’s not worth it. Yes, talk to someone. Yes, be open and real about what you’re feeling. But don’t turn someone else into the focal point of your frustrations. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that meeting cruel words for cruel words will solve anything.

Answer cruel words gently. And if that doesn’t work, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t calm down, stop the conversation or leave. If he or she is that upset, nothing you can say will make it better until they calm down on their own.

Fighting won’t solve the problem. Fighting only hurts feelings and separates friends, and I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I ever want to do.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

When you can’t see the road, stay in your lane

Wichita doesn’t have traffic. We think we do, but we don’t. You haven’t experienced traffic until you’ve driven in Houston or Washington D.C. or any of the larger cities around the U.S. No, Wichita just has busier times than others….. until there’s a wreck.

And there was a wreck somewhere in front of me yesterday evening as I was in a hurry to get across town. Traffic backed up for about a mile, and we came to a standstill for about 20 minutes. And as I sat there and marveled at the crazy drivers switching lanes at every opportunity (running the risk that they would cause another wreck), I couldn’t help but think about how often we are in similar situations in our lives.

Something happens out in front of us–too far away for us to see the details–but we see the results. The results being the disruption of our carefully laid plans. So what do we do? We compensate. We switch lanes. We scurry and scramble and strategize in order to get ahead. And what happens?

That’s right. You realize that you jumped into the wrong lane too late. Or you realize Plan B isn’t as feasible in actual practice as you thought. Either way, you realize that you should have just stayed put. In all your shifting and scrambling, you ended up spending time and effort to get ahead when you didn’t even know which direction you’d end up needing to go.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

The Bible has a lot to say about being patient, about waiting. And I’m not good at either one. I can do it, but I tend to grumble about it. But being patient and waiting for God to make the first move makes up a great deal of the Christian life. The Bible tells us to wait, wait, wait on God. Don’t rush ahead of Him. Wait for Him to move and then move with Him.

Now that doesn’t mean His actions should surprise us. More often than not, you can identify God working in your life. You just have to keep your eyes open. You have to be in a place in your relationship with Him where you recognize His fingerprints and respond to His voice. But even when you’re in that place, if you get ahead of Him, if you start thinking you know better than He does, you’re going to get yourself in trouble.

You’ll be like the people in the lanes around me in traffic yesterday. They couldn’t see what was ahead of them. They just wanted to do something. They weren’t happy staying where they were, waiting to see where they needed to go. They took it on themselves to forge their own path.

And, don’t get me wrong. Forging your own path is often a good idea. I’m all for it. But when you try to forge your own path and you go in a direction God hasn’t blessed, you run the risk of forging a path right off a cliff.

So what’s the point? Don’t get ahead of God. Don’t start thinking you have life all figured out and that you know which direction the compass is pointing.

It’s like runners lined up to start a race. They’re all waiting for that pistol to sound or for a horn to blow. That’s the signal that they can move, start running and run for all they’re worth. And that’s what we need to wait for from God before we jump into action.

Jump into action before He’s said go and you might crash and burn. But don’t hesitate once you’ve heard the starter pistol. Once the door is open and you have the chance to do what God has called you to do, don’t wait or you’ll fall behind.

God promised that He’d come back for us. And He’s promised a lot of things in between now and then, and He will keep every one according to His plans. But He doesn’t need us flailing around trying to make His plan work out ourselves. If anything, we’ll just make ourselves so busy trying to do God’s job that we’ll miss His signal to start running in the first place.

Be patient. Wait and watch for His signal. And when you see it, run like mad.

PS: The real moral of this story is just to stay off Kellogg…..

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Nothing perfect about us–except Christ

I’m a people pleaser to the nth degree. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been working in customer service for so long or if I got into customer service to begin with because I’m a people pleaser. Either way, that was the first thing I had to learn when I started working a marketing job; I wasn’t in customer service anymore. So I couldn’t work like I was.

But I suspect I was just born that way. What about you? Have you got any hang ups or habits that you were born with or that you developed over time and just haven’t been able to break? Assuming that your personality quirks aren’t dangerous to yourself or others, there’s nothing really wrong with them.

So why are we afraid to be who we are? I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people who hide their real selves away for fear of rejection by others.

Now, when people say you should just be who you are, a lot of the time they’re talking about doing what you want or behaving in a way that doesn’t accept accountability or responsibility. But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about being real, being genuine with people regardless of what they think about you. Because the only Person who matters in that situation is God, and He’s already told us what He thinks about us.

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Romans 5:8.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Think about that. What does God think about us? He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us while we were sinners. Read that: while we were His enemies.

He loved us enough as His enemies to die for us so that we could become His family.

He loved you, the real you buried underneath all the posturing and posing and faking and words, enough to die for you. God knows the real you, and He loves the real you. He loved you before you were born. He died for you before you were born.

So why are you afraid to be you in front of other people? Why are you afraid to be yourself?

I’m talking to myself here. I have hidden away for so long because I didn’t want to bother people with my problems. I didn’t want to worry people or upset people. I was afraid to share my doubts and my failures and my flaws because I didn’t want people to think the wrong thing about me.

But people can think the wrong thing about you whether you put on a perfect face or not. It’s so much better to live life without secrets and be genuinely yourself. There aren’t any skeletons in the closet to find if you carry them around in the open.

So the next time you’re tempted to answer the dreaded question: “How are you?” with a lame: “Fine,” think about it. Are you saying you’re fine when you really aren’t? Who cares if they didn’t really want you to tell them what’s really going on? If you answer them honestly and they didn’t want an honest answer, that’s not your fault.

Just be truthful. Just be genuine. Don’t hide your problems. We’re all flawed people. We’re all failures. We’re all forgiven. Not one of us is good enough to make it without God’s grace, and not one of us is strong enough to walk through life alone.

Let’s start sharing our loads. Let’s start being open and honest with each other, and maybe the world will realize that there’s nothing perfect about Christianity except Christ.

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Remember the God who’s on your side

I don’t do this very often, but this morning I just needed to be reminded who God is and what He has promised to those who follow Him. And all I could think about was Psalm 91. I know I posted on it earlier this week, but reading the whole thing this morning really lifted my spirits.

I hope that if you’re in a place right now where you’re facing fear or challenges or a situation that seems hopeless, that you’ll remember the God who’s on your side. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Psalm 91

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What’s so bad about being weak?

If you’ve been reading this crazy blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably picked up on a couple of my idiosyncrasies, the most obvious being my stubbornness.

I’m stubborn. I make a mule look agreeable. Not that I’m unpleasant in my stubbornness, but politely insisting on doing things my own way doesn’t make me any less obstinate than if I were rude about it.

Don’t get me wrong. Being stubborn can be a good trait, when you’re focused on doing the right things. But if your perspective is off, if you aren’t rooted in the truth, being stubborn can be dangerous.

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

I had a conversation with my cousin last Friday about how we both hate to admit weakness. About anything. And I had to laugh because I guess being stubborn really does run in the family, because all of us are that way. My parents. My uncles. My brother. And I guess my cousins too.

We never want to admit that we’re too weak to accomplish something. We never want to give in when we’re faced with a challenge, whether it’s an impossible work schedule, an incurable disease, or a dream that can’t ever come true. We just never back down.

And, again, in some instances, that’s good. And laudable. Even admirable. After all, that’s the stuff of underdogs-turned-heroes. And everyone cheers for those sorts of people, and rightfully so. But not every story ends that way. And sometimes living wisely means recognizing your weaknesses for what they are–chances for God to be glorified.

Oh, that makes me cringe. Weakness? I’m never weak. I hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt in the interior of Mexico because painting was too girly. I lifted a hundred pound bag of cement to prove that I could. I’ve lived alone in a 100-year-old house, weathered storms and floods and blizzards by myself, for six years.

Did you count the I’s in that paragraph? Like my life is about me, like my life is all about me proving something to myself and to people around me, and if that’s all my life amounts to, I’ve missed the point.

Here’s the deal, folks. It’s good to have an opinion as long as it agrees with what God says is true. It’s good to be courageous enough to stick to your guns in the face of opposition. It’s laudable to chase your dreams and keep picking yourself up when you fall on your face. Nothing worth achieving was easy to obtain.

But life isn’t about you, and it isn’t about proving how tough or strong you are. As Christ followers, our lives should be about showing the world how awesome God is. And the best way to do that is through our weaknesses, because when we back off and trust our lives to Him, He shines through in a way that is nothing short of miraculous.

When we are scrabbling and struggling to give our all and prove that we’re not weak, all we really accomplish is what we’re capable of. And, if we’d be honest with ourselves, what we’re capable of isn’t that great. What we’re capable of can’t change the world. What we’re capable of can’t make a difference in anyone’s lives, let alone our own.

But what is God capable of? What can God do? What will He do if we just let go of our fear and anxiety and our control freak tendencies and let Him work?

I’m weak. So is everybody else. But my God is strong. Stronger than I am capable of even imagining, and He wants to help me, to live life with me, to be my friend and help and guide and comforter.

So what are you being stubborn about today? Is it your job? Your hobbies? Your habits? Your family or your friends? Your possessions? Your comfort? If it’s something God has told you is right, then go ahead and be stubborn about it all day long. He’s got your back in that case.

But if you’re just being stubborn to prove a point, if you’re just being difficult because you can, that’s not an attitude God will bless. That’s pride. So knock it off. So what if it means people will think you’re weak? Tell those folks to go look in a mirror.