Speak truth in love and don’t be afraid

I left a bad review for the restaurant where I had dinner last night. We stayed in this really lovely hotel in Manchester, and this cute little Scottish man came and picked us up in the shuttle. And then he even helped carry our bags. Originally I had thought that we could walk somewhere and get something to eat, but the plans just didn’t work out that way. So we had to stay and eat here in the hotel instead.

No big deal, right? There’s a restaurant. Well, as we’d been checking in, they asked if we wanted to make reservations. I’d said no because I’d expected we would do something else, but our plans changed. So we went to the restaurant and sat down, and the little waiter that showed up was a complete snob about it. We apologized for not having reservations and were more than willing to go make reservations so that we could sit in the completely empty dining room, but he didn’t give us that option. And then he proceeded to be curt and distant through the whole experience. I’ve never felt so unwelcome in a restaurant in my life.

At first I thought maybe I was just misunderstanding. That it was cultural. But as dinner went on and he continued to turn up his nose at us, I had to come to the conclusion that he was just rude. I mean, you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to apologize every time someone comes to your table to take orders or deliver food.

And when the whole thing was done, another little waitress asked us to fill out a comment card. Normally I’m very glad to fill them out, but this time I felt sick about it. Because every question they asked was a No. And there’s nothing that turns my stomach upside down more than having to say bad things about someone’s service or company, even if it’s true.

And the most harrowing part? They wanted your name and your address and what room number you were staying in. And I had a moment where I thought about leaving that part blank. But that’s cowardly. If you’re going to criticize someone, be fair about it, but don’t be anonymous either. If you aren’t willing to stand up and be counted by name when you issue criticism, do you really expect anyone will take you seriously?

waiterToday’s verses are Ephesians 4:14-15.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

We have to tell the truth. Period. That is something God has called us to do. But telling the truth doesn’t have to look like a sledgehammer. You can tell people the truth in a kind way.

And, being honest, telling the truth helps all of you. In the case of our very rude waiter, he needs to understand that the way he’s acting is hurting his employer’s reputation. We wouldn’t have been doing him or them any favors if we’d just acted like nothing had been wrong.

But it’s my hope and intention that the feedback I left was rational and kind. Because our food was great. And the waitress was wonderful. It was just this one person that really damaged the whole experience.

You aren’t helping anyone if you see something is wrong and you do nothing about it. Ignoring the facts or living in denial won’t make the situation go away, and it won’t help you either. But if you aren’t willing to stand behind your statements, no one is going to listen.

But if you’ve been rational, if you’ve been kind, if you’ve actually spoken the truth, you have nothing to worry about. And you shouldn’t be afraid.

So remember that the next time someone invites feedback after you’ve had a bad experience. It’s tempting to just let it go, especially if you don’t like conflict. But ignoring the issues won’t solve anything. It just puts off the inevitable.

Trying to get on the train with the wrong ticket

I’ve spent the last two weeks running around England and Scotland, in and out of the rain, on just about every form of transportation you can think of. But mostly trains. Trains are one of the top modes of transportation in this part of the world, whether they’re overground or underground, but one thing is certain. Regardless of what kind of train you’re traveling on, you have to have a ticket.

There was one point in our travels where my dad had the wrong card or something had gone wrong with his card in general, and he couldn’t get on the train. And it had to be sorted out before he could get through.

Aisle of the train from Manchester to Carlisle

Aisle of the train from Manchester to Carlisle

Today’s verses are Romans 3:21-24.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

The predominant idea in our world is that you can earn a ticket to heaven by living a good life. And that’s an interesting concept, but the Bible says the complete opposite. You can’t earn a ticket to heaven. You can’t deserve it. It’s a gift you have to accept, and Jesus gave His life to pay for it.

Nobody is perfect. We all know that. So nobody can be good enough to get into heaven. But Jesus lived that impossible perfect life, and then He gave it up to pay the fee for us to have eternal life. All we have to do is say yes to Him.

That’s the good news the Bible talks about from beginning to end. There is hope, and that hope is found in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ alone.

But trying to get to heaven using your own good deeds to pay the price is like trying to board a train with the wrong ticket. Like trying to get through the tube turnstile with a depleted Oystercard. It won’t work.

So don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the tracks. You have everything you need at your fingertips to find out how to live a life with Jesus. Don’t let another day go by without taking the time to ask the important questions.

The only thing worse than missing the train is missing it while you actually had the right ticket all the time and just didn’t use it.

My God isn’t buried in a tomb somewhere

I spent about an hour wandering around Westminster Abbey in Central London yesterday. I knew that it was the burial place of many famous people, but it didn’t really set in until I found myself in the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

There’s something surreal about standing in a place where someone you’ve studied throughout school is buried. As I walked from tomb to tomb, from Henry VII to Edward II and Richard II, I thought about all the histories I learned in school, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those famous people had lived accumulating wealth and power and status only to lose it when they lost their lives.

And all I could think about was how thankful I am that God doesn’t live in a stone, cold church somewhere, entombed like the historical figures of ages past. God is alive today and moving in hearts and changing people and the world.

A tomb in Carlisle, Cathedral

A tomb in Carlisle, Cathedral

Today’s verse is 1 John 4:13.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

God is alive, and He’s everywhere. He’s in our lives. He’s in our homes. He’s in our churches. Whether we recognize it or not. But He also lives in the hearts of those who’ve chosen to follow Jesus.

We build great monuments to honor Him, and that’s great. But He doesn’t live there. He lives in us.

Great men and women from history have died. Famous historical figures have passed away. All the people we know and admire in today’s world will eventually die too. But God will never die. He never changes. And He never fails.

So remember that the next time you’re in a cemetery. Remember that the next time you’re in a church. Remember that the next time someone you admire passes.

We may honor the Lord with our buildings, but don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that He’s buried there. He was buried, but He walked out of the grave three days later. And He’s still alive today.

The parable of the lost 50 pence?

We were riding in the London Underground yesterday at rush hour. There were people everywhere, jostling each other, running from point a to point b, scrambling to get out or to get in. We were apart of it, just trying to survive the throngs of people.

As we were walking along, someone dropped a 50 pence coin. But nobody stopped to pick it up.

Now, losing 50p isn’t the end of the world. It’s close to 75 cents in American currency. You can’t even buy a bottle of pop with that. It certainly wasn’t important enough for anyone to stop, either the people who lost it or others who saw it. It was more important to keep rushing, keep moving, keep racing to escape the Underground without being trampled.

But it reminded me of another story where someone lost a coin and wouldn’t rest until she found it.

50pToday’s verses are Luke 15:8-10.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

This is a story Jesus is telling, and it always resonates with me because I’ve been there. I’ve been that person who lost my wallet or my keys or something valuable to me and I’ve turned my house upside down to find it. And when I do find it, there is great rejoicing.

But I can’t tell you that I’ve turned my house upside down looking for a single coin. Now, I know that this woman’s coins were worth more than any of mine, but the concept is there. She has 10 and she only lost one. Is that one still important?

Yes, apparently.

To God, each person is important. Every individual person in the world is as important as the next. There’s nobody who isn’t important to God. People are so important to God that even if 9 of them belong to Him, He won’t stop searching for that tenth one.

Are you having one of those days (or weeks) where it feels like you don’t matter or where it feels like what you’re doing doesn’t matter to God? Well, think again. He cares about you–enough to search for you when you’re lost, even if you’re the only one who is. That’s personal, individual, unconditional love, and He offers it freely to anyone who asks for it.

So maybe that little silver coin on the Victoria Underground station floor didn’t matter to anyone. But you matter to God, and He’ll never walk off and leave you behind.

You always have something to talk about

Have you ever had to go to someone’s house for a party or an event where you didn’t know anyone there? If you’re an introvert like me, there’s nothing more uncomfortable or awkward. I don’t do small talk very well.

Now add another level of awkward. You don’t come from the same culture or speak the same language. All you can really do is sit quietly and try to understand everything that’s being said and pray that you don’t say or do something offensive.

Ever been there? I have. On multiple occasions. But you know what has saved me? The fact that the other people in the room are Christ-followers.

Last night I got to go to my best friend’s small group, and in any other circumstance it might have been really uncomfortable. But I knew walking in that many of the people in attendance were Christ-followers. And that makes everything different. That means, walking in, I have something in common with them. That means we’re family.

Pipes from the organ at Carlisle Cathedral, Carlisle, England

Pipes from the organ at Carlisle Cathedral, Carlisle, England

Today’s verses are Ephesians 2:19-22.

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

No matter where you are or who you are, what language you speak or what culture you come from, if you know Christ, you are part of one big family. And you have something in common with the other Christ-followers around you. You’ve got Christ.

You all worship Him. You all live for Him. You all have stories about how He changed your life. And He’s always doing something new.

Having something like that in common is priceless, because it’s something you can talk about that will always change your life and the lives of people around you. And what’s great is that whether you are walking into a room full of Christians or not, Christ will still give you the strength to speak, the courage to be yourself, and the wisdom to know what to say.

So if you’re sitting in a room full of Christians feeling like an outcast, like you have nothing in common with anyone else–don’t. If you are around other Christians, even in a culture that isn’t your own, you have the greatest Person in history in common.