Check that attitude, Donut Girl

I’m not a big donut eater. But I’m traveling. As you’re reading this post today, I’m on the road yet again, but this time I’m on the way home. The editing conference in Atlanta was absolutely wonderful, and I’ll be posting about it in more detail later on. But yesterday morning, as my friends and I were getting ready to go to church, we decided that we wanted donuts for breakfast.

And I figured it would serve as a reward for pretending to be an extrovert for almost an entire week. So I jumped in the car and drove down to the nearest donut shop. I won’t identify which one, but I can tell you they’re all over the place in this part of the world.

I went through the drive in and asked for chocolate-glazed donuts. Now, I don’t know if it’s a family thing or a cultural thing or a regional thing, but to me a chocolate-glazed donut was a chocolate-frosted donut. Apparently, that’s incorrect, because when the Donut Gal in the window showed me the box of donuts, I saw chocolate cake donuts with glaze on them. I realized my mistake immediately and apologized.

Well, Donut Girl heaved a heavy sigh, rolled her eyes, and stormed back to the donut case to replace the glazed donuts with the frosted ones. When she returned, she wouldn’t even look at me and initiated a conversation with the next person at the window behind me.

At first, I was really irritated, because that’s just rude.

Check that attitude donut girlYes, I was wrong and caused her some level of inconvenience, but I did apologize. And the least she could have done was acknowledge that I was sorry. But then, I thought about her. I mean, she’s working in a gas station donut shop. She probably doesn’t get tips. She may not even get paid well, And she works with the public. So I can understand some irritability.

It was mainly the attitude that irked me. I’ve never ordered donuts in a drive-thru before. I’m also not a normal customer of this particular donut chain. But if I were, I would be upset enough about this experience that I might not come back. Donut Girl has a responsibility to her employer to represent him to the public, and she did a poor job of that yesterday morning.

But you know what? I am Donut Girl.

People irritate me. They inconvenience me. They give me bad information and then act surprised when I deliver an incorrect product. And most of the time, my attitude stinks. I grumble and complain and roll my eyes. And while I don’t do that to their faces, doing it behind their backs is worse, because it’s evidence of what’s in my heart.

Donut Girl check your attitudeAnd I don’t represent a donut chain. I represent God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). As Jesus-followers, God has given us a job to point the way to Him, to show people how to be reconciled with God Himself. That makes us God’s ambassadors–God’s representatives on Earth. And if I mistreat people, whether they’re wrong or not, that’s a poor representation of who God is and how He treats people.

So before I criticize Donut Girl for her attitude, I need to check my own.

How about you this morning? Are the petty details of life turning you into a grumbler? Do you let people’s faults (or perceived faults) get under your skin? Are you forgetting who you represent?

Don’t be like Donut Girl. Be like Jesus.

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What’s in your heart is more important than what you do

fruit-plant-results-harvest-tree_1170x350

We have pear trees at Safe Haven Farm, but they aren’t just any pear trees. They’re wood pears. They’re wicked hard and unbelievably stubborn. Nothing kills these things, and you have to wait until they’re on the edge of being rotten before you can get a knife into them.

I’ve always figured it’s because the trees themselves are so old. The pears are as tough as tree bark because the trees are ancient. At least, the trees are ancient by Kansas standards. Trees don’t always last long around these parts.

But in the last few years, a tree sprang up in the orchard that produced smallish round pears that you could eat straight off the branch. We’re still at a loss as to where the tree came from and why its fruit is so different, but the old trees make me a appreciate the new one.

The Bible has so many stories about farming in it, and it always makes me smile. In Galatians 6:7-8, the Bible says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

God set the Laws of Nature in motion when He created the world, and nothing (except Him) can stop them. That means if you plant a pear tree, you’ll get pears. If you plant a wheat field, you’ll get wheat. If you plant green beans, you’ll get green beans. You can’t plant green beans and expect to get strawberries. It just doesn’t work that way.

Life works exactly the same. If you do good things, you’ll receive good things. If you do bad things, you’ll receive bad things. Yes, in some cases, you can do good things and be rewarded with bad things, but the bad things are usually temporary—a preliminary bump in the road on the way to better things.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success.[/su_pullquote]

But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success. Yes, your actions play a huge role. But more important than your actions are your motivations. Why do you do what you do? What is in your heart?

I mean, look at our pear trees. Sure, they’re both pear trees, and they both produce pears. But the old trees give us big, hard, misshapen fibrous chunks of woody fruit. The new tree gives us soft, sweet, juicy fruit. The old pears are perfectly edible. They just take more work to process because you have to cut out all the bad stuff to get to the parts that actually taste like pear.

You can work with the old hard pears, but you have to dig to get to the good stuff. The same is true if you do the right thing with the wrong motivation. Maybe you do what God says is right, and that’s great, but your heart isn’t joyful about it or happy or humble. You’ll get a good result back, yes, because you planted a good seed. But that result will be tainted by your bad attitude. And if you want to do something useful with it, you’ll have to dig out the unhelpful bits.

It’s so much better to do what God says is right with a heart that’s right too. That way, the results you get won’t just be pleasant, they’ll be useful. And you can build on your results right away because you won’t be spending time separating the bad fruit from the good.

It’s important to plant good seeds, so that you’ll harvest a good crop. But even more so, it’s important to plant good seeds with an attitude that’s right. An attitude that recognizes God as Lord and not just God.

A changed heart comes from God

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stick to a resolution? Or maybe you don’t struggle with that. Most people I know have a difficult time with resolutions, though. Oh, they’re easy enough to make, but keeping them is another story.

Is there a reason for it? Well, there’s a reason for most everything that happens in our lives, and it isn’t always that we’re not trying hard enough or that we’re not sincere. I can tell you that I’ve made some very sincere resolutions before that have fallen through. And I’ve worked my tail off to keep a resolution before too, but that hasn’t always made a difference.

So what is it that makes the difference between keeping a resolution and falling off the wagon?

love-heart-hand-romanticToday’s verses are Romans 2:28-29.

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

The people I know who keep their resolutions or achieve their goals most frequently have a mindset that is in line with their resolutions. Their heart is aligned with what they want to accomplish.

Maybe this is a bad example, but you can’t lose weight if you aren’t dedicated to the process of losing weight. Being healthy and living healthy takes time and effort and hard work, and if you’re doing it right, you won’t see results overnight. You have to stick to it. You have to keep going, even on the days when you don’t feel like it. And if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll eventually fail.

What about not being late? That’s a good resolution. Say you resolve that you won’t be late to meetings anymore. That’s great! But being on time for a meeting means you have to get organized. You have to get things done, which means you can’t dawdle or daydream or waste time. You have to prioritize, and prioritizing takes hard work and sacrifice. You have to be willing to let some things slip in order to achieve the things you want to achieve.

If you want to keep your resolutions, you have to have a heart that lines up with what you’re trying to accomplish. Your heart has to change before your behavior can change. Many times our culture gets that messed up. We try to change our behavior in hopes that our attitudes will improve, but it doesn’t work that way. The attitude comes first, and then the behavior will straighten out.

The fact remains that God is the only one capable of changing the human heart. He can give us new dreams and healthy desires, but we have to put Him first in our lives. That’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.

So how’s your attitude today? Is it sour? Bitter? Resentful? Jealous? It might be angry or frustrated. It might be hurt or bruised. It might be self-focused and petty. We’ve all been there, friend, but none of us have to stay there.

Spend some time getting to know the Lord. Read the Bible, and talk to God about what’s bothering you. Take steps to put Him first in your life and see what happens. You’ll find that when your only concern is pleasing Him, the rest of your priorities will fall neatly into place. No, that doesn’t mean life will be easy, but it will get a lot clearer. And that’s more than half the battle as far as I’m concerned.

God provides for us what He requires from us

Ever feel like you’re in over your head? Golly, I’ve been there more than once in my life, with the majority of those times happening within the last 10 months. Without fail, most of the times when I feel overwhelmed is when I’m doing something I know God has told me to do.

Something I’ve learned following God all these years? He asks me to do things I can’t do, and He does it all the time. Talk to strangers. Do math. Run a business. I don’t know how to do any of that. But those are specific things He’s told me to do. Well, not the “do math” part, but it’s implied with the “run a business” part.

When God tells you to do something impossible, you’ve got two choices. Either you tell Him no, or you ask Him for help. Because, yes, God asks us to do impossible things, but He knows we can’t do the impossible. That’s why we have Him. And if we know nothing else about God, we know that God has always, always provided for us what He requires from us.

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian's Wall in Northern England

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England

Today’s verses are Genesis 22:6-8, 13-14.

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and Abraham was willing to do it. The writer of Hebrews states in chapter 11 that Abraham had faith that God would resurrect Isaac if need be, and he didn’t even hesitate. God told Abraham what He wanted, and Abraham went to do it. And God provided the sacrifice for him.

Over and over and over, throughout Scripture and even throughout the lives of Christ-followers in history, God has always provided. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s faith. Maybe it’s clothing or shelter or safety or status. Whatever a Christ-follower needs, he or she gets exactly when they need it. The trick is you probably don’t have it to start out with.

You have to be willing. Abraham was willing to give up his son because God asked him to, trusting that God knew what was best. And when God asks us to do something, we should be willing to obey even if what He’s asking doesn’t make sense right away.

God won’t contradict His Word, though. So be sure you always weigh what you think He’s telling you to do against Scripture. But once you determine the path He wants you on, get on it, whether you think you’re equipped for it or not.

So what’s keeping you in place today? Are you scared because you don’t know the future? Well, nobody does, so don’t let that stop you. God knows what’s coming, and He can be trusted. Do you lack money and finances? Do you lack independence? Do you lack courage? What about education or experience?

Don’t listen to the fear that’s holding you down. If your reason for telling God no is because you’re afraid, you’re listening to the wrong voice. God doesn’t operate through fear. And if He is asking you to do something for Him, He will provide you with everything you need to make it happen. Maybe you think it’s impossible. It probably is, but with God, all things are possible.

Give God a chance. Be willing to take that first step. God has always provided what He requires, and He won’t stop now.

God isn’t going to bless you for making yourself look good

When you do something nice for somebody, what’s your first reaction? Do you want to keep it quiet, or do you want to run out and tell the world what you’ve done? This is one of those difficult lines to walk because on one hand, you want people to know that there’s a need you’ve invested in, and if they want to be blessed they should invest too. But at the same time, you want to be humble about it.

We’ve all seen celebrities and politicians and other folks get up in front of us and talk about charities they support or good things they’ve done, but in my mind, it’s a lot harder to to envision them being really truly passionate about a cause when all they do is talk about it. Maybe that’s wrong of me. But in my experience, the people who truly care about causes or even other people spend more time doing something rather than talking about doing something.

woman-makeup-beauty-lipstick_1232x816Today’s verses are Matthew 6:1-4.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

When you let that person in line behind you go in front of you, do you shout it to the store so they know what a great person you are? When you do that favor for a friend who didn’t ask for it, do you make sure your friend and everyone else hears about it so they can see what a great friend you are? That’s not to say that we shouldn’t go the extra mile for people. We should be kind. We should be gracious and generous and loving. The problem we run into is in the why.

Why do you want to help your neighbor? Why do you want to be kind to that person across the street? Why do you want to support a charity? Are you doing it so that you can get the recognition for your act of service and sacrifice? If that’s the case, your motivation is wrong. If any act of kindness becomes about you and your own recognition, rest assured, the applause of the people watching is all the reward you’re going to get, because God isn’t going to bless you for making yourself look good.

If you want to help others out of a genuine heart of love, it won’t matter who notices. It won’t matter to you if you get a story written about you in the newspaper. It won’t matter if you get interviewed on television. It won’t matter if your friends understand the sacrifices you’re making for them. What matters is that what needs to be done is done, and who gets the credit for it should fade away, unimportant and insignificant.

That’s the attitude God can bless. That’s the kind of person who God can make great.

Does that mean you should never talk about the good things you do? No, of course not. There is a time and place to talk about the good things you’ve done, but it all comes down to the motivation behind them. Your heart attitude will determine your words and your actions, and if your ministries are all about you, that’s what you’re going to talk about. But if your ministries are all about Jesus, that’s what the focus of your conversation will be.

Is it easy? No way.

It’s hard to do something kind or great and go unrecognized. It’s difficult because you don’t think anyone notices what you’re giving up to help others, and that’s discouraging. But God notices. So don’t feel insecure. And don’t feel unappreciated. Don’t chase people down to point out the good things you’ve done just so that you can feel better about yourself. That’s not the point of doing kind things for others.

Nothing you do is in vain. God sees it all and knows your heart. So trust Him to bless you in His good time. Jesus didn’t. And He had more reason than anyone to talk about His sacrifices.

Knowing stuff matters, but not being a jerk matters more

I’m helping out at the National Sales Meeting for my old company this week, managing PowerPoint presentations and training the person who will be filling my shoes next year. And it’s amazing to me where God shows up. He makes Himself obvious to me in places where I don’t expect.

One of the general session presentations yesterday afternoon really struck a chord with me, on a level much deeper than numbers and statistics and sales figures. It was a presentation on the difference between aptitutde and attitude.

You see, aptitudes are gifts or talents you are born with. Attitudes are up to you to chose for yourself. Aptitudes can be taught, and attitudes can’t. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about your job, your family, your group of friends, your ministry, or whatever, your attitude matters more than your skillset.

bad-attitude_650Today’s verse is Daniel 1:8.

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

When the Babylonians invaded Israel, they selected lots of young people who were intelligent and trainable to learn Babylonian ways. Among those young people was Daniel, and Daniel realized he couldn’t change his situation. But when he realized the people ate foods dedicated to idols, foods that were against the law for Jewish people to eat, he asked permission to eat something else.

He could have gone about it another way. He could have just refused to eat the food he was given. After all, he was basically a prisoner. He’d been taken from his home and family. He had every right to be angry and upset. But instead he asked for permission.

See, Daniel was bright and smart, gifted, talented. He’d been selected because of his intelligence. He’d been chosen because of his aptitudes. But Daniel succeeded in Babylon because of his attitude.

You can be the most skilled employee in your workplace, but if you have a bad attitude, you won’t do very well. Maybe you’ll make it for a little while, but eventually you’ll lose your footing because it’s your attitude that matters.

Aptitude can be taught. You can always teach someone a new skill. But you can’t teach attitude. Attitude is something that you have to choose for yourself. The example used in this presentation yesterday was an alcoholic. You can tell someone he or she is an alcoholic over and over again, and they won’t believe you until they understand and realize it for themselves.

Knowing stuff is important, yeah. But not being a jerk is more important.

God has given you special skills and talents, and you should never take them for granted. But never forget that a skilled person that’s impossible to work with won’t ever accomplish much. God blesses you wiht talents, yes, but He blesses a good attitude abundantly.

A bad attitude makes you miss out on God’s best

Our attitude directs our actions. Maybe that’s a generalization, but I think it’s a pretty true one. Your attitude about a situation or a person or an event usually determines how you respond to it.

My attitude is usually pretty good, but generally speaking, my life rocks along without too many bumps. Sure, I have struggles and issues like everybody else, but my plans usually work out the way I want. I’m a planner, remember? I like to control everything, so I make a habit of thinking far ahead and knowing every step I can take to make something happen or to prevent something from happening.

But all of that changed recently with two little words: jury duty.

Yes, my civic duty as an American citizen. My opportunity to participate in the American legal system. And, honestly, something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year of high school when my government teacher talked about it.

But here’s the deal: This is the worst week it could have come up. There are so many things happening, so many things to deal with, so many things to handle, I just don’t have the time to go to jury duty. And it’s really, really tempting to start feeling sour about the whole thing.

dare_to_complainToday’s verses are Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Ouch.

Does the Bible ever step on your toes? Yeah, it does that to me too. I think I’m doing all right, and then wham! I read a verse that makes me stop in my tracks.

Even when I complain, I don’t intend to. And here’s the kicker, I usually only complain when my attitude needs adjusting.

I’m exactly where I need to be. God has provided for me in so many ways, and when something comes along that I didn’t expect–something I don’t want to do–what’s my first reaction? I grumble. I complain. I groan.

Sure, maybe it’ll be a headache. Maybe it’s not what I had planned for tomorrow. But what’s more important in my life? Doing what I had planned? Or doing what God has planned?

Yeah. Rhetorical question.

I started this adventure because I felt God calling me to step out on faith and trust Him. Since then, lots of things have happened that I didn’t expect, most that I didn’t plan for. This is no different.

So what if I don’t get to do what I wanted tomorrow? God has something better for me. He always does.

Wherever you are today, don’t let your attitude lead you to ignore God’s best just because it might inconvenience you. Maybe the next step He’s putting in front of you isn’t what you wanted, but if it’s what He’s directing you to do, it’ll work out better in the end anyway.