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.

God’s great key to ultimate success in life

humble-key-success-honor_1170x350

When I was in third grade, my brother and I would do math speed drills. We were homeschooled, so Mom just decided to give him one of my speed drills, even though he was a year younger. I think he finished in half the time it took me.

Well, I couldn’t have that. I was older. I needed to be better, smarter, faster. So the next time we did a speed drill, I rushed. We finished closer to the same time, but all of his answers were right. Practically none of mine were.

I stink at math. True story. I can do it, but I have to go very slowly and think about every equation three times before I decide on an answer. And for those of you who know my geekwad, nerd-faced little brother, you know he’s faster and more efficient than some calculators.

Eventually, Mom convinced me that I didn’t have to be brilliant at math. I was great at writing, so that’s what I needed to focus on. (Props to Mom. I did!) But my drive to beat my brother at math speed drills didn’t come from a desire to be better at math; it came because I thought I already was better.

And that’s kind of how the world sees it, isn’t it? I was the older sibling, so I was supposed to be more advanced. Or, like in a work place, maybe you have a degree, so you’re supposed to be a better employee than someone who only has a high school diploma. There’s always something about us that makes us better than the next person, right?

That’s not what the Bible teaches. Probably one of the most confusing verses in all of Scripture (practically speaking) is James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Does that even compute?

God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.

Really? What sense does that make? We can’t go out into our cutthroat world and let others go ahead of us. We can’t walk out into the savage landscape of commerce and think of others as better than ourselves. We can’t forfeit our rights to make our own decisions and expect to succeed. Can we?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.[/su_pullquote]

The straight facts are pretty simple. The Bible is true. All of the Bible has to be true, or none of it is. So if I believe one part of it, I must believe the rest of it. And that means, God is right, and humility is the key to getting ahead in life.

No, that doesn’t mean you have to let people treat you like a doormat, but it doesn’t mean you get to think you’re better than everyone else for any reason. Nobody is better than anyone else. Some people are gifted in areas others are not, but that’s because we all have different functions. God made us each unique and perfect just the way we are, and instead of competing with each other, we should be more concerned about helping each other.

So be humble. Do what God says is right. Give up your place in line to help someone who needs it. Say nice things about your competitors and treat them with respect.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense in our perspective, but since when have God’s rules ever made sense to our broken world? God is the one who is responsible for exalting us. Success comes from Him. Yes, we can work hard. Yes, we should work hard. But if we succeed in life, we do it through His strength, His grace, and His gifts.

Don’t forget it. Recognize God’s authority in your life, and He’ll take care of the details.

Being authentic is about how you listen

When I was a kid, keeping up appearances was pretty normal. Not that you were expected to lie about having a bad day or any of the tough stuff that was going on in life. Not at all. It was just better if you didn’t burden other people with it. That was sort of the general environment of most churches I attended as a younger person. I mean, if you were really having a bad time, you could talk to a pastor or a deacon, but just regular old church-goers didn’t really have the time or the resources to help. That’s just the way it was.

But church in today’s world is a little different. I’m sure there are plenty of people who won’t talk about the difficult things in their lives, but it’s expected now that everyone will be transparent. You walk into a church or a school or a business, and you are who you are. And to a certain extent, that’s somewhat liberating. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to put on a brave face. You can just be yourself.

But what does “being yourself” actually look like? What does it mean? Can you really be 100% transparent with other people, or do you need to draw the line somewhere?

New baby lamb, only a few days old, at the Sedgwick County Zoo

New baby lamb, only a few days old, at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Being who you are is more than how you dress or how you speak or how you walk. You are more than the clothes you wear or the food you eat or the places you’ve been or the number of letters after your name or the complexity of your job description. That’s not who you are.

I used to be all about me and what I wanted. And even after I chose to follow Jesus, I still wanted my own way most of the time (sometimes I still do!). But over the years, God’s really taught me that I need to be about Him instead of me. The new life He gave me isn’t focused on what I want or what I need or how I can get the most out of life. No, my New Life is about what God wants me to do and how He wants me to do it.

But does having New Life and being a New Creation mean I shouldn’t talk about my problems? Not at all. One of the reasons why Christ-followers are encouraged (commanded, really) to gather together is to pray for each other, to encourage each other, to help each other. And nobody can help you if they don’t know what’s wrong.

But it does mean that you’re humble. You see your troubles from a new perspective. You see them as lessons that God is allowing you to experience so that you can learn something. And you recognize that God has every right to do whatever He wants with your life, without your permission.

That’s what it means to have faith. Authentic faith.

If you are a Christ-follower, you are new. Period. You aren’t the same person you were yesterday, or you shouldn’t be. God is changing you every day, the longer you follow Him, teaching your heart, teaching your soul, how to live the kind of life He wants. And you’re either listening to Him or ignoring Him.

Authenticity isn’t complaining. It’s not pointing fingers. It’s not getting up in arms about everything you think is unfair in your life. I mean, if that’s where you are right now, that’s fine, and you need to talk about it. And you should be honest about the way you feel. But if you want to be an authentic Christ-follower, be honest about what God is teaching you right now. Maybe it’s a good lesson. Maybe it’s a hard lesson. But you know it’s a lesson, and you know you need to learn it.

If you’re authentic, you’ll accept that you’ve still got a long way to go before you become the person God wants you to be. And you’ll be thankful for how far God has brought you, because you know you’re not the person you used to be. And if you’re struggling to understand why God is allowing you to go through these difficult times, bring it up. Ask someone. Please, please ask someone. Don’t hesitate to find another Christ-follower and tell them about where you are in your life and how you’re struggling. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also be willing to listen to a godly answer.

It’s one thing to talk. It’s something else to listen and do something about it.

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

You don’t have to be afraid of mistakes

I made a mistake yesterday. Well, actually, I made the mistake about six months ago, but in my line of work, you don’t begin to experience the consequences of it until much later. It was one of those mistakes you make without realizing it. It wasn’t intentional. If anything it was accidental. But it was still a mistake–and I made it.

I hate mistakes. I hate them so much I’m often tempted to not even take risks for the fear of making the wrong move. I don’t want to make a mistake that will hurt me or hurt others, and I’d rather stay where I am–comfortable, confident, knowledgeable–than to put that safety in jeopardy. That’s the way my perfectionist brain works.

But is that how we’re supposed to live?

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 37:23-24.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Now, I’m not saying that we should live carelessly. God has given us our lives and He’s given us resources and blessings, and we should be good stewards of all that He has given us. But by that same token, remember that He’s the one who gave it, and in just about every instance in Scripture (that I can think of) when God gives somebody something, they’re expected to give it away. The people who hold on to what God’s given them are usually looked at as disobedient or unfaithful.

Have you ever thought about that?

But there’s something in me that wants to protect what God has given me. I want to keep it safe because risking it doesn’t seem like a good way to repay Him for what He’s given me.

But God didn’t give me my resources, my finances, my gifts, my blessings so that I can bury them in a coffee can in my back yard. He gave them to me so that I could invest them in other people–and investments like that never come back with a zero balance. Not where God is concerned.

So why are we afraid? If God has given us everything we have, are we afraid that we’re going to lose it all if we use it to do what He’s asked us to do? I’m all for being responsible, but what does godly responsibility look like?

This is my opinion, but I really think culture has conditioned us to fear mistakes. Nobody wants to be wrong. Nobody wants to take a wrong turn. We have GPS so we never have to experience the humiliation of turning around. We have calculators and computers to do math for us so we don’t have to worry about our equations being wrong. The whole attitude about mistakes has even extended to parents who don’t let kids experience the consequences for the things they choose to do wrong, which is another blog post entirely but is still relevant.

Mistakes aren’t bad. Honestly, mistakes are good for us.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of “mistakes” that can wreck a life. Those aren’t mistakes. That’s sin, and there’s a big difference between the two. Mistakes can be corrected. Sin must be redeemed.

The mistake I made yesterday was stupid and careless, and I hate that I made it. Because it makes me feel stupid and careless. But you know what’s going to happen? I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m experiencing the consequences of that mistake, and I’m going to learn from it.

That’s what mistakes are good for–teaching stubborn, hard-headed perfectionists like me that I’m not always right and that sometimes I need to drop my pride and admit when I’m wrong. Because if I can do that, I can learn something.

If you’re a Christ-follower and you’re seeking God’s will in everything you do, you don’t have to worry. What does that mean practically? That means you ask Him for direction. Literally. Just ask Him. That means you read the Bible and search for an answer to your questions, expecting to find it.

If you’re living that kind of life, don’t be afraid of mistakes. God is directing your steps, and even though you might trip, you aren’t going to fall. God won’t let you.

If you remain open to your mistakes, if you are willing to be humble and learn from them, you don’t have to be afraid of anything.

I’m really dating myself, but when I was thinking about this topic, only one song kept circling my brain. Forgive the 90s era videography and listen to the words. This is the kind of life I want to live, mistakes and all.

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.

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What kind of life do you want to live?

I’d like to think I’m a fairly patient person, but the people who know me best know that I’m not really. I can be patient if I try really really hard, but most of the time it takes so much effort that I’d rather just run around like an idiot until something happens that I can exert some kind of control over. Even though I accomplish absolutely nothing, running around like a madwoman at least makes me feel like I can change things that are beyond me. Anyone else ever feel like that?

Well, you’re not alone. And neither am I. I’m willing to bet everyone has been there and done that at some point in their lives, but that’s not the way we’re commanded to live. We aren’t supposed to plow through life, running over anything and anyone who gets in our way.

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:2.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ouch. Anyone else hear my toes crunching as that verse hops all over them?

I think it’s really interesting that we’re commanded to be humble and gentle all the time, followed by being patient with each other. Haven’t you noticed that impatient people usually aren’t very humble or gentle? And the opposite is true too. The proud and cruel aren’t very patient. I think these are three character qualities that go hand in hand (or hand in hand in hand).

I hate being interrupted, especially when I’m in “the zone” at work or at my home office. But that’s part of my everyday life. So I have to get used to it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I honestly do fight the urge to snap at people when they interrupt me because I don’t think they understand exactly how difficult it is to get to a point where I’m being productive only to have them drag me out of it to answer their question.

But since when is my work about me? My work is about my company and doing the best job I can for them. Even my personal writing exists to glorify God. But that’s what that attitude says. “You shouldn’t interrupt me because what I’m doing is more important than what you need.” Yeah? How humble is that?

And once I’m all stirred up, it’s just a short hop and a jump away before I get snappy and mean. And then I turn into a very un-gentle person. But I can’t tell you if this stems from my impatience or if my impatience comes about because of my lack of humility and gentleness. What I do know for sure is that all three of those characteristics—impatience, pride, and meanness—don’t represent the kind of life I want to live. And they sure don’t represent the life a Christian should be living, no matter who you are or what kind of situation you’re in.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and for the people around us is learning to recognize those traits and doing something to stop them. Maybe you don’t mean to feel one or all of them once, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep feeling them. And you certainly don’t have to base your life around them.

Always be humble. Think about what you do before you do it. Don’t automatically assume that people owe you something just by virtue of who you are. And even if they do, think twice before demanding they give it to you.

Always be gentle. There’s never a call for cruelty. There’s never a reason to be mean. There’s never a purpose for tearing people down with your words or your actions. This is one I have to watch because I have a sarcastic streak a mile wide, and sometimes my sarcasm gets the better of me. It’s one thing to tease; it’s something else to hurt. Think about what you say before you say it. You might save yourself and someone else a lot of pain.

And be patient. Just because you know something is true or right doesn’t mean other people have had the same opportunities to learn that you have. Just because your life experiences have taught you valuable wisdom doesn’t mean that other people are stupid because they don’t know the same thing. And just because someone is getting on your nerves doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. Maybe they’re trying to help you. They might be trying to help you into a nervous breakdown, but at least their intentions are good. Chill out. Back off. Calm down. Take a minute or two to refocus and try again.

Maybe we don’t know what causes pride, meanness, or impatience (other than our own sin nature), but there’s plenty of explanation about what encourages patience, humility, and gentleness.

Love.

Seems to be a running theme in the Bible, doesn’t it?

Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Why? Because we love each other. And we love each other because Jesus loved us first.

It’s not easy. Oh boy, it’s not easy. But I guarantee life is so much better if you listen.

A curving path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God-confident planning

What are you doing to do today? What about tomorrow? Got plans? I know some people who don’t plan anything and prefer to live life spontaneously. I know others who plan down to the last detail. Neither one is better, honestly. I think it just depends on the person. Personally, I think it’s better to plan, but that’s me.

But what happens when your plans fall through? What happens when what you were counting on doesn’t happen? That’s the trouble with planning. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

A curving path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

A curving path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are James 4:13-16.

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

It’s important to keep God in mind when you’re making any sort of plans. Maybe I should be super spiritual and say that you shouldn’t make any plans without hearing from God first. And that would be ideal. I think we should all try that. But honestly there are just a lot of times in life when God isn’t going to “tell” you what to do.

He’ll give you multiple opportunities that are good, and of course you’ll always have multiple opportunities that aren’t so good. And it’s up to you to know Scripture well enough to make an informed decision.

But you can’t always count on your plans. You can’t always rely on the things you think you can trust down here because you really don’t know what’s going to happen.

So as tempting as it is, don’t get too caught up in your own planning. It’s easy to do because it’s nice to be able to say what you’re going to do when people ask. But let’s be honest, folks, do you really know?

Yes, make plans, if you’re a planning sort of person. But don’t set them in stone without consulting God about them. And even then, don’t set them in stone because chances are you still may have to break them out again. You have to be flexible. You have to be willing to change your plans because what God has planned is better–and we just don’t always have the capability to understand all the facets of what He has going on in our lives.

I struggle with this because I really want to sound like a confident person. I really want to sound like I have everything all figured out. And that’s not always the case.

But God does. So instead of trying to be self-confident, I really need to be God-confident. I need to trust Him. I need to give Him my plans and let Him do what He wants with them, and I need to be flexible enough to stay when He says stay and brave enough to move when He says move.

Just something to think about this morning.