Wearing a crown doesn’t make you better than the crownless

Do you know people who won’t take you seriously because you’re not important enough? I’ve met of few of those. And, honestly, it used to bother me.

Some people see your job title and decide whether or not you’re worth their time. Other people look at your clothes or the way you talk or the car you drive. We all make judgment calls on people. Let’s face it. We do. But how many of us actually judge whether someone is individually worth our time based on what they look like or based on what station in life they currently happen to be in?

It’s hurtful. Because I’m more than the clothes I’m wearing. I’m more than my job title (or lack thereof). And just because I don’t happen to have trails of letters after my name doesn’t make me less intelligent than someone with a PhD. And it certainly doesn’t give anybody the right to call me less important than someone else.

But more and more I see people rating others, their intellect or their worth, based on external factors. And the only explanation I can come up with for it is that we’re falling deeper and deeper into our own pride. But pride has never been the source of success or peace. It’s actually the opposite.

arroganceToday’s verse is Proverbs 3:34.

The Lord mocks the mockers
    but is gracious to the humble.

This is one of those verses that shoes up all over the Bible. I know this same verse is quoted in both James and I Peter. And if there’s one simple thing to know about the Bible, it’s this: If God repeats Himself, you really want to pay attention.

Other versions of this little Proverb say that “God opposes the proud.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the side against God. Just saying. I don’t think that sounds like a very secure future.

I know how this life ends. I don’t want to be on the side that God opposes.

The solution is simple. Stop relying on your pride. Don’t be proud.

I said it was simple. Not easy. Because pride is really the root of all our sin. We want to do things our way, not God’s. We want to live our own way, not the way God says is right. And we don’t care what He says. At least, we don’t care until we have to face the consequences of our choices. Then we beg forgiveness and grace, and because God is gracious, He forgives. But once life straightens out again, how many of us go back to making the same stupid choices all over again?

No one person is more important to God than another. God doesn’t play favorites. He never has. He loves us all equally, regardless of history or family or choices. There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more. Likewise, there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you less.

So why do we get it in our heads that some Christians are better loved than others? That’s our pride talking. Because pride makes us think we can be sufficient. Pride tricks us into believing that God judges on the curve, and He doesn’t.

Maybe you’ve worked hard to achieve your status, and that’s great and wonderful. But please don’t convince yourself that you are solely responsible for it. You’re not. Favor comes from God. Opportunity comes from God. And you’re where you are because God gave you talent and drive and health. Now, it’s up to you to recognize it. Many people don’t, but it doesn’t change the facts.

So the next time you’re tempted to think that super annoying person you’re talking to isn’t worth your time, take a moment and really ask yourself why you believe that. Are you making that call because you don’t like the way they dress? Do you feel that way because they are on a lower pay grade than you?

Granted, if the person you want to avoid is a fool, that’s a different story entirely, and there are biblical definitions for those kinds of people. And you should absolutely run away from those sorts of people. But not everybody is a fool (thank God). More likely, we just let our insecurities get the best of us, and we convince ourselves that we’re superior for some reason that doesn’t really matter.

Just give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a conclusion about someone just because they are different from you or work in a different industry. After all, you may king of your own little world right now, but that doesn’t mean someday you won’t lose your crown. And then you’ll wish for someone to treat you like an equal.

Don’t wait until then to learn the lesson.

God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. So be humble. And maybe it’s a lesson you won’t have to learn the hard way.

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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.

Pine cones at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Christians need more pride.

Proud people often rub me the wrong way. They’re those folks whose favorite pronoun is I. Their life is about them, and your life should be about them too. Do you know people like that? They can even be very nice people, but their entire focus is really on themselves. And that irks me.

Pine cones at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Pine cones at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Proverbs 27:2.

Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—
    a stranger, not your own lips.

This is a good rule to remember because the more we talk about ourselves, the less people listen. Granted, if you can balance talking about yourself with listening to others talk about themselves, you have a better chance of maintaining your relationships.

This isn’t to say that our friends don’t care about what’s going on in our lives. But there has to be balance in everything. If you take up a friend’s afternoon talking about yourself one day, then you need to be willing to sacrifice an afternoon to listen to your friend when they want to talk. That’s part of being friends. If you want to be a friend, you have to be friendly.

Makes sense, right?

Okay. So what the heck is going on in Philippians 1:20-26?

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Really? I count 16 I‘s in there.

This is Paul writing to the Church at Philippi, and, yes, it’s a message from him to them. And, yes, it’s a letter explaining what God has taught him. But still — that seems like a lot of I. … Until you understand what Paul is talking about.

Proverbs 27:2 is saying to let others praise you. Let others draw attention to the work you’ve done, rather than yourself.

What Paul is doing in Philippians 1:20-26 is talking about the work God has done through him. It’s not Paul bragging about what Paul has accomplished. It’s Paul recognizing that God is bigger than he is and that God can continue to use him like He has in the past.

There’s a big difference between calling attention to your own accomplishments and recognizing that God has used you.

I think there’s a concept in the Christian community that any sort of pride is wrong. As a result, Christians don’t know how to accept compliments, and we don’t know how to talk about the awesome things that God is doing. We’re terrified of sounding boastful. But it’s not proud to share how God is using you. It’s not boastful to talk about what God is doing in your life, as long as you keep the focus on God and not on your achievements.

Juxtapose the I’s in those verses with Christ. How many times does Paul relate his work and life and motivation to Christ just in this passage?

That God could use any one of us to accomplish anything for Him is miraculous. We are all so broken and so flawed that if He is able to do something awesome through the gifts and the skills that He has given us, we need to talk about it. Because if God can use us, He can use anyone. But no one will know about it if we are too scared to say anything. And if we’re too scared to say anything about it, why are we even here?

Christians need more pride.

We’re supposed to take pride in Christ. That’s what Paul is saying. Don’t boast about your own achievements, but tell everyone what God has done in your life because no one else could fix you. And that’s what people in the worlds need to hear right now. Not that an election will solve their problems. Not that Washington will fix the world. Not that the Republicans or the Democrats or the Independents or the Tea Party will remedy the mistakes this country has made. But that Christ is the only one who can make a difference. But they’re not going to know about it until we step up and say something.

So don’t focus on what you’ve done. Focus instead on what God has done in your life. Give Him the credit. And He’ll take care of the rest.

Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Love in spite of success

Life is backward. Have you noticed that? Not like Benjamin Button backwards, but so many times we think we know everything there is so know and we discover that we really know nothing at all. We think anger will solve a problem when we really need to be kind. We think our knowledge will solve an issue when we really need to trust someone else. We think we have reason to mourn when really we have reason to rejoice.

Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:15

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

The fact that Scripture has to tell us to do this is evidence of how screwed up the world is. You’d think this would be common sense, wouldn’t you? When someone is happy, be happy for them. When someone is sad, be sad with them. But so many times, this isn’t what we do.

I’ve seen people who are supposed to love each other fall apart because one of them succeeds and the other fails. I’ve watched friendships deteriorate over this. And I don’t understand. Because if we love each other, we should be happy for each other. We should rejoice when the people we love experience success or see their dreams come true.

But so many times, it doesn’t happen that way. When someone we love succeeds, we get jealous. We feel envious of our friends who we love because they have found something we haven’t yet. Or because they have achieved something we feel they don’t deserve, and we get angry because we feel like we do deserve it. And when friends can’t support each other, the friendship falls apart.

Why is that?

The whole chapter of Romans 12 is about how to live. And for me, the main verse is Romans 12:9.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

If you really love someone, it doesn’t matter what happens between you, you will always love them. If you love someone with the kind of love that God has for us, it won’t matter if your friend fails or succeeds, you can’t love them more or less.

For me, this is one of the big tests of love. Because it’s easy to love someone when they fail. Maybe that’s just me speaking. But that’s the way it works for me. When someone stumbles or falls and they need help, it’s easy for me to love them. But what happens when they succeed? What happens when they achieve everything you wanted for yourself and you get left behind?

Can I love someone even if they get everything I wanted? Can I love someone when I’m struggling to make it from day-to-day and they get to move on to bigger and better things?

Rejoicing for a friend who has achieved your dreams while you have to stand still is difficult … unless you love them. And then you are so deliriously happy for them that you hardly even realize that the world is telling you to pout.

So how do you get that kind of love?

You choose it.

Love isn’t some flowery ethereal concept floating around in the void. It’s not a feeling that just swells within you. It’s a choice. And choices aren’t easy to make, but once you make them, you have something to stand on.

Sometimes that kind of love doesn’t make sense, but that’s the kind of love we are supposed to have. Not pretend love. Not fair-weather love. Not convenient love. Real love, that loves in spite of failures or successes.