Cutie - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Know who you’re talking to

In business and in life, it’s a good idea to know who you’re talking to before you start a conversation, especially if you have a request. I learned that by submitting manuscripts for publication. I didn’t really read literary magazines previously, but I kept submitting stories to magazines where they didn’t fit. And the stories, even though they were good, would be rejected, not because of bad grammar or poor writing but simply because they didn’t work with the context and the design of the magazine itself.

Something similar happened to me yesterday. I work for a medium-sized plumbing, heating and pipe joining manufacturing company, and we have a large warehouse in McPherson, KS. Since I’m the company’s press contact, I get all the random emails from our website. And this one had me giggling for about an hour.

Basically some charity that supports cats and cat-related groups is having a charity fireworks booth in July and wanted to know if we had a company newsletter we would be willing to allow them to advertise in. Now, apparently this group is in McPherson, but that’s the only thing we have in common with them. We make pipes. We design plumbing systems. We have nothing to do with cats (most people I work with don’t even like them), and we can’t have fireworks in any of our facilities. And while it’s a very nice thought, I just don’t think this person did their research before asking. And, on top of that, do cats even like fireworks? Mine don’t. The whole thing just made me smile.

Cutie - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Cutie – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 9:23-24.

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

I think this set of verses is fascinating because it’s one of the only times where the Bible gives us permission to brag about something. There are other times where Scripture says we are allowed to brag, but it’s always about what God has done or what He’s doing. But this is permission to brag about how well you know God (note it says if you wish to boast, so I get the feeling it’s probably not the best idea to boast anyway, but if you simply must, this is the topic God says is okay).

So … we can boast about how well we know God. But the question is, do you really know Him? I mean, it’s hard enough to know people you work with on a daily basis. So is it even possible to really know God?

Well, I think so. Mainly because God has nothing to hide and He’s laid everything about Himself out in the open for us to find in the Bible; we just have to look for it. Everything we need to know about God is in Scripture, so if we read Scripture, we’ll know God. But I think there’s another level of knowledge too beyond just reading Scripture. You have to read Scripture and apply it to your life. You have to take the things God says to do and do them. And that’s what really makes the difference. That’s like meeting a pen pal you’ve only exchanged letters with. Because when you do the things God has told you to do, that’s when you really meet Him. That’s when you really experience what it means to be a Christ follower.

How many times do we request things from people we don’t know? I’ve got to call my electric company because I’m pretty sure they have my meter set wrong, but whoever I speak to at the company is going to be someone I don’t know. So I don’t know what they will be capable of doing. I don’t know if they can help me or not, and I’m going to have to dig to be transferred to the person who can. It’s the same as asking a plumbing company to promote a fireworks stand for the benefit of Kansas cats.

But I know God. So when I ask Him for things, I know what He can do. I know the power He has, and I have seen Him work in my life before. So I don’t hesitate to ask Him for things that I know will please Him. So when I ask Him for something, I know He can do it, and if He doesn’t do it, I know He has a reason.

So before you ask God for something, make sure you know who He is. Make sure you know who You’re talking to. It will make all the difference in the world, not only to you but also to Him.

Tooting your own horn

I work in a marketing department. I write brochures and articles about plumbing, heating and pipe-joining products. That’s what I do for a living. Our director tells us that its our job to “make plumbing sexy.” Quite a challenge, wouldn’t you agree?

When I’m writing an article or a story about one of our products, I have plenty of opportunities to use quotes from our own company’s product managers and directors, but I try never to do that. After all, who wants to hear our own company’s product managers and directors talk about how great our products our? The company pays them. So it doesn’t matter what they say about the products.

The kicker is when I can find a contractor or plumber who has installed our products and had it revolutionize their business. Now those are quotes I can use.

It’s the same principle people use in job applications. Why do you think you get asked for references? Because you can sit all day long and explain your qualifications for a job, but if one of your references won’t recommend you, I think that probably carries more weight than however many degrees you say you have.

This applies in so many different areas. We tend (or at least, I tend) to not listen so much to what people say about themselves. Instead, I pay more attention to what other people say about them . . . . well, I pay more attention to what other people say about them when it’s positive. If someone is griping or being negative about someone else, usually I tune them out.

The people around us notice things about us that we may not see in ourselves. I know people see things in me that I absolutely don’t recognize in myself. I remember somsone once told me that I was good at mediating conversations because I could keep a group on topic without being forceful. Really? I had never thought about that, nor would I have ever strived to do such a thing. It just happened, and apparently it stood out to this person.

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 10:17-18.

17 As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 18 When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.

I’ve met a lot of people who love to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. It really doesn’t bother me, though. I’m a writer, so I love to learn about people. It’s the best way to get new material. Ha! Back when Flair was popular on Facebook, I got so many little Flair buttons that said, “Be careful. You just might end up in my novel.” . . . . My friends know me so well. =)

I love to hear stories from peoples’ lives. It fascinates me to hear about the accomplishments and achievements that a person has experienced. But even I will admit that when all of that person’s attention is focused on themselves it can wear me out. Have you ever sat for an hour and heard someone talk about themselves and no one else? I have. And let me tell you, while it’s very interesting to know someone so accomplished that they have an hour’s worth of material to talk about themselves, I get tired of it.

But on the flip side, I went to Judge Clark’s memorial service last night. That thing lasted nearly two hours. And not once did I get tired of hearing other people talk about Judge Clark. There were funny stories and touching stories and all sorts of stories about the great things Judge Clark achieved in his life. It’s funny to me because he would never have told anyone about these things himself; he cared far too much about other people to spend time talking about himself.

So is it wrong to talk about the things that are happening in your life?

Not at all. I think we just need to get our perspective straight. I mean, after all, what is happening in your life that God doesn’t have control over? Or what have you accomplished in your years that God didn’t allow? Or what great achievement have you participated in that God didn’t give you the strength for?

See my point?

How can we brag about anything we have done in our own lives when God is the one who keeps us breathing?

I think that’s what Paul is talking about in this verse. If you’re the sort of person who likes to talk, talk about God and what He’s doing. There’s no point in boasting about your job: God gave you the intelligence and the strength to get a job in the first place. There’s no point in boasting about your family: God gave it to you. There’s no point in boasting about your physical appearance: God gave that to you too (and it won’t last forever, by the way).

So boast about God’s strength. Boast about God’s creativity and His design and His justice and His love. Boast about the awesome things God is doing in the world and in your life and in the lives of people that you know.

And don’t worry if people don’t know who you are. Don’t freak out if people don’t recognize the sacrifices that you’ve made or the things you’ve done. Why is it important for people to know anyway? Search your heart before you talk about it and discern your motivation for talking about yourself before you do it.

The only commendation I want is from God. Granted, it’s nice to receive accolades and encouraging when people say nice things about me. But the only Person who matters is God. Because if God is pleased with you and the things He’s helped you do, nobody else can say anything about it.