Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Choose your attitude

I was hired to be a webmaster and a writer, but my first few weeks on the job, I spent the majority of my time as a pack horse. We had a lot of heavy boxes and equipment to move from our office to the hotel where we were holding our national sales meeting. And the team I worked with at the time was entirely composed of women. And not just women–girly women. (We’re in marketing, for heaven’s sake!) Granted, they’re tough, and they work like crazy. But none of them expected me to be able to lift a 50-pound box in dress slacks and heels. That’s when I got to explain that I live on a farm. So I added “He-woman” to my job description that day.

But my manager at the time kept apologizing because hauling boxes and heavy equipment wasn’t why I was hired. It was something extra I had to do, and I think she was concerned that I would be upset about it. But it didn’t bother me. I like being helpful no matter what I’m doing, although at the time I had wished they would have told me what I would be doing so I wouldn’t have worn heels! By the time that day was over, I was tired, but I wasn’t unhappy. I could have been, I suppose. To have been “subjected” to a day of hard labor at a position where I was supposed to be writing might have upset some folks.

But I had already chosen how I was going to feel about the experience. I had chosen to be cheerful about it. I mean, hey, I had a job. And it wasn’t like they were saying, “Lift this box or you’re fired!” No, I hauled those boxes around because they needed to be moved, and I could do it.

Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:5-8.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Attitude is everything. If your attitude is sour, your perspective and your focus will be sour. It colors everything. But the beautiful thing about attitude (which is also the ugly thing about it) is that you can choose it. You decide when you roll out of bed what your attitude is going to be today.

No, you can’t control the events of the day. No, you can’t control your circumstances (at least, to a point). No, you can’t control other people. But you can control how you react. You can control how you respond. You can control what you think. And while you may not be able to control how you feel, you can choose how you act on your feelings.

For just a moment, try putting yourself in Jesus’ situation. He was God. He is God. He’s always been God. He always will be God. Creator of the universe. Creator of time itself. The beginning of everything. Endless, eternal, worthy of all our praise. God. But when He had the choice to do nothing or to make a way for us to be saved, He chose to save us, even though it meant that He had to give up everything.

This is how the Amplified Version puts it:

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!

Jesus had every right to hold on to His status and position, but He didn’t look at it that way. Granted, when He came to Earth, He was still God. He was still God’s Son, but He was human too. It’s like asking me to give up my life to become an amoeba. That’s not a sufficient comparison, but it’s as close as I can get with one cup of coffee.

It’s unthinkable. And Jesus didn’t stop there. Not only did He give up everything, He took it a step further and died a humiliating and excruciating death.

You realize He knew He was coming to His death, right? Jesus knew why He was born. He knew why He was here. All the years He grew up, all the years He lived, all the years He taught, He knew He was here for one purpose–to die for us. But did He complain? Did He mope? Did He grumble? No!

And if that’s the way Jesus lived His whole 33 years in the shadow of impending crucifixion, why can’t we choose to be cheerful when we have to do something at work we don’t think is our responsibility? Why can’t we face frustration and irritation with a smile? Why can’t we stand up for what we believe with joy? Why can’t decide to be content with what we have?

Maybe today is going to suck for you. Maybe the week will be awful. Maybe the month or the year is going to be stressful and overwhelming, and maybe you have no control over anything that’s happening in your life. And the only thing you’re sure of is chaos.

You can’t choose your circumstances. But you can choose how you face them.

Jesus chose His attitude.

Choose yours.

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Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dawdling

The English language fascinates me. It’s a melting pot, a strange concoction of so many different languages and influences. But I imagine it’s a nightmare to try to translate from and into. I’ve worked with enough people who speak different languages (Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, etc.) to grasp that. English, and especially American English, is broad and indolent and verbose; American English likes the sound of its own voice. But even so, it’s a fun language to learn about because the more you learn about English, the more you learn about other languages.

Granted, I’m a word nerd. But today’s verse made me think of a word that I really haven’t heard used much recently. The word I thought of is dawdle.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did anyone else hear, “Don’t dawdle!” in this verse? Or was that just me? Maybe it was just me because, again, I’m thinking this word has fallen out of common usage.

I looked it up on dictionary.com, and the word actually started into common usage around 1775, probably based on the word “daddle” which started in 1656 and meant to walk unsteadily. The thought is that the daw bird influenced the word because of its reputation of being sluggish and silly. And that’s what dawdle means. To waste time. Being sluggish. Being idle. Lingering for no purpose other than to linger. It’s the kind of word I used to think only stiff and proper nannies used when telling unruly children to get busy.

The thing about dawdling is that it’s purposeless. It’s a waste.

And what I see in this verse today is that God isn’t dawdling. He’s waiting. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between waiting and wasting time, but the way you can tell is that one has a purpose and the other doesn’t. Waiting means there’s a plan in action and you’re just anticipating when it’s your turn to jump in; dawdling, wasting time, is knowing the plan but refusing to jump in even when it’s your turn.

God isn’t dawdling. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s waiting to come back for us because He wants to give everyone the opportunity to make a choice. He’s waiting because there are still some people who are dawdling.

By that same token, it’s a good idea to think your decision through, though. Don’t make snap judgments ever. I truly believe that many people decide to follow Christ on a whim. It’s easy to say; it’s much more difficult to live. And if that decision wasn’t truly a decision made with both heart and head in tandem, it’s not real. It has to be a commitment, not just a statement. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t believe are confused by those of us who do when we tout the Christian life as easy.

Yes, there are aspects of it that are easy, but it’s not an easy life. Not by a long shot. It’s a life full of joy and gratitude and contentment and wonder and awe at what God can do. But it’s a life of sorrow too because we are constantly surrounded by darkness and contempt and foolishness–and there are days when holding up “This Little Light of Mine” makes my arm really tired. And those are the days that we need to be honest with people about.

So it’s good to think about your choices. But dawdling over choices can get you in trouble. We are a culture of procrastinators, and that would be all right if we had all the time in the world. But we don’t. You need to make sure you understand what you’re changing your mind to, but don’t dawdle about it. Know your choices. Make your choice. Don’t waste time because it’s rapidly running out.

And that works the same in life. We can linger and loiter over choices all day long, but all you’re doing is wasting time. And if God doesn’t dawdle, we shouldn’t either.

So check your heart. Are you wasting time on a decision you need to make? Are you waiting for God to show you what you need to know to make that decision? If you are, that’s between you and Him. But if you already know what you’re supposed to do, do it. Don’t dawdle.

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

We’ve missed the point

I saw a story on Yahoo! about the Doomsday Clock yesterday, just in passing. I didn’t really read it because the Doomsday Clock isn’t a “real” clock; it’s just a symbolic representation of how close the world is to a global catastrophe, whether it’s nuclear war or environmental issues. Admittedly, it made me smile because if it’s not the Mayan calendar telling us the world is going to end, it’s the Doomsday Clock. And the real irony is that you don’t need either of those, or any of the other symbols of impending doom, to know that our world is in a lot of trouble.

Nobody knows the day that doom is going to come, but it’s going to come. And we need to be ready for it.

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Acts 17:30-31.

God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.

If you have a second, you should read the portion of Acts where these verses are from, Acts 17:16-34. It’s a part of the early Church history where Paul is on a missionary journey, and he ends up in Athens, preaching to the people there. This is his famous message about the Unknown God. What Paul said to the people of Athens is true for us today: We may be very religious, but we’ve missed the point.

What it comes down to is our choice. We can choose to change our minds about God and about what God says is wrong, but we don’t have to. God hasn’t forced anyone to do anything–ever. There’s no point to that anyway. God has told us we need to change our minds about sin. God has said it loud and clear for everyone to know.

He has told us what sin is. He has told us how to have eternal life. He has told us how to have a relationship with Him. The rest is up to us to decide if that’s the path we want to take.

But the truth of Paul’s statement is chilling because whether you choose to follow Christ or not, judgment is still coming. Nothing will stop the end of the world. The world has been dying since our first parents turned against God. It’s been winding down, slowly but surely, getting worse every day, getting darker every hour. And like a clock with batteries that are nearly drained, the day is going to come when it stops keeping time altogether. And when that day gets here, are we going to be ready? Are we going to have an answer for the charges laid against us?

Our culture now is practically free of real consequences. We can do whatever we want with no one to check us. The United States was founded with a checks and balances system, three branches of government designed to keep each other in order. In recent years, it’s become pretty obvious that even they aren’t interested in keeping each other honest; they’re just covering their own backsides now, doing what they want. And the People don’t know enough about what the United States was intended to be to hold them accountable for it.

But a day is coming when all of us will have to face the consequences for our choices, and there won’t be second chances. You’ll have two options. Either you chose to follow Christ in this life or you didn’t. Either you trusted Christ to pay the price for your sins or you chose to cover the debt yourself.

So what does that mean for us today? I’ve already accepted Christ. I trust Him with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That doesn’t mean God is required to pull me out of trouble. It just means He won’t abandon me when trouble starts.

I look at the world and the state of this country, and I’m tempted to despair because I know what it used to be. I know what it was meant to be, and we’ve fallen so far from that place today. But I trust God. He knows what He’s doing, and nothing surprises Him.

I used to be afraid when I read scriptures about the end of the world. I used to be scared of the word judgment. But the older I get and the worse the world gets, the more I find comfort in that word. Because for those who know Christ, judgment isn’t something to be scared of. For those who know Christ, our slates are clean. Christ has taken our sins and put them far away from us, and when God looks at our record, all He sees is Christ.

Judgment is coming. The world won’t last forever. So get busy. Talk to people. Build relationships with people. And don’t give up. And if you need to change your mind about sin in your life, do it now rather than later. It won’t speed the end up or slow it down, of course, but it will get in the way of what you need to accomplish.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God has every right to be angry

Do you know people who do wrong all the time and are never sorry for it? I do. I’m around people like that all the time, and it frustrates me. I believe in an absolute right and an absolute wrong. I’m not capable of doing right all the time, but I want to at least try to be the kind of person who tries to do right. And when I do wrong, I want to own up to it. I want to take responsibility for what I’ve done wrong and do my best to change.

But there are always people who do wrong constantly and have no intention to change. Why should they? Doing what is wrong is so much easier than doing what is right. Maybe it has consequences, but they don’t come right away. And even if they do come, it’s a lot easier to convince other people that you’re the victim in the situation than it is to claim responsibility for it.

Granted there are many circumstances where people truly are victims. We live in a broken world, and it’s the innocent who suffer the consequences for the most part. But I still believe the vast majority of us make our own problems. I really believe that most of us (including myself) end up in rough situations because of our actions, because of our choices, and it comes down to either taking responsibility for what you’ve done or trying to push that responsibility off onto someone else.

When you know someone is shifting the blame from where it really belongs, how does that make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Well, think about how you feel, and then think about how it makes God feel.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalms 7:11-13.

God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day. If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.

We live in a kinder, gentler era now. We don’t like to think of God as an angry God. We much prefer to focus on His love, and that is true. God is a God of love. He is love.

But how many of us really understand love? And if we can’t even understand love, can’t we hope to understand God? Does anyone understand God? I mean, I believe we can understand His heart. I believe we can understand what He’s telling us to do and how He’s telling us to live. But those are just a fraction of who God is. Saying we understand God because we read the Bible or because we pray is like saying we’ve experience the ocean when we’ve only visited the Gulf of Mexico.

Is it all right for you to be angry with someone who is doing wrong and refuses to change? If it’s all right for you, why is it not all right for God?

Repent is a scary church word. It basically just means to change your thinking. If you repent from your sin, it means you change the way you think about doing what God says is wrong. That’s what repent means. It’s not a stained glass, organ music kind of concept. It’s something we can’t do without.

What’s frustrating about people who won’t repent is that they pretty much live a life that’s flipping God off every day. I’m not talking about the people who don’t know better; I’m talking about people who know what the Bible says and who have chosen not to believe it. I’m talking about people who say they follow Christ but deny Him with their lives every day. I’m talking about typical American Christians who go to church on Sunday and live the rest of their week as though they are the center of the universe.

It’s frustrating. Because they know better, and they’ve chosen to ignore God in spite of it.

Does it frustrate you? Well, it frustrates God. And the plain and simple truth is that none of us can thumb our noses at God and expect to get away with it. He will do what is necessary to show us that we aren’t in control of our lives, and it won’t be pleasant. None of us are unbreakable.

So the next time you feel the urge to do something you know the Bible says is wrong, take a moment to think about how God is going to feel about it. I’m not saying we should cower in the corner because we live our lives based on whether God is angry or not. I’m not saying that at all. But God has given us everything so that we can be free. God has made the ultimate sacrifice, and He’s been patient with us through circumstances where everyone else would have given up on us. And if you can think about all God has done for you and how much He loves you and still be callous enough to go on sinning even though you know what that sin cost Christ, God has every right to be angry.

Repent. Change the way you think about doing what God has said is wrong. It’s worth it. You won’t fear consequences, you won’t face guilt, and God will honor you for doing what is right.

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Do you really want God in a box?

I want God to tell me what He’s up to. Is that too much to ask? I say that with a bit of humor because as much as I want to know what He’s up to, at the same time I know that if He tells me, my brain will probably explode. Either that or I’ll be so scared I won’t be able to take another step. There’s a reason He doesn’t tell us all His plans.

But it’s been one of those weeks where so much has happened, so much has gone wrong, so many emotions have spilled over, and I know without a doubt that God is doing something. He’s getting me ready for something that’s coming, and I’m trying to keep my eyes on that. But in some ways I feel like I’m tripping around in the dark, and it’s all I can do to just hold on and wait until God switches the lights on so I can see which bumps and bruises need bandages.

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Numbers isn’t usually a book in Scripture I turn to for comfort. But there’s a little story nestled toward the back of it about a man named Balaam. You might recognize his name. He’s the one with the donkey who decided to start speaking? It’s a cool story, found in Numbers 22:21-41. But Numbers 23 contains the message that Balaam brought to Balak, King of Moab. And this is part of that message that Balaam brought from God.

How many times do we think we understand what God is up to only to grow frustrated and discouraged when life doesn’t work out the way we planned? I do it a lot. I look at a situation and am pretty sure I can see how God is working, and then the floor falls out from under me. And at that point I have two choices: I can either get upset that God didn’t work the plan out the way I thought He would … or I can realize that my understanding of God’s plans is imperfect.

We try to understand God on human terms. Why? Because we’re human. How else are we capable of understanding anything? We think we understand nature and the universe and all of that, but all we’ve done is plucked it out of the sky and shoved it into a box big enough for us to wrap our head around. That doesn’t mean we understand it. That just means we’ve simplified it to the point where we can grasp it. And then everyone freaks out when nature or the universe ends up being more complicated than we thought.

Of course, it’s more complicated than we thought. It’s bigger than we can imagine. It’s more intricate than we can comprehend. What makes us think we’re capable of grasping it?

It’s the same way with God.

Like when people try to explain the Trinity using an egg or a glass of water. Those are human items that a human can wrap his head around, representing a relationship that a human can explain. But nothing on a scale that a human can understand will ever be able to explain the Trinity. Nothing on a human level will ever be able to understand God.

God is not human.

Now, Jesus was. So He understands us. But He was also God and Man at the same time. How’s that for blowing your puny little mind?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to understand God. Part of getting to know someone is learning how they think, and God wants us to get to know Him. But I really believe there needs to be an understanding on our part that God isn’t limited by the bounds of our imaginations. He isn’t limited by our grasp of the universe or by our level of understanding. If He chooses to act in a way that we don’t understand, He can. Because He’s God.

But looking back over the events of my life, I can tell you for certain that God has never done anything in my life that He hasn’t prepared me for in some way. Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back I can see how He prepared me beforehand to deal with the troubles and trials He knew were coming ahead of me. God has never made a promise He hasn’t kept to me, even though He didn’t exactly fulfill those promises in the way I expected Him to.

So the next time you catch yourself trying to put God in a box so you can understand how He works? Stop. Stop and really think about it. Because you don’t really want God in a box. Because if He’s small enough to fit in a box you can understand, He’s too small to handle the problems you’re facing.