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.

Advertisements

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.

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Sometimes you gotta explode

Maybe it’s different for extroverts, but when I get really upset about something or when I am really disappointed about something or really hurt about something, I don’t blow up. I simmer. I’m like a bottle of soda pop that you shake up but don’t open—you can see the bubbles threatening inside, but they have nowhere to go, so they stay put until they settle down. And I suppose that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being that way.

Except what happens if someone opens a bottle of pop right after it’s been shaken up? Or dropped?

Yeah. It explodes. And makes a mess. So what’s better? To explode first? Or to explode later?

I wish there were an option to not explode, but—just being real here—everybody explodes at some point. Or at least everybody hits a breaking point at least once in their lives, though whether you explode or not depends on your personality.

So, is that okay? Is it okay to hit the point where you can’t take it anymore? And when you get there, what do you do about it?

Well, I think the number one thing you can do is talk about it. And don’t feel like you have to go to a therapist. You don’t even have to go to a friend or a family member. You don’t have to go anywhere. You can stop what you’re doing and tell God about it.

Today’s verses are from Psalm 13.

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

The Psalms amaze me. Sometimes they disturb me. I can’t believe that David or the other Psalm writers would commit some of these thoughts to paper. But all I have to do is think about some of the things I’ve accused God of doing (or not doing), and I feel just as verbally abusive toward God as the Psalmists.

Here’s the point. God knows that we aren’t perfect. He knows our stories. He knows our personalities. And He knows how much we can take before we snap. Sometimes we need to snap because that may be the only way we get the picture that we’re not in control of our lives.

David snapped. More than once.

David accused God of lots of things. David wailed in his despair. He hurled emotional statements at God and at others and at himself, and if he hadn’t been in such a state, he probably never would have said any of it.

Did God strike him with lightning? Did God give up on him? Did God abandon him?

No. Even when David’s life turned upside down because of his own sins, God never left him. So why do we think that God will leave us?

What I find most fascinating about the Psalms is that so many of them begin with the writer crying out to God for help or out of despair and depression. So many Psalms start with the writer acknowledging how lost he is. But every Psalm usually ends with the writer—the same one—cheering and rejoicing and praising God.

How does that happen? How can you start out piteously and end up victoriously?

Well, first you have to get piteous out of the way. And you can’t do that until you accept that you feel it and face it with the truth—God is stronger than any trouble you’re facing.

Many times when I’m crying out to God on the bad days, I’ll draw myself up short because my brain reminds me just how much God has done for me. I’m in the middle of bemoaning my present circumstances, and it’s like a little voice whispers: “Hey, dummy, what about last week when He did something impossible for you?”

Or not even impossible. Something kind.

Why does God allow horrible things to happen in our lives? I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that no matter how awful it may be, He can turn it into something good—something better than it ever could have been by itself. And He never will abandon us, no matter what we say or do. If you truly belong to Him, you’re stuck with Him for eternity.

So don’t bottle it up. Or do. Either way, when you explode, make sure you take it to God first. He’s big enough to take it, and he’s patient enough to love you through it. There’s nothing you can do to change that, for better or for worse.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

Life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We can make as many plans as we want, but we can’t know the future. We can’t control our lives, as much as we try to. And when those moments come that blow all our carefully laid plans apart, we have a choice. We can either give up or manage the broken pieces as best we can, trusting that God will put them back together again better than they were before.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Because we get our selfish little hearts set on things that we want, and we are totally capable of convincing ourselves that God has told us we can have something. And maybe He has. But it has to be on His terms. And the plain truth is that when God says yes to our wants or our desires, we’re rarely in the place in our lives when it’s time for us to have them.

We have to live some more. We have to learn what the desire of our heart really is. Many times it changes and grows as we get older, and even when stays the same, as we age, it gets bigger, broader, as we understand more about ourselves and the world.

But that answer is difficult to accept when we want our way. And it’s so easy to sit back and focus on how unfair life is.

Because it is.

Life is unfair. Work is unfair. Ministry is unfair. Because the world is unfair.

And I don’t know where we (Christians, that is) get the idea that life on earth will be fair when nothing here is fair. The world is broken. We broke it, and it’s not going to be fixed again until after Christ comes back for us.

There’s nowhere in Scripture that says life is fair. There’s nowhere in Scripture where God promises that we won’t have trouble. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO (where I spent my weekend)

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples. Maybe you read that differently, but to me that sounds like a confirmation that sometimes life is going to suck.

This world isn’t our home. We don’t belong here. I think it’s in Hebrews where the writer calls us pilgrims and strangers, aliens in a world we’re just visiting. We’re just passing through.

So why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Is it the well-meaning teachers of the prosperity gospel? I’ve heard what they say. Those people claim that if you do what God says is right, you’ll have everything you want. Never mind the Bible never says that.

The Bible does say that if you obey God, you’ll be blessed. But being blessed has very little to do with getting what you want. So many times we don’t even know what we want or what we want is bad for us. So how would God be good if He allowed us to have something that would ultimately hurt us?

How many times has God provided what I needed? How many times has He showed up in my life at the pivotal moment? How many times has God let me down? I mean really let me down? I can’t think of once. I can’t think of one promise He’s made me that He hasn’t kept–to the letter.

And how do I repay Him? By whining when I don’t get my way? By grumbling when life isn’t fair? Hasn’t He proved Himself to me by now?

It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to fall back on God when we’re so disappointed. It’s hard to keep trusting when you feel betrayed or let down or like God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. But when you feel that way, ask yourself if you really understood the bargain to begin with.

God never promised we wouldn’t have trouble, and He never promised that He’d give us whatever we wanted. He just promised that we’d never go without what we need, and we’d never face the struggles of life alone.

We’re going to have trouble. And we’re not always going to get our way. But God always knows what He’s doing. God always keeps His promises.

So just hold on. The world isn’t fair, but Jesus has overcome the world. That means He’s bigger than any trouble you’re facing right now. And if you can just hold on long enough, He’ll prove it to you.