Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Look for the chance to do good

Why is it so much easier to criticize someone than it is to praise them? Have you noticed that? It’s a lot easier to find fault with someone than it is to recognize them for something they did right. Maybe that’s because I’m a perfectionist.

But then how does that explain the strange urge people seem to get when they sit around in groups—to point out anything and everything that’s wrong in their personal situation or in the world in general? Am I alone in noticing that the negativity in our culture seems to be spiraling out of control?

So how do we, as Christ followers, deal with that?

Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Linda Reazin’s wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:10.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have the opportunity to do something nice for somebody else? I think we all have. But how many of us have done it? How many of us have seized that opportunity?

It’s easy to talk about being nice to others. It’s not as easy to actually do it. Being nice to other people takes effort, especially if you’ve had a bad day. But the Bible clearly says in more than one place that we need to be kind to each other, and it’s not just talking about Christians being kind to Christians. Christians need to be kind to nonbelievers. Christians, we need to be kind to everyone.

As followers of Christ, we are called to do good. What does that mean? Do good. If it will help someone, if it will make someone smile, if it will show God’s love to someone, do it. And when are we supposed to do this? Well, if you take Scripture literally, right up there it says whenever you have the opportunity.

Whenever you have the chance to do good for someone, do it. And I love how Paul emphasizes the part about doing good to other believers. Sometimes other believers are the most difficult to be kind to. But the way Christians treat each other is supposed to show the world that we’re different.

So be on the lookout for someone you can be kind to. Keep your eyes peeled for someone you can help. You can hold doors for people. You can help people carry groceries or take their cart to the return bin. You can smile at someone in line. You can speak kindly to the stressed-out college student in the drive-thru. You can watch for the opportunity to be an encouragement to someone else.

If you do that, if you spend your time looking for the opportunities to do good, you’ll find you don’t have time to give into the negativity. And soon you’ll find that you don’t want to. And the more time you spend being an encouragement, the more likely people around you will pick up on it too.

Negativity may be contagious, but the best way to fight it is to look for opportunities to brighten people’s lives.

Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Focus doesn’t happen on its own

This is the time of year when I get really busy. My brain races. It’s so full of information and things I need to do, and then I get stressed out. Well, I don’t want to do that this year. I want to manage my stress instead of letting it control me, and to do that I need focus.

Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:21.

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

When I first read this verse today, I didn’t think it had anything to do with focus. So I almost skipped over it. But if you think about it, it has everything to do with focus.

It takes focus and perseverance (and God’s help) to overcome anything, especially our default settings. And as human beings, let’s face it, our default setting is evil. Left on our own to our own devices we will do the opposite of what God has called us to do, and whatever is opposite God is evil.

It’s easy to do what’s wrong. And I’m not just talking about what culture defines as wrong because our culture is screwed up and we shouldn’t use it as a basis for anything. I’m talking about what the Bible calls wrong. Lying. Stealing. Hurting others. Being selfish. Those things are easy because they’re hard wired into us. But as Christ-followers, we have a choice. We don’t have to live that way. We can choose to take a different path. But choices don’t happen by accident and they never happen on their own.

No one can choose for you. Maybe they think they can. Maybe they try to. But choice is personal. Choice is something in your own heart and spirit. Choice goes beyond mere behavior and is a reflection of your attitude toward life, toward others, toward God.

And if you’re going to choose to do what the Bible says is right, you aren’t going to be able to do it without some level of focus. First, you have to identify what evil is. I think our culture has taught us to believe that evil is easy to spot. We expect to see devils in red suits with pitchforks. We expect the antagonists in our lives to look and act like bad guys. But the truth is that evil blends in, and oftentimes the only way to know what is evil is to know what the Bible says. And if you don’t know what the Bible says, you’ll be deceived.

But beyond even recognizing evil, our response to it requires purposeful effort. Like a grass fire. You can’t just sit back and wish that it will go out on its own. You have to get in there and put it out. It takes effort. Responding to evil is the same, but we try to do it in our own strength. We preach, we protest, we march, we shake Bibles at it while we stand at a distance. Standing at a distance and condemning evil is easy because you don’t have to get your hands dirty.

But what did Jesus do? When He was faced with evil, did He stand on a street corner with a sign and shout at people? No. He went and found the worst of them and took them to lunch. He hung out with the worst kinds of people. He spent His time with thieves and liars. He expended His energy loving the unlovable. He didn’t run away from evil. He didn’t condone it. He didn’t accept it. But He sure wasn’t afraid of it. So we shouldn’t be either. But you can’t face evil in your own strength. You have to face it like Christ did, with God’s power and grace and love.

We are all going to face evil in our lives. Every day. So choose now how you’re going to handle it. You can accept it but if you’re a Christ-follower, that’s going to cause some trouble for you down the road. You can fight it with protests and and Bible verses shoved down other people’s throats, but I wouldn’t say that’s very effective. Or you can identify it and love the people who are trapped in it.

It takes effort. It takes time. It takes risk. It takes focus, friends. So focus on what’s good and then do it, especially to those who are bound by evil. You never know how God is going to use you and your choices to help someone else.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvesting when your crop looks ready

Toward the middle of May, I posted about praying for my neighbors and their wheat harvest. When I got home from my first jaunt to Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, as I pulled into my driveway, my closest neighbor was out harvesting. He was almost finished, so I snapped a few hurried pictures because I’d promised a German coworker that I would, since she’d never really seen a combine in action before.

So thanks to everyone who prayed. My neighbors all got their wheat in, and it seems like they did fairly well. What I hear a lot, though, is that the crops weren’t as good as some were expecting. We just didn’t have the moisture over the winter that was really needed to develop the heads. Don’t get me wrong; everyone still made off really well, and out where I live, the fact that my neighbors actually got to harvest something is a big deal. But it wasn’t as big as we were hoping.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I will be the first one to admit that I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. There are days when I’m so tired of waiting that I just want to do something stupid–something unplanned and spontaneous and irresponsible–and see what happens. Because, obviously, always doing the right thing hasn’t really gotten me where I want to be. Right?

But on those days, this is the verse that always comes to mind. Because no matter what our profession or our status in life, we are all farmers. From executives to housewives, from college students to elementary students, each of us is constantly planting seeds that will eventually grow into something that will be harvested. And our choices dictate what kind of a harvest that’s going to be.

If you make good choices, if you do the right thing, you’ll eventually harvest something that will be good. If you make bad choices, if you do wrong and you know you’re doing wrong, you’ll eventually harvest something that will make you unhappy. That’s not God’s doing. That’s not God punishing you. That’s you reaping the consequences of the choices you’ve made.

Where I get bogged down is when I constantly make good choices and still feel like my harvest is bad. And that’s when I have to remember that I really haven’t harvested anything yet. I’m still at the growing phase.

In the last weeks of May, everyone out here was on edge waiting to see when the wheat was going to come in. Because it looked ready. It was golden and beautiful and when the wind blew it made that beautiful whispering sound. I know some folks brought their wheat in prematurely because they were afraid of the weather. But that wheat wasn’t ready. And even though the wheat my neighbors brought in was good, would it have been better to let it wait a little longer? I’m not a wheat expert, so I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

I have a lot of fields planted in my life, and I’m sure you do too. And we’re all waiting for the day when we can start harvesting and seeing a return on all the time and effort we’ve invested. But if we jump the gun, the harvest we bring in isn’t going to be the best it could be.

Check out this same verse in the Amplified Version:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

In due time and at the appointed season. You can’t just start harvesting when you feel like it or when you think it looks ready. You have to make sure that it is ready, and that takes waiting. And waiting takes courage, especially when you feel like you can run ahead on your own and do it yourself.

So for all of us who are waiting to harvest our own fields, don’t give up. The day is coming when we’ll get to harvest. And if you’re at the point where you feel like all you’re getting out of life is negative, just remember that if you’ve planted good seeds you will get a good harvest; you just have to wait for it.