A toenail doesn’t have to be friends with an eyeball

Who is that person in your life that you just don’t understand? Is it a family member or a coworker? I know people who just bug the fire out of me, and I really want nothing more than to shake them or throw something at them or pop off and tell them what I really think of them.

Of course, when it comes right down to it, I’m not nearly bold enough to do any of that. So I resort to creating characters like them in novels and making them look dumb. Yes, passive aggressive. I know. I’m working on it.

But do you ever wonder why you have to put up with it? The Bible is so full of examples of Jesus’ patience and goodness toward stupid people, and it frustrates me. Because I don’t want to be nice to stupid people. I want to be angry at them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up in the church, it’s that not all Christ-followers agree. When I was younger, that bothered me, because I thought everybody had to agree. We all have to believe the same thing, don’t we?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, friends, but you’ll never see a time when everyone in a church–or any gathering of people–believes the same thing. Sure, you can agree on the basics. You can find common ground on the important things. But everyone sees life differently or has lived a different kind of life.

Those differences are valuable if you harness them, but if you let them drive a wedge between people, they can tear everything you’ve built down.

As you follow Christ, you’re going to encounter other Christ-followers who come from different cultures and different traditions and different perspectives. If they truly follow Christ, you can have a deep relationship with them because you have something in common with each other, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on every subject. And that’s okay.

A Christ-follower from Africa is going to have a very different view of life and living than a Christ-follower from Canada. That doesn’t mean one is wrong and the other is right. What matters is that both people believe in Jesus for their salvation. But for some reason people love to point out things that are different, and once they see something that’s different, if it threatens them, they’re likely to decide it’s bad.

But if the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, who are we? If God doesn’t have a problem with it, why do we?

Our differences make us stronger. It all comes back to the Body of Christ. We all have different jobs, different loves, different passions, different talents, and we all come together in the name of Christ to serve Him. But if you’re the hands of the Body, don’t be telling the lips what to say, and vice versa. If you’re the feet, you don’t know how the eyes work. If you’re the ears, you’ve got a different job than the nose.

Because we’re different, we complement each other. Because we’re different, we are stronger together than we are alone. But because we’re different, it’s hard to remember that sometimes. Being different is difficult. We don’t communicate the same way. We don’t see life the same way. And if we aren’t careful, all we’ll start to see is the differences, and before long, we’ll convince ourselves that we’re too different to work together.

What would happen if your body parts decided they were too different to work together anymore? Yup. You’d fall apart. And the same thing will happen with the Church.

So give each other a break. Yes, we’re different, and that’s the point. You’re going to run into members of the Body that drive you crazy. And you’re not going to understand them, and they’re not going to understand you. Imagine a toenail trying to comprehend an eyeball. One is hard. The other is soft. One protects, and the other is protected. They have absolutely nothing in common, except that they are both in the Body.

Maybe that’s all you have in common with that person in your life that you don’t understand. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. A toenail doesn’t have to be best friends with an eyeball, but they do need to recognize that they each do an important job–and they have to do it their own way.

If you focus on what makes you different, you’ll be frustrated and angry because how are you supposed to get along with someone you don’t understand? But if you focus on the things you have in common, understanding each other won’t really matter. Instead, you’ll enjoy getting to see the other person’s point of view.

Yeah, they might learn something from you, but you might learn something from them too. We’re different for a reason. And that reason isn’t to destroy each other. It’s to learn from each other.

Friendships need more than common ground

How many friends do you have in your life? Some people have a lot of friends, and that’s great. Others have a small group of friends, and that’s equally great. But what happens with friendships over time?

Some friendships get stronger. Others drift apart. And it doesn’t mean there’s wrong done. It just means that people don’t always stay the same, friendships don’t always stay the same. Life has a tendency to change all of us.

In most cases, friends just don’t have anything in common anymore. Maybe you were inseparable in elementary school or high school, but you changed in college. Maybe you were the best of friends in college, but life in the workplace made you reprioritize.

But then, you have those special circumstances where you start out as friends and you remain friends for the rest of your life. I am so very blessed to say that I have a lot of friends. But not only do I have a lot of friends, I have a lot of friends who have been my friends for a very, very long time.

It’s those friendships I treasure so much, and what amazes me–leaves me speechless–is that I can spend years apart from those friends and when we meet up again, it’s like no time has passed. There’s no awkward silence. There’s no scrambling to keep conversation going. It feels just like coming home, like you are where you belong, like being reunited with your favorite family member.

How do you get that kind of friendship? How do we cultivate relationships like that? I’m certainly not an expert, but I have learned that there does seem to be one unifying factor in every friendship in my life that has lasted: Who is your friendship about?

Me and best buddy Katie in a telephone booth at Trafalgar Square, London, England, UK

Me and best buddy Katie in a telephone booth at Trafalgar Square, London, England, UK

Today’s verses are Colossians 3:16-17.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

If you build a friendship around things you like to do together or things you have in common, your friendship might last a while. It could last a long while. But what happens when you grow tired of doing those sorts of things? What happens when you’re no longer interested in the things you used to care about? What happens to your friendship then?

Friendships that last have to be built on something that doesn’t change. That’s what I’ve learned over the years. The friendships that have meant the most to me have been built on mutual love of Christ and a desire to do whatever He’s called us to do. No matter where. No matter when. No matter what.

Those friendships have changed my life. It’s those friendships that I can pick up en media res and just start talking like we’ve never been apart, even if we haven’t seen each other in three years. Because no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done or how long you’ve been apart, the thing that drew you together in the first place is still the same.

What’s God doing in your life? What did you see God do today? Or yesterday? Or the day before? What do you think He’s going to do tomorrow?

Those questions never get old. The conversations and the stories and the memories never wear out. Because when you’re talking about God, when you’re focusing on living life with Christ at the center, you never run out of stories.

What kind of friendships do you have in your life right now? What are they built on? Are they built on commonalities like what books you enjoy or what music you like listening to? Those friendships are nice. Are they built on the ages of your children? That’s nice too, especially in the difficult years of child rearing when you need someone who understands where you are.

But don’t think those friendships will last longer than your common interests. Your common interests will change, and if you don’t have something stronger to hold you together, you’ll eventually drift apart.

If you make Jesus the center of your life, the center of your family, the center of your friendships, you’ll have an anchor that never moves. And, let’s just face it, you’ll have so many adventures to talk about, you’ll never have to deal with awkward silence again.

I had dinner with crazy Italians last night

Seriously. Not making it up. Well, the crazy part maybe. (I know you’re reading, and you know I love you guys.)

I’m a pretty closed person when it comes to being myself around people. I try to be compassionate and pleasant and likeable as a general rule, but there’s a lot more to me as a person that I keep bottled up until I know my ridiculous, loud personality isn’t going to scare you to death.

I am so fortunate to have friends who know the ridiculous, loud me and love me. I’m even more fortunate to have friends who love the real me who don’t hesitate to tell me when I’m making a really stupid decision. So when those friends (the real ones, who won’t feed me a bunch of lines about positive thinking when I’m acting on a truly dumb idea) get excited about something I feel God leading me to do, I jump for joy.

It’s one thing to have a friend’s words of encouragement when you’re undertaking a big challenge. It’s something else to have a friend’s actual support, knowing they’re behind you 110%.

Two little girls at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two little girls at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 13:20.

Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.

I’ve posted about friends a lot on here, mostly because my friends are such a vital part of my life. I’ve really tried to be wise about the friends I choose because so many of them play a role in helping me make decisions, and if my inner circle of advisors aren’t wise and don’t live their lives according to Scripture, they won’t give me counsel that will help me do it either.

I have been so very blessed to have such a variety of friends from all corners of the world, all cultures and backgrounds, all personality types. I have friends who are as introverted as I am. I have friends who are insane crazy people. I have friends who occupy high-ranking corporate positions and friends who work minimum-wage. And the most beautiful part about all my close friends is that they love Christ, and in the dark moments of my life, they help me remember how much I love Him too.

Do you have those kinds of friends in your life? If you don’t, you really ought to look for some. Just remember that the best friends you can have don’t always say yes to you. The best friends you can have are the ones who love you for who you are but don’t want you to stay the same. Yes, that’s a paradoxical statement, but I believe it’s true.

The best friendships I have had in my life are with people who love me for who I am as a person, but they love me too much to let me plateau in my growth—both professionally and spiritually. If you have a friend who just agrees with you all the time, that could be nice, but do you ever get to really know that person? The best friends you can have challenge you to grow and love you regardless.

My friends are patient people because I’m stubborn. Compared to me, donkeys are easy to get along with. I’m set in my ways, and I don’t like change. But you can’t go through life without changing. Everything changes. Granted, the things that matter don’t, but it’s how you grow to survive the little things that don’t matter that help you determine the real things that do.

Is there a friend who is open and honest with you in your life? Is there a friend you trust to tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it? Is there a friend who loves you too much to let you make a foolish decision?

Find that person. Because that person is worth his or her weight in gold. And the more you hang out with wise people like that, the wiser you will become if you’re willing to pay attention.

The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

No such thing as goodbye

I don’t like goodbyes, but it feels like I’ve been saying them for most of my life. Not because of death, though. Because of life. I have so many friends who have chosen to become missionaries in foreign countries, and I’m so excited and proud of all of them. But staying behind while they go is sometimes very sad.

I’m not sad that I don’t get to go to the mission’s field, though. I know I’m not called there. Some people are called to stay behind, and that’s always been me. What makes me sad is missing my friends, their faces, their laughter, getting to be actively involved in their lives. What’s really awesome is technology has made the world so small. With a computer I can carry in my pocket, I can have face-to-face conversations with people across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s a luxury missionaries didn’t have even ten years ago. Now it’s practically free.

But Skype or Google Hangout isn’t the same as being in the room, and even though I do plan to go see my friends, there is a good chance it won’t work. They’re all scattered everywhere, on nearly every continent (not Antarctica, though I’d still love to visit just to say I’ve been there). And flights can be hard to get, and in spite of my best intentions, I may not be able to make it happen. So there’s always a good chance that when I see my friend before he/she leaves the states, that’s the last time I’ll see them.

Depressing? I know. Keep reading.

The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 35:10.

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing,
crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

There are many perks to being a follower of Christ, but the best one is the fact that we never really have to say goodbye. Maybe in this world we might never cross paths again, but in the next world, we’ll be together. And not just for a day. Forever.

We can’t really wrap our minds around the concept of forever now. Eternity is too big a concept for our puny little human brains. But our perfect home forever will be a place of joy and light and family and friends and Christ. So saying goodbye down here really isn’t goodbye. At least, it shouldn’t be. Granted, you may get to see a friend again, but then you might not. But as long as you both believe in Christ, there’s no such thing as goodbye–not really.

It’s easy to get caught up in this life. It’s easy to think this is the life that’s worth living for, but it’s not. As awesome as our life down here can be, the life to come is better, and that should be our focus. And that’s exciting because the life to come is so much better than this one.

So the next time you have to say goodbye, remember. If you’re parting ways with someone who loves Christ, you don’t have to say goodbye. There are no real goodbyes. You’re just going to travel separate roads for now, but both of those roads lead home.

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Laughter is good medicine

When was the last time you had a good laugh? I mean, a seriously good laugh where your sides hurt and your face hurts because you’ve been laughing so hard? Can you remember? It’s interesting to me that our world seems so dead set on being so serious all the time.

Granted, our world is ridiculous, but when you get right down to it, our everyday lives aren’t really a laughing matter. We have stress at work, stress at home, stress at church, stress everywhere. There are bills to pay and food to put on the table and houses to clean and clothes to buy and all sorts of other necessities that we can’t get by without, and there’s very little time to actually do anything that needs to be done. Real life is a downer. Being a grown up is a downer, let me tell you.

Maybe that’s why people can make a living as comedians. People just want to laugh. But it’s hard to laugh when you know you’re facing difficult times. It’s hard to laugh when all you feel like doing is crying. But there’s something about laughter I think we forget sometimes, in our frenzied rush to get through life: laughter is good for us.

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 17:22.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Some of the most hilarious memories I have as a child were hanging around Hutchinson with my dad and my brother. Actually, most of my hilarious memories come from my dad and my brother. It was always so much fun to go places with them because they have a similar sense of humor–sarcastic. Like the photo for today? I snapped that at one of the Kansas State Fairs as a reminder of the times we would all go to the fair and make fun of the silly looking rabbits.

Other times, we would entertain ourselves for hours just wandering up and down the toy aisles in Target making fun of all the magic potty babies. Those were great memories, memories that have stuck with me through the years. I mean, how often does a kid say some of their favorite memories are wandering the toy aisle at a big box store? Normally that would be a sad statement. But not the way we did it. We laughed so hard in those toy aisles, I’m sure someone must have thought there was something wrong with us (maybe there is!).

Laughter is good medicine. It just does something to you inside.

So how do you laugh when your world is falling apart? How do you laugh when you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring? How do you laugh when everything in your life feels like it’s completely out of control?

I think it varies from person to person, but I truly believe that all of us need to have someone in our lives who brings us unbridled joy. Someone who sparkles. Someone who can spark laughter just by being there. And if you think that sort of person doesn’t exist, you’re wrong; you just haven’t met them yet. They’re hard to find, and a lot of time you don’t find them right away. Sometimes you have to do some investing in that person before they show up. Maybe it’s a parent or a child or a friend, but if you have one of those people in your life, treasure them. They’re the people who add value to your everyday. Don’t take it for granted, but make use of it.

Life down here is dark and sad, and God knows that. Yes, He’s in control. Yes, He knows what He’s doing, but this world is broken. And all of us face terrible sadness every day, and I think that’s why God wants us to laugh. Faith is wonderful. I love having faith, I love trusting that God is going to keep His promises, but that’s hard work. Faith and trust wear me out sometimes, but if I can laugh about it? If I can laugh in spite of life’s troubles, faith isn’t so impossible.

Find something that makes you laugh. Do something that makes you laugh. Just laugh. It will change your perspective. It may not change your circumstances, but it will help you get through them. And if you can cling to joy through your faith, your burdens won’t seem so heavy.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Is your friendship about you?

How important are the friends in your life? Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. I’m so blessed to have amazing people in my life, and I’m so overwhelmed at their kindness and their encouragement, especially in the dark times of my life.

As many of you know, I tend to be somewhat independent (stop rolling your eyes). I don’t like depending on other people, and I don’t like asking for help. But there are times when I need it. And in those times, I have an arsenal of amazing people who step up to surround me with prayer and words that have to come straight from God.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:10.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I thought of this verse today when I thought about friendship. So much of friendship in our culture is about what others can do for us, but what I’ve learned over the years is that friendship–the ones that last–should be about what you can do for your friend.

Have you thought about that? Have you ever asked the friends in your life what you can do for them? Or is your friendship all about you?

What does it mean to show genuine affection to someone? Well, to me, that means you treat someone else kindly out of pure motivation. You do kind things for others because it’s the right thing to do, because you truly want to do it. It’s not a front. It’s not for show. It’s genuine. It’s real.

Show me a friendship with genuine affection, and I’ll show you friends for life.

But genuine affection is a concept, and concepts are great, but they aren’t good for much until you put them into practice. And that’s where the second part of the verse comes in.

Take delight in honoring each other.

Okay. That sounds complicated and religious. Well, it’s not. What does it mean to honor someone? Honoring someone is simply putting that person before yourself. It means showing preference to someone else.

Practically speaking, it’s giving your friend the bigger slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Another translation says to outdo each other in kindness. And another translation says, “practice playing second fiddle.”

Do you need the attention in the friendship? Do you need the be the one who’s at the center all the time? Honestly, ask yourself, because if the answer is yes, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re missing the point of friendship.

God made friends so we wouldn’t have to stand alone, so we could be part of a team, so we could be a part of something bigger than we are. There’s a song on the radio right now with a lyric that always makes me smile: “God put a million million doors in the world for His love to walk through/One of those doors is you.”

And that is so, so true.

If you have friends, take the time to find out what they need. Ask them how you can help them. Get involved in their lives for more than just what you need. Practice playing second fiddle. Skip the attention you think you need. You don’t need it. Shower them with the attention. And something amazing will happen. Your friendship will get stronger. Your friend will grow, and so will you.

I have amazing friends who have poured themselves into my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. What about about you?

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Work at living in peace

Drama confuses me. No, not stage drama. Life drama. Life drama is an incredible waste of time, emotional resources, and opportunity. I don’t care for it, and I have a hard time feeling compassion for people who thrive in it.

You know those people in your life. You know who they are. They’re the ones who can make mountains out of mole hills. They’re the ones who are only content if their life is in a crisis of some kind or another. Having those people in my life makes me appreciate the understated friends I have. Those understated friends are the ones who can be in crisis but you wouldn’t know it. They’re the ones who are experiencing all sorts of difficulty in their lives, but they don’t focus on it.

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Hebrews 12:14.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Which camp do you fall into? It’s okay to admit it if you tend toward the drama queen side of the coin. In some cases, being dramatic about stuff is helpful. Those personalities can be valuable in many circumstances because they tend to get stuff done. They tend to prod others into action. They tend to be ferocious doers.

I’m not dramatic. I’m dry. And sarcastic. And I have this awful tendency … when people nag me about something, I usually go out of my way to avoid doing it. It’s not a very Christ-like response, and I’ll admit it. I’m a work in progress. But nothing gets under my skin like nagging. But part of my non-dramatic reactions to things is a disadvantage because I tend to minimize situations that probably need to be maximized.

So both personalities need each other, the dramatics to spur the non-dramatics into action and the non-dramatics to keep the dramatics planted on the ground instead of whirling around like crazy people. It’s absolutely possible to work together, but it takes effort on both sides.

Working together is harder than it sounds. If you’ve ever been part of a team, you understand what I mean, but no one person is sufficient on his or her own. We all need each other.

Mainly, we just need to be patient with each other. We need to take a moment, take a step back, and remind ourselves what the point is. The vast majority of the time whatever is causing the drama isn’t personal. It’s just different personalities clashing, different points of view crashing into each other, different ways of communicating muddying the waters.

If you’re a dramatic person, recognize it and embrace it. Your intense emotions are a gift, but understand that not everyone around you feels with the same intensity you do. So ease up!

If you’re a non-dramatic person, do the same thing. Realize that your penchant toward the more logical side of life is also a gift. It’s just not as loud. So lighten up!

God made each of us with our own personalities and our own hang ups and our own special gifts. Don’t discount someone just because they burst with emotion over every tiny little thing. And don’t shun someone because they barely react at all either.

Try to see the best in each other. Try to learn from each other. They’re in your life for a reason, and even if you think you escape having a relationship with them, God will bring another one just like them into your life to take their place. He’ll keep doing it until you learn the lesson you need to learn.

So don’t be stubborn. Trust me, you may think you’re the most stubborn person on the planet, but God can match you any day.