Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

What you miss when you judge others wrongly

Have you ever made a judgment call on someone else’s personality only to discover later that you were wrong? Yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing. And it happened to me yesterday.

The first leg of my flight went from Philadelphia to Atlanta yesterday around noonish, and I ended up tucked against a wall at the back of an MD88 next to a grouchy, irritable woman and her absent-minded mother, and of course we were sitting in front of an infant who wouldn’t stop crying for the entire two-hour flight.

So needless to say, by the time I got off the plane in Atlanta, my nerves were shot. So when I boarded the flight bound for Wichita, I was already in a pretty foul humor.

I walked up to my seat, and there was an old man in my row. I politely told him that I had the window seat, and he took one look at me and my WSU t-shirt and said: “Oh, you’re one of those #$%& Shockers.” And then he proceeded to mutter about idiots and morons as I climbed over him to get to my seat.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say or what to think, so I just tried not to do either. I responded politely, buckled myself in, and then plugged my earphones in for the rest of the flight.

What on earth could possess someone to say something like that? Or to be so mean in general? Seriously. It was extraordinarily rude.

Fortunately for my mental state, the seat between us remained empty, so we both got to stretch out a little for the short hop between Atlanta and Wichita. But I kept my earphones in because I really didn’t want to talk to him.

A little more than halfway through the flight, when the flight attendants came around with drinks and pretzels, he put the middle tray table down and indicated that I could set my drink there if I didn’t want to risk spilling on my Kindle.

After I finished my drink and my pretzels, I packed them up neatly and shut my eyes for just a moment. Well, I guess I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up later to discover that he had taken care of my trash too. And a few moments later as the plane began to descend, he started doing the cha-cha sitting down. I thought there was something wrong with him, but then I realized he had earphones in too and was rocking out to some kind of music.

It was actually kind of funny.

Shortly thereafter we were on the ground, and the grumpy old man and his wife disappeared in the rush to deplane. But it left me wondering if he really was as grumpy as he seemed. And maybe I missed an opportunity to have a really great conversation with someone.

Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is John 7:24.

Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.

We hear it all the time: Don’t judge. Don’t judge. Don’t judge. Well, guess what, folks? We all judge. We judge everything all the time. If we didn’t, we’d all be making stupid decisions every moment of our lives.

We have to judge. We have to make judgment calls. If you never weigh two decisions against a standard, you never know what it is to make a choice, and you never understand what it is to make a wise choice.

What is interesting about this verse is that Jesus says it to the religious leaders of His time. They were attacking Him because He had healed someone on the Sabbath, the time when people weren’t supposed to work, but Jesus threw their attacks back in their faces. And rightly so. Because the religious leaders only grasped the letter of the law and not its meaning.

Every situation, every person, every thing in life is more than it appears. There’s always more to the story. There’s always more to a person than what you see. But if you make your judgment call based on something superficial, you may miss the point. And you may miss the opportunity to bless someone or to be blessed yourself.

Now I’m not saying you should throw caution to the wind and run out and do something foolish right now. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that maybe we should give people the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that grouchy old man had just gotten off a flight where he’d had to listen to a child screaming or had to listen to the psychotic ramblings of an angry passenger. Maybe he was at his wit’s end too. That didn’t mean he wasn’t worth talking to.

So the next time you encounter someone who might not look or act the way you think they ought to, don’t just write them off. Don’t just ignore them because you don’t think they’re worth your time.

You never know. God may have put you in their path for such a time as this–or vice versa. But if you pass them by, you’ll never know.

My kitchen after I bake

Knowing what’s right but refusing to do it

I love to cook and bake for other people, and I love having people come stay at my house. What I don’t love is the clean up. There’s something about hosting a party in this crazy old farmhouse that is just tons of fun, and I try to do it as often as my schedule allows. But when I can’t have people out, I still like to bake things to bring to work or to other events. But when it comes to cleaning up my kitchen after I bake, I tend to drag my feet.

I don’t have a dishwasher. That could be a contributing factor. But generally speaking, I just don’t like doing dishes. So I let them pile up.

My kitchen after I bake

My kitchen after I bake - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The verses for today are Genesis 4:6-7.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

All humans are psycho. Let’s just get that out in the open. If you’re a human being, you’re insane. It’s part of our flawed character. Everyone has this issue where we do the things we know are wrong and then we wonder why we get in trouble. Doesn’t matter how minor the wrong thing was, we are still surprised (or defensive) when someone catches us in the act. And the only explanation I can think of for that is that we’re all screwed up.

This is what happened to Cain. Cain and his younger brother Abel knew how to present a sacrifice to God. Their father had done it, and they had grown up knowing what God expected. Abel did it right; Cain thought his way was better. So Cain did it his own way, and God didn’t accept it. But notice that God didn’t reject Cain; just his offering. God gently explained what went wrong.

If Cain had been wiser, he would have listened. But those who know the story know he wasn’t much of a listener.

For me, doing the dishes is right. It’s my house. I made the mess. So it’s my responsibility to clean up. I could just leave them (and from this photo, obviously, that’s what I did), but then I wouldn’t have any dishes to eat my lunch on. And I wouldn’t have any pots and pans to bake with. Would it make sense for me to get angry because I don’t have dishes to eat on? If I did, it would be my own fault.

Just like when we get a speeding ticket. We’re speeding. We’re breaking the law. Why are we surprised when we get pulled over? Why are we angry at law enforcement when we are the ones who were doing what was wrong?

God has created all of us with a conscience. We know what’s right. We know what’s wrong. And we have a choice between which one to do. So what does it mean when know what’s right and we refuse to do it?

In Cain’s story, he let his own desires and his own rage dictate his actions instead of doing what he knew was right, and he killed his younger brother. With my dishes, obviously, I’m not going to kill anyone. If nothing else, it will mainly be a reflection on my own poor skills as a housekeeper. But for us to know what is right and refuse to do it indicates deeper issues. With Cain it was pride. With my dishes, it’s laziness. I know doing my dishes is the right thing to do, but it takes a lot of effort. And it’s easier to just let them sit. But it’s not right.

And if I let my dishes sit, even though I know it’s wrong, how much longer will it be before I let other things in my life sit too?

If you know what’s right and refuse to do it, watch out! That’s what this verse says. If you’re rationalizing why you don’t have to do what’s right, be so careful. Because that is the first step to allowing sin to control you. And that’s not how we were designed to live. And if you are a follower of Christ, you don’t have to be controlled by your sin.

If I just do my dishes right away, I always get done faster than I expect. But when I leave them sit, I have to scrub on them because everything dries up.

Doing what’s right will take effort. That’s true. And doing what’s wrong seems easy at first, but the consequences take more effort to deal with than doing the right thing straight off.