Take the good and learn from the bad

We have an old orchard here are Safe Haven Farm. It’s nothing fancy. Not even close to fancy. It’s just mainly old. But we’ve got apricots and mulberries and pears. But these aren’t nice pears. Oh, no. These are wood pears. Not sure if that’s really what they’re called or not, but that’s what folks around here call them. They’re fibrous and tough and hard as rocks. Seriously, you get conked on the head with one of these pears, and you’ll be nursing a lump for a week or more (ask me how I know).

That being said, if you can get a knife into them to cut out the bad parts, they’ve got really great flavor. So if you don’t mind doing a lot of work (and I mean a lot of work), you can actually end up with some pretty tasty preserves. It’s quite a labor intensive process, but we think it’s mostly worth it. Thankfully, we have a revolutionary thing in our home–a Squeezo. I’m sure I’ve posted about the Squeezo before, but it really makes pear processing so much easier.

It’s awesome because you take the cooked pears, dump them inside the hopper, crank them through, and good pear sauce comes out, while the bad stuff like the fibrous bits and pieces of core come out in a different bowl. It’s really handy because it separates the bad from the good.

The Squeezo machine for processing canned goods

The Squeezo machine for processing canned goods

Today’s verses are Colossians 4:5-6.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds. Eat the chicken around the bones. There’s a lot of idiom about how to get through life, and a lot of it has to do with eating. That isn’t really relevant. Just interesting.

We all know that life is a mixed bag. Sometimes you end up in situations that are half-good. Other times you end up in situations that are mostly bad. But it’s rare that you’re ever in a circumstances that’s truly ALL good or ALL bad. No matter how bad your circumstances may be, you can always find something good about it.

You may be in a really low place today. That’s okay. Everyone has been there (yes, I promise, everyone has been there before). And maybe the only good thing you can find is that God loves you unconditionally, and you know what? If you know God loves you unconditionally, that’s enough good to tackle any bad circumstance, even if that’s the only good thing you know.

Life will throw you curve balls. People will disappoint you. Your job won’t be what you expected. You might be abandoned or betrayed or lied on or disliked, but it’s your choice to focus on those things. Just like processing pears, you’ve got a Squeezo for your life. Not to be cutesy about it, but if you look at your life through the Bible, you’ll get a much clearer picture on what is good and what isn’t.

When God says something is true and right and good, hold on to it. When God says something is wrong, let it go. Just let that lie or that rumor or those hurtful words roll right off into the trash bowl, because they’re not useful for anything except to be thrown away. Focus instead on the good that will come out of the situation–what you’ll learn, what you’ll know, how you’ll be able to better help someone else.

Regardless if the situation you’re facing is good or bad, you can make the most of it with God’s help. Ask God to come alongside you and show you what you’re missing, and He’ll point out ways that you can overcome this circumstance that you’re facing. God’s Word will help you to sort out what’s true and what isn’t, but you have to use it if you want it to work.

Advertisements

Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.

 

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

The opportunity in a challenge

Life is full of challenges, and, in my experience, we like to tackle a challenge by throwing optimistic clichés at it. Nothing worth having was ever easy to get. It will be worth it in the end. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And so on and so forth.

But rather than regurgitating the same “power of positive thinking” messages over and over again every time something difficult appears in your path, wouldn’t it be more effective to alter your perspective entirely? After all, why does a challenge have to be challenging? What else is a challenge but an opportunity in disguise?

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

At work yesterday, I found out that my office is going to be majorly restructured — again. My department was part of a major restructure about a year and a half ago. It was a big deal for many people, but my department escaped relatively unscathed. Not this time. And the result is that my boss (who I love) will be staying in one place while the rest of us move to another division.

At first, I tried to think positively. I really don’t like change. I try to like it. I try to accept it, but it’s difficult for me. So when change comes along and I am forced to comply with its wishes, I do my best to look on the bright side. But positive thinking can only get you so far. And that’s the wall I hit yesterday because no matter how positively I think, I can come up with a possible negative scenario for each positive option.

What if our new boss (who hasn’t been selected yet) is uptight and controlling? What if our new boss is a micro-manager and a OCD-ish bully? What if he or she is stingy about vacations and FlexTime? What if we aren’t allowed to take off an hour early for emergencies?

No matter how many positive spins you put on any of those, having a challenging boss could make my professional life very difficult. It could be a challenge. And I could treat it like a challenge. But if I treat it like a challenge, I’m going to be defensive. I’m going to spend all my time scrambling to hold whatever ground I think I already occupy. I’m going to clamp down hard to cling to my rights and my privileges and my this and my that.

But what if I change my mind about what defines a challenge? What if instead of focusing on how I react when it goes wrong, I focus on what opportunities I will have to make a difference? How will that change my attitude? How will that help me grow, not only as an employee but as a believer?

If I look at my professional life with a difficult boss and I treat the situation like an opportunity to make a difference instead of a challenge to be overcome, my entire attitude will change. There won’t be any defensiveness. There won’t be any arguments or scrambling to get out of the kill box. There won’t be a stampede or a rush to gain as much ground and hold on to as much as possible. There will just be meekness and agreeableness and pleasantness.

Isn’t that the way we’re supposed to be anyway?

Now please don’t misunderstand. If you’ve got a boss (or even a coworker) who’s deliberately taking advantage of you, you probably need to say something about it. Or it could be a sign that you’re supposed to move on. But more Christians that I have met are developing an entitlement mentality about their jobs. Yes, as employees we have a right to expect certain things, but I think we take it too far sometimes. A job is a job; your boss is your boss. If you don’t like it, don’t just sit and complain; either change your perspective or quit.

It’s better to change your perspective, honestly. Because if you can learn to change challenge to opportunity in your own mind, there’s not much that will be able to slow you down in every other area of your life. If you can tackle difficulty with true joy, what can Satan throw at you that will stop you? If you can look disappointment square in the eye and try again, knowing that God’s timing is perfect, what can keep you down?

Challenges are a part of life. We have to deal with that. But they don’t have to be challenging. Turn the challenge into an opportunity to grow. And you’ll not only succeed professionally but you’ll learn how to handle the things that really matter in life.