Getting angry doesn’t make a bad situation better

I struggle with bad drivers. It’s really the one thing that gets me unreasonably upset. I’m not the greatest driver in the world either, but it just makes me really really angry when other people on the road don’t take it seriously. It’s like they don’t understand that they’re controlling a giant killing machine. A car is a weapon, yet many drivers treat it like a toy.

I get angry. And I know I’ve said some things (my passengers can attest) that weren’t very flattering about other drivers on the road. But can you think of a time when yelling at a bad driver actually made them a better driver? Can you actually think of a time when yelling at anyone actually helped them?

man-couple-people-woman_1523x1016Today’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:25-26.

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.

It’s tempting to yell and get angry, especially when we’re mad, but in my experience, losing my temper with someone else never fixes a bad situation. It only makes it worse.

Maybe it’s driving. Maybe it’s schoolwork. Maybe it’s a work project. Whatever situation you’re in, if you’re shouting and getting upset at the people around you, that won’t make them work harder. If anything, it will make them want to quit. It will just put distance between you and them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You still need to speak up for what’s right. You still need to communicate with other people about what you’re thinking and feeling, but you should do it it in a way that is respectful. Be gentle about it.

Being gentle isn’t be weak. That’s an important thing to remember. Being gentle just means you’re taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration. You aren’t behaving like a bulldozer and steamrolling everyone in your path. Oftentimes being gentle actually takes more strength than letting loose on someone does.

If you know someone who believes a lie or who is antagonistic to the truth or who is just being stupid, regardless of how angry you are at them, it’s your job to love them. That’s our job. Period. Love people, in spite of how they act. Don’t pull punches, though. What’s true is true, whether people believe it or not, and as a Christ-follower it’s your job to be right. You should know what God says and so it. But that doesn’t mean you have to pummel people over the head with clubs. We don’t use the Bible to beat people up. We use the Bible to teach ourselves how to live, and in the peace of the life we life with Christ, other people come to Him.

Remember, it’s not up to us to save people. It’s up to us to live the way God says, and people around us will be drawn to that.

So don’t put it on yourself to bludgeon people into submission. If you’re going to bludgeon anyone, bludgeon yourself.

You can fight someone else all day long and have nothing to show for it but a fractured relationship. Instead, speak what’s true with love. You can tell people what God says without being hurtful. Do that instead. Leave the rest to God. He’s the only one who can change hearts, and that’s where the root of all our problems starts anyway.

Advertisements

The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to others

Is there a standard for how a Christ-follower is supposed to treat people? I mean, we’re supposed to love each other. That much is obvious. But there are different ways to demonstrate love, and it varies from person to person.

The Bible has so many practical solutions in its pages, and I’m so thankful. A cerebral answer to a question like that wouldn’t help much. And what’s interesting is that just about everybody knows this particular standard, whether they read (or even believe) the Bible at all.

bench-sea-sunny-man_1473x976Today’s verse is Matthew 7:12.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Everybody knows the Golden Rule. It’s one of those cultural things we talk about all the time, but even though we talk about it a lot, we don’t always keep to it. Why? Because it’s hard!

It’s really difficult to treat other people with the same regard that you have for yourself. I mean, it’s easy to give yourself another chance when you screw up. After all, you know your own heart. You know you didn’t mean to do it. But when someone else screws up? That’s unacceptable.

We’ve all been there.

But there’s another aspect to the Golden Rule that I hadn’t really considered. The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to other people. It’s not just how you’re supposed to act, but it’s also about how you should treat other people. Maybe those revelations sound identical, but they’re very different.

Let’s say that you are having a really bad day, and your friend brings you flowers to cheer you up. And you appreciate it. It’s thoughtful, but quite honestly, you don’t do flowers. You don’t really like them. And they make you sneeze. So while you are grateful for the thought, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to you.

But stop for a minute and think about what just happened. Your friend wanted to cheer you up, so he/she brought you flowers because flowers mean something to him/her. What does this have to do with the Golden Rule? Well, your friend would want someone to bring him/her flowers on  a bad day, so that’s why he/she did it for you. Now you know that. So tuck it away. Maybe you’d never give someone flowers ordinarily because you find them annoying, but your friend likes them.

People aren’t mind readers, you know, and many times I think we do things for other people based on what makes us happy.

Now, we shouldn’t only do kind things for other people because we want them to be kind to us. We should be kind because God says it’s what we should do. And, truthfully, it’s better if you just communicate with each other. But people don’t really communicate anymore. And even when we do, there’s still some kind of disconnect that prevents us from saying what we really mean. So you have to learn to listen to the things people don’t say.

Maybe what that person in your life did for you doesn’t resonate with your desires. Maybe it wasn’t anything close to what you would do for someone else or what you would expect someone to do for you. But the principle of the Golden Rule is that it’s not about you anyway.

So pay attention to how others treat you and what others do for you. They may be telling you without words how you can be a blessing to them. And there’s really nothing more awesome than being a blessing to someone else.

Each of us is but a breath … so don’t waste it in silence

Wednesday and Thursday of last week were very sad days in Wichita, Kansas. The news broke on Thursday that a well-known personality in our amazing city was murdered in a senseless act of violence. It’s one thing when a celebrity in some other part of the country dies or is killed in a car wreck. It’s something else when it happens to someone who touched your own life, even if it were indirectly.

I didn’t know Tanya Tandoc, but I ate at her restaurant frequently. Tanya’s Soup Kitchen is one of those Wichita landmarks that you just have to visit. But beyond her soup and her amazing recipes, from what I am told, Tanya was a really awesome person. And even though I didn’t know her, I feel the city’s loss. I also frequented her brother’s coffee shop–Espresso To Go Go. Both locations. I love their coffee, and everyone inside is always so nice. From what I understand, they had a falling out some time ago, and I’m not sure if they ever made up. Her brother posted a moving, touching statement on Facebook … my heart just hurts for them.

Horrible things happen to good people. The world is broken. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. And it’s a solemn, sobering reminder that if there’s something between you and another loved one–family or not–you should make it right before it’s too late. You might not get another day.

Amazing, beautiful, tasty soups from the incredible Tanya's Soup Kitchen in Wichita, KS

Amazing, beautiful, tasty soups from the incredible Tanya’s Soup Kitchen in Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 39:4-7.

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

It’s hard to hold on to hope when bad things happen, but what else can we do? Give up? Sure, you can, but what good does that do? What does that accomplish? And maybe it’s easy to blame God and accuse Him of not caring. He’s an easy target after all, because if He’s so good, why does He let bad things happen?

Well, we know the answer to that. Bad things happen because the world is broken, and we are the ones who broke it. And what our lives come down to is trust–trusting that God is as good as He says He is, trusting that He knows what He’s doing, and that He can bring something beautiful out of tragedy and heartbreak.

It’s easy to get trapped thinking that we have enough time. It’s easy to put stuff off because we can do it tomorrow. But we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can’t control that. And if we can wrap our heads around it, it would change the way we live. It would change the way we treat people. It would change the way we spend money.

It might be a difficult choice, but isn’t it worth it? If you don’t wake up in the morning, do the people you love know that you love them? Or have you let life and petty squabbles come between you?

Life is brief. Don’t waste it.

There’s something better on the other side

The light in my upstairs landing burned out a few months ago. A burned out light bulb in the city is one thing. The ambient light from outside often illuminates the inside of a house enough to see by, but out here in the country? Everything is always pitch black, until there’s a full moon.

Burned out light bulbs have always been interesting to me because they don’t look much different from a new light bulb. At least with the old incandescent bulbs, you could shake them to hear if the filament was dislodged. But with the new curlicue bulbs, I haven’t figured out how to look at one and determine if it works or not.

They look like they should work just fine, but when you actually try to use them, they’re broken.

bulbToday’s verse is Hebrews 13:14.

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Have you ever realized how broken our world is? Maybe it looks fine on the outside, but in practical use, nothing works the way it’s supposed to? It’s one thing to know it. It’s something else to experience it, to watch your friends experience it, to see the pain and the suffering it causes.

Just turn on the television. Just listen to the radio. Spend an hour talking to someone at work or at school or at church. Everybody’s broken, but the world is more broken than any of us.

It’s so sad because God designed this world to function in a certain way. He put processes and rules and laws in place when He created it, and while all of those processes and rules and laws are still working, they have to use pieces that are falling apart.

It’s like our own lives, our relationships. Two perfect people would never find themselves on opposite sides. They’d always understand what the other was saying, and they’d never try to hurt each other. But nobody’s perfect. So in this world, our friendships and relationships of all kinds have to be built with imperfect materials.

We’re all insecure. We’re all afraid. We’re all jealous. How do you build a lasting relationship when the base materials you have to use are only good for tearing things apart? Maybe you could build a beautiful home with a horrible foundation, and maybe it will look perfect–but the first storm that comes along will bring it crashing down because it doesn’t work. It was broken from the start.

There are days when I know God can fix anything. There are moments when I believe that God is the restorer and can mend hearts and relationships and families and friendships. And I don’t doubt that. I’ve never doubted that. And I’ve seen Him do miracles more than once.

But is our world really worth fixing? Have you really thought about that? I mean, it would be wonderful if He did, but if you read Scripture, you understand that the way everything is falling apart isn’t a surprise. If you know the Bible, you know this global rebellion against God was coming. Maybe it’s not what God wanted for us, but it’s what has to happen before He can come back.

It’s so tempting to get attached to our lives here because they feel real. The taste of the coffee in my cup, the feel of the sunshine on my face in my upstairs office window, the smell of the apricots blossoming in the orchard. But it’s not real–not by God’s definition. It will all pass away in the end, and if I’m not invested in the things that are real, I’ll have nothing.

This world where we live isn’t our permanent home. It’s nobody’s permanent home. We will all live somewhere in eternity, but there are only two choices. And if you don’t choose one, that means you’re automatically choosing the other.

Jesus is real. Faith is real. Love is real. And the souls of the people around you are real. That’s what you should be investing in. You can spend all your money and all your time working to achieve a status or a goal the world says is admirable, but if God doesn’t say it’s worth it, it’s not.

Don’t get caught up in living in this world. Christ-follower or not, you’re not long for it. Not in comparison to forever.

But don’t be discouraged either. Our world is broken. People are broken. We’re all falling apart physically, emotionally, mentally. Nothing works the way it was supposed to, but that’s because this world isn’t our home. There’s something better on the other side, and that’s worth believing in.

When feeling insecure becomes an act of aggression

You can’t believe they said that about you, can you? It’s completely untrue, of course. Designed to hurt and tear you down. Why would anyone say something about you to hurt you when you haven’t done anything to them?

Have you been in that situation? Asked those questions? If you’ve gotten out of bed and interacted with people at any point in your life, you probably have.

It’s a fact of life that not everyone you meet is going to like you. If you’re a people pleaser like me, that’s devastating. I hate the thought that I might encounter people who don’t automatically like me. Even worse, thinking about someone who actively dislikes me turns my stomach inside out. Such a thing makes me wish I were born with more of a hardened personality so that encountering those types wouldn’t be so heartbreaking–but if I had someone else’s personality, I wouldn’t be me.

The truth of the situation? It’s not even about me. And it’s not about you either.

There just seems to be a percentage of the population who is dead set on tearing others around them to pieces. Nothing you can do will change their minds. Nothing you say will convince them otherwise. Some people just see other people as tools or objects to use in their own personal struggle for significance. Why is that?

Insecurity is a silent aggressor. It sneaks up on you like a thief in the night and whispers lies to your heart. It starts with comparison. You see someone you know and you see them doing amazing things, and maybe you’re happy for them at first. But it doesn’t take long before you start seeing that person you know as a rival or as competition. You see that person and their success, and you think their life must be perfect. And it’s not fair, because you deserve success more than they do.

The longer you sit on that passive, silent aggression, the stronger it gets. And then, one day, it’s not silent anymore. And you start nit-picking that person’s actions in front of other people. You start looking for chinks in their armor, and when you find one, you tell others. Because if everybody knows about that person’s weakness, people won’t think they’re perfect anymore. You tell yourself you’re doing the world a favor, because nobody wants to idolize someone who obviously has so many flaws. If you can bring them down to your level, they won’t get the spotlight. They won’t be the hero. They won’t be superior.

But the flaw in that thinking is that the person you’re tearing down is superior in the first place. In your own mind, you build them up until they’re standing on a pedestal above everyone else, and there’s a good chance that person never asked to be in that position. And if you’re both followers of Christ, there’s a good chance God put them there on purpose.

JEALOUSY-_-SESSIONToday’s verses are Psalm 75:4-7.

I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’
I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists!
Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens
or speak with such arrogance.’”
For no one on earth—from east or west,
or even from the wilderness—
should raise a defiant fist.
It is God alone who judges;
he decides who will rise and who will fall.

Insecurity may be more dangerous than any other emotion. At least, that’s been my personal experience. When I started feeling insecure around other people, that’s when I would turn into someone I’m not. My own feelings of insecurity tainted the words others said to me, so that even praise became thinly-veiled criticism.

When you see your relationships through the fog of personal insecurity, it wrecks you. And it causes you to wreck others.

So why do we feel it? Why do the successes of other people cause us to doubt our own gifts? Why do the talents of our peers make us see ourselves as less than worthy of God’s grace or blessing?

It’s the same lie the enemy has been telling us for years, friends. Pride. Our enemy knows our weaknesses, and he appeals to them on the level that will be most effective in turning us against each other.

You see someone else succeed where you’ve failed, and he whispers that it should have been you. That you deserved to win, and life caused you to lose. You start putting talented people on pedestals, but it won’t be long before you wonder why you don’t deserve to be up there too. Pride leads to jealousy, and jealousy turns into action. And it will all start with the simple question: Why not me?

And, frankly, it’s not that you shouldn’t ask that question. That question is a great one to ask, and the answer might even spur you on to do something great for God. But you should never ask it thinking that the person you’re admiring is any more worthy of God’s grace or blessing than you are. No one is worthy. Period. Not even the most perfect, most spiritual person you know.

God decides who succeeds based on His own Will. No, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail. But it does mean that if you’ve failed, you still have something to learn. And, honestly, if you talk to that person you’ve been tearing down, I’d bet you’d discover that they see themselves as a failure in many areas as well.

If you’re that person who feels the need to rip others down to make yourself feel better, stop it. And if you’re a follower of Christ and you still feel the need to point out the flaws in other believers, you need to take a moment and ask yourself who you’re listening to. Because if you feel like you have to tear others down to make yourself feel better, you’re not listening to God. You’re listening to His enemy, the enemy who despises you simply because God loves you.

If you’re the person who’s been hurt by what others have said about you, don’t let it get to you. Recognize insecurity where you see it. Don’t get angry. See it for what it is and forgive. It’s not worth getting angry about. Trust me. Most accusations from insecure people are baseless anyway. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but you don’t have to stoop to their level. What matters is what God thinks, and God knows the truth. That should be good enough for you.

Don’t let insecurity creep into your relationships. If you see someone succeeding, rejoice with them. Maybe you didn’t achieve the same measure of success they did, but maybe that’s not where your gifts are. Maybe God has a better plan for you. Or maybe God’s just trying to teach you something. Either way, tearing someone else down with your words or your actions is never ever the right choice.

We all struggle to love somebody

Last Saturday was Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as Single’s Awareness Day. Facebook filled with funny cards and photographs. The grocery stores had aisles that practically glowed red with all the candy and flowers and stuffed animals.

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I mean, it’s all right. I’m sure it’s very sweet and romantic if you’re in a relationship, and it’s certainly fun to find cheap chocolate everywhere (unless you’re really not supposed to be eating it anyway). But I’m not sure my feelings about it would change even if I were in a relationship.

In our culture, Valentine’s Day has become known as a holiday of love, where everybody makes it a point to do something special for that special someone in his or her life. And, again, that’s perfectly fine and dandy. It just seems to me that loving each other shouldn’t be a once-a-year thing. Shouldn’t it be an everyday thing? No, maybe buying each other hearts full of chocolate shouldn’t happen every day (though that would be lovely), but spending special time with someone on a regular basis should be a part of a long-term relationship. That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

Valentine’s Day is like Thanksgiving or Christmas. It isn’t something we should celebrate just once a year. It should happen all the time–and even more often if you are a follower of Christ.

valentineToday’s verse is John 13:34

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples at the end of the Last Supper. He is preparing to go to the cross in mere hours, and this is one of the final things He says to His followers.

Jesus isn’t being vague here, is He? Love each other. There’s no option there. It’s not, Love each other if you feel like it. Or, Love each other as long as you treat each other the way you want to be treated. All Jesus says is, Love each other. Period.

No frills. No wiggle room. No other options. Love each other. But He doesn’t stop there. He tells us to love each other the way He loves us. So that begs the question, how did Jesus love us? Well, He died for us, didn’t He? He loved us so much He was willing to sacrifice His title, His throne, His home, His comfort, and His glory to die a humiliating and excruciating public death.

I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone that much. Not even myself.

Jesus doesn’t say it would be nice if we could love each other that much. He doesn’t say it would be in our best interests if we could love each other that much–or even that it would please Him if we loved each other that much. He just says do it. He commands it.

Loving each other isn’t convenient. Whether it’s romantic love or the kind of love Jesus is talking about, love takes hard work. It’s not always an easy decision, and it’s rarely without cost. And, frankly, it has very little to do with how you feel. At least, that’s been my experience.

I have to choose to love people. I’m not a recluse or a hermit, but I have those tendencies. Love and mercy are not my gifts. I’ve mentioned before that some people say I’m uncompassionate, and I am. Love doesn’t come easily for me, but I choose to love people because Jesus commanded me to do it.

Granted, some people are easier to love than others. But then, some people make it almost impossible to love them. But somehow I’ve got to figure out how. That doesn’t mean I have to be their best friend. That doesn’t mean I have to go out of my way to spend all my time with them. But it does mean that I need to be kind to them, regardless of whether they are kind in return or not.

So who’s the person in your life that you are trying to love today? Everybody has someone. Don’t be ashamed. We all struggle to love somebody. Just remember that you don’t have to do it alone.

God provides what He requires. He always has. If He requires us to love each other, He will give us the strength and the opportunity to show His love to the people around us. Just be open to it, and live your life the way Jesus would. If you’re following in Jesus’ footsteps, living a life of love will just happen.

Your world won’t end when God says no

Think back to the time when you were a child. Do you remember a time when you wanted something? Not just wanted. Desperately needed it. Were convinced your life would end without it. Maybe it was a new doll. Maybe it was a specific pair of tennis shoes. Maybe it was a second helping of Cheerios.

And your authority figure, be it mom or dad or grandparent, said the word every child hates: No.

Oh, the despair! The inhumanity! Mom won’t buy me the new Magic Potty Baby! Life as I know it is over!

You’d think that’s what a kid believes if you’ve ever seen a kid react to the word No. As grownups, we look at that and laugh. Admit it. When a kid pitches a fit over something silly, it’s funny–at least it is to me.

No, I don’t make a habit of walking around laughing at crying children. I’m uncompassionate, but even I’m not that bad. It’s funny because it’s not a big deal. It’s not anything worth getting upset about, but the kid sees it as the end of the world.

Ever wonder if that’s how God feels about us sometimes?

tantrum-729-620x349Today’s verses are Job 42:2-5.

“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

Job 42 is the last chapter of one of the most difficult books of the Bible for me. It’s a difficult book because basically the conclusion is that God is God and we aren’t–and God has the right to do whatever He wants whenever He wants. He is God. He is justified. He is the only One worthy.

I believe that, but, boy, when you like getting your own way, it’s hard to swallow some days. But in those moments where you don’t get your way, think about a parent and a child.

In a normal, healthy relationship, a parent doesn’t withhold good things from a child out of malice. Parents like to make their children happy. Parents like to give their children things that please them. But is everything that pleases a child good for them?

Children love candy, but they shouldn’t have candy all the time. It’s not good for them. Maybe candy makes them happy, but too much of it will make them sick. It’s not a difficult concept for an adult to grasp, but it might be too much for a child. All the kid needs to understand is that mommy or daddy said no, and it’s for the best.

We wonder why children can’t be okay with that, but are we okay when God’s response is the same?

We all want what we want. You want that job. You want that girlfriend or boyfriend. You want that car. God says no, and we have a meltdown.

I had that experience this week. God obviously intended me to go to jury duty, but I didn’t want to. I had other plans this week, and if I didn’t make them happen, it was going to slow everything else down. In my mind, it was potentially catastrophic.

Oh, and I can get huffy with the best of them. Why me, God? There are hundreds of other people in Reno County who could do this? Why does it have to be me?

Grownup temper tantrum. Right there. Didn’t do me any good, and I went to jury duty and learned some things that I needed to know anyway. God knew that would happen. He knew it was best for me, even if I thought it was a waste of time.

Let’s take it a step further. God says you should save sex for marriage. God says abortion is wrong. God says homosexuality is wrong. And what do we do? That’s right. We adults have grownup temper tantrums and storm off.

If God won’t give us our way, we’ll go someplace where we can do what we want. That’s our thinking, isn’t it? But don’t you see the similarities between that type of behavior and a child denied a second helping of Cheerios before dinner?

We all need to come to the same place Job was at–me especially. We need to wrap our brains around the fact that God is God, and He doesn’t need our permission or approval to act or to delay. And just because He leads us into an uncomfortable or inconvenience circumstance doesn’t mean He’s left us behind. And it doesn’t mean He’s not in control either.

You’re not a child anymore. You don’t want to be treated like a child, so stop acting like one. When life doesn’t go your way, don’t throw a temper tantrum. Face it head on, believing that God knows best (He does, by the way), and one day you’ll understand.

Think about it this way. That thing God’s telling you that you can’t have? Maybe you think it’s the end of your world, but God knows it isn’t.