An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Living like everyone has a long memory

I don’t often post about work on this blog, mainly because I never want to run the risk of getting too personal in my stories. But my work plays a huge role in my life, and I learn so much from it and from the people I work with. And yesterday, I got a really interesting reminder about the blessing (or danger) of long memories.

Okay. Story time.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a copywriter for a plumbing company. Sometimes I travel to locations around the country where customers are installing our piping systems so I can conduct interviews and write articles. A number of years ago, I was visiting a job site in Cincinnati, and that evening I got to have dinner with the owners of the mechanical contracting shop in charge of the project. We talked industry. We talked politics. We talked plumbing. And then we talked personal interests, and my love of writing came up–along with the science fiction novel I was trying to get published (called Nameless, in case anyone wants to know). Turns out, both of these owners are huge geeks, and they jumped on the topic eagerly, wanting to know how a publishing company works, wanting to understand how writing a book works, wanting to know everything about the book I’d written. At the end of the dinner, they told me they wanted me to keep them updated about the novel so they could buy it when it hits the shelves (in January, published by Crosshair Press).

Well, that was years ago. And there was quite a bit of alcohol consumed around that table. And I honestly figured they hadn’t really meant it. So you can imagine my surprise when the local sales rep from Cincinnati approached me at this year’s National Sales Meeting yesterday and informed me that those two owners had been asking about my book.

I was flabbergasted. I honestly didn’t know what to say. But once I recovered myself, I got to share the exciting news that my book will be published at the beginning of next year, and if they really want to buy it, they will be able to.

Honestly. Two union plumbing contractors interested in my science fiction novel. Of all the things they remembered about me from that night (other than the fact that I only drank water), they remembered my book. And they remembered it well enough to ask about it years afterward.

That made my day.

But then I got to thinking how awful would it have been if they’d remembered something negative about me? So many times people say they don’t have good memories, but what that means is they don’t usually remember good things. When it comes to bad things, people remember in startling detail. And as Christ-followers, we need to be aware of that.

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

What if I had been rude or distant? What if I had been ignorant or proud? What if I had been stuck up or snotty? I think these guys would have remembered that. Or they would have written me off completely, because that’s how they expect people to act.

What do the people around you think of you? Have you ever thought about it? Granted, you shouldn’t choose your actions based on what other people think of you, but never forget that as followers of Christ, we are here to be examples to those who don’t believe. We are ambassadors for Christ, and we are commanded to live lives that are above reproach. That means even if someone accuses of you doing something wrong, the way you live your life will be enough of a witness to show them a liar.

Do you think living that kind of life is impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. Why do you think He left us the Bible? The Bible has everything that we need to live a Christ-honoring life, and–what’s more–if you live according to what the Bible says, you’ll leave an impression on people. And it’ll be a good impression. An impression they’ll remember for years to come.

No, don’t live your life to please people, but never forget that people are always watching. Maybe it’s not fair, but they’re always waiting for that opportunity to write your faith off as something that’s not real. Don’t give them that opportunity.

Love God. Love people. Be real. And watch God work. Who knows what He’ll use in your life to influence people? Don’t discount anything. We serve a God who can feed 10,000 people with a sack lunch, so why am I shocked that He could intrigue two plumbers with a science fiction novel?

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Chair on the lawn - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Share your source of hope and be specific about it

Everybody has bad days once in a while. But some people seem to have it worse than others. Have you ever met someone who just seems to encounter sorrow after sorrow with no break? I have. And most of the time, these folks who suffer so much are often dedicated Christ followers, and the fact that they should be falling apart doesn’t even occur to them. They’re so focused on following Christ that a few hiccups along the way, no matter how inconvenient, don’t bother them at all.

Those people are my heroes.

Chair on the lawn - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Chair on the lawn – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:12-14.

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

Philippians is arguably my favorite book in the Bible. It’s right up there with Psalms. So encouraging, so uplifting, so practical and full of down-to-earth teaching, Philippians is one of my go-to books.

As I was reading, I stopped on these verses. Paul is addressing the Church at Philippi in this letter, and in a number of places Paul hints at the troubles he’s had along the way. But then you come to this set of verses where he reassures the Philippian believers that everything has happened for a reason and that God is already working out the details of his current imprisonment.

How many of us can say that?

And I’m not talking about being in prison. Not literally. Paul was literally in prison, but this was a different era. But he had definitely gone through some frustrating circumstances, and while I may not be in prison, I can identify with situations in my life going nuts. I can identify with struggling to get through a day. I can understand what it’s like to feel trapped by events in my life.

And because I believe in Christ, I usually don’t have a problem being cheerful about the struggles I’m facing. Actually, I’m known for my cheerfulness. Everyone at my office thinks I’m the most positive person they’ve ever met. And that great.

But what good is being cheerful or positive if no one knows it’s for Christ?

You can be cheerful and positive and encouraging all day long without once mentioning the reason you have hope. And more often than not, that’s where I am. I’m rarely specific, and I just let my coworkers come to their own conclusions. Granted, many times this has still led to deeper, more specific conversations because they all come to me and ask advice or opinion. But it’s rare for me to quote Scripture. It’s rare for me to state out loud why I can be cheerful when everything around me is falling apart.

And that’s wrong.

Paul could say that every person around him knew why he was suffering and why he had hope.

I don’t know if I can say the same. Yes, my believer friends know. Yes, people I’m very comfortable with know. But other people? The ones who I have more of a professional relationship with? They assume I’m “religious.” They know I go to church. They know I read the Bible. They know I live by it. But is that enough?

It’s good to say I believe and live the Bible. But what good does that do when the person I’m talking to has no idea what’s even in the Bible? That statement is just as confusing as any religious dogma.

So my intent is to start being less generic and more specific when it comes to addressing the reason for my hope. Because while cheerfulness alone in difficult circumstances may indicate that you have faith, it isn’t going to help anyone else until they understand the source of your hope.