The grace in thinking twice

I never thought it would happen to me. I was sitting in the drive-thru line at Starbucks, eagerly anticipating my pumpkin spice latte. I pulled up to the window, offered my smart phone screen for the barista to scan the code of my Starbucks Card Account. And the barista leans out and says: “The car in front of you paid for your coffee.”

We all heard about the rash of “pay it forward” acts of kindness that seem to strike people in the drive-thru lanes of coffee and fast food establishments. I’ve even done it before, paid for the order of the person behind me. And it’s an amazing feeling!

But this isn’t a post about being grateful. This isn’t even a post about being generous. This is a post about how you shouldn’t feel.

Because when this happened to me, my initial reaction wasn’t gratitude. It was irritation.

Why? Because all I needed was one more purchase on my card to earn a free drink. And because some overly nice person in front of me bought my coffee for me, I’d have to come back again to earn my free coffee.

Yes, I’m that bad of a person.

Yes. Please laugh at me. Because it will make me feel better about being such a horrible, ungrateful person. Goodness.

This is what the Bible means about taking captive every thought, folks (2 Corinthians 10:5). Maybe your initial reaction to something isn’t what it should be, but that’s not the reaction you have to act on.

Tough stuff can happen in life. Things go on that make us question what we believe or lose our faith in others. And then sometimes good things happen too. Sometimes we expect the good things that happen, and other times we don’t. Regardless, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, we’re still supposed to be thankful for it (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I would love to get to the point in my life that my first reaction to anything is spiritual, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. I would love to be the person who can look at any situation and see the beauty of what God is doing immediately. But I’m not there yet. Maybe someday I will be, but until then, I have the grace of second thoughts.

Gratitude isn’t my default. Faith isn’t my default either. My initial reaction any situation is to try to fix it myself or to evaluate it based on my own capability. But, frankly, it isn’t my initial reaction that matters.

My initial reaction to a situation only matters if that’s what I choose to act on. If somebody paid for my overpriced latte and I continued to feel irritated about it because I didn’t get my way, that’s a problem. The question comes down to what’s in your heart? What is your true attitude?

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.”

Initial reactions normally reflect our sin nature. People have bad days. We have difficult seasons that color the way we see our lives and other people. And if you catch us off guard at one of those moments, with a good thing or a bad thing, the way we react at first might not match up to what we say we believe. But that’s not hypocrisy. That’s a startled reaction from a flawed human being.

What matters is how we choose to act from that point on. Second thoughts are usually the point where I get a hold of myself and calm down. My second reaction is usually calmer than the first, reasoned and thought-out, once I’ve had a moment to think about how I feel, what I feel, and why I feel that way. And I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one out there who would say this.

So what can we all take away from this?

Don’t base your understanding of someone on their initial reaction to a situation. It takes a lot longer than a snap decision to get to know another person. Sure, a snap decision can tell you a lot about someone, but not the deep stuff.

And for those of us on the snap decision side? Maybe a spiritual reaction isn’t our default, and maybe it never will be, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving for it. No, we’ll never be perfect, but the more often we choose the right reaction to a situation (good or bad), the sooner that choice will become habit.

So, thank you, whoever you are, for paying for my pumpkin spice latte. It was delicious! And thank you too for helping me understand the grace in thinking twice and the habit of gratitude.

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Loving each other is what makes us different

I decided early on that I wouldn’t comment on this ridiculous red-cup discussion that seems to be dominating all the social media feeds. I don’t know a single Christ-follower who is actually taking it seriously. Actually, what concerns me more about the whole mess is my first reaction to it.

I believed it.

When I read the reports on social media that Christians were upset about the design of Starbucks’s 2015 holiday coffee cups, it didn’t surprise me. I mean, heck, Christians have gotten really upset about a lot of really stupid things before, so why should this be any different?

But as the issue persisted, I started wondering if the whole thing is actually real. Are there actually any Christians out there who have a problem with these crazy red cups? Or was it just a few vocal people who caused a stir that simply went viral?

Regardless, I don’t think my initial reaction to the situation is what it should have been as a Christ-follower.

red-coffee-cup-mugToday’s verses are John 13:34-35.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

How often do you get irritated with other Christians? I probably shouldn’t admit this, but Christians really tick me off. They tick me off faster than non-Christians any day of the week because I have high expectations for Christ-followers. I expect that a Christ-follower is going to want to live like a Christ-follower. I don’t expect someone who has chosen not to follow Jesus to behave like a Christian. Why would they?

But one of the things Jesus said over and over again in Scripture is how we’re supposed to love each other, and He wasn’t talking about Christians loving non-Christians, which of course is true. We’re supposed to love everyone, but Christians are especially supposed to love each other. And part of loving each other is giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

Instead of jumping to conclusions about what other people say about Christians in general, let’s just take a step back for a moment. Just because Christians as a whole tend to be a little panicky and harsh doesn’t mean that they’re stupid and unreasonable and not worth your time. And just because a few media outlets report that Christians are doing/saying things, doesn’t mean they actually are.

Hey, Christian, guess what? You’ve got an enemy out there. Satan would love nothing more than to separate you from your family in Christ, to get you alone and isolated so he can pick you off more easily. That’s what all this antagonism toward other Christians will eventually lead to. We break away from each other. We fight each other. We hurt each other. We believe the worst about each other and keep our distance, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

We’re a family. We’re supposed to be united. Part of loving each other unconditionally is thinking the best about each other, not the worst.

That doesn’t mean that Christians always get it right. And, yes, we need to be aware of that. We each are responsible for what we believe, and that’s between us and God. But you don’t have to believe the same thing as the Christian sitting next to you in order for God to use you.

My first response to the red-cup crisis was ridicule, and I wondered what I would say when I ran into a Christian who was actually upset about the color of a coffee cup. And then, after time passed and I hadn’t met anyone, I started wondering if the person who was in the wrong was me–for assuming that other Christians would even get embroiled in something that’s such a waste of time and energy.

That’s not to say there aren’t antagonistic Christians. I’ve met quite a few of them. And generally, hanging around antagonistic people (Christian or not) isn’t a good idea. But if you’re thrown into a situation where you’ve got to hang around with another Christian, don’t automatically assume that he or she is less knowledgeable than you, less spiritual than you, or less favored than you. Listen to what he or she has to say, and if you agree, great. If you don’t, that’s great too.

If you really are both Christians, you have one thing in common–faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord, and that’s the one thing that actually matters. So start there and build on it.

Let’s love each other, Christians. That means let’s think the best of each other first, until we give each other a reason not to. And if we give each other a reason not to, address the problem with love and respect.

The only thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world is how we love each other. So is it any wonder that the world can’t really tell a difference in us anymore?

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Kindness is more effective than meanness anyday

I was in Starbucks earlier this week, getting a coffee after a very long day. It hadn’t been a bad day necessarily; just crazy and stressful. And the cute little barista girl had this nutty bubbly personality. I thought she was just adorable, and as I was waiting for her to make my coffee, I noticed that she was wearing a set of earrings in the shape of the symbol for the Deathly Hallows. I’m sure they’ve been around for years, but I’d never seen a set like that before. So I told her how much I loved them, and she looked really surprised for a moment. And thanked me because she’d made them herself. She went back to making my coffee, and we continued chatting, just idle talk, and she told me as she handed my coffee over that she wished more people were like me–nice.

That kind of stuck with me (that and the fact that she also likes Doctor Who, which makes her awesome). She was a sweet, cute little barista. Why wouldn’t you be nice to her? But I guess people are people, and working with the public tends to teach you that. I remember the days working behind a counter, at the mercy of whichever customer got there first. And I guess I understand the concept of being rude and mean to make an impression, because it absolutely leaves an impression–it’s just not usually the impression you want to be remembered for.

Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as the nice customer?

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

This is something I think everyone struggles with, especially on bad days. Everyone has bad days. Everyone loses their cool. But I think this verse is talking about more than just the bad days. This verse is referring to a lifestyle. This is the way Christ-followers are supposed to behave. We’re not supposed to cut with our words; we’re supposed to build with our words. Everything we say should be encouraging and inspiring and helpful and kind. Now that doesn’t always mean that the people hearing it will respond in kind. They may get upset at us, but that’s up to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered unfriendly people who snap and bite and snarl because they want their way only to discover later that they are a professing Christian. That breaks my heart because as Christ followers we’re supposed to live a different kind of life. We’re supposed to know better than that. And I’m talking to myself here too because there are times when I get in a funk because my plans didn’t work out. There are times when I’ve gotten snappy with the lady on the other end of the telephone. But I hope I always try to be kind. I hope I always try to say good things. And when I don’t, I hope I always apologize.

Because there’s no disappointment like discovering a Christian behaving like that. Granted, just because we accept Christ doesn’t make us perfect. We’re still going to screw up, but our outlook should change. Our perspective should change. We shouldn’t use words and hurtful things to manipulate people anymore to get what we want; instead, we should trust that God will work things out the way He wants and it’s up to us to roll with the punches.

If you can walk into a place of business and be kind to everyone around you, you’ll be their biggest fan. I remember those customers when I worked at the WSU Library. I remember the ones who came in, who were kind, who were respectful, who were thoughtful and considerate. I remember them even now, and I haven’t worked there since 2006. But those people made me want to help them. Their kindness spurred me to do more for them than I needed to.

That’s what kindness does. It’s more effective than cruel manipulation any day, and it helps you build better relationships. And, what’s more, it helps you have a better day too.

So when you have the chance to get snappy today, don’t. When you’re faced with someone who you think is lazy and incompetent behind a counter and they’re not giving you the customer service you deserve, don’t get angry at them. Don’t take out your frustrations on them. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives. You have no idea what terrible troubles they’re facing right now. Be kind. Say something nice to them. Say something uplifting to them.

You’ll make their day, and I’m willing to bet that your day will probably get better too.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes make the world go ’round

I love pumpkin.

I love pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins and pumpkin coffee.

I think I have blogged about pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin cream cheese muffins from Starbucks for my birthday for the last three years . . . but they’re such a treat, it’s the only time I get them. Of course, my blood sugar is doing funny things today as a result of it.

It has been so long since I posted anything. So much for trying to keep everybody updated.

Well, hope springs eternal. And I am going to try yet again to get a consistant line of thought going on here. At least once a week . . . because I know there are SO many people out there who really care about what’s going on in my life . . . . =)

But for now, as I celebrate my 28th year on Earth, I’m going to drink my pumpkin coffee and probably go have Indian food for lunch because I need something spicy to help with the congestion from the massive allergy attack I’m suffering at present.

Ah, fall! The season of change has returned to Kansas with a fury . . . . In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this much change before . . . .

But that is for another post. Hopefully. Eventually. Possibly. =)