Check that attitude, Donut Girl

I’m not a big donut eater. But I’m traveling. As you’re reading this post today, I’m on the road yet again, but this time I’m on the way home. The editing conference in Atlanta was absolutely wonderful, and I’ll be posting about it in more detail later on. But yesterday morning, as my friends and I were getting ready to go to church, we decided that we wanted donuts for breakfast.

And I figured it would serve as a reward for pretending to be an extrovert for almost an entire week. So I jumped in the car and drove down to the nearest donut shop. I won’t identify which one, but I can tell you they’re all over the place in this part of the world.

I went through the drive in and asked for chocolate-glazed donuts. Now, I don’t know if it’s a family thing or a cultural thing or a regional thing, but to me a chocolate-glazed donut was a chocolate-frosted donut. Apparently, that’s incorrect, because when the Donut Gal in the window showed me the box of donuts, I saw chocolate cake donuts with glaze on them. I realized my mistake immediately and apologized.

Well, Donut Girl heaved a heavy sigh, rolled her eyes, and stormed back to the donut case to replace the glazed donuts with the frosted ones. When she returned, she wouldn’t even look at me and initiated a conversation with the next person at the window behind me.

At first, I was really irritated, because that’s just rude.

Check that attitude donut girlYes, I was wrong and caused her some level of inconvenience, but I did apologize. And the least she could have done was acknowledge that I was sorry. But then, I thought about her. I mean, she’s working in a gas station donut shop. She probably doesn’t get tips. She may not even get paid well, And she works with the public. So I can understand some irritability.

It was mainly the attitude that irked me. I’ve never ordered donuts in a drive-thru before. I’m also not a normal customer of this particular donut chain. But if I were, I would be upset enough about this experience that I might not come back. Donut Girl has a responsibility to her employer to represent him to the public, and she did a poor job of that yesterday morning.

But you know what? I am Donut Girl.

People irritate me. They inconvenience me. They give me bad information and then act surprised when I deliver an incorrect product. And most of the time, my attitude stinks. I grumble and complain and roll my eyes. And while I don’t do that to their faces, doing it behind their backs is worse, because it’s evidence of what’s in my heart.

Donut Girl check your attitudeAnd I don’t represent a donut chain. I represent God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). As Jesus-followers, God has given us a job to point the way to Him, to show people how to be reconciled with God Himself. That makes us God’s ambassadors–God’s representatives on Earth. And if I mistreat people, whether they’re wrong or not, that’s a poor representation of who God is and how He treats people.

So before I criticize Donut Girl for her attitude, I need to check my own.

How about you this morning? Are the petty details of life turning you into a grumbler? Do you let people’s faults (or perceived faults) get under your skin? Are you forgetting who you represent?

Don’t be like Donut Girl. Be like Jesus.

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St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

Life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We can make as many plans as we want, but we can’t know the future. We can’t control our lives, as much as we try to. And when those moments come that blow all our carefully laid plans apart, we have a choice. We can either give up or manage the broken pieces as best we can, trusting that God will put them back together again better than they were before.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Because we get our selfish little hearts set on things that we want, and we are totally capable of convincing ourselves that God has told us we can have something. And maybe He has. But it has to be on His terms. And the plain truth is that when God says yes to our wants or our desires, we’re rarely in the place in our lives when it’s time for us to have them.

We have to live some more. We have to learn what the desire of our heart really is. Many times it changes and grows as we get older, and even when stays the same, as we age, it gets bigger, broader, as we understand more about ourselves and the world.

But that answer is difficult to accept when we want our way. And it’s so easy to sit back and focus on how unfair life is.

Because it is.

Life is unfair. Work is unfair. Ministry is unfair. Because the world is unfair.

And I don’t know where we (Christians, that is) get the idea that life on earth will be fair when nothing here is fair. The world is broken. We broke it, and it’s not going to be fixed again until after Christ comes back for us.

There’s nowhere in Scripture that says life is fair. There’s nowhere in Scripture where God promises that we won’t have trouble. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO (where I spent my weekend)

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples. Maybe you read that differently, but to me that sounds like a confirmation that sometimes life is going to suck.

This world isn’t our home. We don’t belong here. I think it’s in Hebrews where the writer calls us pilgrims and strangers, aliens in a world we’re just visiting. We’re just passing through.

So why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Is it the well-meaning teachers of the prosperity gospel? I’ve heard what they say. Those people claim that if you do what God says is right, you’ll have everything you want. Never mind the Bible never says that.

The Bible does say that if you obey God, you’ll be blessed. But being blessed has very little to do with getting what you want. So many times we don’t even know what we want or what we want is bad for us. So how would God be good if He allowed us to have something that would ultimately hurt us?

How many times has God provided what I needed? How many times has He showed up in my life at the pivotal moment? How many times has God let me down? I mean really let me down? I can’t think of once. I can’t think of one promise He’s made me that He hasn’t kept–to the letter.

And how do I repay Him? By whining when I don’t get my way? By grumbling when life isn’t fair? Hasn’t He proved Himself to me by now?

It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to fall back on God when we’re so disappointed. It’s hard to keep trusting when you feel betrayed or let down or like God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. But when you feel that way, ask yourself if you really understood the bargain to begin with.

God never promised we wouldn’t have trouble, and He never promised that He’d give us whatever we wanted. He just promised that we’d never go without what we need, and we’d never face the struggles of life alone.

We’re going to have trouble. And we’re not always going to get our way. But God always knows what He’s doing. God always keeps His promises.

So just hold on. The world isn’t fair, but Jesus has overcome the world. That means He’s bigger than any trouble you’re facing right now. And if you can just hold on long enough, He’ll prove it to you.

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Don’t make decisions when you’re emotional

Sometimes I wonder how God puts up with me. My moods are volatile and harsh, and I can go from praising Him one moment to wanting to give up entirely the next. I’m not exactly sure what the root cause of it is; I’m still working on that.  But most of the time my moods are exacerbated by people, and the quickest, most efficient way to plunge me into a pit of discouragement is to point out my flaws and failures. I don’t know if that’s the perfectionist in me or not, and it’s something I’m trying to do better about, because most of the time people are just trying to help. I know I’m not perfect, and I know I need help, but admitting that I need it is still somehow tantamount to failure in my mind.

And every now and then, I have one of those rough days where I feel criticized by everyone, and even when they’re trying to help, my brain translates it to, “You’re not good enough.” And pretty soon I’m drowning in a pit of discouragement so deep I have no chance of climbing out. And here’s the ridiculous part: I know I’m being silly, so I don’t want to talk to anyone about it. Why? Because even though I have already established that I’m not good enough, I’d like people around me to maintain their opinions that I’m at least competent and not a psychotic, emotional nutcase.

And it doesn’t stop there, of course. No, my brain is a fixer brain. I’m always trying to fix problems. So when I encounter those moments where my insufficiency becomes too much to bear, I start making plans of how to lessen the amount of trouble my failures are going to cause other people. And usually I do a pretty good job of creating scenarios where I can shift responsibilities and bow out gracefully so that other, better prepared, “good enough” people can take charge. 

But as I was mulling over all of this last night in the throes of my despair, I realized how completely and utterly irrational I was being. I mean, this all probably stems from my own personal insecurity, and it’s never ever a wise idea to make judgment calls based on what your insecurities tell you about life and people.

I had a bad day. I got my feelings hurt. I had to endure some major stress that left me drained, and I had to act as mediator between people who don’t understand each other (for an introverted peacemaker there’s nothing more exhausting). And I had to face the fact that I’m not as good at certain things as I think I am. And after a weekend of that and a whole Monday of it in varying forms, last night I was just so emotionally distraught was about ready to implode. And I was going to make a decision that would affect my life for the next year?

Not the best idea ever. And that’s when I thought about a person in the Bible who I always identify with, the prophet Elijah.

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 19:1-8.

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

I’m going to cut it off there this morning because I’m already rambling, but the whole story here is in 1 Kings 19, though I’d encourage you to read 1 Kings 18 too.

The point I’m getting at here is that it’s never a good idea to make decisions when you’re emotionally exhausted. We all get to that point. We all have been there, where we’ve faced so many discouraging situations that we can’t bear another one. Everyone reaches that point in their life where they’re ready to implode or explode (it usually depends on if you’re extroverted or introverted). And sometimes when you’re at that point, you’re going to be tempted to make decisions. You’re going to be so discouraged that you won’t be able to say anything positive about anyone, especially yourself. And if you’re normally a perfectionist, you’re going to turn all of that loathing and frustration inward anyway, so all your decisions will involve removing yourself from positions of authority to make way for other people who are better than you. You’re going to be so tired of all of it that you just want out.

Don’t.

Elijah had just called down fire from heaven. He had just led the beginning of a revolution in Israel. And all it took was one little threat from a crazy woman to send him scuttling for the hills in terror for his life. Exhausted and discouraged, he just wanted to pack it all in and give up.

And what did God do? He sent an angel to feed Elijah. And Elijah rested and slept and ate and rested some more. I think we blow past that a lot, especially the performance-driven people among us.

Later on in the story, God and Elijah have a little heart-to-heart, and it really comes down to the fact that God needed to help Elijah get his perspective straight. But it started with rest and food. It started with taking a moment to restore himself physically.

It’s really easy to make important decisions when you’re upset. It’s cathartic almost because when you’re discouraged and angry, making a decisions helps you feel like you have control of something. It’s something to hold on to. But it’s not wise. When you’re angry and discouraged, you aren’t seeing straight. You aren’t thinking straight. You’re thinking about you, and that’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not the time to make important decisions. 

So when you’re sad and discouraged and upset and frustrated and you’re tempted to start making judgment calls to help yourself feel more in control, stop. Never make a decision when you’re angry. Table it. Walk away from it. Sleep on it. Come back to it in the morning, and I promise it will make more sense. It won’t be as harsh as you thought it was. It won’t feel like a personal attack, and even if it is a personal attack, you’ll be able to see it more clearly.

God didn’t give up on Elijah, even when Elijah gave Him plenty of reasons to. God won’t give up on us either. But we can help ourselves out by saving the decision making for the times when we’re seeing the world the way it’s supposed to be, instead of through our own hurt feelings.