The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Finding the truth in good advice

When was the last time you got really great advice? Did you recognize it when you heard it? For me, sometimes good advice doesn’t sound like advice. Sometimes it just sounds like conversation or a story, but recently a very good friend of mine actually sat me down and had a good long chat with me. And he gave me advice.

For-real advice. That doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I don’t shut up long enough for people to tell me stuff.

I appreciated what this friend had to stay to me enormously because he’s one of those people who I really respect, but I had no idea how valuable that advice would be a few days later. I actually got the chance to put his advice into practice.

The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The blood moon of April 2014 setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 19:20.

Get all the advice and instruction you can,
    so you will be wise the rest of your life.

The world is full of people with advice. Have you noticed that? Everyone has an opinion about something, even the things that don’t matter.

An example? I was looking for a grammar rule I couldn’t remember. Do you capitalize after a colon or not? And surprise, surprise, everyone had a different idea and ten sources to back them up. Nobody agreed (but this is English, so I guess it’s not a surprise).

Everyone has advice. So whose advice do you go with? And how do you judge what advice is sound and what advice is cuckoo? Obviously what the Bible says is truth, but if you talk to different people they’ll apply that truth in different ways in their lives. So how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong?

Because maybe you’ve got a friend who has given you great advice in the past. That’s awesome. But maybe you’ve got other friends who have given you advice that didn’t work out so well. Or maybe you’ve even got friends like Job had, those cruel people who were so determined to blame Job’s suffering on him.

I’m not sure I know the answer to this. I just know what I have learned.

Lots of people have given me advice before, but the advice I take has to fulfill two main requirements. One, the advice he’s giving can’t contradict Scripture in any way. Two, the person giving the advice has to be a mature Christ-follower with a history of wise choices. Then, and only then, will I consider taking his advice.

Will I listen to advice from people I don’t know well? Sure, I’ll listen. Because I’ve learned amazing things from people I don’t know well. I’ve been blessed enormously by people I barely know. I’ve gotten to see God work in my life thanks to strangers. But when it comes to my own life, my own personal walk with Christ, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to change what I’m doing just because someone walks up to me and tells me I need to do something different.

Advice is important. Nobody is smart enough to make it through this life on their wits alone. We all have experiences and we all have learned things along the way that can help others around us, and we should share and we should listen. The more you listen, the more you learn. The more you learn, the wiser you’ll be.

Job’s friends aside, God has put people in our lives who are worth listening to. And listening to them might mean the difference between success and burn out.

So pay attention. Get all the advice you can find because the truth will probably be in there somewhere.

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Spires of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

The danger in being full of your own advice

 

I’m stubborn, in case you didn’t know that about me. I’m obstinate to the point of the ridiculous. I like doing things my own way, and I hate–I hate, hate, hate–asking for help. You always hear the stereotypes about men hating to ask for directions? I’m worse. I’ll waste an hour in the grocery store trying to find something before I’ll even consider asking someone to tell me where to find it.

I like going my own way, and I don’t particularly want other people to tell me different. So what am I supposed to do with the verse God led me to today?

Spires of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Spires of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Today’s verse is James 3:17.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

I get the peace loving and the gentle part. And the mercy and good deeds and fairness and sincerity, sure. But willing to yield to others? Seriously? How is that God’s wisdom?

I’m being sarcastic. If it’s in the Bible, I’m going to live by it, but that doesn’t mean I always go without a fight. I’m quite Scottish, after all.

But let’s just be gut level honest here. How often are you willing to yield to other people? How frequently do you submit to your authorities? Or maybe not even your authorities. How frequently do you submit to your friends? And I’m not talking about yielding to your friends to go do stupid stuff. That’s not wisdom, and that’s obvious.

I checked in the Amplified version and the phrase is uses is “willing to yield to reason.” So this verse isn’t saying that you have to give in to every person who comes along and surrender your will to the next fellow who claims to know everything. Absolutely not.

But if you have people in your life who love God and follow Christ and try to live by His Word, yielding to them isn’t a bad idea. Why? Because you don’t know everything.

This is the part I struggle with. I’m supposed to know it all. I’m supposed to be the smart, independent one who doesn’t need help, and yielding to someone else’s opinions automatically makes me weak (in my mind). It means I don’t know everything. It means I need help. It means I’m flawed.

Sound like pride to you?

Pride is the enemy of wisdom. Pride tells you that you can do it yourself. Pride tells you that you know better. Wisdom is the quiet voice at the back of your head whispering that taking someone else’s advice isn’t such a bad idea.

If you’ve got people in your life who are wise according to the Bible, listen to them. More than just listen, consider doing what they tell you. Granted the verse doesn’t say you must do what other people tell you; it says be willing to yield.

This all stems from your heart attitude. If you walk through life thinking that you have all the answers and you don’t need anyone’s help, you’re going to make a lot of foolish mistakes. But God has strategically placed people in your path who can teach you what you need to know when you need to know it. But if you’re so full of your own advice, you won’t have room for theirs.

Choose wisdom. Listen to reasonable advice. Be willing to take it. And watch how God transforms your life.

I had dinner with crazy Italians last night

Seriously. Not making it up. Well, the crazy part maybe. (I know you’re reading, and you know I love you guys.)

I’m a pretty closed person when it comes to being myself around people. I try to be compassionate and pleasant and likeable as a general rule, but there’s a lot more to me as a person that I keep bottled up until I know my ridiculous, loud personality isn’t going to scare you to death.

I am so fortunate to have friends who know the ridiculous, loud me and love me. I’m even more fortunate to have friends who love the real me who don’t hesitate to tell me when I’m making a really stupid decision. So when those friends (the real ones, who won’t feed me a bunch of lines about positive thinking when I’m acting on a truly dumb idea) get excited about something I feel God leading me to do, I jump for joy.

It’s one thing to have a friend’s words of encouragement when you’re undertaking a big challenge. It’s something else to have a friend’s actual support, knowing they’re behind you 110%.

Two little girls at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two little girls at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 13:20.

Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.

I’ve posted about friends a lot on here, mostly because my friends are such a vital part of my life. I’ve really tried to be wise about the friends I choose because so many of them play a role in helping me make decisions, and if my inner circle of advisors aren’t wise and don’t live their lives according to Scripture, they won’t give me counsel that will help me do it either.

I have been so very blessed to have such a variety of friends from all corners of the world, all cultures and backgrounds, all personality types. I have friends who are as introverted as I am. I have friends who are insane crazy people. I have friends who occupy high-ranking corporate positions and friends who work minimum-wage. And the most beautiful part about all my close friends is that they love Christ, and in the dark moments of my life, they help me remember how much I love Him too.

Do you have those kinds of friends in your life? If you don’t, you really ought to look for some. Just remember that the best friends you can have don’t always say yes to you. The best friends you can have are the ones who love you for who you are but don’t want you to stay the same. Yes, that’s a paradoxical statement, but I believe it’s true.

The best friendships I have had in my life are with people who love me for who I am as a person, but they love me too much to let me plateau in my growth—both professionally and spiritually. If you have a friend who just agrees with you all the time, that could be nice, but do you ever get to really know that person? The best friends you can have challenge you to grow and love you regardless.

My friends are patient people because I’m stubborn. Compared to me, donkeys are easy to get along with. I’m set in my ways, and I don’t like change. But you can’t go through life without changing. Everything changes. Granted, the things that matter don’t, but it’s how you grow to survive the little things that don’t matter that help you determine the real things that do.

Is there a friend who is open and honest with you in your life? Is there a friend you trust to tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it? Is there a friend who loves you too much to let you make a foolish decision?

Find that person. Because that person is worth his or her weight in gold. And the more you hang out with wise people like that, the wiser you will become if you’re willing to pay attention.

Beautiful jar of canned pickles at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Show me the pickles!

I hate not having the answers, but even more than that, I hate revealing to other people that I don’t know the answers. I won’t even ask for directions in the grocery store. Even if I spend an extra five minutes looking for that jar of pickles, I’d rather find it myself than demonstrate to someone that I don’t know where to find it. Isn’t that silly?

It’s probably my pride, which is something I struggle with constantly. I’m the clever one, the smart one, the one who always has everything under control, and I can’t find the pickles at the grocery store? Really? How embarrassing is that?

Now other clever, brilliant people I know can’t find the pickles either, but they don’t have a problem asking anyway. And if you think about it, which is a sign of actual intelligence? Asking where the pickles are? Or making a show wandering up and down the grocery store looking for it, where everyone can see you?

Beautiful jar of canned pickles at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Beautiful jar of canned pickles at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 9:9.

Instruct the wise,
    and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
    and they will learn even more.

Last night, I got to have coffee with a wonderful new friend. It was a great time of encouragement, and I got the opportunity to ask questions about a very large, as-of-yet-unrevealed adventure I’m going to be embarking on this year. The thing about this adventure/project? I’ve never done anything like it before. I’ve never even come close to doing anything like this before, and for the first time ever I am completely at a loss of how to proceed. Oh yeah, I know the basics. I know the simple outline of how to do it, but the details? The possible pitfalls? The way to manage success or failure? It’s all new.

Not knowing what to do and being honest about it is new for me. Not to say that I always know what I’m doing. That’s rarely the case. But I never ever openly admit that I don’t know what the next step is.

But this is important. This is something I feel like God is calling me to do, and I want to do it right. I want to make wise choices, so I want to talk to people who have previous experience, even if that means I have to reveal that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

Throughout our conversation last night, I kept thinking about this verse. This is the kind of person I want to be, which is ironic because this is very much the message series that my pastor is speaking on right now. Wisdom. Getting more wisdom. Being wise. Being teachable. I want to be teachable. I want to be the kind of person who can learn new things, but to be that kind of person I have to admit (to myself and others) that I need instruction.

There’s a funny scene in The Forbidden Kingdom, a funny Kung-Fu movie with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, where the little teenage tag along is asking questions about Kung-Fu. Jackie Chan’s character has agreed to train him, but this crazy kid is so full of things he thinks he knows that he’s not learning anything. I think it’s relevant to this topic today.

If you want to be wise, truly wise, you have to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Trying to come off like you know everything just demonstrates how little you actually know. Wise people want to be wiser. Wise people never stop learning, so that means they have to be willing to admit they need help.

That’s what I’m working on. Being open about how little I actually know, asking for help when I need it, and not being afraid to admit that I don’t know the answers.

But I probably still won’t ask for directions at the grocery store, because–well–spending a little extra time walking around is probably good for me anyway.