Business

A Life Above Reproach

Tomorrow is voting day here in the United States. Someone told me the other day of a conversation they had with the staff member of a local representative. This person was sharing her horror and disgust at the lies and slander that were being told about this man by his opponent. She listed a few things that the commercials had “asserted” and declared their impossibility given this man’s upstanding character.

We already know that we can’t believe everything we hear–especially during voting time.

But there is something else to consider:

This man’s closest friends and co-workers knew with certainty that the things being told about him were false. This should lead us to ask ourselves a question: Are we living life in the same way? Are we living above reproach in such a way, that if someone slandered us, we’d have those who know us best declaring there is no way it could be true?

Do you know that this is how it is supposed to be for us as believers? Peter puts it like this–

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. I Peter 3:15-16

How do we have a good conscience? We do this by living a life of integrity. While we can’t do this perfectly (we all continue to sin, unfortunately) we can and should choose to live righteous and holy lives.

If we always tell the truth; if we honor our marriage vows; if we never cheat, steal, or rob; if we respect authority; if we are kind and loving to others; if we are content with our lot in life; if we are humble; if we are careful not to put ourselves purposefully in the path of sin (such as bars, casinos, and wherever else we know temptation takes us to places we shouldn’t go) then we are living a life of integrity.

If we never take advantage of people in business deals; if we don’t manipulate and use people; if we don’t hold grudges and aren’t easily offended; if we conduct any company, church committee, or PTA business with fairness and honesty, then we are giving our enemies very little to grasp onto.

They are then forced to lie.

And we all know that this is what happens. If there is a man or woman of integrity that has an enemy, be sure they will be lied about.

But that person that’s being lied about? He has a clean conscience. He knows the truth and those that really know him know the truth. While it is a battle to be fought and there is much heartache that comes from false accusations, there is still an accompanying peace that comes from knowing that the accusations are false.

As I think about the recent Kavanaugh hearings, this comes to mind. You see, we as the public, are at a loss. And people like his enemies know this. They know that once a lie is told it puts a seed of distrust in the hearer’s mind. I have my guesses on what happened with that hearing but unless I’d get to know both parties personally, there is really no way for me to know the truth. False accusations are extremely powerful.

Opponents in political races know this. As do irritated agenda-driven church members, frustrated co-workers, and others who strive to knock someone down and out of place. Lies bring destruction.

While we can’t stop people from lying about us, we are able to choose to live a life above reproach. We can choose to live in righteousness so that when they do choose to say something about us, there is no foundation of truth to even be found upon which they can build their lie.

No, this doesn’t bring back the trust of others. No, this doesn’t take away the dreadful pain or even the consequences of the slander and false accusations. Elections are lost, godly men are forced out of ministry, and good workers leave companies because of lies. Christians even lose their lives because of lies. False accusations have often been what Satan has used throughout history to martyr many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t change this.

But we can live with a clean conscience so that, as Peter says: that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

It is a discouraging world where lies will win. But Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the world is currently under his influence (I John 5:19). We also know that Satan is a Christian’s greatest enemy (Ephesians 6:11-12;I Peter 5:8). Therefore we should’t be surprised when we are the target of lies and slander.

So let’s not give Satan any handles to grab on to. Let’s live a life so above reproach that there is not even a hint of truth found in any accusations against us. It is in this way that we can honor the Lord Jesus as well as preserve our peace of mind and heart.

And while we are struggling (and hopefully growing in our faith) through those false accusations, we dare not forget this:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44)

Nothing is outside of God’s care, including false accusations. Even this is under His sovereignty and can be used to teach us and grow us in holiness and righteousness.

 

Unlikely Lesson on Sharing the Gospel

Last week, the two administrative assistants in our business office, along with myself, spent a few ours watching the demos of two different software programs. We are being forced to discontinue using an outdated system that is being “put out to pasture”, so to speak, and the time has come to make a move.

Some of you know me well enough to know that this kind of thing stresses me out. It is such a huge decision with big ramifications for our company. A software that has a lot of bugs or doesn’t do what we need to do could really make running our office difficult. And so I have been delaying it for quite some time. However, it can be delayed no longer.

Our office is right next to our house, so I told the two women to come on over and I put the demo on the big screen in our family room. We settled into our comfie chairs to watch and listen as each of the two salesmen tried to tell us why their program was the best one for us to buy.

The ways the two men communicated and went about selling their companies was in such contrast that it startled me, quite frankly. After the two demos were over, the girls and I sat talking about the two men and the comparison to sharing the Gospel. It could not have been more appropriate. And it was so clear.

Let’s, for the sake of clarity, call the Companies A & B. We will call the sales reps Mr. One and Mr. Two.

Our first demo was scheduled for 10am with Mr. One of Company A. He sounded friendly enough as we got started but after only the third question he reminded us that we had “a lot to cover here”. In other words: Stop asking questions. Now keep in mind that this is a BIG change for us and he is trying to sell us on his company. Strike #1. He went on to explain the software, clicking through the different screens but we noticed that he always seemed a bit stymied when we asked a question (which we continued to do despite his best efforts to discourage them). Strike #2. And then we got to a deal breaker. A strange inability of the software to do something incredibly basic. All three of us tried to kindly ask in different ways if the program could do what we needed it to do. Mr. One got defensive and insisted it could. All three of us obviously knew that it couldn’t. He would say it could but he couldn’t show that it could. Strike #3. Usually you are out with strike three but the program still interested us–if only we could get around that one deal breaker. Mr. One called me about a half hour after the demo ended to say that he had talked to someone and that it most certainly could do what we needed it to do. As I listened to him describe a different screen, clicking here and filtering there, I realized that he was just explaining a different way that the program could not do what we needed it to do. When I kindly made the observation that we loved the software but were more than a little surprised that something this intrinsic to running an efficient office wasn’t included in the software, he grew almost belligerent with me. He was condescending and very offended. Strike #4. In a final effort to try to see if this could work, I asked if it would be possible for us to have a trial of the program where I could set up a few dummy customers and see if I could somehow figure out a different way for the program to do what it needs to do (sometimes it just takes some thinking outside the box!) He then informed me that no, that would not be possible. I was befuddled. Here is a company asking me to spend thousands of dollars on their program and they wouldn’t give me a trial run at it? Why not? And that was Strike #5. At this point, I was feeling pretty discouraged. After this guy’s arrogant attitude, I didn’t really want to work with this company but what if there wasn’t anything else out there?

At 1pm, we reconvened to watch the demo of Company B with Mr. Two. As we connected, we saw our website on his screen. He had taken the time to pull up our website and read our About Me page. He explained that he felt it was important to know our company and what we do, so he could best explain how the software program would work for us. Gold Star #1. As he started to explain the program and we peppered him with questions, he kindly answered them, often thanking us for asking such a good question. The contrast to Mr. One was startlingly remarkable at this point. And such a relief, if I am honest. I realize that Mr. Two is obviously a very good salesmen who wants to sell a program, but we all wanted to feel free to ask as many questions as we needed and Mr. Two really made us feel like we could do that. He never once made us feel stupid or small for asking any question. Gold Star #2. As we continued to watch, we found a real problem with the program. Instead of insisting that his program could do something it couldn’t, he assured us that he had already talked with the program engineers about fixing it and he hopes there will be a change soon. In the meantime, we could go about it in a different way and proceeded to explain the work-around. Gold Star #3. He was incredibly kind and warm throughout the entire interview and never once was he condescending or impatient. Again, such a great contrast to Mr. One. Gold Star #4. A few hours after the demo, I emailed Mr. Two some questions. Within minutes he had answered to my satisfaction. This email included his assurance that he surely did understand our desire to have a trial time and he would be happy to set that up for us at our convenience. Gold Star #5. Through the whole process Mr. Two was kind and real, making conversation easily to find out more about us and our company and yet maintaining professionalism throughout the whole demo.

As the women and I discussed the decided difference between Mr. One and Mr. Two, we were reminded how much this pertains to how we share the Gospel with others.

Some are like Mr. One. Condescending, self-important, not knowing the answers to basic questions. They are defensive and easily offended. Their arrogance puts lost souls at a distance and leaves their important questions unasked.

And then there are those like Mr. Two. Kind, open, interested in others. They are the ones that know a good many answers to the questions the lost ask, but if someone asks something they don’t know, they will smile and assure the person that they will find out an answer from the Bible. There is a warmth that exudes from this type of person that is hard to resist. Even if you don’t like what they are saying it is really hard to not like them.

I don’t know about you, but I so long to be like Mr. Two as I talk to people about the Gospel. But, much more importantly, I want to follow the example of Jesus. I want to genuinely show that I care about someone enough to tell them the truth about heaven and hell. I want to be kind, humble, loving, and authentic. And I want to know the answers to their questions (and be willing to do the work of looking for biblical answers when I don’t have them.)

I don’t know Mr. One and Mr. Two beyond those demos. I doubt either of them are believers (which is why it was so important for me to continue to be gracious with Mr. One, despite my frustrations. I hope I succeeded…). But the two demos really reminded me of how important it is to be genuinely interested in others, to be patient and kind, and to have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and its doctrines, as well as of the Gospel.

Not to “sell” something but so that we can be used by God to share the good news of the Gospel with the hopelessly and eternally lost who are wandering in this dark and dying world searching for answers.

Lessons from a Snowstorm

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To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

On Shows and Sharing

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I spent most of yesterday at a builder’s show representing our landscape & lawncare business. I’ve done this often and generally enjoy talking to people about our company. My son has grown into quite a good salesman, so when I was working with him on this day I found myself mostly smiling or having friendly chit-chat with people and letting him have the serious conversations. I am okay with this. Sales would not be my strong point– to say the least.

But this did give me more time to stand back and just watch people. And here is what I noticed– if someone was interested in what we do or if they had a project already in mind and needed to hire a landscape contractor, then they would stop in our little 10×10 booth space and look at our display and talk with us. But if they weren’t, they’d walk right by.

Because they did not have need of our services. At least not right now. And maybe not ever.

One of the things I have really struggled over as I blog is the lack of footing I seem to get in this very fickle world of blogging. Growing4Life is not really all that appealing to most people. It’s focused on hard truths and is meant to challenge us out of our comfort zones. Very few readers are going to spend their time reading things that make them squirm. This can be very discouraging for me. So much so, that I have contemplated quitting numerous times. Why write?

{Let me insert a heartfelt thank you here to those of you who do read, share my posts, comment, and encourage me to keep going. Words cannot not express how truly grateful I am for you.}

But as I stood there thinking about all of the people who walked by our booth, a truth settled into my heart–

God will draw whomever He wants to read the blog. My job is to be faithful to what He has called me to do– whether I have one hit per day or one thousand.

And this truth affects much more than the blogosphere. It affects all of us, doesn’t it?

We are here to give God glory and to share the gospel. That is our main purpose. If we are doing this — whether in our neighborhood, workplace, online, or overseas on the mission field–we need to remember that God is master of the grand design. Sometimes we can grow discouraged because we feel like we aren’t making any different at all. And yet God is weaving all of our stories together perfectly. We may have planted a seed that will reap many dividends in the future but not find out about it until much later or perhaps we won’t find out until we reach heaven.

In the meantime, we can’t focus too much on the many people who aren’t interested in our message. It’s okay. It’s important to remember that most people aren’t going to be interested. The way is narrow (Matthew 7:14). (Actually, if the majority just loves us, we are most likely doing something wrong. John 15:18) True Biblical Christianity is not popular. But scattered in the midst of the general and sometimes hostile population are people who are searching for the truth and baby Christians longing to grow. God will give us opportunities to share Christ with unbelievers and to encourage and build up believers. Our job is to faithfully respond to those opportunities. We must not get discouraged.

Let’s be faithful to the ministry God has called us to and let Him take care of the rest. Yes, people will walk by and ignore us. They may even point a finger and make fun of us. But that’s when we need to remember that this short time here on earth– if we are saved– isn’t about us.

Let’s live our lives with an eternal perspective, remembering that God is weaving a marvelous tapestry of people touching people touching people. We can’t see it here from ground zero. But He can. We just need to keep on doing what He has put before us to do and let Him take care of the rest.

 

Can You Just Be a Little Nice?

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Have you ever talked to one of those arrogant, condescending types? The kind that get your defenses up in world-record time? The type that you just want to ask– Can you just be a little nice? I don’t want to stretch you too much here, but some kindness would go a long way.

I’m sure you know the kind.

I had the opportunity of talking with a guy like that the other day. I had to make a business call. I just wanted to have a pleasant discussion. Instead I ended up with–well, let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant.

People like this make my blood boil. I mean you can just tell me what you have to say in a kind way. You don’t have to make me feel like an idiot.

I have had these conversations with vendors and customers. In fact, the customer ones always make me laugh. So let me make sure I understand–you are upset with me because I am asking you for money that you have owed for months? Okay then. If you are in any customer service or job where you deal with people, I am pretty sure you will be able to relate.

But we can have these conversations with co-workers, other parents on the sidelines of the soccer field or basketball court, friends, family, and, sadly enough, in the hallways and conference rooms of our churches. They are certainly not relegated to the Business World only.

I replayed that conversation over in my mind to determine two things–

What could he have done to help the situation? I ask this so that I keep this in mind when dealing with others.

and

How could I have responded better? I ask this so I can keep my Christian testimony with these particularly infuriating kind of people.

So, first, as I thought about the whole conversation, I realized that he immediately set me on edge with his tone. His tone was arrogant, condescending, and rude. He acted like he knew everything and I knew nothing. He also made me feel quite helpless with his lack of flexibility and unwillingness to compromise. Instead of working together to solve a problem, he made it very clear that he wasn’t interested and was not going to join me in solving anything. And, finally, he wounded with this words. Instead of using words to heal and solve problems, he used them to belittle and build walls.

I am not sure why this guy was so unpleasant. I had never had any contact with him before. He doesn’t own the company I called, so he isn’t vested personally. I came to the conclusion that he’s just unpleasant. And I hung up very thankful that I am not married to a guy like that one. Wow.

But the question is: Do I ever act–even slightly– like this guy? When I am cornered or upset or “sure I’m right”, am I arrogant or condescending? Unwilling to yield or compromise? Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical issues and principles here. Of course, we never yield or compromise truth. But I am talking about the interpersonal stuff of life that has no consequence. The stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. What kind of attitude do I bring to these issues?

It’s a question to consider.

And then I had to look at how I responded. Did I emanate Jesus Christ and His love for this man? I knew the answer was no. This has been one of the main challenges for me in running a business with my husband for the past 27 years– responding to critical and unkind people. Since we have two admin assistants now, I rarely answer the phone or deal directly with people anymore (for which I am so incredibly grateful!) so I was very pleased to realize that I responded much better than I would have 20 years ago. God’s done a work in me. No question about that. Of course, there are miles and miles to go. And I still could have done better.

I realized that I did not have an eternal perspective as I talked to this guy. Instead I immediately got defensive, which put an unkind edge into my voice. Instead of thinking about the fact that this guy may not know Jesus, I immediately became consumed with my wounded pride and focused on how I was feeling at that moment. Instead of using my words to encourage and heal, I used them to defend myself and fight back. I could’ve done so much better.

You know, this is the nitty gritty stuff of life. This is where our Christianity shines brightly or shows itself to be tarnished and unlovely. How we treat others and how we respond to others is one of the most basic ways we give our testimony each and every day.

 

 

Some Things We Must Let Go

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So, on Monday my post was titled Don’t Let It Go.  I wrote it because I was checking the lyrics of the popular song to see if there was any phrase I could use for the post I am about to write right now. Instead I found new age nonsense. But, while we certainly shouldn’t let any opportunity to discern go by us, there are a few things that we really do need to let go. Like grudges.

Recently, my husband and I ran into a couple we know. We are very aware of the fact that this couple doesn’t particularly like us and hasn’t for many years. The thing is–we have never figured out exactly why. Oh, we have some guesses and assumptions, but we have never had a sit-down conversation as to why they hold us in such low esteem.

So, when my husband offered his right hand to the woman to shake hers in a gesture of friendliness, we weren’t surprised. You see, while she lifted her hand in a limp shake, she would not look into my husband’s eyes. She kept staring straight ahead.  Like he wasn’t there. Because she doesn’t like him. But we don’t know why.

Our families and church families are FILLED with these scenarios. This person doesn’t like that person, often because of something that happened a very long time ago.

And there are two perspectives in these situations to consider — the grudge holder’s and the one the grudge is being held against (hereon out to be referred to as the “grudgee”). I’ve been both, so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.

As Grudge Holder

This one I find to be a ginormous waste of personal energy. As I tell my kids, life is just too short for grudges. Oh, I have people that I do not see eye to eye with, but I am learning to view them with more grace as I grow older. Unbelievers are so much easier. I expect them to hurt me, to revile me, and to be unkind. They are not living by God’s law and I shouldn’t expect them to. I find the hurts dealt by Christian brothers and sisters to be much more painful and challenging to get over. But, here again, grace is the word that comes to mind. Do I know what experiences or trials have led that person to be unkind or to make that choice? And, let’s be honest, do I even know if that person calling him or herself a believer is a genuine believer? There are so many who use the label, but do not truly understand the depth of their sin and the payment for that sin at the cross.

I have had a long and challenging journey in this area. I have learned to just ask God to fill me with His love for those I find so hard to love on my own. And a big part of healing in this area, if we struggle with it, is to control our thoughts. You see, Satan just gets in there and twists and turns and makes every offense even worse than it really was. In fact, sometimes we find offense where there was absolutely none intended.

I believe that grudges cause destruction. I have seen the horrible wreckage and wastelands of families and churches that have been ripped apart by grudges. It is so tragic. And, for some reason I cannot figure out, it seems to be a totally and completely excusable sin in our churches. Why is this okay?

Now the other thing that I have found myself tempted to do  is to “Christianize” my grudge. I will hold ill will in my heart towards someone and rationalize why I am sure God must understand, and perhaps even give His blessing, to it. Of course, this is ridiculous. Even if we are standing for righteousness, it gives us no excuse to hold ill will against a particular person. Jesus Christ, as he headed to the cross, set the best example for us, didn’t He? I Peter 2:23 tells us this about the Savior–

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

He set the perfect example by not only reacting in a calm and gracious manner, but by showing us that we are to commit our wills and desires to God, who judges all things righteously and can take care of the person that is hurting us (Romans 12:19).

Bottom Line: Grudges are unacceptable for a believer (Ephesians 4:31-32; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 11:25). Grudges are also a big waste of time and energy.

As Grudgee

Okay, so yes, I know “grudgee” isn’t a word, but exactly what is the concise word for being the person that a grudge is held against? So, I will just call it this.

I have had much experience with this one, as my big and thoughtless mouth has often gotten me into a spot of trouble. I say things before I think and find, sometimes YEARS later, that something I said has caused a person to hold a grudge against me all this time. Usually I find this out via a friend of a friend. It is rarely from the person herself.

My reaction to this has changed quite a bit over the years. Let me share.

Let me say this first– I work very hard to be more careful with my words and my tone. I do not have this down 100%, by any means, but I recognize my tendency and really try to remember this when I am talking to people. But I am sure I still inevitably frustrate and offend people. And God tells us that all of us who are believers should actually expect to offend people when we share the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). So this is something we have probably all dealt with at one time or another.

Here are a few things I have learned about being the grudgee. First, I recognize that I have control over only one part of this situation — myself and my reaction. We can feel pretty helpless in the shadow of someone’s hostility towards us. Some of us grow angry right back at that person, others of us try to just ignore it, and some of us work so hard to fix it and find ourselves filled with disappointment and bitterness when the “happy ending” we long for isn’t forthcoming. But what is a biblical response?  A lot of what I wrote above is also applicable here (Jesus’s example, the verses given), so I won’t repeat myself. But here are a few more specifics —

1. Love the grudge holder. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44, that we are to love our enemies. If someone hates us we are to return that hate with love. Sometimes that feels humanly impossible. That is because it is. Here again, I have learned to ask God to fill me with His love, because, on my own, I am empty. Responding with love is difficult, but if we can do it, we are a tremendous testimony of God’s working in our lives. Because this is so outside our human nature, we shine like a giant spotlight in pitch black darkness when we love those who hate us.

2. Pray for the grudge holder. I don’t know how this works, but if we can sincerely lift the grudge holder before God and pray for their salvation or spiritual growth, it changes how you feel about them. Somehow this process gives us more grace to deal with this person.

3. Do something kind for the grudge holder. Now if you do not run into this grudge holder regularly, this might be awkward. But if it is someone you see at church or it is a family member, go out of your way to be nice. I have a friend who often used this phrase, when faced with similar situations: kill them with kindness. Yes! What wisdom! Do you know how hard it is to hate someone who is so nice to you? It will often make a difference.

These things are not easy to do. In fact, they are very difficult. Our feelings cry out in opposition, and yet, if we can choose to obey, in spite of our feelings, the reward is tremendous. No, sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way we want. This is not a cure-all for relationships. The reward is not always a happy ending. But one guaranteed reward is always peace. Peace because we have done the right thing, according to God’s Word (Matthew 5:44). Peace because, as much as it is up to us, we have strived to live in peace (Romans 12:18). And peace because we have followed our Savior’s example (I Peter 2:23).

Bottom Line: We need to love the grudge holder and let the rest up to God.

These are hard things to talk about and most of us are caught up in it in one way or another. Many of us are caught up in both ways. I would love to hear what you have learned and the biblical wisdom you have gained through your own experiences? I am sure I have not covered this whole subject of grudges in completion. Please leave a comment below to help fill in the gaps :)

 

 

Building and Protecting

IMG_9141We humans want the easy way. Water always flows in the path of least resistance. The river flows downstream. It’s easier to walk down a hill than up a hill. It’s easier to sit on the couch than it is to get up and exercise. This is life.

This past weekend our landscape company took three and a half days to set up a huge garden display at a garden show.  It took hours and hours of preparation and many man hours to get it set up just right. Every plant was placed with care, every block laid carefully, and the covering of mulch was perfected. By Thursday afternoon we were all pleasantly exhausted, knowing that we had done our best and it looked great. It was very rewarding.

Of course, that feeling of reward lasted only a few brief days. Today–just three short days after we put it all up– we tore it all down in a few hours.

I just can’t help but think about the similarity of this to life. Almost everything worth having is going to cost us something — hard work, sacrifice, self-denial, etc.  Healthy bodies, healthy marriages, healthy families, healthy budgets do not happen with an “easy” button.

And all of that hard work and sacrifice — for a healthy body, a healthy marriage, a healthy family, a healthy budget– can be utterly destroyed in a few brief moments.

Building something takes months, sometimes years. We have to carefully protect that for which we have worked so hard!

This is why it is so important that we be on guard at all times, keeping our feet firmly rooted in the soil of God’s Word, so that we can withstand temptation. It says in I Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for any temptation we face. But if we are not walking in the Spirit, learning God’s Word, then we have no right to expect that way of escape.

And so the concrete space that was a beautiful garden just a few short hours before today gives evidence to the fact that building up takes much more effort than tearing down. It’s a great reminder for all of life.

 

 

Impatience Is Not a Virtue

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Inevitably, we run into the same problem every spring within our landscaping company. Everyone wants their patios and outdoor fireplaces and retaining walls built immediately. They are excited about the upcoming season and want to put their exciting plans for an outdoor living space in motion as soon as possible.

But here’s the problem: hardscaping is a job that requires skill and education, and so we only have a handful of men qualified in this company to take a job from start to finish. We have divided them into two crews. That means that we can only work on two projects at a time. As we are well-known and trusted in the area, we usually end up with a pretty long waiting list for installs. We try to tell people we are worth the wait, but, occasionally, some of them get impatient and won’t wait. I can understand their frustration. But that frustration can lead to a big mistake.

They call a guy who is just getting started (or an old guy who is starting a new business with a new name for the 5th time!) and hire him. These guys do not generally have a waiting list and can often start jobs immediately. Now, let me preface all of this by saying that a few of these guys are good, honest guys who do quality work to the best of their ability. But that is not the norm. Many of them are uneducated without proper insurance at best and complete shysters at worst.

As my husband always says: If someone can be there right away (or even in two weeks) in the springtime, they are probably not a very quality company.

Ironically, this decision has often ended up causing people great stress and, most times, even more frustration than they started with.

Take, for example, two recent situations where Eric was approached for a price to fix the shoddy work of these types of incompetent contractors. In both cases, the customers are also out quite a bit of money and one is looking at a lawsuit to try and retrieve at least some of it. These are not the first jobs that we have entered midstream because of this reason.

You see, patience sometimes is necessary in order to get a beautiful product that will last for a lifetime. There is so much more to hardscaping than throwing down pavers. There is great care needed in laying the proper base, great importance in using the right materials and tools, and careful precision needed in making the right cuts. Does the person you want to hire have specific training for this job and the proper insurances and equipment? These are critical questions before hiring a contractor.

So why am I writing about this on a devotional blog? Or do you already see the correlation?

We live in a world that wants everything right away. We do not want to wait for anything. And so we make mistakes.

Sometimes they are home-related –like hiring a shyster who can start right away instead of waiting for a respected and trust-worthy contractor.

Sometimes our mistakes are financial –like wasting hundreds of dollars at a casino or on lottery tickets trying to make quick, easy money instead of working hard and investing wisely.

Sometimes these mistakes are made by young singles –like marrying an unbeliever instead of waiting for a godly spouse.

And sometimes they are made as families –like settling for the first, comfortable {and compromising} church we visit rather than carrying out a thorough search for a church that is teaching sound biblical doctrine.

But all of these mistakes are also spiritual. How come?

I guess what I see as a common thread here is self-centeredness driven by feelings. When we aren’t willing to wait on an outcome, even though that outcome would be better and yield much higher dividends and rewards in the long run, then we are operating on feelings. And feelings are just never good things on which to base decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, feelings hold some weight. But when faced with a decision, it is best to look at all of the possible options with all of the possible outcomes. And then, pushing the impatient feelings aside, we make the wisest decision we can with the information we have.

There is no doubt that decision-making can be excruciatingly hard. But we should never base any decision on our feelings of impatience and frustration.

 

Giving Up Without a Fight

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The Cockatoo sat nonchalantly on its perch in the center of the giant metal cage. We spotted its white feathers as we walked towards it. It was a beautiful day to go to the zoo and we were enjoying it. We had just passed the parrots and were moving on to the beautiful white bird that is native to Indonesia.

At first our eyes took in the bird, but then movement at its food dish caught our eye. We laughed as we saw the squirrel chowing down on the cockatoo’s food. And then I took a picture–because I just knew there had to be a blog post in there somewhere.

We watched the squirrel eating for a few moments while the cockatoo sat indifferently and unmoving on its perch, and then we walked on to the next cage. But the sight had started my thoughts turning.

Why didn’t the cockatoo protect its food? It easily could have, using its loud squawk and large wingspan.

Was it frightened?

It didn’t really look like it.

Was it distracted?

Could have been, with all of those people walking by.

Was it satisfied and unthinking about the future?

Probably.

You may already know where I am going with this.

I think we often make the same mistake with our children. I watch parents let the world swoop down and steal their kids away, barely putting up a fight.

Did you know that Satan is after the souls of your children? He would like nothing more than to break the chain of your family’s Christian heritage and to render your child useless for God’s Kingdom.

And many of us fall prey to his schemes.

Are we frightened?

Some of us are very frightened. We are scared we will lose the hearts of our children and so we allow them to do anything they want, not realizing that doing so is almost a certain formula for the very outcome we are trying to avoid. We want to be the friends of our kids, instead of the parents that God designed us to be. We don’t want to step on any toes and so we set few boundaries and rarely discipline.

Are we distracted?

Many of us are very distracted. We are busy with careers and committees. We are busy with our girlfriends and our fantasy football leagues. We are busy at church and at school and at club. We lose sight of the battle for our kids’ hearts because we are distracted.

Are we satisfied and unthinking about the future?

Yes, I believe most of us are. Oh, don’t get me wrong–many of us think about the future, but our thoughts generally center around the choices of college and career. We think proudly of their straight A’s or their future basketball career, while we strive to get them the scholarships they deserve. But how often do we think about their walk with God in relation to the future? What kind of Christian do you want your child to be as a grown-up and what steps are you taking to help that happen?

What can we do to keep the “squirrels” from stealing our most precious possession?

1. Parent with courage. It takes courage to say no when every other parent is saying yes. It takes courage to have meaningful conversations about sex and alcohol and creationism and God. It takes courage to set a good example and do what’s right, even when no one is watching. It takes courage to lovingly and graciously tell the truth. If you must fear, then fear the consequences of your child’s heart turned to stone towards God. So many of us parent selfishly, desperately worried about our child’s opinion of us. We should probably be much more worried about our child’s opinion of God. For that, in the end, is what determines their eternal destiny.

The irony of all of this is that if we can parent with courage, most of us will reap wonderful benefits for ourselves. For if our kids love the Lord, then they will love us, too. If they love the Lord, then we will share a biblical worldview and a common purpose. There is nothing sweeter than this.

2. Make your kids a very important priority. There is nothing wrong with doing things outside the home. I think the problem comes in when we are not discriminatory with our choices. We can’t do everything and yet we try. But something has to give. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to spend time with your kids? It may even be one of their activities that has to go. Most kids would benefit much more from a game night with Mom and Dad than from a weekly dance lesson. We cannot allow the world to tell us what is important.

Many years ago, my husband was actively involved in a softball league. Baby J and I would spend many summer evenings watching the games. After a year or two of this, another baby came along and Eric became aware that he was going to have to make a choice. At the time, he was in the first years of starting a business and this occupied much of his time. He knew that in order for his kids to be a priority, he would have to quit softball. How thankful I am for a husband who made our kids a priority.

It sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, the kids are the priority. But, unfortunately, I see this isn’t true in the lives of many parents, and if I am being honest, especially fathers. Many fathers check out when it comes to spending time with their kids, disciplining their kids, and talking with their kids about the hard stuff. Dads, you are one of the most important factors in determining your child’s future relationship with God. Fight for their souls!

And one more thing here, for the grandparents who are reading this–the value of your support in helping your children raise their children is inestimable. You can have incredible influence in the lives of your grandchildren. Our children should not stop being a priority for us just because they have reached adulthood. You can really make a difference in the lives of your grandchildren.

3. Think of your child’s spiritual future. We would consider it irresponsible not to consider our child’s future education or vocation. And, yet, many of us do not think about our child’s future spiritual condition. We need to consider this in the conversations we have and the things we allow in our home and the places we allow them to go. We need to give this consideration as we choose which church to attend and the friendships we encourage our kids to develop. But, most importantly, we need to be who we want them to be. If we want them to be honest and kind and loving and courageous, then we need to be those things.

_______________________

I know that almost all of us love our children with our whole hearts. We’d do anything for them. But sometimes we lose sight of the world as it swoops down and steals the hearts of our children, while we sit, our eyes half-closed, on a perch nearby.

I say that it is time to open our eyes wide and parent with vigilance and abandon for the very short time we have them in our homes. We need to fight for the souls of our children!

Redeem the time and fight! For the heartache that comes with grown kids who aren’t following the Lord is a very real and painful thing.

 

What is your phone voice?

1353144_47874028 (1)Yesterday, I called a water park to ask a question before purchasing tickets online. When I finally got to a real person (don’t you just hate those recorded voices that make it take a zillion years to reach a human?) I was pleasantly surprised to hear a cheerful voice pick up the phone. I proceeded to ask my question and a couple of others, since she was so friendly, and then hung up, very pleasantly surprised at the conversation and given a great first impression of this park I had never been to.

 I compare this to a couple of local companies I work with for certain things. When I call to place an order, I always hope that I don’t get a certain person on the phone. I know that if they answer, they will make me feel like I am inconveniencing them by placing an order. I will get off the phone determined to find a new company from which to order. Thankfully, there is another person who works in each of these companies who makes up for the rudeness and keeps it bearable to work with them. I can say unequivocally, however, that if they would lose the one contact that I have that is friendly and kind, I would find another place to take my business.

We keep this in mind as we run our own landscaping office. Thankfully, we have two of the sweetest, kindest secretaries you will ever meet and if you talk to them on the phone you will immediately get the impression that they are so glad you called. Even when someone calls to berate or criticize, they manage to keep their cool. This is nothing we have done as bosses, but is a reflection of the Lord’s work in their lives.

So what does this have to do with you? I think sometimes we forget the importance of the first impression we give when we answer any phone. Whether it is our home phone, our cell phone, or the phone at our place of employment, we have a responsibility to be an extension of the love of Jesus.

We immediately have a positive start to any relationship when we answer the phone with grace and kindness. And we immediately have a negative beginning when we answer with annoyance or impatience. We can make someone feel like they are important or we can make them feel insignificant. It is our choice.

What is your phone voice like? When a stranger hangs up the phone after a conversation with you, what is their impression? In this world of technology I think we sometimes forget that our kindness and love must extend to our phone conversations, our texts, and our Facebook messages. Let’s show the love of Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives.

 

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