Bad attitudes are just as contagious as the flu..png

Today was errand day, and let me tell you, it's certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there.  No, I'm not referring to the decorations, toys, Santas or bargains, although those are certainly hard to miss.  Rather, I'm talking about all the Scrooges out there.  Good grief!  How is it that, at the most wonderful time of the year, people can be so grouchy?  What happened to peace on earth, goodwill toward men?

I was standing in the long line at the grocery store, annoyed yet not surprised by the many people with carts full of goodies for Christmas parties and dinners.  It is, after all, less than two weeks before Christmas.  Others, however, were not so gracious and understanding despite the goodness of others.

Seeing that the man behind me in line only had a few items, I allowed him to go ahead of me.  He thanked me and took his place in line.  At that point in time, the cashier was having trouble with the conveyor belt.  She pushed the button to make it advance, but it seemed to be stuck.  She tried again, but the thing refused to move.  She looked a bit panicked and embarrassed, then noticed that one of the separator bars (you know the little beams that you place between your order and those before and behind you) had inched its way forward just enough to cause the conveyor to bind.  She slid it to the side, and immediately, the conveyor surged forward.  The guy in front of me turned and snickered, saying sarcastically, "Yeah, duh.  If you move the thing, it will go."  Then he proceeded to use the Lord's name in vain and looked up at me to smile.  I'm not sure exactly what he saw on my face, but from the way he frowned then turned back around, I'm guessing it wasn't pleasant.  In fact, I was disgusted.  Here, I had just shown him grace, and he turned right around and gave someone else a hard time.  What's up with that?

At this point, I noticed an elderly gentleman behind me, clutching a pack of paper towels.  "If that's all you have," I said, "you can go ahead of me."  He smiled, thanked me and moved ahead of me in line, leaving another elderly couple in my wake.  The man behind me leaned in, looking for one of the separator bars so that he could begin loading his groceries onto the conveyor.  I walked forward, grabbed one of the bars near the front of the line and placed it behind my groceries.  You'll never believe what he said to me.  "Well, isn't she just being lazy, keeping all those things up there instead of sending them back here like she's supposed to."  I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and frankly, I had had enough.  I turned to him and said, as kindly as I could, "I believe it just got stuck up there.  After all, as you can see, it is quite busy in here."  He harrumphed and turned around.  Oh, bah humbug to you too!

By the time I finally reached the register, I wasn't feeling very cheery.  Yet, that still, small voice inside me whispered, urging me to chat with the cashier.  "Has it been this busy all week," I asked, "or did I just pick a bad time?"  She looked up at me with weary eyes.  "I don't know.  This is my first day."  Oh, the poor thing!  I thought back over the complaints in my line and wondered how many she had already heard that day.  "Well, I want you to know that I think you're doing a fabulous job."  She smiled and beamed.  "Seriously, I would have already run out of the store crying by now."  That did it!  She laughed out loud, and suddenly, the weariness in her eyes was gone.  I wished her a good day and a merry Christmas and left the store feeling that I had done my part to spread a little good cheer despite the Ebenezer Scrooges around me.

Today's post is a bit of a rant, request and warning all in one.  Please don't be too quick to judge someone.  I can't help but wonder if either of those men would have made the remarks they did if they had known that today was the poor girl's first day.  Perhaps, they would have, but I doubt it.  Let's give a little grace, show a little mercy and watch our attitudes.  After all, bad attitudes are just as contagious as the flu and far more serious.  This is the season of love, so let's pass the love along instead of jumping up and down on our high horse.

Be gone, badittude!

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
— Romans 2:1
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Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

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Has God ever answered your prayer in a way that differed entirely from what you had in mind? I have asked God for things and pictured all the many ways He could bring the answer to pass, but God chose something I would never have even imagined. I recall the time He allowed our only vehicle to burn to the ground in our driveway and then provided us with the vehicle I had crooned about for years. I never saw that one coming! Then there was the time when a financial blessing quickly turned into a nightmare, and then, at the last moment, turned back into a blessing. What a whirlwind!

I’m guessing the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom would understand what I’m talking about. They experienced God’s unusual ways of dealing with problems firsthand. Second Kings 3 tells the story, but I’ll give you the setting. Jehoram, the king of Israel, was the son of Ahab, and according to the Bible, he wasn’t as evil as his parents, but he was far from being a saint. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, feared God and lived right. The king of Edom is unnamed in this passage, but it’s safe to assume, he was probably more like Jehoram than Jehoshaphat based on the customs of his kingdom.

Jehoram discovers the Moabites are preparing to attack Israel, and he convinces the kings of Judah and Edom to join him in the battle. So the three kings lead their soldiers and cattle into the wilderness, but along the way, they discover they have another problem. There is no water.  

At this point, Jehoram, the king of Israel, falls apart. “This is just great! Not only is the army of Moab coming to destroy us, but now we don’t have any water either. God just led us here to destroy us!” Jehoshaphat—obviously the more mature of the two kings—interrupts Jehoram’s tantrum.

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
— II Kings 3:11

I don’t have time to get into Elijah’s witty retorts toward the wicked king of Israel, but I encourage you to read them. It’s worth the time!  In the end, he calls for a minstrel to come to play music. That was probably enough to send Jehoram over the edge. “Hello!!!  We need help from the Lord. We need answers. We need deliverance. We don’t need a song!!!” (Oh, Jehoram, why are your impatience and unbelief so familiar?) As the minstrel played, Elisha received a word from heaven.

And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
— II Kings 3:16-18

Let’s break that down into pieces so we can experience the full impact of what the Lord is asking these frightened and weary kings to do.

First off, dig a bunch of ditches.  Of course! It seems so logical. They were thirsty and about to be overcome by an enemy probably three times their size, so what better way to spend their strength and energy than digging holes in the valley? (Sarcasm implied!) Seriously, though, it didn’t seem like the perfect solution to their dilemma, did it? But God wasn’t through yet.

Next, Elisha informed them though they wouldn’t see wind or rain, all those ditches would be filled with water. Not just some water, but enough for them and all their cattle and all their other animals to drink and be satisfied. That’s a lot of water which means they needed to dig a lot of ditches. Where was the water going to come from if not from a massive storm? Well, that was God’s little secret, now wasn’t it?

Elisha continues his speech, and I love this little tidbit he throws in here. He reminds the three kings that the miracle about to take place was a light thing in the sight of God. It was no big deal. The Almighty God would not have to expend any energy to fill the valley with enough water to meet their needs. It was nothing! (We discussed this concept a few weeks back in our series, The Negatives in the Bible). What a comfort to know our biggest obstacles are little things in the eyes of God.

Elisha finishes his message from the Lord, but the last phrase comes out almost as an afterthought. “Oh, and the Lord will deliver the Moabites into your hands too. Just saying.” How funny is that? It proves how insignificant the army of Moab was in the sight of God. He’s like, “Whatever!”

I have to wonder if the three kings looked around and asked, “Is there anyone else here that can speak to the Lord for us? This makes no sense at all! This isn’t a battle plan.” But whatever their initial reservations, they followed through with the Lord’s directions, and watch what happened.

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
— II Kings 3:20-24

Whoa, that’s priceless! The Moabites look out and see the water that looks like blood. Assuming the three kingdoms had turned on and slaughtered each other in the night, they march down to the valley to collect the spoil. But because they weren’t on guard, they were easily attacked and sent running all the way back to Moab where the slaughter continued. God’s ploy led to Moab’s destruction.

While it may not have been the plan the kings had in mind, no one can doubt its effectiveness. They didn’t have to understand. They only needed to obey, do their part, then stand back and watch God do His. And that lesson applies to us today. God’s ways are not our ways and rarely do they make sense to us. That’s okay. We don’t have to understand. We need to trust and obey. And in the end, we’ll stand back and marvel at what God accomplished and how He performed it!

From Mistake to Miracle

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Last night, I began reading The Magnolia Story, the bestseller written by HGTV’s favorite couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Though I didn’t get very far into the book, I know it will be a fun read.

The first chapter detailed how the fabulous family began their show business career. It turns out, neither of them had ever thought of being—nor desired to be—on television. But when a producer from HGTV contacted Joanna and conveyed her interest in creating a show based on the Gaines’ house-flipping business, Joanna was intrigued. Chip, on the other hand, felt sure it was a scam and encouraged his wife to let it go.

Meanwhile, Chip purchased a houseboat, sight unseen, for the family to live in during the transition from their existing home to the completion of their new farmhouse. He was so excited, but he kept his purchase a secret, waiting to surprise Joanna when the houseboat arrived.

Fortunately, Joanna didn’t heed Chip’s advice, and she contacted HGTV, who sent out a film crew to shoot footage for an advertisement for the new show. It was only after the team arrived that Chip and Joanna both discovered they were horrible on camera. Chip completely froze up, and Joanna came across dull and flat. Despite their attempts to be natural, both of them lost their charming personalities as soon as the cameras began rolling.

Things were so bad that the leader of the film crew told them if they didn’t get their act together, there would be no show. They had one more day to prove they could do this. It just “happened” to be the same day the new houseboat arrived. The crew followed the Gaines’ to the unveiling of Chip’s secret, and once he removed Joanna’s blindfold, both suddenly forgot about the cameras. Chip was ecstatic. Joanna was irate.

As the two explored their new purchase, they discovered it was full of holes and mold. The thing was a complete disaster, and Chip realized he was the one who had been scammed. When Joanna recognized how badly her husband was hurting, she softened her frustration and sought to encourage him by saying maybe they could fix it up. They walked through the boat again as she discussed changes that could turn the mess into a masterpiece, then she sketched out some plans on a piece of paper, growing more excited with every stroke.

As they exited the houseboat, hand in hand, they finally noticed the camera crew and realized they had just blown their chance to become television stars. No one would want to watch a crazy couple argue over a husband’s impulse buy. Imagine their surprise when the head of the crew said, “Now we’ve got a show!” Once their true personalities showed forth, the cameras captured a loving couple who faced an obstacle together and triumphed with love and understanding. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? And so, the popular show, Fixer Upper, was born.

Do you know what I love most about this story? Their “big break” began with a mistake. A scam. A decision made in haste. A situation that could have destroyed a marriage or led to financial ruin. But God had other plans, and He used the mistake to work a miracle. He allowed the hardship so He could lead them on another path, one that would impact millions of people in the years to follow. True to His Word, He gave this faithful couple something far beyond what they could ask or think.

God can do the same for you and me. He excels in turning messes into masterpieces. He is the original Fixer Upper, and He has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. What we need to understand is sometimes that plan involves ugly and unwanted elements (like a leaky houseboat), but God often uses those things as a springboard for the miracles in our lives. So, don’t despair. Your story isn’t over yet. In fact, it may just be getting to the good part. Hang in there, and trust the One with the plan.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
— Ephesians 3:20-21