Battitude!

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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Without Love, We Are Nothing

Those who love God's Word.png

Today’s devotion will be a bit different. Typically, I strive to write posts that will uplift and encourage while also educating, but occasionally, I feel the nudging of the Lord to send out a warning. Honestly, these aren’t the easiest entries to write because there’s always the inner voice shouting, “Don’t do it! You’ll make someone angry or hurt someone’s feelings!” But, the truth is the truth, and it must be shared.

Christians, I want to speak to you today, and I will be straightforward. As a whole, we’re failing in our spiritual walk. Too often, we’re so caught up in our self-righteous attitudes and list of rules, we fail to obey the two most important commandments in the Bible: (1) to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and (2) to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Where is the love, people? The past few months of traveling and visiting different churches have opened my eyes to the fact that we’ve got problems. I look around, and I see Christians arguing with one another about standards and convictions. Churches are splitting over ridiculous disagreements about the color of the carpet in the church. Pastors are resigning because they want a more prominent church. Missionaries are leaving the field because someone from a supporting church hurt their feelings. Christian organizations are taking advantage of good-hearted individuals because it suits their budget and agenda. It sounds more like a kindergarten classroom than a loving family, doesn’t it? But it’s happening all around us.

We, as Christians, are people. I get that. We’re human. We make mistakes. We’re far from perfect. But we’re also called to be an example of the One who lives within us. The One who is Love. The One who can give us the strength and grace to live differently. I’m not saying we’re better than those who don’t know the Lord, but I am saying we should act differently. The world should see a difference. We should display the love of God in such a way that the lost can’t help but notice. 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
— I Corinthians 13:2-3

I want us to grasp what these verses are saying. It doesn’t matter how smart we are or how much faith we have because, without love, we’re nothing. God isn’t concerned with how well the preacher can preach but instead if he has a love for his congregation. It’s not important how many programs we have or how many charitable efforts we embark upon to make ourselves look or feel good. If it’s not done in love, it counts for nothing.  

Love doesn’t turn its nose down at the poorly-dressed individual who walks through the doors of the church. It offers a smile. Love doesn’t shut others out because they don’t see eye to eye with it on every possible theory. Love listens and seeks to understand, and when necessary, agrees to disagree. Love doesn’t take advantage of others willing to serve. It is kind and gracious and attempts to care for all.

Sure, we may have beautiful buildings full of nicely-dressed people, but do we have love? Yes, we may have preachers who can make people shout and singers who can bring tears to our eyes, but if there’s no love in it, it’s all for nothing.

I’m sure you, like me, often wonder why more people don’t come to church. Honestly, folks, I think this is why. I firmly believe the lost look around at the Christians they know and say, “They act just like me, so why should I waste my time going to church. It’s not doing anything for them, so I’m sure it won’t do anything for me either.” How sad! It’s not Satan and the world turning others away from the church, it’s us! We’re to blame. Arguing amongst ourselves. Shouting at people about their sin instead of showing them the love of Jesus. No wonder they don’t want to have any part with us!

Before I close, let me clarify that I am not in any way condoning sin or urging you to lower your standards (if those standards are based on the Bible). What I’m saying is we need to be more like Jesus. On more than one occasion, He was ridiculed for the company He kept because He was always hanging around with those of questionable character. Why? Out of love. Ironically enough, the ones who received the harshest rebukes and criticisms from the Lord were the “church goers”—the Pharisees. Why? Because they’d lost sight of the love. They had become consumed with themselves and their lists of dos and don’ts. Everyone else just impeded their service to the Lord, but they forgot that, without love, there is no service to God. It’s all for nothing if it’s not done out of love!

Now, I’ve probably stepped on a few toes and ruffled a few feathers here. No doubt, I’ll have a long list of unsubscribers in my inbox tomorrow, but so be it. I’ve said what I believe God wanted me to say, and I’ve spoken the truth from God’s Word. If that offends people, it’s probably because they know they’re guilty. And I’m not just flying off at the mouth when I say that. I have Scripture to back it up.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
— Psalm 119:165

Those who love God’s Word are not offended by it. Convicted, sure, but not offended. I don’t write these words today to offend. Consider it a warning. We need to be careful we don’t get so caught up in being a “Christian,” we forget to be like Christ. God is love. He loves the world, and He proved it by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We bear the name “Christian,” but when others look at us, do they see Christ? Do they see love? If not, why not?

Unwanted

Sometimes aggressionand defensiveness arenothing more than a cry for help from someone who is afraid and misunderstood..png

Accepting the call to the mission field requires sacrifice. I knew that going in. What I didn’t understand, however, was that some of those sacrifices would be completely unexpected.

We have come to realize we may not be able to take Barnabas with us in this missionary journey. The first blow came when we discovered pitbulls are on the banned breed list in the UK. Still, we clung to hope, deciding we would have him DNA tested to see—if by some miracle—he was not actually a pitbull. We have seen others who looked like our sweet mutt but were a blend of other breeds. So, we thought maybe God would work that out.

But, as we’ve begun our deputation journey, we’re coming to the conclusion that this is not going to work well with Barnabas. As you know, he doesn’t deal well with our absence, which is going to be a problem when we have to be away from home for longer stretches of time. That being the case, Jason and I discussed the possibility of taking him with us on our trips, but that idea was soon squashed when we found out many of the campgrounds and RV parks also have rules concerning pitbulls. Along with a few other breeds, they’re not allowed.

This leaves us with a heartbreaking decision. What do we do? We seem to be the only ones who actually want Barnabas, yet it’s looking more and more like we’re not going to be able to keep him. We hate the fact of turning him in to the animal shelter because they will probably have to put him down at his first sign of aggression, which, in his case is how he deals with his anxiety. And no one else has shown any interest in having him because few have had the opportunity to see his good side. They only know the reputation of pitbulls in general and the panic-stricken pup who acts out when he doesn’t know what else to do. They can’t see the precious, loving canine who is only looking to be loved and understood.

I write this today for two reasons. First off, I ask you to pray that God will give us direction in knowing how to handle this situation. We need to do what’s best for us but also what’s best for Barnabas. He is one of God’s creatures too, and he needs someone to stand up for him, to love him and try to understand him. We want to do that. Giving him up would be like giving up a part of our hearts, but above all, we have to follow God’s will. So, please help us pray for guidance and answers.

Secondly, I wanted this to serve as a reminder to all of us to be careful to not slap labels on people. We should never make others feel unwanted because of their gender, nationality, skin color, occupation, or anything else. We shouldn’t judge people according to stereotypes and assume that, because one is bad, they must all be bad. And, we must understand that sometimes what we see as aggression or defensiveness is really just a cry for help from someone who is scared and misunderstood. In other words, we need to care more and spend more time practicing the love of Jesus. That doesn’t mean we excuse or accept immoral behavior, but it means we look beyond the sin to try and reach the sinner. There are many out there who won’t know how to live any differently unless someone takes the time and effort to show them the way. Will you be that one?