I got really frustrated this week. It always happens right before a big event – I get focused and overwhelmed and cranky, and I usually blow up at some people and have a couple mini-meltdowns.
But it’s not totally my fault. I am passionate about things, and I get upset when other people don’t share those passions, don’t work the way I think they should, don’t do what I ask…
Except that it really IS my fault. I was the one that blew up, the one that got frustrated, the one that chose to let my emotions determine my actions.
When I accepted that responsibility, refused to allow myself to assign guilt to others, I actually felt better. I confessed my sin to God and to those I offended, and I felt relieved. Done.
But it doesn’t always happen that way. Many times, I spend a long time in the “it’s not my fault” phase. I wallow in anger over what other people did, replay their role in my melt-down over and over again until I am even more furious as them for what they made me do.
When I do that, I am miserable, people around me are miserable. My relationship with God and others is ugly.
We live in a world where we are actually encouraged to blame others for our problems: “I had to cheat – my parents would kill me if I got a bad grade!” “He told me he loved me. I assumed we’d get married…” “She spread rumors about me, so I spread rumors about her!” I could go on – I’m sure you could, too. Our bad behavior is not our fault.
But here’s the truth: It IS our fault. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all in need of the forgiveness that is only offered from God through Jesus. Our enemy will do anything to keep us from acknowledging that. And blaming others has worked since the beginning of time (“The woman you gave me made me eat that fruit!”).
Don’t fall into the “it’s not my fault” trap. Don’t let others pull you into it. It’s the easy way out, a cop-out, and it leaves you dissatisfied, even more frustrated. It destroys your relationships with others and with God.
“Confession is good for the soul.” It is freeing. Confession allows us to tell God what he already knows and humbles us before him and others so we can better reflect his glory – the glory of a God who uses imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
~I Corinthians 13:4-8a
I see this line – or something like it — over and over in birthday cards, encouragement posts, and yearbooks. And while I understand the sentiment, I don’t like it.
Because we should be changing. All the time. I cringe to think what I would be like if I hadn’t changed since high school. Big hair, big mouth, I was constantly seeking attention, always thinking about myself. I still struggle with self-centeredness. I think I always will. But God has helped me grow in that area, to think more about others and less about me, to make pleasing Him my priority and not be so concerned with pleasing others.
Admittedly, some people change for the worse. Some folks who used to be kind and gentle become bitter and jaded. That’s not the kind of change I’m talking about. That kind of change results from wrong responses to difficulties faced in life. People mistreat us, circumstances don’t work out the way we think they should, and we get angry. The anger festers. We turn into the Hulk, scary and awkward, frightening people around us.
What God wants is for us to grow from the difficult times. James says “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” (James 1:2). He goes on to say that these trials make our faith stronger, make us more like Christ. There are several passages of Scripture that affirm this, reinforce the fact that a problem-free life isn’t our goal. That won’t make us happy. But learning to face problems on our knees, seeking God’s help, His strength, His purposes, allows us to be joyful even in the worst of times.
And these lessons take a lifetime. If I am growing in my relationship with Christ, I should be able to recognize God’s fingerprints in my soul every year, molding me and shaping me into someone who looks more and more like Him.
Change is good. Change is necessary. Change reflects maturity and growth.
So change. Please!
I used to think I should read the Bible because that would make God happy. Like God was a moody teacher: “Do what he wants or he’ll make your life miserable.” But, as I grew in my faith, I started wanting to read my Bible, loving to study it. It is full of Truth. It is full of hope. It is full of God’s instructions for how I should live.
The Bible allows me to know God – his heart, his passion, his holiness, his power. The Bible shows me who I am and helps me see who I can be.
Yes, it can be confusing. Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, it is controversial. So what? Study it anyway. Read it for yourself. Don’t let other people tell you what it says. Check what they say to make sure it’s true.
James gives us great advice: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5). I have found this verse to be true over and over again. I have asked God to help me understand what his word says, and he has answered those prayers time and time again.
So in this age of words, words everywhere, don’t neglect THE Word.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Is. 40:8
My children have graduated from PBS Kids, Nick Jr and Playhouse Disney.
That’s mostly a good thing. I’m sorry, but Caillou’s voice was SUPER annoying. And one can only answer Dora’s questions so many times.
Sometimes, though, I miss the little kid shows. I really loved Diego’s “Rescue Pack” song. I used to salsa around the house whenever that came on. If I wasn’t in the room, my kids would call for me, knowing I wouldn’t want to miss it.
But here’s what I especially miss — those shows, shows like Barney and Dora, Dragon Tales and Blue’s Clues, they had nice people in them. Or nice animals. Or accessories. Whatever. And they were even nice to the bad guys. They didn’t yell or scream or curse. They taught good lessons like share with your friends, use kind words, always carry a blow-up raft with you in case you’re caught in the terrible current of raging river rapids while looking for an endangered bird.
Why are shows like that only for little kids? Don’t older kids need those lessons? Teenagers? Adults?
Don’t you think this world would be a better place if Barney moved up with us? If there were a cute song all about how we shouldn’t yell at our brother just because he ate that candy bar we had been saving? An adorable Vera Bradley purse waltzing around and keeping us out of trouble? Some peep-toe pumps that led us to clues about where to go to college?
Maybe the solution to all the violence and anger in this world is simply because we leave the shows like Barney behind when we grow up.
“You need more conflict.”
This is a note I get every time I turn in a manuscript. I tend to make life too easy for my protagonists. I need a push to add in difficult situations, to create tension. It reflects who I am in real life – a hater of conflict, a “wisher” that life could be problem-free.
But my editor knows what makes a good story is the conflict the characters have to overcome in order to achieve their goal. Think of Cinderella. Would we love that story as much if she was born into a loving home, treated like a princess as a child and became a princess as an adult?
It is only after Cinderella has overcome the conflicts presented by her father’s death, her stepmother’s mistreatment, her stepsisters’ ridicule, even her fairy godmother’s deadline, that makes us truly happy for her. She has battled to become a princess, her character has been revealed through all that mess. Cinderella goes through a lot to end up in the palace, and we love her for that.
This is true in fiction, but it is also true in our lives. Like so much else, stories reflect life and reveal God – the Author of our stories. He knows that we need conflict in order to develop our characters. James tells us to be joyful in the face of trials because they mature us as believers (James 1:2-4).
I think back on difficult times, and I see how God has used them to teach me lessons that I would not have learned otherwise. And they equipped me to help others going through similar situations. Trials draw me closer to God and bring the truly important aspects of life to light. Conflict is not pleasant, but it is necessary. It is good.
So choose to see conflict as a gift. Face them with eyes on Jesus and not your circumstances, asking what you can learn from them, how you can grow from them. God allows difficult times to make us better, stronger, more like Him. So face your trials like a Princess, daughters of the King. Our Happily Ever After is guaranteed!
15 (that’s fifteen) years ago last night, I went into labor. But no one believed me.
Because it was the night before my birthday, and because I was a week before my due date. No way was I having my first child then.
But I was! I was having my first child then.
After convincing my midwife this was for real, I made it to the birthing center about 11pm. Nine hours later, I held my first child in my arms.
On my 24th birthday.
I could not have asked for a better gift.
I gave my birthday to Emma that day. It is now hers. It would have been rude to take it back!
So, technically, I’m still 24.
Emma and Me, January 31, 2007
(the 8th anniversary of my 24th birthday)
Forgiveness is possibly the hardest of all the commands God gives us Christians. I prefer the easy stuff like “Do not kill.” I’ve got that. But forgive? Oh, man. That one is hard.
I have to be honest here - I can enjoy refusing forgiveness. I can delight stewing in anger and submerging myself in self-righteousness. “How DARE that person do/say that?” “She thinks I’m wrong? After what she has done?” I have spent days, weeks thinking of all the ways someone has wronged me. I find new reasons to stay angry in every look, email, even body language. Sometimes, I even bring others in. To “advise” me of course. I tell them how I have been wronged and wait for them to agree that I am SO right and that person is awful. So I add the sin of gossip to my sins of bitterness and anger.
You can see the problem here. First, I am miserable. Then, people around me are miserable. Worst of all, my relationship with God is affected because I am blatantly disregarding His word. In many ways. Even my health is affected – I don’t sleep as well, my head aches and stomach does strange things.
And many times, I refuse to forgive because the other person hasn’t asked for it, yet. They don’t think they have done anything wrong. How dare they!! Therefore, I MUST be angry and let them know it so they will see their wrong and seek my forgiveness.
But, as much as I have tried, there is nothing in the Bible that supports any of that. God doesn’t give me permission to hold onto anger and bitterness. He does not allow me to withhold forgiveness. Not for any reason.
There is joy in forgiveness. Freedom. Peace. It is hard, no doubt. And we can think of MANY reasons why we shouldn’t have to forgive. But those reasons are not from the Lord. Here’s what He has to say about it:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” ~Col. 3:13
I just got back from our school’s annual high school retreat. All the sessions we had were great. But my favorite was the one where our speaker addressed “pretend Christians.” I loved that talk because it was during a talk like that, at a Christian school, when I really began to get serious about my faith.
At a Christian school, especially, it’s easy to “fake” Christianity. The kids know all the “right” answers, know how to act, how to play the part. But, for some, it’s just an act. Their hearts are not in it. “Jesus” is the right answer to most questions asked in Bible class, but that’s about it. Because of that, some students graduate from our school and, seemingly, graduate from Christianity. They did their time, it was (mostly) fun, but then they move on. Our hearts as teachers are broken.
Why does this happen? I believe it’s because we have far too many “cultural Christians” in our schools (and churches). These are folks who are raised in a Christian environment and live by the “rules” during their childhood. If their growing up years were pleasant, then they might look back fondly on the faith, but decide it’s just not for them. If they had bad experiences, they might hate anything to do with Christianity and run as far from it as possible the minute they leave home.
But I would argue, as our speaker did this week, that those guys aren’t truly Christians. Sure, they can quote the verses and know when to answer “Jesus”, but they haven’t let those verses change them, they haven’t really come face-to-face with Jesus. Because, if they truly knew Him, had truly enountered him, had truly understood the words in the Bible, they couldn’t walk away. They couldn’t abandon the peace, joy, and wonder of a relationship with the God of the universe to pursue a life that is so much less satisfying.
“But…” I know. Lots of people, lots of arguments coming to your mind right now. We are great at justification, great at the role-playing. But be real with yourself, like I had to do over 25 years ago when I admitted I was faking the Christian life, saying the right answers with my mouth, but not truly believing in my heart.
Admitting my hypocrisy was embarrassing, but it was necessary. And it began a journey that I would never have imagined. A journey that, at times, was terribly hard and at times was almost unbearably wonderful. It is the life we are all made to lead, whether we accept it or not.
So I leave you with the challenge our students were left with: Are you for real? Are you all in? I won’t promise an easy life – Jesus guarantees it won’t be easy – but it is right, and it is full, and the rewards are out of this world!
I am a people pleaser. Big time. I want everyone to think I’m great, to invite me to all the parties, and to speak of me fondly when I’m not in the room.
There are major problems with that, as you can imagine.
One of the biggest problems is that I sometimes have a hard time saying “No.” People ask me to do something, and my automatic response is, “Sure!” Because I feel like it is something God wants me to do? Not usually. Usually it’s because I am afraid if I say no that person will not speak of me fondly when I am not in the room.
But there’s a problem with never saying no – I get overwhelmed. I end up doing so many things that I don’t do any one of them well. Colossians 3:23 says, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.”
Ouch. I have to tell you — I worry WAY more about making people happy than making God happy. But that is SO backward. And stressful. Because God knows just how much I can handle. God loves me. He speaks fondly of me when I’m not in the room.
So I have realized that I need to focus on pleasing God, not people. I need to let go of the fear that people might not like me and embrace that reality that I am deeply loved by God. I need to look to him, what he has for me to do. Because there is joy in that, peace in that. And there is rest. Rest is something that is hard to get when you’re constantly saying “yes.”
Jesus says that, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:30). So join me in trading in the burden of being a people pleaser for the freedom of being a God-pleaser.
And, go ahead, don’t speak fondly of me. I can take it!