Ever get in a bad mood? Sad, angry, bitter? I do....these ten things help move me back to a better attitude. Post your ideas in the comments. I'd love to hear what works for you!
I've spent the last 48 hours in Chicago. I flew in on United Airlines. I scored a free upgrade to the exit aisle. Extra leg room.
My lovely cousin picked me up from the airport and graciously shared her beautiful city with me. We went to Portillo's and I had a Chicago hotdog. Tomato, pickle, relish, mustard and hot peppers. I normally only eat hot dogs in the summer and only with ketchup. When in Rome I order what's the local specialty. It's fun trying new things. Sometimes you are surprised you like it.
I got to my hotel where I'm staying for a work conference. I was given a free room upgrade. Corner room. Full windows flank two walls and I have a view of the city.
Last night I sat in my room and listened to the police sirens and news helicopters buzz a couple blocks away at the Trump Tower. There was a protest. Peaceful. When I had enough of the view I pushed the button on the wall and the electric blackout blinds closed.
Today was a full day of continuing ed classes and sponsor booths and catered lunch. Good meetings. We talked about the fallout from the election, about rising regulation and profitability. I found some new tools for employee training and grabbed some trade show giveaways to give my kiddos at home.
At lunch I hoofed down the street to Millennium Park and took a selfie with the bean. Hustled back to the hotel, grabbed a bandaid from the concierge for my new blister and made it back to class with one minute to spare before the break was over.
Halfway through the last session of the day I could bear it no longer and I purchased my online fast pass to the Chicago Institute of Art. I grabbed my Nikes and quickly walked down city streets to the nearest entrance. I was a little giddy.
Rodin, Seurat, Manet, Van Gogh. Georgia O'Keefe, Picasso and Monet. Rooms of Monet. Visions of Ferris Beuller. I love art. If I am ever sad, you could put me in a room with art and my soul will recover.
My cousin got off work and met me at the art museum. I tried to convince her that it is her duty to come view this art on a regular basis because it's here in her gorgeous city. She grinned. We took another selfie, this time with the Chicago lions sporting giant sized Cub's hats.
Then we went to dinner. We ordered a Tomato and Spinach deep dish pizza. And we talked. Of books and art. We talked of parents and siblings. Of work and play. Of roommates and love stories. We talked of children. Her friends in West Chicago, my friends in Rwanda. We talked about hope and pain. About poverty and privilege. I listened to her heart. She listened to mine. We talked about Trump.
Here's the deal. I know walking around in my skin and my life I am privileged. I get free upgrades and catered lunches. My kids get trade show giveaways and museum souvenirs. Some of the kids here in Chicago get moved out of their homes into neighborhoods where they wake up in the night to gunshots. I stay in a hotel with electric blackout blinds.
What would I write if I was not afraid?
I voted for Trump.
I struggled all year long about that decision. I do not like the man. I'm disgusted by his vulgar and angry rhetoric. I hate that my ten year old looks at me with sad and questioning eyes and asks why.
In the end, I voted for Trump because I was more concerned about Secretary Clinton's corruption and policies. About healthcare and regulation and abortion and jobs and ISIS. I'm heartbroken by Syrian Refugees and hopeless kids and deep divides in our country. I don't believe more of the same is a solution to any of the mess.
I'd still vote the same way.
I am afraid that telling the truth and attempting to have the hard why conversations with people I love will mean I lose people. I hate losing people.
Author and speaker Eric Metaxas (author of Veggie Tales and Bonhoeffer) sent an email today in which he wrote "one friend actually emailed me 'You helped make this happen. Our friendship is over'. That hurt. But then I thought about how much he must be hurting to have written that".
Now I sit in my hotel. Watching the city lights. The news helicopters are back across the plaza to Trump Tower. I read a news story that just this afternoon a white man wearing a Trump hat was beaten as people watched and chanted "don't vote Trump". It happened just down the road from here. The beaten man looked a lot like my father. Even as I write this, fear of assumptions is making me want to point out my dad also does not like Trump.
At home the protests have continued four days and have been declared riots after extensive damage occurred. Clearly not a legitimate or legal or helpful way to protest.
Someone said "what would you write if you were not afraid?"
I'd say "I'm listening. Will you?"
I want to listen. I want to understand fully why people are scared and angry. I want to engage and find ways to move forward that we can all accept. I want to help bridge the gap between those hurting people's politics and my concerns for the future.
Someone asked me how I got free upgrades in my hotel and flight. I grinned and glibly said it's because God loves me and likes to surprise me with joy. After my Chicago tour I pause. Hmm. Perhaps I get free upgrades because I'm privileged. My mama pointed out that the privilege is the fact I was on the flight or in the hotel at all. Some people never travel. Which is not a right. For the love. Some people don't have clean water.
There are rights. Free speech. Right to assemble. Right to vote. To pursue happiness. Freedom of religion. For everyone. Not just those who agree with me. Truth is we are all privileged by those rights. Well. We don’t ALL have the privilege of those rights. Syrian refugees come to mind.
So here is what I'd say if I was not afraid.
I'm not sorry I voted for Trump. I believe given my options it was the lesser of two bad choices. However. I am deeply sorry that I did not use my privilege and resources in the primaries to ensure better candidate choices. I am sorry that I have not met my neighbors. I am sorry that I don't know the name of the pastor of the largest Black church in my community. I am sorry that I close my windows when the noise is disturbing my sleep. I am sorry I have been afraid.
I shall do better.
My cousin and I talked about some of our failings. When our passion for our projects was not enough to make a difference. When our privilege got in the way. When people tuned out because we did not understand.
I agreed with Metaxas when he wrote "For a Christian, the first thing to do after something this divisive is to pray for those who disagree with you and show them some love. This stuff is complicated, and there are legitimate concerns. (I'm not talking about the people burning flags and cursing in public....). So please let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. I want others to give me the benefit of the doubt. So I have to do the same for those disagreeing with me. We need to assure those we disagree with that they are loved and respected as fellow Americans, and, more importantly, loved by God. This is the work of being a Christian. It's not extra credit Christianity. It's the guts of the faith at its most basic level."
Can I suggest that rather than unfriend and block and close your windows and just put bandaids on your blisters that you respectfully talk with someone different than you? That you listen to understand, not to find holes in their argument. That you don't beat the man in the street. Or hate the man in the street. You don't break things, break friendships, break hearts.
I love my cousin. She is different than me in many ways and the same in some. I'm proud of her. I'm praying for her this morning as she goes to work and to church. I'm praying for her friends and this beautiful city. I'm praying for Trump, like I pray for Obama and for Bush before. I'm praying the voters like me who plugged their nose and checked his box will not be afraid to hold him accountable to lead and protect everyone. I'm praying for those who were with Hillary and those who walked away from the whole mess.
I'm choosing to ignore my fear and extend my hand. Will you? Will those of you who hate Trump and assume that since I voted that way that I must be a hateful bigot please drop your assumptions and listen? Will those of you who are horrified by burning flags and stopped traffic slow down and listen? I'm afraid of what will happen if we do not.
More so, I'm hugely hopeful in grace. In breathing. In prayer. In kindness. In forgiveness. In this big beautiful diverse country. I'm more hopeful than afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. I believe that honest conversation in a spirit of grace can help heal our national soul.
What would you write if you were not afraid? I'd love to know. I'll take you out for dinner. Let's talk. I'll listen.
Some of the most beautiful things can come from some of the most painful moments. Being brutally honest with the one you love is one such moment. Your heart is ripping on the inside dreading how that brutal honesty may affect them, be it a parent to a child, friend to friend, or lover to lover. It is then we must remember that the most beautiful teacups and the most valuable diamonds come from the hottest heat and most intense pressure.
It’s these moments in which we have to take some of our greatest leaps of faith. It’s scary not knowing how the one we love will respond. Sometimes what we had to say wasn't “… the droid they were looking for.” . Sometimes they feel painfully hurt from the remorse they feel resulting from the choices or actions they made. At other times it’s because a heart-wrenching decision has to be made now that the truth is out in the open.
We always talk about us having faith in God and whether we trust Him to handle the deepest concerns of our heart with tender loving care. It hit me today, however. Who really has to take the greatest leaps of faith? Us? Or God?
Think about it. If we are brutally honest with our own selves, we can be really blobby messes sometimes.
Yet, God places in our hands His most highly valued creations, fashioned and formed by His own hands and brought into life by the whoosh of His own life-giving breath. They come in the form of strangers at the store, our friends, our children, and that one and only Love of our life! … Us! Mistake-making blobby messes!
Then He allows us to go through some of the most painful moments together in the hopes that the fire and the pressure of those moments will only strengthen and beautify our relationships… cleanse out the impurities instead of tearing us apart. He takes a huge risk in releasing us to experience these moments in the hope that our blobby, made-of--clay selves will only become a more beautiful piece of pottery each day. The cracks in our pottery, scars from those painful moments, made to function for life-giving water to pour out and beautify others and bless our world.
Why does God have so much to say about Faith? Because He was the first to try it when He created the universe and us. He was the first to try it when He died on the cross and rose from the dead in the hope of us having deep connection with Him. He has to apply it towards us everyday as He gives us free will to choose life with Him or choosing our own ways.
Yeah, if symbolically speaking, there was a cliff jumping competition for who takes the greatest risk in plunging into the pool of faith, I'd say God wins hands-down! How utterly humbling to realize how big our God’s heart is and how much trust He actually has towards us.
I started some daily reading with this verse: "Unto you it is given ... to suffer." (Philippians 1:29) It ticked me off a little bit.
I was having a hard week, unable to see my future -- even in part -- and fatigued by my boys constantly challenging my motherhood.
I wanted to open up some devotional time and be told in a verse how much God loved me and to trust that He’ll work everything for good. That was the kind of message I was hoping for. Not one about suffering. I get life’s suffering. 10-4, God.
Now, the context of this verse was suffering experienced for belonging to Christ, written by Bible rock star Paul from prison. It wasn’t in reference to having an angry ex-husband, confused children and a seemingly tanking career you’re trying to sort out.
I had to look that context up, and I only really did because I am always bothered by ellipses in verses. I wonder what’s missing and why an author is deciding it isn’t important for me to see the verse in its entirety.
I like to see the whole verse as I embark on a devotional message. Consider me anti-ellipse in devotionals. It's already too hard to understand a verse’s context outside of the whole chapter or book.
Back to the point: The context made the suffering theme of my morning’s message far more palatable. After all, I’m good with suffering for Christ. I’m not good with suffering at the hands of angry people or because of other earthly forces. And after looking at the verse in context, I felt a little silly.
All-too-often when I seek out Scripture or a devotional message for the day, I make the mistake of treating what I find like a daily horoscope or fortune cookie message. Bzzzz! Wrong approach. After getting the context and me out of the way, I read on and was reminded why I love this Streams in the Desert entry I read yearly. A thought from Cortland Myers, a respected pastor from the early 1900s, is included in it. He says this:
“The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire?
“Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.
“We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God's grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.”
China. I am like china. I liked that. I smiled.
My morning reading did give me the message that God loved me and that I should trust that He’ll work everything for good, after all.
Come on over my little girls, put down your toys and cuddle in. I've got another story for you to write on your heart. While I know that the stories of Cinderella and Snow White are royal indeed I have another queen who I hope you will remember. Tonight's bed time story is the tale of Queen Esther.
Like most princess stories this one starts with a sad tale. Our heroine, Esther, is an orphan who is being raised by her cousin, Mordecai. They live in a land far from home where her people are scorned, mocked and persecuted. Esther is a beauty, unmatched by the other young women in her day. Mordecai is wise and watchful. His action has saved the life of the king.
This tale also features a bad guy. Haman. He's an arrogant, violent, scheming, nasty sort of man. He hates Mordecai. With a deep murderous hatred.
And there is the king. King Xerxes. This one is easily manipulated and he has a temper. He's frequently drunk. Not great character qualities in a leader. He has even forgotten how Mordecai saved his life.
Girls. Watch carefully. People will tell you who they really are by how they behave. Believe them.
So King Xerxes gets mad at his current wife and kicks her out. He decides to have a beauty contest to pick the new queen. Guess who wins? Yup, our Esther.
Listen my daughters. Don't take opportunities for granted. Sometimes God uses our talents and circumstances to strategically put us in places of influence.
Haman's hatred has grown to the point of action. He sets up a pole to impale Mordecai on at his first opportunity. Then Haman goes to the king and convinces him to pass a law calling for the genocide of all of Mordecai's people. The king agrees. They roll a purim, a type of dice to choose the day that all the Jews will die. Mordecai is heartbroken and goes to prayer. Weeping and grieving prayer. Esther asks why he cries. Mordecai tells her she must go to the king and ask for the salvation of her people.
Esther pauses. If she goes to the king when she is not called for under Persian law she could be put to death. Mordecai speaks.
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14
"Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:15-16
My daughters. Pray first. Be brave. Fight for right. Speak when you must. You were born in this day for such a time as this. You can trust God with the result.
So Esther goes. She invites the king and Haman to dinner. Clever girl. They consent and Haman feels like quite the man - being honored with a special banquet by the queen. At the dinner the king asks Esther what she wants. And all she asks for is for Haman and the King to come to dinner again the next night. Biding her time.
The King goes home. He can't sleep so he calls for the royal readers to come to him from the books of history. As they read they randomly cover the time that Mordecai saved the life of the king. The king realizes he never thanked Mordecai. Oops.
See girls. Bedtime stories are royal treatment and important! Don't forget the stories. Write them on your heart.
Just then.....(Oh how I love this story....such great timing)....Haman enters.
When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” Esther 6:6
So Haman puffs up his chest and lists out the honors he'd like. Royal clothes and a grand parade. The king likes his ideas.
“Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” Esther 6:10
The tide has turned. After his humiliating parade honoring Mordecai, Haman heads to Queen Esther's dinner. She chose this time to state her case for the King.
Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.
Oh my girls. Some advice from Haman's life? It's not about you. Remember kindness to the people around you. For you will reap what you sow. May it be kindness returned tenfold. If you sow hatred, it is your own life you will wreck.
The story of Esther ends with Haman being impaled on the pole he intended for Mordecai. The King sets out a new decree allowing the Jews to fight and defend themselves. They do and win a great victory.
I love the story of Queen Esther. It's about bravery and courage. Timing and faith. Prayer and watchfulness. It's a great story for such a time as this. Tell your children.
I really enjoy The Bible Project's Read Scripture series. The session on Esther is again a big picture overview. I love the literature analysis - how the book is put together gives great insight. Watch and Learn.
Beth Moore! Enough said.
My sister was my maid of honor. She wore a blue dress which had been hand sewn by a friend of mine. We had picked up the dress the day before the wedding. It was entirely too small. My sister couldn't raise her arms, she couldn't take full breaths of air. No one told me. They didn't tell the guests. She didn't complain. I was the bride and my family didn't want anything to tarnish the day.
All throughout the Bible the church is referred to using marriage imagery as the Bride of Christ. Read a good explanation here.
I am concerned that believers have forgotten how to treat a bride.
Listen. I get it. People have been hurt at church. They have lost their way. Leaders have sometimes broken trust. Priorities have been misplaced. But that is not the full picture. Certainly not the full truth. But frequently it's all people talk about, write about, think about. Most of the blog posts online I see about the greater church are not positive. They are critical. Our society is soaked in criticism. Why would new people bother going to church if all her members do is complain?
The tone of the conversation about church tends to be a sneer or a shrug. Music is too loud. Too long. Not long enough. Teen group too fun. Not fun enough. Too much Bible. Not enough Bible. No one says hello. They make me say hello. For the love.
You know that part in the wedding where the pastor asks if anyone knows of any reason the wedding should not continue? Sometimes people have to stand up and say stop. Happens in churches too. Martin Luther. Those awful child abuse stories. When the truth is being hidden or distorted.
However. Most of the time, people at weddings stay seated. They do so out of respect and kindness and awe at the beauty of the bride. Guests shouldn't stare critically at the choice of flowers or music or dresses. They certainly don't throw tomatoes. They don't trip the bride.
My favorite thing to do at a wedding is to watch the expression of the groom. When he sees his bride. Eyes light up. Tears fall.
Seems like instead of throwing every criticism we can find at the church and her leaders perhaps we should watch the groom. He loves his bride. Jesus loves his bride enough that he laid down his life to save her.
You know what a bridezilla is right? When a bride is mean, picky and crazy. The only time a bride isn't lovely is when she focuses totally on herself and forgets the groom, or forgets her guests. Same is true with the church. Eyes on Jesus and she shines.
I know most people writing critically about the church are simply trying to remind her to keep the faith. But the constant criticism and lack of cheer can do harm. At a wedding, ultimately, it does not matter what flowers are chosen or what dress the flower girl wears. The wedding will proceed. Save your complaints about church for eternal concerns and don't worry about the details.
May I throw out a thought? Perhaps what the church needs is more people to cheer her on. More people who say thank you to leaders. People to tell their stories of grace and joy and friendship and love. More people who stand when she walks down the aisle. My guess is more people would respond to the invitation if the guests made the wedding sound fun. So fellow believers, when you see a problem within the church, solve it. But do so in a manner that does not demean or degrade. My sister dealt with her dress in grace. I appreciated it.
The truth is that people are healed at church. People are found. Leaders keep the faith. Conflicts are resolved. Wrongs are forgiven. The church is the bride. She's not perfect. But she is loved.
Feel free to share a wedding picture in the comments or a story of how the church has made a difference in your life.
It’s possible that I spend way too much time thinking about produce. I work at a grocery store where I clean floors for eight hours each night, so occasionally I take time to notice what’s sitting on that floor. As I look around, it strikes me that God is incredibly generous. And I do mean INCREDIBLY generous.
God could have looked at us humans and said, “They need some nourishment. Here have a fruit.” But no. He mixed it up and said, “One thing to eat called a fruit? Not good enough!” (Keep in mind, I wasn’t there, so I’m paraphrasing for God.)
Instead of one fruit he gave us a multitude of fruits. Bananas, pears, oranges, mango, kiwi, pomegranate, and raspberries (quite possibly God’s most perfect creation), just to name a few. And lest we forget, God also gave us apples. I can just imagine God now saying to himself, “STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!” (Again, just guessing on the specific language.)
Not only did God give us apples, but he made possible Ambrosia, Arkansas Black, Aurora, Braeburn, Cameo, Crimson Crisp, Cripps Pink, Elstar, Empire, Envy, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Golden Supreme, Granny Smith, Hanner's, Honeycrisp, Jazz, Jonagold, King David, Liberty, McIntosh, Morther Spy, Mountain Rose, Mutsu, Newtown Pippen, Nikita, Opal, Pacific Rose, Red Delicious, Rome, Rosalyn, Ruby Jon, Smitten, Sonata, Spokane Beauty, Spitzenberg, Sweet Tango, Sweetie, and Winesap apples. And those are just the forty I saw at work.
If God is going to take the time to bring such detail to something as simple as an apple which dies every single year, how much more effort did God put into us?
Each of those apples appeal to different tastes.
And each of those apples has someone that says, “This is my favorite.” Even Spitzenberg, which sounds like a horribly unappealing name for something you eat. ("Mmm, you can really taste the spitz!")
Matthew 6:30 tells us: “If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” (NLT)
God doesn’t cut corners.
He doesn’t scrimp or take the lazy way out. He goes into the details, the variety, and the preciseness (it’s a word) to make sure even something as simple as fruit is more than just an ordinary thing.
He will put even more detail, variety, and preciseness into the ones he made to enjoy his creation.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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