for when we’re face-to-face with someone’s bad day

Poor guy. The drink machines weren’t working which meant that his customers were thirsty. Once the line went down I politely, quietly went up to the counter to ask if he could fill my cup with some water from the tap. “The drink machine is broken!” he barked. I felt my eyes widen and my head jerk back a little and then I kindly nodded with understanding. I silently turned and made my way back to my seat.

“Geez. He doesn’t have to be so rude,” I thought to myself. But then I remembered what a stupid rough morning it must have been for him. I mean, being a manager of a restaurant with a broken drink machine has to come with some level of stress. First-world problems. So I just prayed for him.

A couple of minutes passed and then he came to my table. “I’m sorry, it’s just that we only have tap water and it’s not cold,” he said with regret in his voice. “Don’t worry about it. Really. It’s no big deal,” I assured him. He held up his index finger as if to say “give me a second,” and then he rushed around the counter. I saw him grab a bottled water from what looked like the staff refrigerator. “Here,” he said, “I insist. It’s the least I can do.” I took it with a thank you and then he got back to work. Humbled.

 

When faces with someone else's bad day
(And just to protect the innocent,
this incident did not happen at a Starbucks.)

 

That could have turned out completely different. I could have mouthed back. I wanted to mouth back. I could have jumped over the counter and…done…something. I’m such a trouble-maker. Not really. I could have entered into his bad day and taken on his bad attitude changing the whole course of my good morning. Thankfully, I didn’t.

But I do. When it’s someone close to me — like…my kids — I can get offended. I can enter into their bad day and take on their bad attitude and change the whole course of my good morning. Why do I do that?!

It’s so much better when, by God’s absolute grace and only through His Spirit’s empowering, I leave a buffer between me and someone else’s bad day. When I look at things from a less defensive approach — praying rather than talking back, speaking blessing rather than cursing — the results are beauty rather than tornado-ish, relational destruction.

We all have bad days. But instead of taking on someone else’s bad day, we get a choice. We get to choose our response.

I can’t do it on my own. He’s gracious to indwell us. I don’t always do it well. He’s gracious to forgive us. But if I’ve spent time communing with God and meditating on true things, I’m much more apt to intercede. When I’ve allowed Him to fill me full of Himself, I’m much less needy for others to give me security.

 

A beautiful prayer that Paul prayed for others:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

 

It’s going to happen because it’s Thursday, and we live on this planet. Someone around us will struggle against their heart or their circumstance in search of true joy. But we get to choose our response. We can choose to help them rather than drag them further down. We can choose to stand in the gap, praying to the only One who’s able to heal-hearts and change perspectives.

It’s our choice, today.

 
Fill me, Lord…

What helpful things do you do when face-to-face with someone else’s bad day?
 

“here” is where God wants to use you

Church messed me up on Sunday.

I overslept because I got home really late Saturday night/Sunday morning from a conference. My husband left early for work and my kids never woke me because TV puts them in a time warp. So when I finally arose from my slumber we rushed around like crazy people to get to church semi-on-time. I think one of my kids may have eaten gummie snacks for breakfast.

After I dropped them off at their classes — finally noticing that none of them had actually brushed their hair and hoping desperately that they had brushed their teeth — I hurried to my own classroom where a dear sister-friend was already sharing about her recent trip to Africa. I settled into a seat and slowed my breathing from the sprint up the stairs.

And in seconds I sunk deep into her stories.

I could tell you everything that the team did in that desolate place or try to paint a picture of those sweet, orphan, HIV faces, but it wouldn’t do any of it justice. So I’ll just tell you what her testimony stirred in me.

 

Here.

 

I sat with tears running down my face and a conversation with God in my spirit. “Lord, I want to be used by You to do big things on this planet. I want to honor You with my life in big ways — going overseas and speaking more and writing books (faster). I just want my life to make a deep mark on this world for Your glory in this short breath of time You’ve granted me.”

Her testifying ended but my tears continued whenever I imagined the faces of those sweet kids. And my conversation lingered in me throughout the day. Until eventually, God clearly spoke. Not audibly because I might have completely freaked.

I was sitting in my favorite morning chair, telling God again how I wanted to be used by Him to do big stuff, like change the world. Because I’m a dreamer. And it was as if He placed His hand on my restless spirit and whispered with a smile, “I have you exactly where I want you, doing wildly powerful, eternal things even in this day, in these things, with these people that I place in your moments.”

And with that He graced me with perspective. Wanting to go and see exotic places or pray over foreign lands or feed hungry, sick children isn’t wrong. Lord, forgive us for static feet. I truly believe He put this passionate, take-me-wherever spirit in me, and it makes Him smile. He tells us to go, and by His grace He will lead us at different times in our lives to walk on unfamiliar ground seeing unfamiliar worlds. And being willing to go wherever He leads honors our Lord.

But most of us, most of the time, are just “here”. We’re in the midst of what seems to be mundane, unromantic living. Yet there’s something really important about “here”. You ready for this? Wherever our “here” is, it’s where God has us…with purpose.

 

For we are (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

 

I don’t always like that reality, because it’s hard to see the eternal impact that comes through a cup of juice given in kindness to my child or a visit to the nursing home or a word of encouragement to a friend. But love fleshed out in the dailiness of life is exactly what changes the world, one moment, one soul at a time.

 

“Love fleshed out in the dailiness of life is exactly what changes the world.”

 

Wanting to “go big or go home” has it’s place. God puts dreams and desires in us as we seek after Him. And often, those dreams are too huge for paper. But more often, our mission field isn’t as glamorous. It’s in our homes and on our street and…in Wal-mart. Lord help us.

In Christ, God has good things, big things, eternal things for us to do. And though that may mean time in Africa, it absolutely, unquestionably means today in our “here”.

 
Fill me, Lord…

How have you wrestled with accepting your “here” as your mission field?

for when “what ifs” try to paralyze you {fear}

Disclaimer: This theatre scenario you’re about to read is trivial compared to some of the fears we face in life. But God has always proven Himself faithful to meet me in my fears — from the irrational to the devastatingly valid ones — and minister peace when I seek after Him.

 
I took my two boys to the dollar theatre the other night. A creepy dollar theatre. I should have known to beware when yellow caution tape marked a huge X on one of the outside doors.

We got there about 10 minutes early — a record for my fashionably late self. We bought our dollar tickets and $4 popcorn. Scandalous. And we walked the long, winding, dim corridor to our movie.

You have to understand. Years and years ago, when I was a teen and before I knew freedom from fear, I fed my fears by watching horror movies. One movie in particular came rushing back to my mind when we walked that lonely, dirty corridor. The image involved…well you don’t need to know. I had to shake it off with a happy, upbeat, “Let me get your picture boys! It’s our date night!” I took it as evidence that we were indeed in this establishment.

 

Creepy theatre, fear not.

 

Sadly, the hallway was better than the actual theatre. We opened the door to a dark, silent, beat-up room. There were about five chairs with huge pieces of plastic draped over them. Not sure if they were broken or if they were individual crime scenes. A few more chairs had rips in the faux-leather seats. The huge curtains that hung on the sides of the theatre were stained and greasy-looking. The ground was sticky from years of soda buildup. It smelled like feet. And I was sure we’d leave with lice.

This is about when I started quoting Scripture to myself, keeping a smile on my face so my boys couldn’t pick up any fear vibes.

We found a seat and both my boys looked at me, one voicing their concern, “Mommy, can we wait in the car until the movie starts?” “Why?” I asked. “It’s just…not good in here,” he said. Not good. Not good? Try “this is the setting for a horror film I once saw”. I didn’t say that. I just reassured them with a half-hearted, “It’s fine in here. We’ll be fine.”

Meanwhile I texted my husband. And my sister. “Has there ever been any major crimes in the dollar theatre over on $@#& Rd.?” Anonymity. They both said “no”, but I didn’t believe them.

My boys kept on with the “Can we just wait in the car? Can I sit on your lap?” So I told them I would walk around the theatre to prove that it was safe. All the while wondering what I would use as a weapon should someone be crouched in one of the rows. We walked. And no one was there.

“See. It’s fine. The movie will start in 7 minutes. Let’s sit and remember what’s true.” So I reminded them, “God is with us and He’s bigger and stronger and greater than anyone or anything in the universe. Or in this theatre. And regardless of what happens, we can trust Him to be faithful. To be for us.”

The last five minutes ticked really slow while I tried to distract them with Bible verses…and Temple Run. Finally the lights went out and the movie came on. But I have to admit. I turned on my phone’s camera and reversed it so I could see behind me just in case someone decided to sneak up on us. It was what a spy would do because I’m spy-like.

Finally about three minutes into the movie other people started filtering in. Like somewhat normal-looking people. Even a few kids with their parents. So my boys and I relaxed a little. My youngest even slipped down into his own seat. And the fear melted.

 

Fear

Fear. It’s real. It may be irrational or unnecessary. Not in my case but in some cases. It may be legitimate or absolutely expected. Regardless, we feel it. We enter a situation that we can’t control, and fear comes. But when it does we have two really huge choices to make.

One, regardless of the degree or validity of the fear, we can choose to either begin with God or begin with the situation. We can choose to turn our thoughts to the One reigning over the circumstance or we can choose to let our minds go down roads of “what ifs”. One route brings peace; the other brings…more fear. Debilitating, life-stealing fear.

The second thing we can (often) choose is isolation or community. When people started filtering into that theatre, all of our fears slowly subsided because God created us as social creatures. We’re meant to be in relationships. Authentic community helps us overcome our fear.

The enemy wants to isolate us, because there in the lonely places he can whisper lies that we’re prone to believe. But when we voice our fears in the presence of sincere, Christian community, they can take our hands and lead us to God’s throne-room in prayer. And that’s the only place to find true, lasting peace in the midst of scary, unwanted, unrequested storms.

 

“You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:9-10

 

I have to be honest. A few of my most gripping fears have become realities at different points in my life. But here’s an awesome truth. God is still God. He still ministers hope and peace when we find refuge in Him, even if the fear becomes tangible reality. He has grace for our today. And He’s over every aspect of His child’s life.

Fear may come knocking. But in Christ, it isn’t our inheritance. It doesn’t have to be our dwelling place. Peace and rest is rightfully ours as adopted children of the Almighty Father.

Who knew that theatre would stir up so much.

 
Fill me, Lord…

How do you overcome fears when they arise?