Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the month “August, 2018”

GREATNESS (re)DEFINED

When my youngest son was about 4 years old, he began doing the most random thing ever. I have no idea why or how it began. All I know is I witnessed it. A lot. Over several years.

Here’s what he’d do…

Arbitrarily he would run into the living room (out of nowhere it seemed), mount the top of the couch or chair or ottoman, raise one fist in the air and declare, “I am king!” Only it was dramatic, and proclamation-like, and more drawn out. Like, “I am kiiiiinnnngggg!!!”

And then that was it. He’d step down off of his “throne” and walk away rather indifferently.

I know. Random, right? Yes…and no…

I tend to think there’s a little part of each one of us that desires to be at the top—to be king or queen, to be the boss, to be in charge, to be recognized, to be praised, to achieve some sort of greatness. Some have this desire in very hidden and subtle ways. Others shout it from the mountain tops. (Or couch tops…whatever!)

If indeed we desire greatness, though, how do we get it? Where do we find it? When does it happen?

William Shakespeare wrote in his play Twelfth Night, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” We could probably give evidence to support all three of those avenues to greatness. We know people who fit each one of those categories.

There’s an interesting verse way back in the Old Testament. When King David was old and in failing health, one of his sons did something similar to mine. No, he didn’t run into the living room and climb to the top of the chair. But in a sense, it was close.

King David was still on the throne, though he was quite aged. We read in 1 Kings 1:5 that—completely out of the blue—“Adonijah…exalted himself saying, ‘I will be king!’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him.”

Apparently, Adonijah was one of those who had a desire for greatness in a not-so-subtle way. It’s interesting…where we think we’d never do anything that gutsy or overt or brash, we frequently make moves to put ourselves at the top of the heap. Why? Again, it’s our inner desire for greatness.

Greatness (re)Defined

If I asked you what it takes to be great, you might say things like hard work, ability, intellect, money, fame, influence, charisma, the x-factor, etc. But what would Jesus say? Did He even care about stuff like greatness?

Jesus actually taught quite a bit about greatness. Only everything He taught sounded completely upside down. In the beattitudes, for instance, He said weird things like, “Blessed are the meek…” Meek sounds like weak. And weak doesn’t sound anything like greatness. And “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Poor? A far cry from rich, and doesn’t wealth translate to greatness? “Blessed are those who mourn.” You’re kidding! Mourning equals sadness. And how can you be great when you’re sad?

Though these statements appear to be upside down, they’re actually right-side up. A closer look at Jesus’ perspective and teaching on greatness not only support these statements He made at the beginning of Matthew 5, but give us a framework to truly define (or redefine) greatness.

You want to know how we get greatness? Where we find it? When it happens? Here you go:

Greatness (re)Defined:

  • Have a servant attitude. Greatness isn’t defined by the number of people who serve you, it’s defined by the number of people you serve. Jesus—as a guy who came to serve, not to be served—said in Matthew 20:26, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
  • Have a humble heart. Life’s not about you. It’s not about being in 1st place, at the top of the heap, being king or queen, in charge, recognized, or praised. In Luke 9:48, Jesus said, “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
  • Walk in obedience to God. Wow! This one’s not easy. Not even for Jesus. When the cross was imminent, He basically begged for any other way. A plan B…or C…or D perhaps? But at the end of the day, He surrendered His will to that of His Heavenly Father. Obedience was a big deal to Jesus. He said in Matthew 5:19, “…but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Love people. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, uniquely said that he could be great in the world’s eyes (or even in the eyes of the “religious”), but if he didn’t have love, he was nothing. Love was probably Jesus’ pinnacle teaching, even though it was taught mostly without using words. For Him, He lived it rather than said it. Along with loving God, He taught in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

If you want to be great (…and who doesn’t?), I wouldn’t suggest running to the top of your couch and declaring it. (Unless your kingdom is my living room. If that’s the case it just might work for a hot second.)

No, if I were you, I’d opt for a more Jesus-like approach.

(re)Define your greatness. Friends, when we begin to think, and act, and live like Jesus we are indeed blessed!

Advertisements

UNNECESSARY DRAMA!

I hung out with a 6th grader a while back. Well, let me clarify, she just completed the 6th grade. That would be middle school. An age I don’t really care for at all. They’re squirrely as all get out. I barely survived my own middle school children. And I wouldn’t want to go back and relive those years at all. So, hanging out with a middle schooler isn’t really my idea of a good time. But this one happens to be related. Plus, she’s a pretty good kid. Don’t tell her I said this, but I actually enjoyed it.

Anyway…

I was hanging out with her recently and I asked her how her first year of middle school was. Was it better than expected, worse than expected, or just what she expected? She thought for a second, then said quite matter-of-factly, “It was worse than expected!” (That answer caught me off guard a bit.) So, I asked her to expand on that. Here’s what she said, “Well…In the 6th grade, it seemed to me there was so much drama going on all the time. And it just wasn’t necessary!”

dramaI laughed out loud for a second. And I agreed with her. But really on the inside I cringed. Do you know why? Because the preteen/teenager lying, manipulating, gossiping, bad-mouthing, superficial, immature, life-in-drama-mode, occasionally grows up into adult lying, manipulating, gossiping, bad-mouthing, superficial, immature, life-in-drama-mode. And guess what? It doesn’t get any better, prettier, funnier, or easier to tolerate when adults display unnecessary drama.

I hung on to her words, “It just wasn’t necessary!” I replayed that line over and over in my head. Man! I live in this world every day. A world where behaviors, words, actions, and reactions just aren’t necessary. Immature responses—not necessary. Lying—totally not necessary. Hate speech—straight up not necessary. Gossip—so not necessary. Manipulation for the sole purpose of getting what you want—absolutely not necessary. Life-in-drama-mode—very, very, not necessary.

Do you know what necessary means? It means needed, essential, crucial, vital. Do you know what my 6th grade niece was saying? She was saying all the drama she witnessed throughout her 6th grade school year just wasn’t needed. It wasn’t essential. It wasn’t crucial or vital.

I guess people who live in that dimension believe it is. I guess for them, drama gets them somewhere. It gets them something.

I can’t relate.

It got me thinking, however, if we all could put our personal drama aside and ask ourselves what IS necessary, how would we answer? At the end of the day, what IS essential, needed, crucial, and vital? If drama mode isn’t necessary, then what IS?

If you read the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, one might surmise that Martha just may have slightly lived in drama mode. When Jesus was at her house, she was distracted, worried, and upset about all the food prep she was doing in the kitchen while her sister Mary was at Jesus’ feet hanging on every word He said.

She barged in, came up to Jesus, and said, “Hey don’t You care that I’m doing all the work in here, while she’s just sitting there doing nothing? Tell her to get in here and help me!” (See? Sounds a little drama-ish, doesn’t it?)

Jesus responded back, “Martha, chill for a second. You’re all worked up over nothing. Only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the right thing.”

Did you catch that? Only one thing is necessary. Only one thing is needed. Only one thing is essential.

Maybe if we could put all of our own drama aside and ask ourselves what IS necessary, what IS needed, what IS essential, we’d consider what Jesus said. And yeah, maybe it sounds simple, but truthfully I think Jesus was in the business of keeping things simple.

What IS necessary? To seek Jesus. To listen to Jesus. To quietly sit at His feet and absorb and learn and simply be present where He is.

I’d much rather live in that world than a drama-filled one any day of the week.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: