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 tag “help”

DISHING ON DIFFICULT PEOPLE

I was being kind and compassionate and was prepared to go out of my way to be helpful. Then he bit my head off. I immediately thought, “Thanks for nothin’ there, bud!” I always go the extra mile in the respect, caring, and kindhearted department with this guy. And what I get in return is short, impatient, disrespectful responses. He grunts, he groans, or he growls at me nearly every time. He’s crusty. He’s rough around the edges to say the least. He once told me that when he dies he’s “going straight to hell because he’s one mean son of a bitch.” (Yep, that’s a direct quote from him.) Ever since he made that declaration, he’s been on my heart. For whatever reason, this week when I reached out to help out with my normal positive, considerate approach, and when he bit my head off, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

Later, another gentleman (not sure he really deserves that title if I’m being honest) told me he didn’t like me one bit at all. (What I really wanted to say was, “Yeah, the feeling is mutual!”) He let me know I was terrible at my job and that I needed to get with the program. He then stated that he didn’t like being around me and told me to go away. Apparently not long after we met I ticked him off. He doesn’t look at me, speak to me, or acknowledge me in any way. I say hello to him every time I see him. I ask him how his day is going. And he pretends that I don’t exist. Until this week. When I got an earful. And again, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

head buttWhen I deal with difficult people, my motto (and self-talk reminder) of the last several years has been, “Just kill ‘em with kindness.” But after this week, my new motto just might leave off the words “with kindness.”

“Bless those who curse you,” He said. I’d like to think Jesus was plum crazy or maybe on something when He challenged His listeners in this way. But that wasn’t the case at all. He was always taking what was right-side-up and turning it upside down. Or perhaps better to the point, He was always taking what was upside down, and turning it right-side-up. Paul reiterates Jesus’ words by adding, “Bless and do not curse.” Then Peter adds his two cents by saying, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…”

I think Jesus initiated these words because He knew that life was a grander story than just mere moments of insults and ingrates. He knew that He was part of a bigger story than the one written in the heat of the moment of disgust or displeasure with an individual. Not only was His story bigger, but so was that of the insulter, the attacker, the persecutor, the difficult person. And if He could weave kindness, compassion, grace, and mercy into their story, maybe it would awaken them to the bigger story they were a part of but just didn’t know it.

“Love your enemies,” He said. Why would I want to love them when they don’t return the sentiment? Loving them is an investment that doesn’t produce any kind of return, other than frustration on the part of the one giving the love. But this is what we’re challenged to do. To participate in God’s story–one in which He is speaking and acting. A story of unconditional love. And grace. And mercy.

“Love, do good, help, and lend to those difficult people in your life,” He said. Those difficult people in our lives aren’t problems to fix. They’re people. Made in the image of God. People to love. People to serve.

Jesus also added these words, “…expecting nothing in return.” That’s where it gets real. That’s where it gets raw. I want progress in return. I want a glimpse of something positive in return. I want my effort to mean something, to make an impact, to influence…and see evidence of it.

God says to all of us, “It’s not about the return. It’s about the story. I am writing your story just as I am writing theirs.”

So…we gear up, we armor up, we fill up and prepare ourselves to spill out love and blessings to those who curse us, our enemies, the ungrateful, the selfish, the hateful, and the mean-spirited. And we know after all the spillage, our bucket will indeed be empty. (Jesus probably experienced this on a regular basis.) But we go straight back to the Source to refuel. The Author of our story. The One who invites us to participate in it as best we can. By loving…doing good…and blessing.

 

JESUS, WHERE’S WALDO, & PROBLEM SOLVING

About 15 years ago or so, the Kansas City Star used to put Where’s Waldo in the lineup of comic strips in their Sunday edition. Back in the day, we spent lots of Sundays with my folks who took the paper faithfully. I remember Sunday after Sunday, lying on the family room floor, poring over each comic strip with an occasional grin or chuckle. But one of my favorite parts of the funny papers was Where’s Waldo. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of those seek-and-find type things. Waldo is a kinda geeky looking guy with a red and white striped shirt, round glasses, wacky brown hair, and a red and white stocking cap. Where's WaldoEach cartoon features Waldo tucked away in some crazy, action-packed scene. And your job is to find him. I usually couldn’t. I’d spend a good 5-10 minutes searching for the guy, but wasn’t very successful. Then my oldest son, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, would come scrunch down beside me, and within 30 seconds would say, “There he is, momma!” I thought it was coincidence at first. But week after week, I’d search high and low, studying the scene with a careful eye, trying to find Waldo. I’d find someone who closely resembled Waldo, but not Waldo. Then like I said, Caleb would swoop in, and find him in a heartbeat without even trying.

Sometimes I think solutions to our problems are like this. We search high and low, in what feels like some crazy, action-packed scene. We look the scene (aka our problem) up one side and down the other and just can’t seem to find the solution. For us it’s sometimes grueling and clouded by seeing the same reality over and over again. Someone else, however, can take a look at the same reality and see the solution quickly. They can come in with a different perspective—one that’s not emotionally charged—and see the solution.

But here’s the thing…we don’t like those people. Even though they can see clearly what we should do, we don’t listen to their advice. We brush away their wisdom. It’s a pride thing in us. We have trouble admitting the fact that we have weaknesses and need help. There are times when we should seek out wisdom, help, advice, or counsel from others, but instead we just insist on trying harder ourselves.

You remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? When He stood at the entrance of the tomb and hollered for Lazarus to come out, scripture records that “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44a).

Why did Jesus do that? Why didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus out all clean and fresh to put a further exclamation point on this miracle? Why did Jesus have Lazarus come out of the tomb all “mummified” like that?

The very next thing Jesus said to those close by was, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go (John 11:44b).” That’s why. Jesus asked whoever was near the tomb to help Lazarus take off what bound him. You see, Jesus knew we needed each other. Jesus knew the value of others stepping in to help, to unbind us, to be hands-on in setting us free from our problems.

If you can’t find Waldo, you might ask Caleb to help you.

If you can’t find the solution to your problem, however, you just might consider the Jesus method—of asking those nearby to help unbind you.

EVERY DAY A PURPOSE: 16 Daily Choices to Make

Every once in a while I take notice at what is written on t-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, or church signs. I sometimes chuckle. Other times I roll my eyes. I’ve certainly been appalled more than a few times. But mostly I’m intrigued.

Every Day A Purpose

“Every Day A Purpose.”

That’s what was written on the back of the t-shirt. I didn’t notice it at first. I noticed her, but not her shirt. She was in a corner at Starbucks either reading or working on her laptop. She was young, casually dressed, and by herself. But when I glanced over at her again, I saw the big white letters on the back of the blue t-shirt. “Every Day A Purpose.” Truthfully, I wanted to see what was on the front of the shirt, but didn’t know how to accomplish that since she was in the corner and her back was towards me. (The nonchalant method of sleuth-stalking was not gonna work this time.)

So I left that day not knowing what her t-shirt was all about. Not knowing who chose this motto. Not knowing what organization or team or church was promoting this idea. I left that day not knowing anything about “Every Day A Purpose.”

I wonder if my curiosity had been satisfied—if I had found out who was choosing to live this way—would the motto have left me. Would it? Would I have dismissed it as only “their” mantra to follow? Would I have blown it off in some critical fashion because I had seen evidence to the contrary? I’m glad I didn’t find out who it belonged to.

I cannot begin to tell you what kind of impact the back of this stranger’s t-shirt has had on me. “Every Day A Purpose.” It has challenged me to do just that: live each day with some purpose in mind. To set about my day intent on doing something, accomplishing something, making a difference, making an impact, etc. No, not solving world hunger issues, or righting the many injustices in the world, but simply living with intentionality.

To live every day with a purpose in mind:

  • To love someone more today than I did yesterday.
  • To find somebody to bless.
  • To let go of a wrong done to me.
  • To make the phone call or send the email that’s been avoided for way too long.
  • To really listen to what’s in someone else’s heart.
  • To be “media-free” for an entire day…or two (yikes!).
  • To pick up that book and read that first chapter.
  • To part with the unwanted (and long neglected) things in my closet so someone else can get some use out of them.
  • To have that chat with God that I don’t want to speak, but He longs to hear.
  • To say “yes” to joining the committee, organization, or group.
  • To admit my sin or weakness to someone and ask for accountability.
  • To compliment someone I might normally criticize.
  • To gracefully move to the solution side of the problem, rather than arrogantly stay on the problem side of the solution.
  • To say “thank you” and genuinely mean it.
  • To help the random stranger in the store or restaurant or parking lot with something they’re struggling with.
  • To pay attention to the world around me and the people who occupy it.

“Every Day A Purpose.”

What’s your purpose today?

5 SMOOTH STONES

Goliath. What comes to your mind when you hear that word? Big…daunting…ginormous…scary…intimidating…overwhelming…defeat…threatening…?

If you believe what the bible says about a guy named Goliath, then he was indeed ginormous—over 9 feet tall! And the story in the bible records that this Goliath taunted and threatened Israel’s army to the degree that they were terrified, gripped with fear, broken down, and deeply shaken. It goes on to say they were so afraid they turned tail and ran.

Now…let me ask you…metaphorically speaking, do you have any “Goliaths” in your life right now? Anything you’re facing or up against that you’d consider huge, scary, overwhelming, intimidating, or daunting? Anything that rather than face into, you’d like to turn tail and run away from?

We all experience stuff like that at one time or another, don’t we? Life isn’t always a piece of cake or a bed of roses. We have health scares, financial burdens, parenting struggles, job challenges, deadlines, and relationship conflicts. And these things can be frightening. They can be overwhelming. We can certainly feel like they are huge and defeating, can’t we?

Well, the rest of the story in the bible says that a little shepherd kid named David was certain he could defeat this enemy of Israel. So he took his staff and sling, went down to the stream, chose 5 smooth stones, and approached Goliath. Scripture doesn’t say, but I bet David took some time choosing the best 5 smooth stones he could find. He had to have known what size, shape, and weight to choose in order to put himself in a position of potential success. He had to have patiently sought out 5 of the best stones in the stream to arm himself in the battle against Goliath.

5 stonesSo, let’s recall your “Goliath” for a moment—your current challenge, difficulty, or hardship. Metaphorically speaking again, what “5 smooth stones” should you seek out to prepare you to face this frightening, overwhelming, intimidating circumstance? Maybe you need the stone of prayer? Perhaps you need stones of wise counsel, humility, or effort? Maybe your stones need to be the Word of God, engaging the help of accountability partners, or forgiveness? There are numerous possibilities here. But the challenge for each of us as we face the hard stuff in our lives is to make the trek to the stream, and carefully select 5 smooth stones. If we don’t, we like the Israelites, will cave under the pressure of our ensuing Goliath. We will live in a perpetual state of terror, gripped with fear, broken down, and deeply shaken.

Embedded in the old hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, there’s a line which says “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come.” I bet you’ve always wondered what in the world “Ebenezer” means, haven’t you? Well, interestingly enough it means “stone of help.”

So, go seek out 5 smooth stones just like David. Arm yourself for your battle. Put yourself in a position of potential success. And right here, right now, raise your “Ebenezer” (your stone of help) as you face your “Goliath.”

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