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 “love”

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.

 

ISSUES EXIST…LOVE ENDURES

I have issues. It bugs me when people stand really close to me. I don’t like people messing with my hair. It drives me crazy when, in an empty public restroom with a dozen open stalls, the next person in chooses the stall right next to me.

Like I said…I have issues.

I have bigger issues than the ones I mentioned above, however. I’m stubborn—and it’s not easy to overcome. I’m arrogant—and it’s a daily battle within me to keep my ego in check. I don’t have a stellar bank account or the perfect marriage. And my kids are on pace to be every bit as flawed as their mother. Oh joy!

Like I said…I have issues. I’m not proud of them. I’m not flaunting them. I wish I didn’t have them. But the truth is I struggle with them just like you struggle with yours.

Everybody has issues.

Your friend has issues. She’s insecure as all get out. Your spouse has issues. He/she is arrogant, insensitive, and controlling. Your co-worker has issues. She’s overbearing and doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise. Your neighbor has issues. He lies constantly. You wonder why he feels the need to do that. The lady in your bible study has issues. She’s got a root of bitterness bigger than Dallas, but hides it as best she can. Your nephew has issues. He’s into pornography, but doesn’t see the harm in it.

Everybody has issues. And issues present us with an interesting enigma.

The question is, can you see past my issues? Can you overlook your co-worker’s issues? Can you embrace your neighbor despite his issues? Can you be kind to the lady in your bible study regardless of her issues? Can you get along with your friend even though she has issues?

Here’s what I have found to be true in this interesting enigma: issues exist…but love endures. At least a Christ-like love does.

Issues Exist Love EnduresJesus loved His disciples—all quirky, ill-equipped and flawed twelve of them. I don’t know if that was easy for Him or not. My guess is He wore thin of patience with a few every now and then because you know what? They had issues. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Maybe they were easier to love than His disciples. But Martha certainly had issues, and Jesus brought those into light.

Jesus also loved the rich young man who ended up walking away from Him—materially wealthy, but eternally bankrupt. Ouch!

Jesus had compassion on all sorts of people who had all sorts of issues. He hung out with sinful people. He touched “unclean” people. He embraced the ones who were far from perfect. He did life with people who were self-absorbed, broken, messed up, whacked out, and didn’t buy what Jesus was selling.

They had issues. They had struggles. They had challenges. They had problems. They had difficulties. Their lives were not pretty little packages wrapped up with pretty little bows. And truth be told, neither are ours.

Can we have compassion like Jesus did on others who have issues? Can we hang out with people like Jesus did who are far from perfect? Can we do life with people like Jesus did who have hang-ups, problems, and struggles? Can we embrace people like Jesus did who don’t even acknowledge Jesus?

Can we love like Jesus? Regardless…in spite of…even though…
Issues exist. Love endures.
Go love like Jesus!

 

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?

8 THINGS WRONG WITH THE TRUTH

There’s something going on in the world today. And this thing is not bound to a certain gender, race, religion, or age group. It transcends all of those things. Not only that, but it is not limited by time or place either. It’s really quite amazing if you think about it. It’s an art. It’s a lifestyle. It’s an embodiment of an ideal world that simply doesn’t exist.

What is it?

It’s called deception. It’s called bending the truth. It’s called lying. It’s called dishonesty.

And while I “get it”—while I understand sometimes why we do it—at the same time I don’t “get it.” I mean, what’s wrong with the truth? Seriously…I’m asking…What’s wrong with the truth? I’ve thought long and hard about this question, and I think I’ve come up with the answers.

8 Things Wrong With The Truth

Here’s what’s wrong with the truth:

  1. It’s boring. Simply stated, the truth is plain and uneventful.
  2. It’s not nearly as fun as an embellishment of the truth. Think about it…a little extra spin makes the story more fun, more exciting, and a little more worthy of sharing.
  3. It’s not popular. Most everyone wants to be popular. We want to stand out in good ways. But telling the truth would thwart this effort, so why mess up a good thing?
  4. It doesn’t win me any points. We constantly want to either gain new friends or impress our current ones. We want to move up the “cool chart” or “smart chart” or whatever other chart there is. Telling the truth certainly does not accomplish this goal.
  5. It tarnishes my golden reputation. And isn’t reputation everything? Our reputation is how we move up in the world. It’s how we get new jobs, expand our social circles, etc. A tarnished reputation is a death wish.
  6. It doesn’t get nearly as many “likes” on Facebook. If you can get 100 likes on your post, you have really achieved something huge. You’re borderline “rock star” status at that point. So embellish away and have fun doing it.
  7. It puts me in a bad light. It causes people to perhaps look a little differently at me. It causes me to drop in status. The truth may disappoint people and we hate that “d” word.
  8. It puts off a bad vibe. It’s a buzz-kill. Our honest opinion, for instance, might throw people a curve ball and ruin the mood of the moment. Heaven forbid we be that person.

So, that’s what’s wrong with the truth. Wouldn’t you agree? Besides that, Jesus never said “Honesty is the best policy.” Ben Franklin did. And since when do we have to adhere to what Ben Franklin said?

The eight things I stated above are said with a sort of paradoxical sarcasm. There’s “truth” in the statements, but in no way am I condoning dishonesty.

There’s a whole host of things “wrong” with the truth, but did you ever stop to think what’s right with the truth?

Here’s what’s right with the truth: Truth has no attachment to self, ego, or pride. Truth has no lifeline to appearances, reputations, the good of the masses, or pacification. It’s the essence of genuine love. It’s rooted in love. It’s based on love. It’s the manifestation of deep and abiding love.

And if love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things, doesn’t it just make sense to be truthful? If truth is attached to love, and if love ultimately wins out, then truth ultimately wins out as well.

Here’s what’s right with the truth: God decreed it. Cut and dry. Here’s His decree in Zechariah 8:16-17, “And now here’s what I want you to do: Tell the truth, the whole truth, when you speak. Do the right thing by one another…Don’t do or say what isn’t so. I hate all that stuff. Keep your lives simple and honest” (MSG).

The truth…the whole truth…
Do the right thing…
Don’t do or say what isn’t so…
Simple and honest…

What would it take to carry out God’s decree?
What do you think?
I’d love to hear from you…

WHAT DO GRACE AND FROGS HAVE IN COMMON?

I’m not a fan of long processes. But oddly enough I find myself in them all the time.

The “love someone for who they are, not what you want them to become” is one very…long…process. And I’m not a fan of it at all. Because it’s long. Because it’s arduous. Because it’s taxing. Because it’s not pleasant. Because it takes all my energy. Because it requires more than I am capable of. Just…because.

Think of the people in your life that get on your nerves, weigh you down, drain the life out of you, make you crazy, are hard to be around, challenge everything you say, and keep you constantly in the classroom called patience. Surely you know some of these people. I know lots. And truth be told, they’re hard to love.

What Grace & Frogs Have In CommonI want to love them. I really do. And just when I think I’m making progress in that direction it occurs to me I do not love them for who they are. I love them for who I want them to become. I love the “better” version of them that I’ve created in my mind and heart. It’s as if I idealize the “prince/princess” version of them instead of embracing the “frog” version of them.

But if I’m to love like Jesus, I’ve got to love people, blemishes and all. I’ve got to love people where they are. I’ve got to love people in spite of everything I said in paragraph #3 above.

And that’s a process. Ugh!

God’s been teaching me more and more about grace lately. And I firmly believe it’s this thing called grace that will allow us to love someone for who they are, not what we want them to become.

Strangely enough, however, I find this thing called grace is quite frightening to lots of people. You see, grace says that you’ll never change someone into that “better” version. Grace says you perhaps have lowered your standard. Grace says it’s okay to hang out with less than the absolute best. Grace just might tarnish your reputation. Grace says there’s no difference between the frog and the prince.

And grace, too, is a process. Ugh!

Who do you find difficult to love?
Who do you find challenging to embrace?
Who do you find hard be around?
Who do you find tough to like?

Rather than see the blemishes—the flaws, the ugliness, the bad attitude, the negativity, the crusty parts—seek this thing called grace. It just might be where the contempt ends and the love begins.

THE OFFENSIVENESS OF DEFENSE MECHANISMS

A momma skunk and her little ones had shown up at my grandmother’s house one evening.  They were exploring her driveway, yard, and flowerbeds as we pulled in the drive. I was very intrigued by these cute little things. I wanted to get out and get a closer view. But my grandmother, however, was a little freakier about the whole thing. She kept saying over and over, “Don’t scare them, don’t get out of the car, don’t make a move!” As a kid, I got it…but didn’t really get it. I knew that a skunk’s defense mechanism was to unload a horrific smell on anything in the nearby vicinity. But I didn’t realize that you couldn’t simply wash it off immediately and go on with your life.

Defense mechanisms. They’re interesting, aren’t they? Animals have a variety of them. When animals feel threatened or afraid or find themselves in a vulnerable situation, they activate their defenses. Oddly enough, though, so do we. And the fascinating thing is we have similar defense mechanisms.

Some people, when they feel threatened, or afraid, or vulnerable are just like skunks. They expel a “foul stench” of negative reactions that basically clears the room. And unfortunately the discharge of furor can land on others and take a long time to eradicate.

Other people, when they feel threatened, or afraid, or vulnerable are like the porcupine. They’re a little bit like the skunk. However, when their defense mechanism is triggered, and the quills come flying, it actually hurts. Similarly, the vicious comments that come hurling out of people’s mouths are like poisonous jabs that wound deeply. It’s a lashing out of “wound first before getting wounded.”

Still others, when feeling threatened, afraid, or vulnerable are much like turtles. When their defenses go up, they retract and recoil in an effort to protect themselves from the pain or threat. In the midst of their withdrawal, they have a hard outer shell that they hide behind. It’s their safe place until danger passes.

And then there’s the jackrabbit. When these people feel threatened, afraid, or vulnerable, they simply run. Fast. They flee any eminent hazard. They can’t deal with it. They don’t want to deal with it. So they dart away as quickly as possible in order to find safety elsewhere.

The irony in all of this, though, is that our defense mechanisms are often offensive to others. In our efforts to defend ourselves, we often offend others. It’s a complicated thing. But then again, we are complicated creatures.

William McNamara said “It is easier to snub another (‘snuff the light of his life out of our life’) than to love. And so we indulge in spiritual assassination in order to protect our own convenience.”

It’s easier to snub another…than to love. I’m not sure how this has even become a thing. But it has. And it has become a rather sad thing.

The Art of the Defense

The skunk.
The porcupine.
The turtle.
The jackrabbit.

Can you identify with any of these? How does your defense mechanism work?

There’s no doubt about it, we are uniquely created.  But in the menagerie of this thing called life, can we see past our differences, ease up on our defenses, stop snubbing one another, and simply love? In our felt need to protect our own convenience, can we look objectively at someone else before we indulge our defenses? Is this even possible?

It is possible. We can do this. The question is will we?

 

 

WHY DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO BE SO LAME?

Why do Christians have to be so lame?

I’m telling you, there are some real dud Christians out there. There are Christians who bash others because of religious preference, sexual preference, political preference, choice of clothing or hairstyle or body art. There are Christians who criticize others because of their parenting style, lack of generosity, choice of music, whether or not you go to church, where you stand on abortion, or what neighborhood you live in. You name it, there are Christians out there who will go to great lengths to make sure you know your sinfulness, make sure you know how wrong you are, and make sure everyone else knows it as well.

UGH! All I can say is forgive us.

You see, I am a Christian. I have Democrat friends, Republican friends, gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Native American friends, Christian friends, non-Christian friends, tattooed and pierced friends, friends who drink, friends who cuss like sailors, friends who vote other than I do, wealthy friends, welfare friends, depressed friends, friends in therapy, divorced friends, friends who’ve had abortions, and on and on. I choose to love these people. I even choose to do life with them.

Here’s the thing…My identity in Christ doesn’t give me the upper hand on any of these folks. My identity in Christ doesn’t give me any authority to condemn other people just because they choose to do life differently than I. My identity in Christ doesn’t mean that I’m better, smarter, nicer, richer, saner, wiser, or more right than anyone else.

Unfortunately, however, there are Christians who firmly believe that if you do life differently than they do, you’re wrong and they’re right. We call ourselves Christians (Christ followers), yet our actions sometimes don’t resemble Christ at all. Again, why do Christians have to be so lame?

Let me enlighten those who are still reading… The world doesn’t get better by Christians going on the attack of everyone “different” than they are. The world gets better when Christians choose to embrace and live out what Jesus taught. And what Jesus taught wasn’t rocket science:

  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
  • Love your enemies and pray for the folks who do you wrong. (Matthew 5:44)
  • Do good to the people who don’t like you at all. (Luke 6:27)
  • Lend to your enemies without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35)
  • Love…other…people…(PERIOD). (John 13:34)
  • Forgive people. (Mark 11:25)
  • Don’t judge. (Luke 6:37)
  • Be merciful. (Luke 6:36)
  • Turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)
  • Be reconciled to others. (Matthew 5:24)
  • Treat people like you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)

In the words of The Lumineers:
Love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

Indeed, we’re bleeding out. The world is bleeding out. And Christians standing in condemnation of others just perpetuates the hemorrhaging.

To all my Christian brothers and sisters out there, stop being so lame! See others through eyes of Jesus. Have some compassion. Dole out some mercy. Lighten up on holding others in contempt of your judgmental court. Embrace humility. Serve somebody. Reach out. Be generous. Love the unlovable. Grab some grace and spread it thick.

Stop the hemorrhaging.

Stop being so lame!

 LOVE like Jesus … LIVE like Jesus!

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