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 “Perspective”

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.

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WHY?…OR WHY NOT? WHICH IS THE BETTER QUESTION?

A few years ago, a kid I knew went through a phase of answering every question you asked him with a question. He would ask you back the same question you asked him, only with a twist. For instance, if you’d ask him, “Why did you shorts on such a cold day?” He’d answer back, “Why not wear shorts on such a cold day?”

If you asked him, “Why did you leave the meeting early?” He’d respond, “Why not leave the meeting early?”

It was always kinda funny, always kinda unique. And when I considered his responses, I had to stop and think to myself, “Well I guess you have a point there! Why not? What would be a legitimate reason why not?” And usually I couldn’t come up with a viable, legitimate reason why not. So my questions (as to why)—which I originally thought were valid and reasonable—were actually not so much.

There’s an interesting story in three of the four gospels in which Jesus is found eating with some “tax collectors and sinners.” (That’s not my wording—that’s actually what the Bible says.)

“Tax collectors and sinners.” I wonder who all might have been lumped in this category back then? And who—what saintly person, group, or entity—got to label them as such?

So Jesus was hanging out with a group of sinners—criminals, reprobates, outlaws, degenerates, troublemakers, and whoever else. Next thing you know, some “high and mighties” come along and see Him doing this. (Gasp! Say it isn’t so!) Yep! There was Jesus (who was sinless) eating dinner and chillin’ with a house full of heathens. Appalled, I’m sure, they immediately ask some of Jesus’ close friends, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

I suppose from their perspective it’s a valid question, right? Why would Jesus—who was perfect, holy, and righteous—hang out with imperfect, unholy, and unrighteous folks? This was an important, legitimate question in their eyes. I mean, these “high and mighties” wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with anyone who might taint their lily white reputation. So they questioned why. But a more important question in my eyes is “Why not eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Why NotWhy did Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Because He loved them. Jesus didn’t see their faults and flaws. He saw their faces. He didn’t let their immorality keep Him from seeing them as individuals. He saw past the sin, and saw a somebody.

Why did He hang out with sinners?

Why not?

Far too many of us are afraid to associate with the “tax collectors and sinners” in our world. We’re afraid we might be labeled. We’re too protective of our reputation. We fear we can’t relate. We somehow strangely believe “it’s not the Christian thing to do.”

You see, the skeptical eye, the critical heart, the judgmental perspective looks at Jesus and says “Why in the world are you hanging out with sinners?” But the grace-filled eye, the merciful heart, the open perspective says, “Why in the world wouldn’t you?”

Scripture says that Jesus was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” It also says that they were hanging around listening to what He had to say.

Why did Jesus hang out with sinners?

Why not?

Jesus chose to do life with the sinners, the outcasts, the heathens, and all kinds of disreputable folks. So why don’t we?

 

HERE’S TO LIFE’S LITTLE INCONVENIENCES

I have tennis elbow. I don’t like tennis elbow. I don’t want tennis elbow. I don’t even play tennis.

It’s just one of life’s many “inconveniences.” Oh joy!

Can you relate? Do you have any inconveniences in your life? They’re fun, aren’t they? That was a joke. No, they’re not fun at all. They’re a pain, an irritation, a frustration…and well…an inconvenience.

Here's To Life's Little Inconveniences

If you think this blog is going to contain the “7 Steps to Overcoming Inconveniences” you’re way off. I couldn’t think of 7 steps. I don’t even have one step. I have inconveniences, remember?

On the rare occasion that I’m in my car in a torrential downpour, the little space between the sun roof and passenger’s side door leaks. But the other 361½  days of the year, it’s fine. Do I get my panties in a wad over it? No, but it is an inconvenience.

The igniter switches on all four burners of my gas stove went out about a month after the warranty expired. So how do we light our gas stove? We light them the old fashion way…or semi-old fashion way. Instead of using matches we use one of those long lighters. This little inconvenience I have actually gotten used to.

My neck hurts, my jaw is messed up, I’m pretty sure I have arthritis flaring up in various parts of my body, and the root canal that I had two years ago has decided to wake up after a long siesta. Nope, not fun at all. Just more things to add to my list of life’s little inconveniences.

I know what you’re thinking. “Beth…just get over yourself and fix all of these little inconveniences in your life.”

Yeah, I guess I could. But I don’t feel like they’re worth spending the money on. Besides, just as soon as I’d fix these, I’d grow a whole new crop of inconveniences.

Maybe there’s something to them. Maybe these little inconveniences are God’s way of reminding us of the bigger, better things in life. Maybe these little inconveniences are God’s way of keeping us slightly more humble than we’d normally be.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Hmm…If this is true, I need to change my perspective.

If this is true, let the adventures begin. 🙂

How do you handle life’s little inconveniences?

GO, [INSERT NAME]. GO!

Do you remember the book by P.D. Eastman called Go, Dog. Go!? It was one of my favorites as a kid. Loved the illustrations. It’s actually a bizarre little story with all kinds of random tangents here and there. On almost every page, however, the dogs are doing something, going somewhere, or engaged in some kind of activity. My favorite scene comes on pages 50-51 when morning arrives and one dog is holding a megaphone shouting to the scads of dogs who are jumping out of the same bed, “Get up! It is day. Time to get going. Go, dogs, go!”

Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

If only there were a dog holding a megaphone at the foot of my bed shouting this at me morning after morning. 🙂

I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” We hear it occasionally in movies or TV shows when something chaotic is happening. I think the irony of our lives, however, is that in the midst of our own messes of life, we’ve gotten really good at the opposite of that statement, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” But the longer we stand there, the less we get done. The more time we waste, the more we ourselves waste away. Another day gone is one more day of a phone call not made, a letter not written, a thank you unspoken, a project incomplete, a goal unmet, a dream not realized, etc. (I’m saying this as much to motivate me as I am to motivate you.) 

Maybe we look at the word “GO” as optional. Maybe that’s the heart of our problem. What if we began embracing the word “GO” as a command, a charge, an exhortation, a mandate, as our mantra for the day? “Go, dog. Go!” (Yes…I know…you’re not a dog. So change it to “Go [Insert Name]. Go!”)

If we consider the bible here, we see the word “GO” several times. But it wasn’t spoken in terms of an option. It was a command:

  • God told Moses to GO to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).
  • God told Jonah to GO to Ninevah and preach against it (Jonah 1:1-2).
  • Jesus told the 12 disciples to GO to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:6-8).
  • Jesus told us all to GO make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

I’m pretty sure God is a God of action, not idleness. I’m pretty sure He calls (and thankfully equips) us to go, and do, and accomplish, and create, and bless, and forgive, and love, and share, and pray, and connect, and reach out, and work, and strive, and serve, and …

So, pull up your bootstraps, get motivated, get inspired, get something done, meet the goal, make the deadline, don’t just stand there, do something! Embrace the word “GO” in your world. Change your perspective from “GO” being an option for you to consider to a command you are to carry out. Get up! It is day. Time to get going.

Go, Dog. Go! Go, brother. Go! Go, sister. Go! Go, friend. Go!

GO, [insert name]. GO!

What one thing do you need to accomplish this week? And how will you insure your success? (Please feel free to share your comments…)

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