Road Rage

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Before we moved to New Jersey, one of the pieces of advice I was given was to learn how to give fellow drivers the bird. At the time I thought the advice was kind of funny, but once we got here I understood how true it was. There’s a reason New Jersey has topped the list of worst drivers in the United States in multiple studies and polls. After just a few months of living here I’ve learned that if a car is turning left, you don’t sit behind them and wait, but instead speed past them on the shoulder of the road. Or if the car in front of you is going too slow, you pass them, even if there’s a double yellow line. Trying to get out of a crowded parking lot recently made me feel like I just wanted to put my car in park and sit there until it was entirely empty, but of course, I couldn’t, because I had five cars all diagonally pointed at mine, inching closer and closer and yelling at me to let them in – how could I choose?

But this post isn’t designed to knock Jersey drivers. While they may be the worst in my book, every state has its own crazy drivers. The problem in this post isn’t with them – it’s with me. When I was given the advice to learn to give other drivers the bird, I laughed a little, but knew I would never do that. Now, after a few months of driving in Jersey, I’m proud to say that I haven’t picked up that habit while driving, but disappointed to say I’ve picked up a few others. What I’ve learned is that at the heart of this kind of aggressive driving are two key traits: impatience and self-importance.

Think about it.

“Oh my gosh. Everyone else on the road is going 80 and he’s going 60. That’s not safe. Why do I have to be stuck behind him? It’s going to take me forever to get there now!”

OR

“Don’t these people know that I have somewhere to be?”

I’m not going to lie and say that thoughts like these have never crossed my mind. Which is why, after a particularly stressful weekend of driving in the Garden State, I am writing this post. While it’s easy to feel justified in your impatience, self-importance, and even anger behind the wheel, those attitudes aren’t something that God supports.

I say, “Why is traffic moving so slow? Can’t you speed up some!”

God says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, PEACE, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.” (Galatians 5:22)

I say, “You jerk! How dare you cut me off!”

God says, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself, it only tends to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)

I say, “Don’t you know I have things to do and places to be?!”

God says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:14-16)

My personal challenge to you today is to not fall into the pattern of others on the road. But also not to fall into the patterns around you. It’s easy to become impatient and angry or to feel a sense of importance, especially when you see those around you doing it and, oftentimes, getting ahead because of it. But at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.

As Matthew 15:14 says, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

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Is Your Attitude in Check?

A few months ago we moved across the country. While I told God I was open to going wherever, the place He picked for us was one of the last places I ever wanted to end up. And while we’re close to a lot of big cities, we’re currently living in a rural and the nearest town is definitely in a state of disrepair. I went from, “I’ll go where you send me” to “Why on Earth would you send me here?!” While outwardly I put on a brave face, during our first couple months here I noticed my attitude slipping big time. I was snippy with my husband. I was frustrated with my kids. I was crying for no reason. I was getting annoyed and angry with the smallest things. I was lonely, missed my friends, and didn’t see how I would possibly make any new friends here. We started attending a new church and while I liked it fine and the people were friendly, no one was really jumping to get to know us and it definitely wasn’t like the place we’d called home for the past 3 years.

Of course, you all know all about that, right? Every few years, you’ve got to start over again. For an introvert like me, it’s extremely hard to adjust to a new place and make new friends.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  My spirit was crushed and my bones were definitely dry. But in the midst of my little pity party, God caught me and said, “You need to get your attitude in check.”

God reminded me that I may not be in total control of my current situation, but that my frustration didn’t give me a reason to let my attitude get out of control. Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

When we let our attitudes get out of control we’re not focusing on what is true, what is honorable, what is just, what is pure, what is lovely, what is commendable, or what is worthy of praise. But if we start to focus on those things, not only will we start to get our attitudes back in check, but we’re promised that the God of peace will be with us.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” and Psalm 14:18-19 says, “When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

How true that is. The moment I got my attitude in check, my days started to get better. I still don’t have any new Facebook friends and I still feel a bit lonely at times, but God’s reminder about my attitude has helped me to focus on making the most of this new situation instead of wallowing in self-pity.

 

 

Mercy

At church, the pastor has been preaching about the beatitudes. A few weeks ago he got to, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” and shared the parable of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35).

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”

How often do we refuse to extend mercy to others, forgetting the mercy Christ extended to us?

For me, I know it’s fairly often. People get on my nerves. They offend me. They don’t do things the way I’d like them to. They refuse to own up to their actions and apologize when they’ve done something wrong and they probably never will. But that doesn’t let me off the hook when it comes to extending mercy.

Matt Redman’s song “Mercy” is part of the regular worship set at our church and I catch my singing it sometimes throughout the day as a reminder to always be merciful. After all, Christ has shown endless mercy to me.

 

A Big Responsibility

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During my freshman year of college, I joined a local campus ministry group and really grew in my faith. I was learning so much and starting to shape my life to better fit what I thought it meant to be a Christian. Of course, since I was becoming more like what I thought a Christian should be, I felt like everyone else in my family needed to do the same and I went home for Christmas break with that thought in mind.

On Christmas Eve, we started to go to church like we always did on Christmas Eve and my sister didn’t want to go. My new legalistic mindset couldn’t comprehend the idea of not wanting to go to church on Christmas Eve and so I called her a heathen. I don’t think I really even knew what the word heathen meant, but I felt like it was the right term at the time.

I don’t know if my sister even remembers that moment, but I do. In my life there are a few moments I’m ashamed of and it has always been up there at the top.

Why does it matter? Because for a good portion of her life, my sister has been fairly indifferent about God and while I don’t know if I have anything to do with it, I certainly haven’t helped. In our family, she’s the fairly calm one. She doesn’t let things bother her, she goes along with the flow, and just tries to keep from rocking the boat. Nothing is really that big of a deal. I’m the one who causes trouble, gets into arguments with my mom, didn’t attend my mom’s wedding to a man I didn’t like and still just barely tolerate, and even spent almost a year not talking to my mom.  And I’m the one who is a Christian. If I was my sister and saw that’s what a Christian looked like, I wouldn’t be racing to become a Christian either.

None of us is perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. But when it comes to being a Christian and encouraging others to be Christians, we have a big responsibility.

My freshman year self thought that responsibility came in the form of telling everyone what they were supposed to be doing and calling them out for things like not being baptized or not wanting to go to church. My today self knows that the responsibility comes in the form of loving people.

Am I going to complain some? Yes. Am I going to not like some people? Most likely. Am I going to make mistakes? Absolutely. But when my family and the other people I come into contact with on a regular basis think of me, I want them to remember less of the bad and more of the good. Because if they connect me with Christianity, then what they think of me will often become what they think of Christians in general and if they don’t think very highly of Christians in general, then they’re less likely to ever want to be one.

The Victim Stance

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When I was growing up, whenever I got in trouble, my mom would always say, “Don’t take the victim stance!”

I hated it when she talked to me like a social worker. She worked as a social worker in a juvenile detention center and, to me, it was just her trying to lump in with one of her kids yet again.

However, when I was thinking about my husband’s crazy schedule and the fact that I’d basically get to see him for about an hour a day for the next three weeks, that phrase popped into my mind – “Don’t take the victim stance!”

Whenever my mom told me not to take the victim stance, she was telling me to be accountable for my wrong actions. In this case, I hadn’t done anything wrong, but that kind of thinking still applies. When life gets hard, our husband’s aren’t around as much as they should be, or we’re just tired and lonely, we can get into a “woe is me” mindset. When that happens, we often do and say things we’re not so proud of, and then blame our circumstances.

“Well, yeah, I yelled at my kids, but I’m really stressed right now. Anyone else would do the same.”

We get snippy. We get sad. We get tired. We moan, sigh, complain under our breath, roll our eyes, become lazy, and allow ourselves to seep into a bad mood and blame our circumstances to justify it.

But we don’t have to do that. If you spend your entire life taking the victim stance in rough times and difficult situations, you miss out on a lot of opportunities to be happy.

After all, your circumstances don’t control you. YOU control you.

As I stood in the kitchen and thought about how not fun the next few weeks were going to be, I reminded myself that I control me. I can sit around the house, mope, complain, and get snippy with my kids or I can do my best to make the next few weeks enjoyable. I can choose to take the victim stance or I can choose to hold myself accountable for my thoughts and my actions over the next few weeks.

Come Out of Hiding

Recently I read a post from a friend who talked about how she had been in hiding for most of her husband’s last duty station. Not that she was hunkered down in a basement somewhere or cut off from the world, but that she kept herself from doing certain things like going to the park or even going to church because her husband was gone and she didn’t want the reminder or to put on display that he wasn’t there.

On the other side of the coin, last year, when my husband’s ship was deployed, a group of wives from the ship got together and headed to the Navy ball without their husbands. There may have been a few moments of sadness as they watched other sailors dance with their significant others, but for the most part, they had the time of their lives.

As military wives, we have two choices – we can put our lives on hold while our husbands are away and say “I’m not going to do something because that makes me sad or because I don’t want my husband to miss it” or we can use the time to live our lives.

During my husband’s 9 months of deployment, my kids and I took a lot of mini trips, headed to lots of fairs and festivals, and even just did every day things like going to the park and heading to church every Sunday. Was it hard sometimes to see dad’s playing with their kids at the park and wish my husband could be there too? Sure, but I bet dad was the last thing on my four-year-old’s mind as he raced around the playground.  Did I wish my husband could stand beside me at church as I worshipped on Sunday mornings? Of course, but I also recognized how much support I got from our church family and focused more on God during those moments.

I’m not writing this to shame my friend. On the radio the other day, the host was talking about a woman who posted about her struggles with anorexia and commented “how beautiful it was that she could share her struggles in the hopes of encouraging others” and I feel the same way about what my friend posted. How beautiful it is that she could admit that she somewhat holed away while her husband was gone so that, in turn, other wives could recognize that maybe they were currently in that place and be encouraged to get out and enjoy the moment.

When we sit at home, in a way, we’re wallowing in self pity. “Woe is me, my husband is gone, things just aren’t the same without him.”

In 1 Kings 19:4-15, Elijah focuses on his circumstances, physically exhausts himself, and prays that he will die. What was God’s response? An angel came and said, “Get up and eat” and he got up and was strengthened enough to walk for 40 more days.

Sometimes when we’re feeling a bit down or disappointed that our spouses can’t be there for every moment, we need to call on God for the strength to get up and get out there anyway.

Deuteronomy 32:10-11 says, “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, 11like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”

If you’re in hiding, come out. It won’t be easy, but you have God, and the support of others who have been there, to help you live right now.

Seeking Validation

Every few weeks, a new blog post goes viral. It’s the mom writing a letter to the mom on the iPhone or another mom writing a response to the mom writing the letter to the mom on the iPhone. It’s the post about having sex with your husband every day and the posts about why another woman is not going to possibly have sex with her husband every day. We read and share these posts like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

Why?

Because we love validation.

Doesn’t it feel to good to see a blog post going viral that supports the decisions we make on a daily basis. We share it so we can see others comment with “right on!” or “this is SO true,” further validating the choices we’ve made.

The good thing about the internet is, whatever we’re doing, we can usually find someone who shares our viewpoint and does the same things we do.

There’s something to be said for sharing with one another and supporting one another as a form of building each other up, but there’s another thing to be said for needing others to validate the choices and decisions we make in our lives.

We do it in other ways too. That employee treated me poorly, so I’m going to post about it, mostly to hear people say “yeah, that employee really was in the wrong” or someone says I’m not good enough, so I’m going to post about it just to get people to comment “ignore them, you’re awesome.”

When I taught middle school, my students used to come me and say things like “so and so said I was dumb” or “so and so said I was fat.”  My response would always be, “Well, are you?” If the answer was “no,” I’d respond with, “well, then what does it matter?” They were only coming to me to get someone to validate that they were wronged or to get the other person in trouble and they were also basing their self-worth on what someone else said about them.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do you spend more time comparing your life with the opinions of viral blog posts and people on social media than you do comparing it with the instructions in the Bible?

In Galatians 1:10, Paul says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Our human nature craves validation, but we don’t need to get that validation by sharing viral blog posts or ranting on Facebook. We can get that validation from God and know that whatever we do, if we’re following Him and His word, we’re okay.