Thanksgiving (Day 6): By Grace, Not Left Alone

Today, I’m thankful for my husband, my fellow Pilgrim, and ask he does  for me, for us, and our church:
Down the road of life—this pilgrim way—we walk

Sometimes it flies by on dark wings filled with speeding change.

Other times it crawls on said knees with no visible motion.

Through these trials, light gleams,

a single bulb, a blazing sun, a candle flame:

GRACE

And yet, what grace! It would have been enough to give us this faith-based light, but more is kindly given:

Faithful companions!

See? Kindness, compassion, gifts:

faithful fellow pilgrims—our church body, our families, our spouses.

Oh our spouses, who in all the darkness of intimate sins, plod along at our sides

laughter, long and late nights, routine,

What a gentle sweet communion between two limping pilgrims helping each other

supporting, carrying, cheering,

praying, weeping towards the Celestial City.

What grace the kind Lord gives us in

Friends

Family

Spouses

and the Church.

These our fellow pilgrims, fellow warriors, fellow saints, the children of the Standing Lamb.

Advertisements

Failure

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

Sometimes I spend an evening, generally while my husband unwinds with a video game, wandering around Pinterest. I enjoy looking for new recipes to try, new cleaning tricks, fashion inspiration, decorating inspiration, writing inspiration, things that make me laugh, things that creep my out, or geeky things centered around my own particular fandoms. As I scroll through pins, I’m sometimes amazed at the level of narcissism and the lack of mercy shown to other sinners gathered around us. You see pins about rejecting the negative people in your life. You see pins about getting rid of those people who don’t just think you’re the greatest. Heaven forbid they don’t think your life dream is amazing. Heaven forbid they hurt you. Well you know what to do right? Throw those people away. You don’t need that kind of grief in your life.

Really good friends are perfect. They are perfectly loyal. They are perfectly focused on you. They are perfectly supportive of everything in your life, both good and ill. Good friends, and good Christians never fail.

Do you ever scroll past these types of quotes and feel like a failure? Do you every feel like you must just be a horrible person for honestly telling someone that while their dream is nice, they need to count the cost of the choices they’re making. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try something things just don’t go right? Do you ever remember with horrible guilt the time you were that person who wasn’t loyal and lost a friend because of it? Do you ever remember with terrible pain the time you were failed by a friend and were broken by it?

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I'm not god. I'm a failed and failing human being.

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I’m not god. I’m a failed and failing human being.

Guess what?

You are a failure.

You will fail and the people around you are going to fail.

You’re going to miss someone, look back later, see how they slipped out of your life, and you’re going to regret it. You’re going to say something about someone and regret it. You’ll believe the worst about someone only to realize you misunderstood them. You will be disappointed. You will have regrets. You will disappoint others and have regrets.

You will fail and you will be failed.

Some of us are overcome with sadness when we see all the ways we’ve failed, especially if we admire and appreciate loyalty and friendship. The weight of disloyalty and failure can almost break us.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn't anyone notice how much pain I'm in. Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice anyone elses pain.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn’t anyone notice how much pain I’m in? Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice the  pain of others.

Where do we find comfort?

1) Find comfort in the truth and not fiction. We all fail. We all sin. We are all sinners. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord that He saves sinners. If He didn’t I’d be lost. Knowing we all fail gives me peace because God saves sinners. I’m only perfect in Christ and the same goes for you. We are only faithful by grace. Knowing that gives us the strength we all need to forgive those who have failed us. It gives us the strength to resist being paralyzed by fear of failure. Grace! Grace!

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

2) Find comfort in He who is faithful. God is faithful. Look at the parable of in Luke 11/5-13. We are all the annoyed neighbor who is already tucked in bed. God is never tucked in bed. He is never annoyed. He is holy. He watches for the down trodden, the broken, the least of the least. Cry out to Him with your needs and fears. Don’t put your faith in your fellow-man, that is far too big a burden for any of us to bear. We aren’t God. We are weak. We have to sleep and eat just like you do. God doesn’t. God isn’t bound by the time, space, and corporeal weaknesses we are tied to. God is faithful. (2 Tim. 2/13)

Knowing we are failures isn’t a license to fail as much as we want, but a reminder that we are all sinners and only God is faithful. I can turn to my fellow church members and forgive and be forgiven. I can ignore the pins of people who hope in this life, build little gods of others, and try to find their satisfaction in a broken world. Better yet, I can pray for them. My sins are covered by Christ. He is my perfection. Remove that burden from your heart and from the hearts of those around you. Realize you are going to be hurt and you’re going to hurt others. Instead of finding perfection in fellow sinners, look for it in Christ, forgive, show grace, and help each other along.

Remember Iron sharpens Iron. Does that sound comfortable to you? Sparks are going to fly. Remember the wise man heeds rebuke. That means you have to endure and apply the rebuke of others. Remember that we are called to be a body in our church and not everyone is going to get to be the eyes and ears, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of removing people who suck from your life–people!–maybe look beyond the end of your own nose to serve them instead.

Hope in this life isn’t found in being unbroken. Hope in this life is found only in the Triune God.

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God!

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God! Here, oh soul, you may take your rest.

Lessons from the Boutique 4: Dealing with People

tumblr_mvvh52m6Nm1ra9vdio5_400

I have a personal belief that every human being should at one time or another do at least one of these jobs: secretary, retail, waiting tables, janitorial, and catering.  If we all had to experience how difficult these jobs are, we would be nicer.  We would understand that the person on the other end of the phone has no power and yelling at them isn’t going to get you anything.  We would understand that the person helping you with your clothes feels subhuman when you leave them a messy dressing room.  We would tip our waiters and waitresses more.  We would be much more careful in public restrooms and we would RSVP.  If you have worked one or more of these jobs, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  These are servant jobs.  These are jobs which require you to give parts of yourself you generally reserve for only close friends and blood relations.  They require you to clean up other peoples’ messes, literally.  You must handle verbal abuse with grace.  You must deal with the constant unexpected.  Then you go home, have a good cry, eat chocolate, and do it again tomorrow.  They demand the pouring out of yourself if you want to do anything close to a good job.

When we owned our boutiques, we focused on customer service.  My employees will tell you that I never once told them the customer is always right.  I firmly believe that this philosophy is INCORRECT.  In fact, the customer is often wrong, in my experience.  Usually, the customer is upset because you didn’t set their expectations properly.  Sometimes they have a legitimate complaint, but most often the customer is thinking only of themselves and nothing else.  We didn’t have a ‘customer is always right policy’.  We had a service policy.  Part of the issue for us was trying to find a middle ground between customers and consignors.  You can’t bite either hand that feeds you and you can’t choose one over the other.  This made customer service very interesting.

index

The hardest part, we found, with customer service was our thought life.  After you’ve been chewed out, belittle, picked on, walked on, and yelled at, it’s very hard to be gracious.  In fact, it is almost impossible.  All you want to do is break that person down.  We spent hours and hours complaining and whining about our customers after they left.  We discussed how annoying they were, how mean, how useless.  It doesn’t surprise me that some people get spit in their food.  I’ve seen how they treat teens just trying to do what their bosses asked them to do.  I’ve had my teens and other staff members yelled at by grown women who should be more behaved.

But guess what we found?  The more we indulged in this kind of verbal and emotional abuse of our customers, the angrier and more bitter we became.  We hated them, our job, and everyone else.

This was when we made a policy against complaining about customers.  We taught and encouraged our teams to stop the cycle.  Instead of verbally abusing a customer after they left, we tried to imagine what could have happened in their life to make them the way that they are.  We asked ourselves if they were really being that annoying or if we were just being thin-skinned.  We tried to turn the other cheek and put ourselves in their shoes.  We encouraged one another and held each other accountable.

If someone complained about what clothes I would and would not accept, I tried to imagine what her day might have been like instead of getting upset.  Maybe she had a fight with her husband.  Maybe she lost a job.  Maybe she’s getting rid of all these clothes because she gained weight and she can’t get it off.  Maybe her kids are sick.  Maybe her dog died.  Maybe she got some really bad news.  Maybe this is just one of those days were everything went wrong.

rman455l

When we started showing our customers pity even if they didn’t see it, our attitudes changed.  We willingly put up with a lot more from them.  We found that people we always thought we didn’t like, just needed a smile and a hug.  We found out that angry women hadn’t been told they looked great in a really long time.  We found out that bitter women just needed someone to listen to them.  We found out that messy women had three seconds before their kids, husbands, or parents needed them.  They couldn’t hang everything up because someone else needed them and they needed us to hang the clothes up for them.  We found out that almost all the customers we thought were annoying were just women struggling through their days and lives.

Do you know how much more rewarding it is to bring a smile to someone’s face even when they’re pushing you away instead of complaining about them after they leave?  Do you know people can sense this?  The atmosphere in our boutique was very open, loving, and happy.  Why?  We didn’t tolerate ourselves, our customers, or our consignors complaining about one another.  Yes, we stopped even our customers from complaining for us.  This showed them they could trust us not to complain about them when they left.  It encouraged women to lift one another up instead of knocking one another down.

This lesson is one I have to revisit all the time.  This is one I have to remember even more now that I’m working with mostly just my family and church family.  Just because I love you doesn’t mean that we never hurt one another or even get on each others’ nerves.  We do and we will.  What we need to do is remember that we don’t know what’s going on in each others’ lives.  We should handle one another with grace and pity…and maybe get to know each other better.

footwash_thumb2-264x300Next time another mom in the nursery bothers you, remember that you don’t know everything about her week.  This could be her very last straw.  She could be struggling just to make sure everyone gets something to eat.  Next time someone in lunch line annoys you, remember they could have health problems they’ve never mentioned.  They could be in a difficult relationship.  They may be struggling with some sin, just like you.  Pray for them.  Pity them.  Don’t deride them.  If there are some people in your church you don’t quite get along with, that’s okay.  You can still love them.  Look for positive things about them instead of picking at the frustrations over and over.  Maybe you’re asking them to do something they can’t or don’t know how.  Maybe their strengths are different from yours.  Maybe they’re in the middle of great suffering.  It might be a suffering so deep they don’t even know how to talk about it.

Be long-suffering with your church members.  If you don’t like your church maybe you need to stop looking at yourself and start looking at the soldiers beside you.  Are they wounded?  Are they broken?  Are they haunted by the carnage they’ve seen?  Are you helping them or just complaining?  Are you lifting them up or just being one more person who doesn’t like them?

If this principle was important in our boutiques, how much more do you think we need to practice it with our fellow believers?

These men and women love Christ just like we do.  They are our brothers and sisters.  Are you seriously not treating them with more love than complete strangers?  Are you giving them the least that you have?  They are other adopted children of the Father.  He loves them, and so should you.

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife