When Love Involves Risk

quote on love

Relationships can be messy and confusing. We long to build bridges, to point others to Jesus, and really, to love others well. But sometimes it can feel crazy hard to live that out. If only Scripture provided a clear road map: When they say X, respond with Y.

I felt the tension between grace and truth most acutely a few summers ago when my husband and I fostered a troubled teenager. We’d gone through extensive training and felt certain, prior to placement, that we knew when and how to set boundaries and for what behaviors.

The black and white decisions we saw on paper muddled into gray when transferred to the real world. We weren’t working with hypotheticals anymore. This was real life, a human life—a deeply broken teen rapidly spiraling into self-destruction.

We knew we needed to address her behaviors, to hold her accountable for them. But we longed to do so in a way that built or at least, didn’t harm, our relationships with her. I can’t say I always did that well, nor that my actions and reactions were always Christ centered.

Relational tension often reveals my weaknesses and insecurities, but more than that, they provide an opportunity for me to quote pulled from text on a hazy blue backgroundpress into Jesus. Only He knows the right response to every situation.

My responses more closely resemble His when I intentionally set myself aside—my pride, will, fears, and expectations—and yield to the Holy Spirit within me.

I imagine the apostle Paul felt a similar tension when he addressed his brothers and sisters in Corinth. I don’t know what all was going on, but Jewish believers had attacked Paul’s ministry and division and sin had infiltrated the church. Apparently, he’d written the Corinthians a “severe” letter, which scholars believe has been lost.

The Corinthians may have assumed, based on Paul’s letter, that he didn’t care for them. That his heart had turned against them. Those fears may have been magnified when one of Paul’s previously planned visits were delayed. But in 2 Corinthians 2:4, he assures them this wasn’t the case. In fact, it was because of his love for them that he wrote the letter, delayed his trip, and was now planning to visit them again.

He said, “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4, ESV).

Can you sense Paul’s anguish? Having had his ministry and character attacked, while facing ministry challenges, persecution, and the constant threat of death, he was in need of support and encouragement. Of community. The easiest and most self-serving thing he could’ve done would’ve been to simply allow the issues in Corinth to slide.

But out of His love for them, he wrote a rebuking letter, one where he anguished over each word. Perhaps you’ve been there, when the most loving thing you can do is address a behavior, even if it causes someone pain. Temporary pain. A pain that, by God’s grace, can lead to healing and restoration.

That was Paul’s goal. He wasn’t lashing out in anger, frustration, or indignation. He was pouring every part of him out in love.

Sometimes that love is quiet; other times, like when Paul wrote his chastising letter, that love is bold. But when it comes from Jesus, it is always pure and honorable and truth—focused on others and centered in Christ.

Let’s talk about this! Pause to think of the people in your circle. What is the most loving way you can respond to them today? How might “self-love” (self-protection, pride, feeling offended, etc.) get in your way? What can you do to move past self-love tendencies? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Would you like Jennifer to speak at your next book club gathering, Bible study, or women’s event? Contact here HERE.

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Pursuing Intentional Growth

verse image for 1 Timothy 1:7Unless we fight against it, entropy will get us every time. Inactivity, laziness, choosing what’s convenient over what’s beneficial … Those habits may satisfy in the moment, but ultimately leave us weak and, potentially, diseased. My guest today shares how a 22-day challenge motivated her to change and what God showed her through that. But first, I’ve got fun news to share! I recently signed a contract (well, my agent did) for a Love Inspired Contemporary set in a fictional town located in the Texas Hill Country. I’ll share more info soon!

How learning to do pushups helped my faith walk

By Jessica Brodie

With spaghetti-noodle arms, I never could do a proper pushup. My version of this exercise involved me on my knees, arms splayed wide, barely bobbing up and down.

“I’m just not built for it,” I’d insist when my well-muscled husband encouraged me to try one the traditional way. “Easy for him,” I huffed to myself. He can lift twice my body weight. I, however, was that kid in elementary gym class who couldn’t last longer than three seconds on the pull-up challenge. Nope—I could power-walk all day long, but pushups were out of the question.

Then about four years ago, I started working out with weights. The trainer on the video, also a small-framed woman, had great abs and biceps. She inspired me to think maybe I could step up my abilities if I worked hard enough.

One day, my brother-in-law posted a Facebook video about a 22-day pushup challenge he was doing. This involved doing 22 pushups a day for 22 days to raise awareness for the 22 veterans who take their life each day. I’m not sure exactly what seized my heart, but I knew right away—I needed to participate. So I trained ever harder, built up the strength, and soon did my own 22-day awareness challenge—without doing any on my knees. Motivation teamed with training allowed me to achieve what I thought impossible.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the apostle Paul tells a young pastor, “Train yourself for godliness.”

Reading those words reminds me of what we can accomplish with dedicated training. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he lays out criteria for his mentee and encouragement for other church leaders to be trustworthy, righteous, self-controlled, hospitable, and gentle, steering clear of drunkenness, evil, and love for money (1 Timothy 3:2-11).

Paul knew well that all people are sinners and cannot be saved except for true faith in Jesus. But he also knew God loves holy living, and as followers of Christ, we’re expected to turn from sin to embrace the way of the cross—the way of Jesus. We’re to imitate Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds by loving God with our whole heart and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Everything we do is to be done for the Lord.

Paul didn’t say, “Be godly.” He knew this took effort. He urged Timothy to strive to set the best example possible in spite of his youth. What he modeled, Paul knew, would lead others to Christ.

Just like it took me some time to build up the muscles I needed to do a proper pushup, it takes time to learn what godliness looks like—and to live that out. But we have tools to help us develop those spiritual muscles: prayer, daily reading of Scripture, spending time with other Christians, wisdom from pastors and other faith leaders, and quiet time in nature with our Lord.

In my example, my love for veterans motivated me to reach my goal. Similarly, our love for Christ should stir us to live in a way that pleases Him.

Now it’s time to train.

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Let’s talk about this! Have you participated in any challenges similar to the one Jessica shared? Did the challenge help motivate you? In what ways do you intentionally train yourself in godliness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

Get to know Jessica!

Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/shiningthelight.

Before you go, I encourage you to pop over to Crosswalk to read my article on ways to increase marital intimacy. You can read that HERE.

 

 

God Opens Doors

God Opens Doors by Sarah Foust

God opens doors. Sometimes I don’t feel like walking through them, but He makes them available. A few years ago, my husband and I felt called to become foster parents. It was a tough process. Scary. More like terrifying. But, God presented us with an opportunity and we chose to follow. I’m so glad we did. It led to personal growth, parental growth, and to adopting our fourth daughter and first son. What a blessing they’ve been in our lives.

If we’d chosen to ignore God’s prompting, we wouldn’t have these two beautiful children. And, I wouldn’t be writing yet. It was through the process of becoming foster parents to our son that I realized I could no longer work full-time. When my job as a medical transcriptionist disappeared the week he arrived in our home, I knew it was time to pursue my dream career.

Through this, we stepped through another door, and I chose to write. I love writing. I’ve dreamed of it since I was in second grade. I remember sitting in the desk, zoning out while the teacher talked as I pictured crafting a real, long, tons-of-words novel.

I put that dream off for a long time because I feared I would fail. What if I pursued this career and fell on my face? What then? My dream would be dead and I’d have nothing to hope for my future career. But God gently nudged me forward, and I am so glad He did.

On November 4th, my first real, long, tons-of-words novel comes out. It’s an idea that originally popped into my head in high school (a few years ago). But with prayer for direction, it has become so much more than that initial spark. I poured my heart and soul into my book baby and it is about to arrive! I cannot wait to hold it in my hands and read my name—my name!—on the cover. I’ll probably cry. No joke.

I don’t know what the next door God will present me with will be, but I plan to step through it. I know that He only wants good for me and that He has a plan. If I’m to do my part, I need to be obedient, brave, and trusting. Who better to place blind trust in than God? If I were to encourage you to do any one thing, it would be to step through the door God has placed before you. He won’t let you fall, or if He does, He will pick you up. He’s waiting on the other side. Waiting to take you where you’re supposed to go. Waiting to lead you to who you are supposed to be.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a dream career you’ve never pursued because of fear? Is God presenting you with a door of opportunity? Do you plan to walk through it?

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Speaking of living your dreams, or living out your identity in Christ and who He created you to be, as I like to put it, if you’re in the Omaha Metro area, I encourage you to come to Wholly Loved’s Bold and Brave conference. Our first one will be held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Papillion, NE on February 11th; our second one will be held at Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Lincoln, NE on June 24th. Mark your calendars, and follow us on Facebook for more information. And if you’re a writer living in the Seattle, WA area, I invite you to join me in October at the NCWA monthly meeting where I’ll be talking about overcoming the fear that hinders us from fully living out our calling and the freedom, creativity, and power that comes from surrender. And on the 28th, again for those in the Omaha area, I’ll be speaking at the local Wordsowers meeting on developing a mind of success. Find out more HERE. Because successful people think differently than unsuccessful people do, and science is discovering more and more, our success (in pursuit of our dreams) is much more dependent on our grit than our talent.

You might also enjoy:

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

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Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Available soon! Find information at www.saralfoust.com under the books tab

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Shining Light in the Dark

Every day is a battle—for truth versus deception. For relational intimacy versus isolation. For growth and godliness versus sin and self-destruction. Ultimately, for agape love (toward God and others) versus self-love.

This—the battle against self—is by far my greatest battle. This is what threatens to derail me more than any outward casualty or setback I may experience. Self-love leads me toward self-elevation (which is idolatry). Agape love centers me in the will of Christ.

At their root, each of these is a battle between light and darkness.

Two extremes, continually pitted against one another. The only solution? Surrender to Jesus Christ.

It’s almost ironic, as I type this this morning, over a week before it will go “live,” I am and have been in the throws of this battle, one I thought I’d won but a week prior. And the week before that. And the week before that as I prayerfully “crucify my flesh” as Scripture puts it, asking the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to offer all of me to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

And yet, here I am again, resisting the ugly within me so the pure, honorable, self-sacrificing love of Christ can shine forth.

My battle plan? Prayer and praise as I seek to be filled with more and more of Christ, knowing when that happens, all else will fade away. Because He is my treasure, and this present world is short but eternity is forever.

About five years ago, I spoke to women living in a women and children’s shelter in Kansas City, women who had lost nearly everything—their homes, their livelihoods, their self-respect. Some were experiencing the consequences of poor choices. Some were, but not all. Others were simply in a really rough place, likely crying out to God, asking Him why. Why had He allowed them to reach that place?

Did He not see them? Was He deaf to their cries? Had He forgotten them?

Did He not care?

But what if, in fact, His attentive eye was zeroed in on them, in the middle of their darkness, as He shined His love and light through them?

That night, I shared the story of Joseph, a man who, from the very beginning had been given an incredible promise from God—that God would raise him, second to the youngest of twelve sons, to a place of leadership, where the rest of his family would “bow down” to him.

photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser from Unsplash

If you’re familiar with this account, you know God had much more planned for Joseph than simply familial leadership. But first, Joseph went through some incredibly hard years facing struggles and humiliation that would, quite frankly, send me hiding in by bedroom with the blankets pulled up to my chin and a big ol’ bag of tootsie rolls within reach.

You can read his story in its entirety in Genesis 37-51, but to paraphrase, God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, dragged to a foreign land where he was stripped of all rights and forced to spend his every waking moment in service to another, and then thrown into prison. And at each step, he was given a choice: focus on himself and all he’d lost or perhaps all he “deserved,” (after all, he’d been called, personally, by Creator God!), or surrender and live, 100% in obedience to and for the glory of His Creator.

Because he chose the latter, he shined the light of God in the middle of some incredibly dark places.

I believe this was the battle God had called him to, and make no mistake, it was an intense, moment-by-moment battle! This was also the battle God called Timothy to, as he pastored that church, filled with false teaching and division, in Ephesus. And it’s a battle God calls each one of us to, as we stand against discontentment, selfish ambition, and greed—the very attitudes that had caused the false teachers in Ephesus to wreak such destruction (1 Tim. 1:6-7, 6:4-5).

And so, this brings our study full-circle with the reminder that it’s all about love. God’s kind of love. A love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

We can fight many battles in any given day, but the battle that wars within is the most vital, because everything else stems from that. We are most effective when we are most yielded to God’s Spirit at work within and through us. He has a plan, a good, victorious plan, for tackling whatever battle is warring around us, and He may (or may not) use us to fight it.

But make no mistake; He’s the One who will do the fighting. He’s the One who will win the victory. Our role is quite simple—to surrender and obey. If we do anything else, we’ll merely be getting in His way.

For those who’ve been following the 1 Timothy Bible study, this weekend, I encourage you to take time review what you’ve learned in the previous weeks. Journal what God has shown you, and simply take time to rest at His feet. Make Romans 12:1 your prayer:

Dear Lord, in view of Your mercy, in view of all You’ve done for me, help me to offer my body—my time, my thoughts, my will; my whole self—to You, as a living sacrifice because of all You have done for me. May that be how I, daily, worship You.”

Pray this prayer often, and then wait and see what God does. Wait and see how He uses you to bring healing to the hurting, life to the dead, and sight to the blind.

What resonated most with you in today’s post? What inner battle do you tend to fight the most, and what can you do today to strengthen your connection with Christ–the One who has equipped and empowered us for victory? What are some ways you fight the battle against self-love?

FREE! Receive great, free content (short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!) directly to your inbox by signing up for my quarterly newsletter HERE!

Living as an Example

Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of the seventies (or a product of the 21st century), but I can be incredibly stubborn. I tend to think I’ve got all the answers, and when I don’t, I’d much prefer to figure them out myself. Though I’ve gotten better with age, when my husband and I were first married—whew! I was a feisty, opinionated thing who believed I knew, well, everything.

My poor husband! Needless to say, I didn’t take instruction well.

To make matters worse, I was quite literally a mess with zero understanding of what it took to run a household. Back then, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a small, railroad/ranching town in Western Nebraska. My husband worked for Union Pacific, and though I waitressed some and sold makeup in the mall, I largely “played house.”

I have no clue what I did with my time, other than watch an obscene amount of “Gilligan’s Island” and “I Love Lucy.” I certainly didn’t clean!

One day, my husband returned from work and I met him at the door with a large bowl filled with black water. “Look!” I said. “I dusted!” I was so proud of that filthy water, as if I’d done such a great thing that day in dusting our tiny home, not realizing the reason the water was so black was because it was the first time I’d dusted in … ever. And we’d been living there for six months.

Needless to say, I wasn’t rocking my role as a wife. So what’d my husband do? Did he follow me around, nagging?

Nope. He simply started picking up. He vacuumed, did the dishes, whatever needed to be done, and all without griping or complaining.

As he did, I watched and learned, a lot.

‘So this is how one manages a home,’ I thought. It sounds pretty ignorant, but there were so many things I hadn’t even considered. I was learning a new role, and with it, I needed to develop a new skill set—a new way of living.

In some ways, this was true for the Ephesians, too. They lived in an incredibly sinful city and many had probably come straight out of paganism. Through Christ, God had given them a new heart and had changed their entire trajectory. Though some of them had probably been in the church for four or five years, they were still learning how to live for Christ.

Paul wanted Timothy to teach them, and in many ways to bring them back to the basics. And to show them with how he lived—in the words he spoke, in his faith, and in his purity—what it looked like to follow Christ. (1 Timothy 4:12-13).

 

Timothy was to be the Ephesians living example, just as Paul had been for Timothy and Jesus had been for the disciples. You may have heard the phrase: more is caught than taught. That’s not to say one shouldn’t actively teach, because Paul definitely wanted Timothy to do that, but if we want to have eternal impact, our actions must line up with our words. Otherwise I fear we’re simply making noise.

Let me close with this: Would you be able to say, with Paul, “Follow my example as I follow Christ”? If not, what needs to change so that you can more accurately represent Jesus? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or in our Facebook discussion page HERE.

If you’re following Maria and my online Bible study–for today’s Scripture reading, I’d like us to look at some of the ways Paul, Timothy’s mentor, set an example for other believers. Read 1 Corinthians 4 verses 1-5 and 14-21.

What stands out to you in these passages? In what ways is your life an example to others?

Before you go, I have fun news! My latest release is free (Kindle version) for a limited time! You can get it HERE!

You can read a short excerpt HERE!

If you missed Maria’s post on Tuesday, which introduced this week’s theme, you can read it HERE!

Speaking of Bible studies, for those who in the Omaha Metro, I wanted to invite you to King of Kings Bible study fall kick off on Sept. 12th. I’ll be speaking on finding rest and nourishment in Christ, no matter how busy and crazy our schedules are. You can find out more HERE.

 

The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

The Modesty Debate–Going Deeper

If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study or church or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.

I reserve my most frightening moments for my family. (You thought bedhead was bad; try bedhead with rebellious, curly hair.)

Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.

When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.

But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. That’s not to say we should run around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.

This past summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.

We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”

That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.

Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.

I felt benevolence toward her and didn’t give a thought of what I wore or how I was perceived. At that moment, I was focused on her, not me.

But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.

It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.

Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.

Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?

There’s that ugly self-love again, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.

The next morning I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. When I got to verses 9 and 10, it was like God had shone a flashlight into my heart, and I saw that passage in a way I hadn’t before.

In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”

“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).

That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.

Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?