Why it Matters What Others Think

Did my blog title cause your hackles to rise? With today’s appearance/performance centered culture, most of us must fight daily to bring everything back to surrendered obedience. Blog posts and Youtube videos abound countering our culture’s shallow and exhausting trend, and with good ID-100184427reason. So rest assured, I’m not going to tell you to jump back on that people-pleasing treadmill. To the contrary. I’m going to encourage you to center your whole heart, every thought and desire, in Christ.

Because if you do, your actions will follow, and people will notice.

Two, maybe three years ago, a dear friend approached me with a story idea. At first I told her “Absolutely not!”, because I felt completely ill-equipped to write it. But then one morning, I awoke with the story unfolding in my brain. Having walked with Christ on this writing journey for a while, I determined God had birthed the story within me. Therefore, He wanted me to write it. So, I called my friend, making sure she understood all this would entail.

I’d need help. A lot of help. You see, this novel would require a great deal of medical knowledge, which I lacked. It’s very difficult to plot something you don’t understand.

And so began our journey. Over the course of a year, Ami Koelliker and I met over lunch, coffee, at her house, talked by phone, and swapped documents as we ID-10023724eeked out the story. And I mean eeeeeeeeeeked out. This was the most difficult story I’ve written to date. It was frustrating, exhausting, and often, downright discouraging. To make matters worse, I kinda doubted we’d ever even sell it. So in essence, we were spending all this time, giving ourselves headaches, on a project that we knew would likely end up in our computer’s trash bin.

There were many times I wanted to call it quits. Many times. I even considered writing Ami a check to compensate her for her time then being done with the whole thing.

But I didn’t. I stuck with it. (As did she.)

And here’s why: I’d made a commitment, and I intended to honor it, regardless of the cost or the outcome.

Flash forward two years, and I receive an email from my editor. New Hope wanted to contract this novel. (Yes, I signed, and the story is going through the various editorial stages now and has a scheduled release date of October 2015.) A story I’d seriously considered bailing on. I’m so very glad I didn’t.

It’s not that I am or was highly spiritual or possessed incredible inner grit. But this is an area God is growing in me. Because our word matters. Consider the following verse:

“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord: Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends … and keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:1-4 NLT)

Our actions reveal our heart. It’s one thing to say we’re transformed by grace; it’s another to reveal this with how we live our lives. For as Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right” (NLT).

Christian character is a big deal. It adds credibility to our witness and forms a foundation of trust that lets others know we’re honest, reliable, and forthright. Conversely, lack of character is a big deal. It destroys our witness, hinders deep relationships, and ultimately leads to ever-increasing self-deception. And living in self-deception is a dangerous place to be.

As I read through Ruth, from the first chapter to the last, I was instantly struck with how honorable both Ruth and Boaz were. They worked hard, honored their commitments, were loyal to their loved ones. And everyone knew this.

In Ruth chapter 2, Boaz says to Ruth, “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers” (NLT).

Then, in chapter three, we begin to see Boaz’s character. He says, “Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman” (3:11 NLT).

How does Naomi respond when she learns of Boaz’s statement? She says to Ruth in verse 18, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today” (3:18).

In other words, she knew Boaz would take care of it, and that he would take care of it immediately. 

Their previous actions had revealed their character. Ours do as well. 

Let’s talk about this. If you haven’t had a chance to, read Ruth chapter 3 here. I know you likely read the first part of this chapter Friday but I encourage you to read it again. Actually, I encourage you to read chapters 2 and 3 again. You can do that here.

What stood out to you as read Ruth chapter 3?

What character traits impress you most in Ruth? What about in Boaz?

What areas might God long to help you grow in, in regard to your character?

How well do you honor your commitments? If you struggle in this area, what will you do differently, having studied this portion of Ruth?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below, on Facebook, or via our email loop. And make sure to visit Beth’s blog Friday for our next lesson.

Other posts and resources you might find helpful:

In Absence of Integrity

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

And as a teaser… for those curious about this book Ami helped me write, here’s what it’s about:

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

 

 

 

Finding Our Calling–the In Between Years

Your heart was stirred and you responded with enthusiasm, determination, and focus. ID-100148082But that was so long ago, you barely remember the call. In fact, you’ve begun to doubt it. Did you really hear God? Is He in this? Has He given up on me or changed His mind?

You accepted the job, anxious for advancement and to put your unique giftedness to use. Oh, the plans you had! But after ten years of doing grunt work, watching others get promoted, get raises, while you remain stagnant, you’re beginning to wonder… God, do you see me? Do you care?

Obedience. Perseverance. Surrender.

Doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing.

Many of us long to be used by God, and when we consider this, I think our minds often Luke16-10versepicjump to something grand. We long to be missionaries or to start a ministry, or perhaps lead our entire office to Christ.

But what if God called you to poverty… for Him. To give up everything to align yourself with the destitute and spend your days begging on the street corner?

This is the modern day equivalent of what Ruth did. She gave up everything to align herself with Naomi, to take on Naomi’s plight, and to spend the rest of her days, in essence, begging for food.

Pause for a moment to read Ruth 2:1-17.

Notice, Ruth took initiative. She offered to go out into the harvests to glean grain from “anyone who is kind enough to let me do it” (v. 2).

She humbled herself and served her mother-in-law in a grueling and demeaning position. In essence, she became a beggar. Notice, she didn’t play the poor-me card, bemoaning her situation, asking Naomi to join her. Never once do we read the words, “Why me?” coming from her mouth.

I believe that’s because she was entirely focused on the needs of her mother-in-law. Ruth truly loved and honored Naomi above herself.

In gleaning, not only did Ruth willingly take the position of a beggar, but she also potentially put herself in harms way. She, a defenseless woman voluntarily worked among hired hands; male strangers.

We can sense the potential danger in this through Boaz’s words in verses 8-10.

“Boaz went over and said to Ruth, ‘Listen my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly.‘” (Ruth 2:8-10a NLT).

Boaz would not need to warn his men not to treat her roughly unless he knew this was a common problem. Nor would he need to urge her to remain in his field unless he knew gleaning in other fields, among other strange men, could be potentially dangerous.

I believe Ruth understood these dangers as well, and yet, with courage, she set out to do the right thing. Even when it was hard or frightening. Here we see the depth of her love and sacrifice.

In these chapters, we also see her perseverance.

Harvesting grain was a grueling endeavor, one that exhausted the strongest of men. Hours spent in the sun, backs bent, hands rubbed raw by the rough sheaves of grain. Then, once the sheaves were gathered, they had to be winnowed then ground into flour or roasted.

Through all this Ruth persevered, not knowing what lay ahead, not knowing that every step of surrendered obedience was leading her to her calling.

As I read today’s passage, I couldn’t help but think of Luke 16:10

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

Faithful in the little things…

Sitting with a neighbor even when it seems no one notices.

Serving in the nursery week after week, even though you’re tired.

Pouring your heart into a blog no one seems to be reading or perhaps editing a manuscript your certain will never go to print.

Going to work every day, giving your all, even though your boss credits your efforts to another.

ID-100189108Raising your children or grandchildren, wiping snotty noses day after day, even if it means struggling financially. While your neighbors hold prestigious jobs.

Faithful in the little things, doing the task, whatever it is, that God has set before you today.

Remaining in God’s will, even when it’s hard, tiring, or lowly.

Following His leading, trusting in His timing, even if the drudgery drags on. And on.

Surrendering your plan for God’s. This past Sunday our youth pastor, Robert Conn, gave an excellent message on trust and surrender. The sermon is titled “Practically Trusting.” I encourage you to listen to it by clicking here.

1. What stood out to you in today’s passage?

2. What do you believe were some of the external challenges Ruth faced during her period of gleaning?

3. What do you believe were the internal challenges she faced during her gleaning?

4. Can you share a time when you served out of obedience and it became difficult or tedious? What do you believe God was doing during that period? In what ways did that time of service help develop your character or grow your faith?

I could discuss this passage forever as I feel it is so incredibly rich, but alas, I’ve far exceeded the reasonable blogging word count. 😉 I will leave you with this:

Each of us are called. God invites each of us to seek after and embrace the abundant life Christ offers. But oftentimes in our journey, we hit numerous roadblocks, set backs, and long winding valleys. It is our choice to give up or persevere.

Hold tight to your call. Hold tight to the One who called you.

Share your thoughts here, join the discussion on Facebook, or join our Bible study email loop. Make sure to visit  Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay on Friday for another discussion on surrender.

Live Out Loud

There have been so many times when an article idea burns itself in my brain or a verse jumps out at me and triggers an entire page worth of notes and I dive for my computer, ready to put my thoughts to type when, halfway through the post, memories of my past behaviors and comments stop me in my tracks. To make it even worse, I found out a few days ago that my mother is following my blog. Now talk about intimidating! There’s no fooling mom. I can present a mask well enough to you all, but she’s seen me at my worst, and probably even has the pictures to prove it. How I would love to be a Ruth! Known not for what I write, but instead for how I live my life. Luckily I do have a “Boaz” who keeps me on my toes and reminds me, not through words but through action, what it really means to follow Christ. As the saying goes, integrity shows itself when no one’s watching. And yet, people are watching, when we’re least expecting it. And what we do on the day to day speaks volumes.

This morning as I was reading Ruth, Boaz’s description of her struck a cord. He said, “Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do whatever is necessary, for everyone in this town knows you are a virtuous woman.”

Everyone in the town knew Ruth was virtuous. Morally excellent. Not because they’d read her blog or listened to her lengthy prayers, but because they watched her in action. And then listen to what Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, had to say about Boaz. “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

Ruth and Boaz were people of integrity, and everyone knew it. Their integrity drew them together. The other day I happened upon a thread talking about marriage. The general consensus seemed to be that men were pigs and women were cold. Being the romance-advocate that I am (in case you weren’t aware, I have a weekly marriage column) I had to jump in with my two-cents worth. Never a good idea, really, to go meddling in conversations that really don’t pertain to you, but I hated to see so many people give up on the fairy-tale so easily. The response I received in return made me think. The original poster told me that I obviously hadn’t met all the men who refused to commit. And to be honest, she was right. In my circle, I know very few men like that. The men I know are great fathers and committed husbands. But this got me thinking. I know, never a good idea, and here comes the worst idea yet–I’m gonna share my conclusion with you all. Good thing hurling tomatoes can’t penetrate my computer screen. Ready for the bombshell?

I wondered why my experiences were so different from those of my friend. I realized it had to do with who I associated with and where I spent my time. (Sorry to disappoint you ladies, but you’re not gonna find Prince Charming at your local pub.) If you want to find a man, or a friend, with integrity, you’ve got to be a woman of integrity, because like it or not, birds of a feather do flock together. Why do I love my husband? Not because he’s dashing and strong (although he is <grin>) but because he’s a man of integrity. It’s what I see in him when he thinks no one is watching that draws my heart the most. And his consistency has challenged me to be a better wife and mother, and a more committed follower of Christ.

So what is integrity? Integrity is going the extra mile when you could have stopped at one. Integrity is doing a job well even if no one will notice. Integrity is offering a hand, speaking a word of kindness, and refusing to hide behind nominal Christianity. Integrity is opening your ears to that still small voice and replying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And then doing what God asks.