June 26, 2008

The Lost Art of Encouragement

Mark Twain once said he could live for two months on a good compliment. I can still remember two of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received—where I was, who said what and the fact that it made me want to enhance the qualities they had complimented.

Encouraging words like those come few and far between. What’s sad is that simple or small compliments and words that build another person up and spur them on to good things seem just as rare as a well thought-out compliment.

I was reading Stuff Christians Like the other morning and something in the Judgment Olympics entry really stood out to me. Number six on the list of ways people judge each other explained the common act of only pointing out the one thing that was done incorrectly, while dismissing the 99 things that were done right.

It’s been my experience that hearing a heartfelt thank you or a meaningful compliment for one of the 99 things done right, certainly makes it easier to get over that one mistake. Mary Poppins wasn’t joking when she said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. A word of encouragement helps the criticism go down. It reminds you that you aren’t a total screw-up.

Why do we do this? I believe part of the problem is that we let trite politeness double as our edification. We believe that because we say “Bless you” when someone sneezes or tack on an unneeded “Thank you” at the end of an email, we’ve done our job. We’ve been polite to that person, so we can check that off our list of virtues.

I also believe we place too much emphasis on complimenting a person’s outward appearance (“Your hair looks great!” “You look like you’ve lost weight!”) and we forget that edifying who a person is, is much more important. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like being told I’m pretty (I also remember the first time someone told me I was beautiful and they meant it, just like I remember the “less vain” compliments in the first paragraph). Telling someone that you appreciate their hard work or their gift of singing or their servant’s heart is too much work and too close to real emotion. But we are called to edify each other! Edifying is part of showing love to those around us and loving one another is second only to loving God. And part of loving God is following His commands. It goes hand in hand.

This entry hits close to home because I need to work on encouraging others and looking for the positive in others. And I sometimes would like to know I’m doing okay or I’m not a total screw-up too. So my friend and I have made a pact to look for the positive and be more encouraging. No more stale politeness or glossing over the greatness in others.

June 9, 2008

Fun With Flickr

Here's a fun meme to do with flickr photos:
1. Name: Tiffany
2. Favorite food: Club sandwich
3. High school you attended: Clayton High
4. Favorite color: Sage
5. Celebrity crush: Anderson Cooper
6. Favorite drink: Sweet tea
7. Dream vacation: The British Isles
8. Favorite dessert: Ice cream
9. What I want to be when I grow up: A mom
10. What do you love most in life: Jesus Christ
11. One word to describe you: Passionate
12. Flickr name: randomdtd

Here's how you play:
Open three windows. One with the list of questions, another open to Flickr and ready to do an image search, and a third to Big Huge Labs' Mosaic Maker (create a mosaic with four columns and three rows). Answer the first question, put your answer in the search field on Flickr and choose one of the images from the first page to represent your answer. Click on the photo then copy and paste the url into the first spot on the Mosaic Maker. Do that for all 12 questions, then click create and post the results to your blog. Sweet, eh?

Once again, if you can't see the photo at the top of the page or the links are messing up the text, go directly to my blog: breakfasttiffany.blogspot.com. Photo credits for the mosaic can be seen by clicking on the photo.

June 7, 2008

What Does Patience Look Like?

Note: If you're reading this from an RSS feeder or on Facebook, and the links are messing up the text, I suggest you read it directly from my blog: breakfasttiffany.blogspot.com.

When I was in the fifth grade I wanted to be a singer, actress and owner of a dog farm. My dog farm would be huge and would welcome any dogs that needed a home. They'd run around like cattle on a "normal" farm. Take a moment to imagine dogboys rounding up the dogs like cowboys round up cattle. My life aspirations have changed and now I just want one dog and I've resigned myself to the fact that I don't have the voice to be a singer (but I still have my Oscar acceptance speech ready just in case). I'm happy with where I am professionally and hope to one day write books, once I have the discipline to churn one out. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions about my future.

Which brings me to my point. A phrase has been making the rounds for a while now and it describes what many people my age are going through: the quarter-life crisis. We want to know what career to pursue, if and who we're going to marry (and when) and the general path we should take in our life. We're still getting used to being an adult and we want to know what comes next. Should I go back to school? Move to a different part of the country? Pursue a relationship with that person across the room who just happens to be fabulous?

Waiting for the answers to these questions (or questions that arise at any time of life) is about as much fun as counting the number of openings in a screen window. That is--it's not fun and it's tedious and makes you want to scream obscenities. And so we're told to be patient. We read over and over in Scripture to be patient and we repeat over and over that "patience is a virtue." So here's my question:

What the heck does patience look like?

Does it mean I have to be cool, calm and collected and just take whatever is thrown my way? Does it mean I'm not allowed to be upset or sad that nothing is happening? Should I just wait patiently for something to hit me in the head? What do I do while I'm waiting patiently for the Lord? Can I be proactive in my pursuit, or am I supposed to go about my regular business?

Patience can be seen throughout the Bible. It's no coincidence that saying someone has the "patience of Job" is a common phrase. So I did a topical search of patience and lo and behold the verses flowed forth. I read each of them and let me tell you--the people writing these verses often had a lot more to be upset about than me. I don't think I'll ever have to worry about being pursued by mortal enemies like in many of the Psalms
(unless that dream I once had where I was the nanny in The Sound of Music and my husband hired someone to kill me comes true...but I digress).

The more I thought about patience and what it means and the more I read passages about patience, I began to notice something. Patience isn't a singular item we must cultivate. It doesn't stand alone, as though separate from other virtues. The overarching goal of our life in Christ is to glorify and worship God. When learning to do this, patience is one of the many results. When we're learning one virtue, we're actually learning others as well. When working on kindness, we're learning to be patient with everyone. When learning faithfulness, we're also learning self-control. These things go hand-in-hand and stand together.

Take a look at Galatians 5:22-23. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Did you notice how is says the "fruit" of the Spirit rather than the "fruits"? Or the fruit "is" instead of "are"?

I was looking up sermons about patience on my church's website and found one that talks a great deal about the need for endurance in our walk with Christ. Life isn't going to be easy, but God never hides His intentions or fails on His promises. In fact, I believe we can take great hope in knowing that our spiritual and personal success depends much more on God's promises than it does our own persistence. Meaning, if we're doing our part by seeking and following God, our job is just to remember and believe/trust His promises--and wait on Him.

There we go with the patience and waiting again. Back to my question: what does patience look like? I believe in the passages that explore patience by showing distress and doubt, we can find hope and guidance in the fact that these verses are included in God's Word. If it were wrong to be sad or upset, the entire book of Lamentations would not be included in the Bible. The fine line, though, is to remember God's goodness and continue to seek righteousness despite our problems.

In the end, I think patience means having full confidence in God's timing and waiting on His will to be fulfilled, rather than jumping ahead of the game or going directly against His will. We may have times of anguish and we may be hurting during the long wait, but while we're waiting we're also learning other lessons about God and cultivating other virtues. Even in the middle of Lamentations, the author writes "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great if Your faithfulness...The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord" (Lam. 3:21-23, 25-26).

To conclude: I don't believe there is anything wrong with asking questions or wondering about God's timing or even becoming emotional about a lack of change or movement. Our God is not an unemotional God who demands no emotion from us. Our God only demands continued trust in His timing and to follow the principles He has laid out for us in His Word.

Seek righteousness in all areas of life, even in our waiting.

Psalm 86:1-13

June 4, 2008

It's possible I may have blacked out for a moment

I'd say I'm a pretty even-keeled person for approximately 20% of the time. I'd say that's a pretty good amount of a life to be spent even-keeled and without excess amounts of dramatic flailing of the body. So the story I'm about to tell you takes place during the other 80% of the time, but it's completely true and not exaggerated at all.

Setting: In front of the townhouse
Time: 10 p.m.
Players: Tiffany and Meredith
Extras: Big spider, 432 small spiders, 1 toad

Meredith and I are leisurely walking to the door of the townhouse, talking about Very Important Things and about events that may or may not have transpired that evening. As I reach into my purse, a spider catches my eye. This would normally be a small matter--just kill it. But this spider happens to be the size of a Buick Le Sabre and happens to be chillin' on our doorstep.

We prepare ourselves. Meredith deftly scoots the spider away from the door and I sweep in with my cute red shoe, like an eagle going after its prey.

Did I mention that this spider has a ghetto booty that makes Jennifer Lopez look like a skinny white girl? I didn't? Well, this spider's butt was bootylicious.

So I go in for the kill when all of a sudden the bootylicious spider bursts into 4,087 tiny spiders going everywhere. That ghetto booty was, in fact, a large spider sac. Ew. I then notice that the spiders are crawling all over a toad. The toad is frightened--I can see it in his eyes. He runs for cover among the bushes while Meredith and I begin frantically squashing spiders like a ninja warriors squash trespassers.

Our Mission: Make sure those devil-spiders don't crawl under the door.

We're stomping frantically while hoping the spiders don't crawl up our legs. Our legs are moving and flailing about as though independent from our bodies. We are like lords of the River Dance and the crickets are providing our soundtrack. But it looks as though the 10,235 spiders are too much for us. So Meredith makes haste to her Honda to retrieve a mug so we can pour water over these tiny, tiny fiends.

It's over. We have conquered the 24,987 spiders.

Final score:
Tiffany and Meredith-1