Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Hug a Porcupine and Squeeze a Skunk

Thank you KAREN EHMAN for today’s message..15200-ephesians-4-2-3

I once worked as a substitute teacher. While that evokes images of chewing gum stuck to chairs and strategically placed “Kick me!” signs, this was not my experience. Sure, many of the kids were squirrely, but I never had an ounce of trouble with any of them.

Until one day.

That was the day the principal told me, “In third hour you will have a student named John Smith. Just send him down to the office before class starts. He’s known as Big Bad John, and he’s never successfully made it through even one hour with a sub. He will disrupt the class, bully others and try to make you look stupid. I want to spare you any confrontation.”

I knew exactly which student he meant and really wanted a chance to reach this troublemaker. So I petitioned the principal: “May I attempt to keep him in class and then send him to the office if he causes trouble? I’d love to try, if you don’t mind.”

“Be my guest,” he laughingly replied. “I’ll expect him shortly after class begins.”

Just before third period, a towering, husky student appeared in the doorway. He had on ripped jeans — before they were fashionable — and a soiled light blue T-shirt. I could tell from the way the students stayed back that his odor was as unpleasant as his appearance and personality. I shot up a quick prayer and greeted him.

With a smug look on his unwashed face, he boldly declared, “I suppose you’ve heard ’bout me. I’ll bet the principal told you to send me right to the office ’cause ain’t none of you subs able to handle me.”

“Nope,” I replied, just as quickly and confidently. “I heard you were going to be in my class, and I also heard you are a great kid. Do you mind helping me pass out these papers?”

Big Bad John wasn’t sure what to do. Some he threw on the floor. Another he used to play a game of keep-away with a girl in class. I followed behind him, corrected whatever he did, picking up the papers or gently taking one from his hand to give to a student. I thanked him when he was through, making no comment on his behavior.

Next, we watched a movie, and John began to act like his nickname. He was disruptive — not just talking but also taunting other students.

I walked over to his chair, squatted down, looked him in the eye and firmly but gently said, “Hey, look, John. I know that you have a reputation of never being able to make it through an hour with a substitute teacher. But I say today we show the principal a thing or two. I know you can cooperate. I know you are a good kid deep down inside. I’d love for that good kid to come out today and for us to be friends. Are you willing to give it a try, just this once?”

His countenance softened. For the last 15 minutes of class, John actually watched the movie without incident. After class, the school’s office staff buzzed with the news that this school bully had made it through an entire hour with a sub. After that, whenever I had John in class, he behaved well. In fact, when he saw me out at a basketball game or the grocery store, he smiled, waved and hollered, “Hi, lady.”

It’s easy to love those who are lovable. It’s a breeze to be kind to people you like. But to truly be patient and gentle toward someone who acts unloving or unbecoming is an altogether special assignment — one Jesus not only taught, but modeled.

He spent much of his time on earth with the not-so-popular people. He touched the leper. He granted dignity to the prostitute. He welcomed children and the tax collectors and those whom society rejected. Jesus modeled upside-down living and loving. And He urges us to do the same.

Let’s make it our aim not to just love the easy-to-love, but to hug the “porcupines” and squeeze the “skunks” in our lives, reaching those whose behavior and demeanor usually pushes people away rather than draws them in close.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel

Selfishness in Marriage

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

Have you ever been told something by the love of your life that you never knew despite the fact that you have known each other for forever?  This happened to me as hubby and I prepared for Belinda‘s wedding.  I sat across from him and thought “how did I not know this?”.  I actually knew it but never really think about it.  Hubby‘s big thing is communication especially when it is about family – no matter how small.  Since he isn’t on any social media, I forget.  I zone out and don’t think to tell him things.

Life has been crazy for us – him working full-time, me working part-time & running my business, preparing for the wedding, doctor’s appointments, family health issues and just life.  We have been meaning for weeks to spend some time alone, or maybe even go on a real date. To say the least, it wasn’t until we headed to North Carolina and we “unplugged” that it happened.

We have spent so much time getting life done. Keeping up the house. Making appointments. Working. Paying bills. And I had stopped noticing the little things about hubby — the stuff I used to notice all the time when we were dating.  How did that happen?  I used to pick up on things all the time and we weren’t even living in the same house.

Back then it seemed easy to put him first, to always be on the lookout for his interests and likes. Selfishness on my part didn’t really exist in our relationship. I was head-over-heels in love with him and intent on noticing his preferences and pleasing him.

Sadly, it’s easy for noticing to decrease and selfishness to creep in. Instead of longing to please our spouses, even in the little things, we often look to get our own way. i know it isn’t just me, right?  We have an list or agenda for what needs to get done and we are on a mission. This verse seems to be the perfect prescription for this. We are encouraged to look not just to our own interests, but also in humility to look at the interests of others. There are so many ways to apply this verse in marriage!

It may mean spending a weekend doing activities that your spouse prefers. In my case, it would mean watching endless hours of CNN or talking politics or maybe even attending a rally to support his favorite cause or going to a classic rock concert, rather than checking out a craft show or going to a vendor event or going to a country music/ christian rock concert, which would bore him to death.  Sometimes it might be a big thing, and other times it could be something that I consider a trivial.

In today’s world of selfies and selfishness, let’s practice taking notice of our spouse’s interests and show them love in even the smallest of ways. For me, it is being intentional and sharing things from social media about family and friends.  It is making sure that I have his favorite jam – blueberry – and his favorite fruits – any kind of melon – in the frig.

I am going to be on the lookout for ways to bless my spouse — both in the little interests of life and in the major issues of marriage.

 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2, (NIV)

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!