Does This Make Me Look Fat?

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Proverbs 27:5-6

Be candid with your friends.

“Honey, does this look good on me?” Every husband knows that the answer to that question is, “You look great.” We don’t always say it, but we know the answer.

Beyond that bit of shallowness, we recognize that one of the great values of getting close to someone is the ability to be–in fact the obligation to be–completely honest with them.

Probably my best friend at work is Nathan. Although a terrific teacher and all around person, Nathan has a tendency to get pulled into positions of leadership that he finds overwhelming and utterly dreadful. Three years ago, he was detesting serving as the chair of a big campus-wide committee. Last year, he was swamped as president of the faculty senate. This year, he got sucked into serving on a different big committee.

When he resigned from that most recent gig, he expressed his relief. Instead of celebrating with him, I laughed and suggested that he’d soon let himself get lured into another difficult role. He looked at me funny for a moment, but since then he’s thought about that habit of his.

If we did not trust each other and enjoy each other’s company, I would not have been able to share that bit of criticism with Nathan. What he’ll do with it, time will eventually tell.

  • Do you receive criticism and praise from your friends in an open and accepting manner?
  • Do you offer criticism and praise to your friends in a way that helps them to become stronger?
  • What friend can you pray to speak more openly to in the coming days?

Closer than a Brother

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Proverbs 18:24

Be committed to your friends.

We joke that my mother describes anyone she ever stood in line with at the grocery store as “my really close friend.” But there are legitimately close friends, people who have populated my mother’s life for decades. One of them is Opal. Now and again, I’ll hear Mom talk about Opal and comment on how her old friend can’t get out and about like she used to.

“Have you called her recently?” I’ll ask.

“Well, no,” she almost always answers. “I’ve been thinking that I should but . . .” Her voice trails off, leaving the sentence unfinished.

I’d fault my mother more for her lack of closeness to her friends if I were really good at the matter myself. But like her, I have a tendency to intend to call or visit someone, to recognize the “should,” but never to follow through and keep the connection close. I can think of two people, old friends from our church choir, who I knew were seriously ill and needing some human contact. I had good intentions to get with them, but somehow something always intervened. And then they were gone.

Some friends will stick closer than a brother. I’m afraid that I fail on that count far more often than I succeed. However, when we consider the example set by Jesus, the call to committed friendship should seem very important.

  • Who are your closest handful of friends? How do you ensure that you remain closely committed to them?
  • In what ways do you fall short of maintaining your friendships? In what ways do you excel?
  • How can you pray for your closest friends and for the other levels of friends in the coming week? Will you actually do it?

Standing before Kings–or Deans

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Proverbs 22:29

Understand that the cure for laziness is NOT worse than the disease.

A couple of weeks ago, my dean–that’s academic-speak for my boss–came to observe my class. There was a day when that event would have made me nervous. In those times, I would have invited him to come on a day when I knew the lesson plan would be especially excellent. Then I would fuss over it beforehand to be sure that every little detail was perfect.

These days, with nearly 30 years of teaching under my belt, I just told the dean to pick a day. He came in and watched my class. Although I was very much aware of his presence, I can’t say that it changed my behavior. If only all of my life were that well ordered.

It’s amazing how, when we do what we’re supposed to do, things usually turn out for the best. When I do my normal, appropriate level of preparation for class, I don’t have to worry about getting into trouble with the boss. When I pay my bills or change my oil or eat a healthy diet or do anything else that my laziness might tempt me not to do, and good things happen.

At its heart, I think, laziness is a matter of weak faith. When I give in to laziness, I’m essentially saying that I do not trust that God has control of my life. I’m not trusting Him to reward me; thus, I have to reward myself.

Name some examples when hard work and self-discipline have paid off for you. Can you name some opposite examples?

In what ways do your choices contribute to the big picture God has prescribed for your life? In what ways are you demonstrating a lack of trust in that picture?

What area of your life needs your most urgent prayer attention to defeat any stronghold of laziness?