Are You Doing A Great Work?

Today’s post would benefit from a bit of context.  I encourage you to read Nehemiah 2:11-20 and Nehemiah 6.  I also encourage you to read this post from Michael Nichols.  I’ll bring that all together in my post…

Read all that material? Great!  Let’s go…

The post that Michael Nichols wrote about getting knocked off course resonated with me.  How many times has our family set our intentions on doing a good thing but wound up distracted?  In all honesty, how many times have I set my personal goals and gotten derailed along the way?  I think this is a situation that we are all familiar with.  His question, “Why did you walk away?”  is a one that most of us have to examine.

navigate the mazeWhen dealing with distraction I often wind up looking at Nehemiah.  The account of events begins in Nehemiah 1:2-4 when Nehemiah asks one of his countrymen about the fate of those who remained in captivity in Jerusalem.  The report of the great city in utter destruction and a people, God’s chosen people, decimated caused Nehemiah to sit down and weep and mourn for many days.  He was positioned in life to make a difference and set his heart on returning to Jerusalem and restoring the city and God’s people, no matter the cost.

In Nehemiah 2:11 we can read about his return to the homeland and the impact a visual inspection of the devastation had on him.  Even though the situation was dire (v17) he inspires those who are around him to join him in rebuilding the city so they are not a reproach to God.

Many of us are motivated by similar realizations when we seek to change things in our life.  We might change our diet because we recognize what it has done to our health and our body.  Of even more importance we might change priorities in our families when we recognize the spiritual wasteland our homes have become.  Perhaps church leaders set out on the challenging task of rebuilding the body when a lack of vision has had its final consequence.  Our good and sincere efforts for improvement are often met with challenges and even attack.

From the very beginning of this effort, Nehemiah had his enemies.  In 2:19 we read that Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem “jeered” and “despised” the efforts of Nehemiah and the Jews.  The critics asked, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”  Nehemiah replied, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

Nehemiah 3 details how the people rise up and get to work rebuilding.  It might seem like a lot of pointless detail but this portion of the text allows us to see how far spread the rebuilding effort had become.  The same people detailed in chapter 3 had lived in this destruction for years and had never bothered to improve their situation.

Their progress drew insult and threat from their critics in Nehemiah 4.  Sanballat along with Tobiah issue insult and threat.  They were bullies.  The one thing that enrages a bully is being ignored.  Nehemiah ignored their threats by calling on God to turn their taunts back upon them.  The taunts of their critics drove the Jews to build with even greater fervor.  In v6 we read that the people “had a mind to work.”

Sanballat and Tobiah were enraged when their insults were met with silence and focused progress by the Jews.  The people recognized the threat and instead of stopping they prepared themselves for defense as they worked to complete the wall.  They didn’t bother with hurling insults or threats back and forth, they kept their focus and prepared for any attack that might come.

The people of God stayed busy and completed the wall while their enemies continued to cause trouble from afar.  Four times Sanballat and Geshem sent message to Nehemiah saying, “Come and let us meet together at Kakkephirim in the plain of Ono.”  (To bad they didn’t have Starbuck’s back then.)  These men never had good intentions at heart so Nehemiah clearly knew that they meant to cause him harm and derail the task at hand.  Four times he responded, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”  I personally believe this is one of the most powerful statements in the Old Testament.

I think Nehemiah 6:5 is often overlooked.  They sent an open letter (unsealed for all to read) to Nehemiah.  The lies of their message were intended to stir up trouble and division…they were desperate and fishing.  Sanballat, Geshem and Tobiah were the ultimate in passive-aggressive communication.  Nehemiah’s response comes from a heart of focus and dedication – “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.”  Nehemiah clearly saw that they were trying to disrupt the great work that was being done by spreading fear and lies.

The account isn’t finished yet.  (Hang in there with me!)  Even some people among his countrymen had been bought out by these critics.  In 6:10-14 we read of those who attempted to derail Nehemiah from within the walls.  Nehemiah’s focus and dedication allowed him to see that this was not a message from God but was simply another scare tactic.

The wall was finished quickly…in 52 days!  One would easily think that the troubles were over for Nehemiah but the end of chapter 6 tells us that his enemies were persistent.  Many of the nobles of Judah were bound to Tobiah by oath and continued to work on Nehemiah.  The final verse of the chapter tells us that Tobiah continued to send letters in an effort to scare and distract him.  Now safely inside the walls of Jerusalem I am sure these letters had little impact.  Perhaps they were piled in a basket in the corner, unopened, to be used for kindling.

The last few weeks I have been focused on purpose and vision because that is where I am at in my professional and personal life.  I am working with the leadership of our congregation to develop a specific goal and vision for the ministry that I am blessed to be a part of.  I am working with my wife to reshape and examine the goals we have for our family.  I am blessed to be a part of several organizations that are also undertaking this important and challenging task.

While all that continues there are still distractions aplenty.  There are lots of good things that cry out for our attention but we must politely decline.  There are those around us who have their focus set in the wrong place and seek to distract us as well.  And there is always the constant temptation to simply lay down and take the easy route through life, letting precious time pass by till it is too late.

My friends, I am busy doing a great work and I encourage to join with me.  I am dedicated to raising children who know and love God and see Him in my words and actions.  I am pledged to my bride to stand by her through this life, encouraging and strengthening her in this walk we take together.  I am in a covenant with God to seek and save the lost and share His hope with a world that needs it.  To those who would try to distract, why should the great work I am involved in stop for you?

I hope today’s post has been encouraging and thought provoking for you.  Too much of our time is wasted on things that don’t matter.  I encourage you to have a spiritual conversation with your family today.  Perhaps you’ll use the Dinnertime Devotionals series or perhaps it will be something more organic.  Either way, I encourage you to give thanks to God, teach your children about Him, and model a Christ-like love for your family.  Check out Dinnertime Devotionals 39.

What He Said

Last Tuesday I wrote a post about the need for clear vision and purpose for individuals, families, and organizations.  (You can read it HERE if you missed it.)  On Sunday our preacher delivered a sermon that walked right down the same path and I wanted to share it with you.

focusIn the message titled “A Life of Conscious Purpose” (click lesson title to listen) our preacher Ed clearly presented the purpose of the church as found in the New Testament.  We both referenced Matthew 28:18-20 in which the New Testament identifies the purpose of the church to be teaching all nations about salvation.  (Quick note: Our preacher is from Scotland and he has a really cool brogue, a lot like Sean Connery.)

It is easy for organizations and individuals to ‘muddy the waters’ with good things that don’t work towards achieving a goal.  For instance, there is no doubt that all the things we are doing as a church are good, but do they work towards accomplishing the goal that has been set for us?  It is important to encourage, equip and strengthen the church but it is also important to set the body into action to do the job it is supposed to do.

Regular readers of my blog know that my wife fractured her tibia earlier this summer.  Even though the bone has mended her leg is still weak from lack of use.  She is on a weekly regiment of strength training prescribed by her physical therapist to get back on track for working 12 hour floor shifts at the hospital.  The goal of the therapy is to set her body back into regular motion.

I appreciate the realistic approach of her employer in recognizing that someone can not immediately bounce back to being on their feet for 12 hours after a leg injury of this type.  Individuals and organizations can’t expect to bounce right back to where they are supposed to be either.  It takes training, vision, and effort to refocus and rededicate energies and priorities.

I very much appreciated this message on Sunday and hope it is as encouraging to you as it was to me.  I also appreciate all those who are setting goals for themselves and their families that lead to the same purpose.  It is for these folks that I continue the Dinnertime Devotionals series with installment 38 from Philippians 3 – Dinnertime Devotionals 38

The Easiest Way To Get Knocked Down

I am only a casual observer of boxing, but it is easy to make some basic observations about the sport.  Some of the greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard were quick on their feet and always on their toes.  Often their opponents found themselves knocked back on their heels against the ropes being punished with blow after blow.   When you are knocked back on your heels it is hard to escape an attack and easy to get knocked down.

What happens when we move away from our vision, mission, and goals and become reactionary in everything that we do?  A few examples…

  • An organization with a clear mission leaves the path of accomplishment to chase after the latest accusation, crisis, or controversy.  Leading by crisis is not a sustainable path.  When all energies are poured into responding to the latest controversy, the leadership produces fatigue, factions, and failure within the organization.
  • A family fails to set goals or expectations and finds themselves in a morass of complacency and failure.  Parents aren’t given the option of leading their family, they are given the responsibility to be strong, pro-active leaders.  Even the youngest of families can have goals, standards, and expectations.
  • An individual is paralyzed by fear and motivated only by eminent failure.  With no goals or motivation they surrender to laziness, unmet potential, and quite often will tear others down in an attempt to bring them to their level.

encourageThis all sounds pretty negative, especially coming from a guy who is by nature an optimist and strives to seek out the best in others.  I believe we are seeing in our society the fruits of our hyper-informed culture.  A few illustration that parallel the above points…

  • The church has a clear mission – Matthew 28:19-20 – “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Pretty simple right?  Everything we do is supposed to be focused on reaching out and making disciples.  Does the command of Jesus sound like we are supposed to be on ‘offense’ or ‘defense’?  I don’t know about you, but with Jesus’ assurance that He is with me ALWAYS I am motivated to push past the follies of this world and accomplish the ONE thing He commanded me to do.  A church that is fully accomplishing the goal that Christ set forth most likely won’t have the energy for much of the foolishness we see today.  Being absorbed in a hyper-informed culture distracts the church from the primary mission and leaves us chasing after the latest thing that catches our attention.
  • I’m probably not the only person who observes families when I am out and about.  Last night we took our girls out to dinner to celebrate an accomplishment of our older daughter.  There were two other families within glancing view of our table.  Every time I looked at their table I saw mom on a phone, dad on a phone, and kids on a device.  Before the meal came, during the meal, and as they were leaving, both families were plugged into whatever was on their device instead of each other.  There are times we need to be on a device, but all the time?  As the Dad of young children I recognize it is exhausting work at times but the work of parenting is an essential one.  A question to parents… what information, communication, or game are you looking at on your phone that is more important than your children?  I can’t even predict the problems we are heaping up for our young families when we place a premium on being connected to a device instead of our children.
  • “Failure to launch” is a relatively new phrase that has been coined for young people who just can’t seem to get out on their own and start life on their own.  Have you thought about this transition from their perspective?  We are in a new era of communication and information where young adults are constantly connected to the best of what their peers are up to.  It is easy to look at Instragram, Twitter, or Facebook and see the best of what others have to offer and feel inadequate and incapable.  As the brain of a young adult enters the critical maturation stage, they are surrounded by a cyclone of information that many seem to have trouble piercing through.  High school and college students, as well as young adults, are perhaps the group that is most easily knocked down because it is a challenge to establish a footing in the first place.

Our two-year old falls down and gets up countless times throughout the day.  She can be walking right along and with no trouble in sight…boom…. she is down on the ground.  I can accidentally brush up against her and down she goes.  If your body had doubled in height in the last year you’d probably be a bit wobbly too.  But we are there to pick her up, give her a hug, and help her learn if there is a lesson to be learned. (Such as the danger of dancing on tables that was taught this morning.)  I don’t expect her to have these problems for long because she is learning and adapting.  But new challenges will arise and we will be there to love and help facilitate learning.

As individuals we were created with amazing potential. is all about the idea of life-long learning in every aspect of life.  Learning keeps us moving forward toward the goal we have set.  Families and organizations are also called to keep their focus on the end goal.  We have all seen the result when focus is lost and we chase after things that don’t matter…we get knocked down.  Let us make sure we are focused together on the goals that are set before us.  We should also be encouraged to love on another in the face of the challenging struggles we all face.

Philippians 2 is an amazingly appropriate passage for this post.  It is the subject matter of Dinnertime Devotionals 37.  If you don’t look at the devotionals I encourage you to at least read the passage – Dinnertime Devotionals 37

Family Traditions

This post isn’t about the Hank Williams Jr. honky tonk anthem “Family Traditions” although I will mention it a bit later.  Today’s short post is a reminder to myself about the influence and importance of family…

family shelterLast night a group from our church went to a senior living center to sing some hymns with the residents.  We arrived 10 minutes early and found a good number of folks already waiting in the chapel area where we would be singing.  As we opened the hymnals and began singing, it was obvious that those who had gathered loved to sing.  There were so many good and strong voices, especially among the male bass part.

I was so impressed with the singing that I had to ask the residents where they had learned about singing.  A woman quickly volunteered the answer, “From my family.”  She talked about how her parents, aunts, and uncles all enjoyed singing and how they would sing together at every chance they had.  Several others in the crowd volunteered similar answers so I asked for a show of hands from those who had been influenced in their singing by their family.  Over half of the hands in the group went up.  The influence of family was undeniable in the room last night as some of the best singers were those who had raised their hands.

Many times over my years in ministry I have heard people talk about the hymns their mother, father, grandmothers, etc would sing as they worked around the house.  The gentle influence of a mother singing hymns in the kitchen while doing the important work of the home lives on in the hearts and minds of so many.

I imagine there is no neutral ground in the lessons that we teach our children in the home.  I have yet to speak with an adult who feels that their family was neither of good or bad influence in their life.  Hank Williams Jr. had one of his biggest hits with the song “Family Traditions” that details the list of vices he struggled with, just like his father.  More than likely the song wasn’t fully based in reality but the thought still applies…  When your kids say they’re just carrying on an old family tradition, what will they be doing?

Hopefully one of your family traditions is spending some time every day talking about God and praying together.  The Dinnertime Devotionals series was started to encourage that effort.  Here is Dinnertime Devotionals 36

The Power of Positive Prevails

Over the course of the last week I was reminded of the power of positive influence that I can have.  We all have the choice to either reflect God’s light of love to a dark world or to reflect the qualities of this lost world that we live in.  Let me share my two reminders with you then speak a bit about why I choose the power of positive:

Last week our family had the great opportunity to spend some time together on one of our annual excursions.  Every year we make a pilgrimage to the other side of the metroplex for the State Fair of Texas.  Our daughter’s school had a day off and I took a day off from work to spend some quality time with my young family.  We always have a great time, and thanks to my thrifty wife it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

The photo I posted on Facebook.

The photo I posted on Facebook.

I posted a favorite photo from the day on Facebook to share something fun and positive on that powerful social media platform.  The photo of our family with Big Tex received a normal number of ‘likes’ and comments from friends and relatives who have a special interest in our family  But here is why I bring all this up… the next day a young man left this comment – “There’s a face I have never seen not smiling! Miss ya Jon”  This young man attended another church in the area and we would see each other from time to time at various youth events.  He now lives out of state, is married, and living the adult life.  Have you ever thought about how greeting everyone with a sincere smile can make a lasting impression?  I am thankful to my Dad who taught (and still teaches) me the importance of a solid handshake, sincere smile, and genuine interest in everyone I meet.

The second reminder…  My wife and I were blessed to be able to attend the CALLED conference that was hosted by a local church this past weekend.  It was a time of encouragement and education with some excellent speakers and teachers.  I was sitting in a session when I was asked to share some of the things I have been writing about on this blog and through the Dinnertime Devotionals series.  I appreciated the offer to talk about but was humbled to hear others in the room talk about how they have been using the Dinnertime Devotionals series and some of my posts with their own families and congregations.  How cool is that?!?

I don’t bring up these two examples to ‘puff’ myself up or to brag.  I bring them up because they are just two examples of the power of positive in my life.  It is good to be surrounded by sincere, hard-working, loving folks who have dedicated themselves to reflecting God’s love…no matter what.  Through their words and actions they seek to encourage fellow Christians and others to come along with them as they strive to get to heaven.  I am thankful for all the ‘encouragers’ I have in my life and I am thankful that I can be an encouragement to others.

Like everyone, I have my detractors, who are welcome to their opinion.  I have found that most who criticize are simply looking to elicit a reaction.  Over time I have learned that arguing with some of these folks is like arguing with our 2 year-old.  If she has made her mind up that the sky is pink and the clouds are made of cat fur, there is no convincing her otherwise.  It is better to smile and move along.

I have been learning more and more how the power of positive keeps one in control.  When we feel that we must constantly react to the latest controversy, we are drawn away from our game plan.  A reactionary stance keeps you on a weak footing where it is easy to get knocked down.  This is true for individuals and organizations.  We must have a plan, stay focused on it, and keep heading down the path that leads to our goal.

power of positiveAppreciate honest criticism and those who offer it.  Appreciate those who reflect God’s light of love and hope into your life.  Embrace children and their purity, energy, and creativity.  Study, pray, and meditate often so that you can be the light to those you know and to those who you don’t even realize you are reaching.  The power of positive always prevails.

Ever wondered where the power of positive comes from?  It comes from God’s Word.  This life is temporary but leads to a lasting home of peace and joy.  The Dinnertime Devotionals series is my effort to help my family and yours as we strive together to teach our children about God and His overwhelming love.  I hope you use and enjoy Dinnertime Devotionals 35.

The Long Lasting Influence of a Teacher

Last week I came home from the office and was excitedly greeted by our first grader as she popped up on our couch with big eyes.  She immediately prompted me with, “Guess what Daddy?!?”  A bit concerned with this unusual level of enthusiasm I cautiously replied, “What….?”

“I had lunch with your sixth grade teacher today!”

That was pretty exciting and unexpected news.  We run into Mrs. S (my 6th grade teacher) every once in a while since she is a vendor at the antique mall where we are set up.  (In fact, I still see my 1st, 2nd, and 5th grade teachers often.)  Mrs. S volunteers at the school to read with the kids and then joins them for lunch in the cafeteria.  Our daughter was so excited to read with, and eat lunch with Mrs. S since she was one of her Daddy’s teachers.

great teacherMrs. S let our daughter in on the elementary teacher’s secret.  She knew without a doubt that this was our child not because of her last name or because we bump into each other once or twice a year, but because of her eyes.  Elementary teachers who love and engage their students always remember the eyes.  They spend so many hours looking at those eyes, watching them to insure that there is understanding and comprehension.  Years later, many teachers can pick out the eyes of their students when they have become adults.

Lifelong educators have a love for teaching children that never goes away.  I come from a family of teachers (Mom, Dad, Sister, Mother-in-Law) and can see their joy in teaching our children and instilling a love for learning in them.  I have fond memories of teachers throughout my education from elementary all the way through working on my graduate degree.  The educators who stand out in my mind had a unique love for teaching and an intense interest in their students.

Of course all education does not take place at a school.  I am a teacher in the work that I have taken on as a minister.  I remember with great fondness many of the Bible school teachers I had as a child who were all volunteers, many of them professional teachers who also loved reaching children with a message of God’s love.  I appreciate and give thanks for their heart-felt efforts.

Many times the only things we hear about teachers is the occasional news report about a teacher who brought trouble upon themselves.  Or we read posts on Facebook, many of which are inaccurate or false, about the changes taking place in the educational system.  Sure there are problems, but there are a lot of amazing educators who are making a positive lifelong impact on their students.

I truly appreciate the teachers and administrators that work and sacrifice to make a difference.  Little things, like the principal of our daughter’s elementary school remembering her name on the first day of school amid hundreds of young faces.  Big things, like the continued interest and involvement of lifelong educators.  New things, like some of my friends who are helping to usher in new methods of teaching and online educational tools.

In a world where educators are often under appreciated, constrained by bureaucrats who have never taught a class, and consistently under-funded…I would like to say “THANK YOU!”  Thank you for the impact you have made (and continue to make) on my life.  Thank you for your work with my children.  Thank you for keeping the grand tradition of education alive and thriving.

Transitioning to our Dinnertime Devotional series…  Never forget that parents can be the most powerful educators.  Parents teach in the things that they do and don’t do.  A parent is a better ‘youth minister’ than I could ever be to their child and that is why we are working to equip parents with tools to help in the job of teaching and ministering to their family.  Dinnertime Devotionals 34 continues with our family study in the book of Ephesians – Dinnertime Devotionals 34

Do You Value Your Time?

In the past week I have spent a fairly large amount of money TWICE for the purpose of saving time and effort.  Let me ask you a question – Do you know what your time is worth?

time is has an interactive tool that walks through a series of questions that will paint a fairly clear picture of the value of your work and free time.  (I have mentioned this tool in a previous post.)  It is good to know what your time is worth in the office and the value you assign to your free time.

A lot of the examples on the site deal with saving money:

  • Is it logical to drive 9 minutes further to save $2 on a tank of gas?  If your free time is worth $30 an hour you would lose value (($30/60 min) * 9 min = $4.50) while trying to save money.  Of course, your personal hobby might be saving money and it brings you great joy…factor that in.
  • When researching an item, looking for a deal, or trying to save money…keep in mind the value of your time.  Is it worth spending 3 hours (3 hours x $30 per hour = $90 of value) to research the best $20 alarm clock on the market?

I have found several instances in our home life where we are actually spending more money than we are saving.  Printing a coupon in color on our home printer can cost about $0.20 to $0.30 in paper and ink.  If the coupon is for $0.50 we have just reduced the value by half.  Factor in the time it took to find and print the coupon and you might be in the negative once perceived value is included.  Another factor is the number of coupons that get printed and don’t get used.  It is very easy to do some very illogical things in an effort to save a buck.

I mentioned two expenditures I made in the past week to save time/effort.  Let’s examine those:

In my side business of buying and selling, I scored a huge deal a few weeks ago.  I was able to purchase some flat filing cabinets (for blueprints and maps) from a local municipality.  Each 5-drawer unit is 52″w x 42″d x 18″h and weighs 300lbs.  The lot in the auction was for 10 units….that is 3,000lbs.  List price for each of the cabinets (per the manufacturer) is $2,757 per 5-drawer unit.   I paid 1.3% of what they are worth at auction.  My plan was to donate two of the units to our church for the new teacher workroom and then take the rest and sell them, BUT hauling them would be a factor.

Due to the size of the cabinets I would need to rent a truck ($100) and get some paid and unpaid volunteers to help with the effort ($100).  Plus I would be lifting the cabinets, hauling two of them upstairs at our church building, and offloading the others at my storage area.  It was a ‘no-brainer’ to get some quotes from moving companies.  I contacted three companies and they were all in the same ballpark of pricing $250 to $275.  The additional $50 to $75 to hire professionals fell well within my range of perceived value for my time, and that didn’t even factor in the potential for injury to myself or those working with me.

The movers were FAST!  The entire job took just over two hours and the units were moved to the various locations without any damage.  I suspect that I will be able to sell the remaining units for 20-25% of the list value which will more than cover the auction and moving costs, plus leave a solid profit for the venture.

The second expenditure is a bit more difficult to quantify.  As a guy, I like tools.  I have a storage cabinet and workbench that are full of them.  Some of the more unique tools only get used a few times a year.  But as most of us have found out, having the right tool can save a TON of time and frustration.

I have been a minister for over a decade and have never invested in any real Bible software.  I have always been the type to think, “If I can’t dig it out of the Bible or do the research, then I don’t need it.”  That attitude is akin to trying to break the bolt loose on a mower blade with a crow bar and a socket wrench when I have an impact hammer readily available.  (Sorry if that illustration was lost on you…I change a lot of mower blades.)  I bit the bullet and invested my own money in what has proven to be some really amazing Bible study software.

So far I am not realizing any time savings with the software because I am still learning and exploring all the features it has to offer.  But I can tell you that the quality of my lessons, etc. has already increased as I have ready access to a vast library of commentaries, texts, and word studies.  No longer do I have to grab books from the library in my office or down the hall.  At the click of the button I have the same or similar resources available.  I estimate the time savings to be at least 8-10 hours per month, which easily justifies the expense.  Factor in the increased quality of my work, and you have a great value.

Final thoughts – Obviously this value estimation tool isn’t flawless.  If you are retired or a stay at home parent then it probably won’t work for you.  No matter your situation, it is good to think logically about what our time is worth, what we do in the name of saving money, and if there are tools or professional services that would be a good investment.  It is always good to ask – Do you value your time?

Will They Miss You?

I don’t have to travel away from my family often, which I am thankful for.  But when I do have to be away it is good to come home to a family that has missed me.  My wife always let’s me know how much she appreciates me and misses me while I am gone.  Our young children also let me know I have been missed when I see their eyes get big with excitement when they see I have returned.

miss youYears in ministry have taught me that this isn’t the case for everyone.  Some family members and friends are happy to see you go.  Hurtful words, errant priorities, and failure to be responsible can make someone a frustration to be around.  I am reminded of an odd graveside service that I conducted for an older woman.  The small number of people at the service recounted tales of the mean things the deceased had said to them.  The feeling of those gathered wasn’t sadness or malice, instead it was pity.

When I walk our oldest daughter to school in the mornings, I always say 3 things to her:

  1. Is it going to be a good day today?
  2. Are you going to be a good girl today and help others?
  3. Daddy loves you very much.

I ask the first two questions with the purpose of reminding our sweet young girl about the importance of attitude.  When we set our minds to having a good day, there is little that anyone or anything can do to spoil that.  Annoying or bad things might happen but we take them in stride when we are committed to a positive attitude.

The second question is geared towards the attitude that God would want us to have.  When we strive to help others and be kind, we reflect the love of God.  How can you have a bad day when you are bringing joy to others.  Some of the unhappiest people I know are self absorbed.

A quick aside – On our plane flight to Orlando last week, three people sitting near my co-worker and I were quite vocal about their dislike of the screeching children on the plane.  What do you expect on a flight that is headed to one of the biggest resort destinations in the world?  I guess they forgot that they were once children, or how their kids behaved when tired (it was a 6am flight.)  Those folks condemned themselves to having a horrible flight over a minor issue that the rest of us chose to ignore.  They forgot the abundant life we have in being able to sit in a padded seat in an air conditioned machine that will whiz us to distant places in just a few hours.  Amazing!

The final reminder I ALWAYS give our daughter is a reminder of my love.  Little girls need the love and attention of their fathers.  The conference I attended last week vividly reminded me of the need that girls have for the attention and affection that they can only get from their father.  I make sure my child is reminded daily of my love for her.

I want to be missed when I’m gone.  People miss you because you add value to their life.  We should strive to give to others, from the simple tasks that are done as part of the work of the family to the affection that can only come from you.  It is good to be missed and it is a pleasant reminder that we are on the right track with the things we are doing and saying.

Don’t miss out on our ongoing study of Ephesians in Dinnertime Devotionals 33


A Time For Renewal

Last week I was chatting with some of the other buyers during the lunch break at the live auction I attend in Fort Worth.  Several of the ‘regulars’ own large used office furniture stores in the metroplex and as far away as Nebraska.  In particular I was chatting with a guy that is about my age who has been in the resale business for 5 years and hasn’t taken a vacation in all that time.

There is no question that the used office furniture business is competitive and fast-paced, just like many other industries.  But not taking time off can kill your health and sanity, and your business along with it.  I’m the type of person that REALLY likes to stay busy so this is something I have to try and remind myself about often.

The Bible speaks about rest and renewal A LOT!  In the Old Testament, Exodus and Leviticus are filled with examples and COMMANDS to rest, renew, and reflect.  A few that come to mind are:

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Leviticus 25:4 “But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”

Personal rest, rest for workers, renewal for the animals used in labor, and even renewal for the land (crop rotation) are all spoken off in the various commandments founds in these two books.  Even though this old law isn’t binding on New Testament Christians it is a healthy pattern and reminder for all of us.

All of this is on my mind because I am headed to a ministry conference for the rest of the week.  I am in my 11th year of ministry and have only attended 1 conference in all that time.  I am really looking forward to meeting some new people, spending time with folks I know from the DFW area, and being encouraged and equipped to better minister to the congregation I work with.

busy familyWhat kinds of things do you do to renew?  Obviously it doesn’t have to be a grand event or occasion.  There are lots of little things we can do along the way.  I believe we are sometimes too hard on ourselves.  Recently my wife and I were talking about all the negative blog posts that have been written about mom’s tinkering on their cell phones at the park while the kids are playing.  No one would say anything about a mom who is reading a book at the park while their children are playing.  If a mom wants to take a moment to enjoy a game, chat, or read on their cell phone while the kids play…more power to them!  Being a mom is an exhausting job.

You might have a favorite show you enjoy watching, or a book you like to read, or a prayer journal you are working through.  There are any number of things that people might do to take a moment to rest, relax, and renew.  The key is to take that moment.  You might also take a look around.  See someone who is busier than you are?  Give them a hand!  Perhaps you see your spouse running themselves into the ground, head home from work a bit early and lend an extra hand.  We all could use a little help!

Another thing you should make time for is Bible study with your family.  It doesn’t have to be any big deal.  I will often work our conversation into dinnertime, which is why I started writing dinnertime devotionals.  I have heard from several of you who use these outlines each week and I appreciate your good efforts – Dinnertime Devotionals 32.

The Heart of a Child

My wife has been on crutches long enough that it threw our entire family off when we saw her on just one crutch or with no crutches.  The first day of the transition to one crutch my wife was home with our 2-year-old.  Our youngest girl followed Mommy around all day carrying her other “crunch” saying, “Mommy you forgot your crunch!”  Other times she would find Mommy in the kitchen and push her rolling stool towards her and say so sweetly, “Mommy sit down.”

photo 1

Little children love to help! Never forget that we were created to do good – Ephesians 2:10.

Little kids have HUGE hearts and want to help out however they can.  The concern of our 2-year-old was evident when she tried to make sure that her Mommy was taken care of.  Our 7-year-old has been equally as attentive and has also incorporated the injury into her role play.  The other day we found her in a chair, leg propped up, ice bag on leg and play crutches at her side.

As sweet as they are to their Mama they can sure get testy which each other.  The littlest disagreement can send the 2-year-old into a screeching fit against her older sister.  The same children who only moments earlier had been so sweet to their Mom are now having a screeching fit over a doll or some other toy.

My wife and I are constantly thanking the children for their sweet attitude and then correcting them when disagreements arise.  This is commonplace for most homes but there is an interesting parallel between the heart of a child and the behavior of adults.

As adults we can do amazingly kind and compassionate things for each other.  From small acts of kindness to loving sacrifice, we reflect the love of God to our family, neighbors, church, and friends.  But catch us in the wrong place or time and you might possibly see a different side of us, just like a child.  An example…

How many times have you seen adults bicker on Facebook or other online interactive sites?  People who in real life are good and kind will sometimes say things online that they would never say in ‘real life.’  The buffer of cyberspace transforms us into a child with no obvious discernment in the words we are typing.  Seeing grown men and women bicker over religion, politics, or current issues and call each other idiots, trash, etc. is highly disappointing behavior.  Through their repeated encounters with various people, some seem to take great joy in bullying or baiting others to stoop to their level of foolishness.

Our youngest on her own "crunches" following Mommy around.

Our youngest on her own “crunches” following Mommy around.

We would all do well to seek out the example of the heart of a child.  Bask in the warm glow of the love they give.  Observe their quarrels and make sure we don’t appear to be acting in the same manner.  And forgive.  Our girls can be screeching at each other and after some correction and a hug they go off and enjoy an afternoon of playing peacefully.  Adults could work for a long time to capture that attitude of forgiveness when mistakes are made.  (Our preacher gave an excellent lesson on this topic on Sunday evening.  Give it a listen – “How Blessed Are Forgivers”  See what you miss when you don’t go to church in the evening :))

If online confrontation is an issue for you, here are some suggestions that I have employed that seem to help:

  • Not everything needs a response.  Some folks are just trying to start a fight, so don’t given them any fuel.  Their fire will eventually die out or they will move on to another topic.  My parents always told me the best way to stop a bully is to ignore them.  This is true in most cases.
  • It is OK to ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow’ people.  If the stuff they put up online bugs you then unfriend them.  Hard feelings can also be avoided by simply remaining their friend but unsubscribing from any posts or material they put up.
  • If you find yourself constantly entangled in “debates” with people, perhaps you need someone who will filter your responses.  Bounce your ideas off someone before posting them to avoid unnecessary quarrels.  A lot of time and energy is wasted in pointless arguments online.
  • Some people really enjoy online arguments and view them as no big deal, others feel very wounded by the words.  Make sure you recognize your own feelings and those of the other people you are engaging.
  • Consider how you would feel if your children saw your comments.  I don’t have teenagers, but a time is coming soon when my kids will see what I comment on, like, share, etc.
  • Keep it positive.  I enjoy time on social media sharing encouraging words, family updates, neat ideas, and useful info.  I use tools like SocialFixer to filter out posts about various topics I don’t care to see.  Keep your posts positive and use online tools to filter out things you prefer not to see.
  • Take a break.  Real life and Facebook are two very different things.  I enjoy taking the occasional break from social media to focus my energy where it is supposed to be.

And something that is always good…spend time in the Word!  I continue the Dinnertime Devotionals series with the second installment of our study in Ephesians – Dinnertime Devotionals 31