Category Archives: Ministry

Remembering the Sabbath


So, what’s so important about Sabbath?  From the beginning of recorded time, the importance of taking a day of rest has been stressed as vital to the human condition.  Yet here we are, busier than ever before and growing more busy every day.  All the new technology that we have that helps to make our lives easier—Facebook, Twitter, texting, cell phones, instant messaging—are the same things that bleed into the time that used to be set aside for rest.  Instead of taking time to wind down and reconnect with our families, we are in a constant state of “on.”  This constant pull to be in work mode may seem beneficial on the surface, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

With each passing day, we demand that our businesses be open around the clock.  I mean, really, who needs a cheeseburger at 4am?  But that’s what we have done.  We feel the need to be on the go all the time, and that means having businesses that meet our needs.  The problem is that these businesses need people to operate.  And those people have families.  Before you know it, the parents are like ships in the night that only pass as one comes home from work and the other is leaving.  Together time is sparse to non-existent, and rest is simply out of the question.  I know that we live in a time of economic hardship, and I recognize that people have to take care of their families the best way they can, but we still need to recognize our need for rest – for Sabbath.

The founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy, faced a similar dilemma when he was opening his first business.  During the early years of his first restaurant, he made himself available 24 hours a day, even renting a house next to the diner to make it easier for him to be reached.  As business grew, he invested all his money and time into the success of his new venture.  His future was on the line, literally.  If he failed, he would lose everything.  At this critical moment, he made a decision.  He says it best in his book, Eat Mor Chikin:  Inspire More People:

“We were not so committed to financial success, however, that we were willing to abandon our principles and priorities.  One of the most visible examples of this was our decision to close on Sunday.  Ben and I had attended Sunday school and church all our lives, and we were not about to stop just because we owned a restaurant.  Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring god and directing our attention to things more important than our business.  If it took seven days a week to make a living with a restaurant, then we needed to be in some other line of work.  Through the years I have never wavered from that position.”

What initially seemed to be a risk has turned out to be one of the most successful restaurant ventures in America.  Taking a day to rest in his business has benefited his bottom line.  Your reason for taking a day of rest may not be the same as Truett’s, but rest you should.

We were designed to work, and work hard. But we were also designed to have a day of rest.  I make it a point to rest and worship on Sundays, and encourage my friends and family to do the same.  I hope you do, too.

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The Best Question Ever


The Best Question Ever
You are about to be introduced to a single question that will revolutionize the way you make decisions.

I was recently reminded of a sermon I heard by Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta.  I thought I might share my recollections…

Every one of us have done some things in the course of our life that we look back on and say, “What was I thinking?” We look back and we wish that we could rewrite the story. We look back now and we see clearly that we were headed down the wrong path, but in the midst of it we were “following our heart.” The passage of time allows us to see things a little more clearly, but wouldn’t it be great if we could have avoided those bad decisions in the first place? What if you could foolproof your marriage, your finances, your relationships, your life? Is there something that can help us to weigh every decision, or invitation, or business opportunity that will protect us from disaster and poor choices? YES. The human condition is such that we are always pushing the boundaries…how close can I go without breaking the rules? Is it legal? If it’s not illegal, it must be ok. Is it acceptable? There’s no law against it, so it must be acceptable. Is it immoral? Is it right? These are great questions, but they are not what we really need to know. Each of these questions can be easily justified and bent to our will at the moment. What we need to ask is “What is the wise thing to do?” Wisdom is the knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment which leads to action; discernment, or insight. So now that we have the question, there are three levels through which you should filter your decision. Each one of us has a unique past. Nobody has your history, but you. These are the experiences that make us who we are . . . The good choices, the not so good choices that mix together to make us into the person that we are today. And our past history predisposed us to certain things. So, when you are faced with a decision, the first thing you should consider is your past. “In light of your past experience, what is the wise thing to do?” If we have struggled with internet pornography should we not have internet access at home? If we struggle with debt in the past should we get rid of our credit cards? Is it wrong to have a credit card? No. Is it wrong to have internet access? No, but if these things are in your past then it potentially is not wise for you. So be courageous and ask that question first. In light of my past experience, what is the wise thing for me to do? The second level is this, “In light of my current circumstances, what is the wise thing to do?” In light of what has just happened in your life. In light of where you are emotionally, financially, relationally. There are decisions that you could make five years down the road that will be just fine, but for right now… it would not be good. When we fail to assess our current situation in our decision making, we can very easily fall into regret later on. So consider your current circumstances when you are making your decisions. The last level or filter in our decision making is our future. Like our past, the future is unique to us. We may have specific goals in mind that we want to achieve – or avoid. So when you are faced with a choice, you should ask, “In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do.” Decisions you make today will affect your future…and you need to make that decision in light of that reality. What may be wise for someone else, and perfectly acceptable, may be catastrophic in light of YOUR future. Think of what you want your marriage to be in the future, what’s the wise thing to do now? In light of where you want to be in the future financially, what’s the wise choice now? What about your relationships with your children, and your children with you? Our unwise decisions in our past have robbed us of a portion of our future. Where you are today is a direct result of decisions you made in the past. So the next decision you make, ask this question. What is the wise thing to do. In light of your past experience, your current circumstances and your future hopes and dreams. This question works with every situation. No one ever plans to make bad decisions. No one plans to mess up their life. But we don’t plan no to, either. So, the way you plan not to fail is to ask yourself today – What is the wise thing to do? It is the single, best question ever.

A New Look at an Old Book: Amos 6-9


Reading through Amos is a difficult venture. There is so much forboding, judgement and most of all SIN. Sin from the people that God has set aside. The very people for whom God had designed the richest of blessings, whom He had saved from destruction repeatedly…these same holders of promise who willingly slaked their bonds with God in favor of idolatry. They chose immorality over righteousness, depravity in favor of the sacred, and essentially spat in the face of the gifts and calling of the Creator. Oh, it’s easy to see how God could be so mad. It’s easy, from our lofty perches, to look down on the Israelites in this story. How could they possibly be so stupid? They deserve to be smote! Right?

Oh, how quick we are to judge. How conveniently we forget our similarities to the gross injustices perpetrated by these smote-worthy individuals. Oh, we NEVER seek to serve ourselves, right? We couldn’t possibly be consumed with immediate gratification, could we? Certainly we don’t put anything ahead of our relationship with God…not our romances, nor our jobs or our leisure time. No! Not us!!!

The more I read, the more I find that I am woefully similar to the poor saps in this story. I willfully choose to behave sinfully. I have become adept at ignoring His voice. I can turn a blind eye to his leading…all in favor of my own wants, my own “needs” and desires.

So God is understandably miffed. I get it. I would be, too. He uses the prophet, Amos, to bring his message that He has had just about enough!! After years and years, no generations – of His people turning their backs on Him, he was putting His foot down.

And even then…

In the midst of reading them the riot act.

Barely a hiccup happens between His promise of retribution and punishment and His overwhelming mercy again. He loves so much, that even when He’s forced to bring us about to justice, He’s offering yet another reprieve to those who will just turn away from wrong – and turn back toward Him. How many times will He soften?

When I read this I am convicted. I’ve made some really poor choices of late. Choices that were self-serving and ultimately detrimental not only to me, but to others I care about. As I immerse myself into the words of Amos, I see all too clearly a mirror held up to my own life…and I don’t like the reflection. But as I peer inside, over my shoulder I see the open arms of my Father, God who loves me so much that He is willing to offer me His embrace and His forgiveness – AGAIN.

And suddenly, I know the depth of His love for me.

A New Look at an Old Book: Job 14-16


I had breakfast with a friend this morning. We had planned to meet with another woman and make it a girls’ day out, but plans changed and we were able to dine alone. We met at a quaint little coffee shop in our hometown and placed our orders. We sat down at a table littered with puzzle pieces, and my friend was immediately entangled in the process of placing the tiny mosaics in order to reconstruct a photograph of a beautiful, blue victorian home. While she worked, we ate and talked. The conversation was pleasant. We discussed the minutae of our lives and exchanged a few laughs.

Then I did it.

I had wanted to know for awhile, but I never felt the time was right to ask. But today, with just the two of us, and she occupied with a task for her hands, I asked her about Chelsea.

Chelsea

Chelsea is her beautiful, perpetually-just-shy-of-sixteen-years-old daughter. During a routine trip to a neighboring city, my friend and two of her three children were involved in a motor vehicle accident, and Chelsea was tragically killed. As I listened to the painful recounting of that fateful day three years ago, I was struck silent. I soaked in the scenery and the emotions as Bev carefully and tearfully walked me through her memories of that day. After sharing, she pondered aloud the question that all of us have asked at one point or another – “Why would God take HER when there are so many bad people in the world?”

In this passage of scripture, Job is asking the same thing. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why is there pain and suffering for believers? Why is it that tragedy strikes? I’ve been contemplative since our meeting this morning. My friend is quite a happy person in light of her unbelievably difficult reality. I’m not sure I could function, much less be productive, positive and pleasant.  I am not a parent, but I am a doting aunt and just the thought of losing one of my neices or nephews brings me to a very dark place.

As I thought about today’s reading, I marvelled at the tenacity of Job, but I am also moved by the life of this woman, my friend, who shared her heart with me today. As I sit here, I am listening to the song “Breath of Heaven” and I am reminded of another loss.  In the blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ, the scene that breaks my heart most, is the point where Mary watches her son walking down the road, heavy with the cross of his crucifixion on his shoulders. As he passes, virtually unrecognizable, he falls and she remembers Jesus as a happy, vibrant toddler running, laughing and falling as a child.  She didn’t see the Savior of the human race – she saw her baby, and He was hurting – and she was powerless.

That’s how my friend felt – that’s how Job felt – and that’s how God must have felt when He watched His son suffer and die.  When I read these scriptures, I am made sad at the pain that people have to suffer.  At the same time, I am selfishly thankful that I have not had to endure that type of pain.  I am also aware that we are not the only ones who suffer.  God himself suffered.

I don’t know why God lets bad things happen to good people, but I find comfort in the knowledge that He knows what that kind of loss feels like.  I find grace in the words of my friend, who while hurting can still bless God and look to Him as her source of strength and hope.  I am comforted in knowing that the tears we weep for the losses we endure on this side of the veil are not shed alone.  God himself weeps with us.  He is our Champion and Friend.  He is just as sad about our suffering as we are, maybe moreso.

Our breakfast turned into lunch.  We shared and cried together.  I was able to see a part of my friend’s heart that was broken and vulnerable, and in sharing about her loss – we gained.  We added to our friendship.  We increased the memory of a very special girl whose life positively impacted more than 1,000 people.  We grew in understanding of the depths of love.

Maybe that’s the real lesson here.  Maybe the reason we experience loss is to gain. . .

  • understanding
  • empathy
  • patience
  • love

Thank you for sharing your life with me.  I have been blessed.

A New Look at an Old Book: Job 1-13


Or How NOT to be a Friend

The story of Job is a very familiar one. We are all well acquainted with the suffering and misery that Job endured at the hands of Satan. We all know of the incredible losses he sustained, and we know how the story ends. But as I have read these scriptures again over the last several days, I am moved not by the acts of Job, but by those of his three companions.

I suppose it has much to do with where I am in my life right now. A friend just lost her father after a long bout with a sustained illness. Another friend is going through a very difficult break-up and feelings of loneliness that overwhelm him. Yet another friend is going through a difficult situation and I have only compounded things with my own selfish demands. So right now, the thing I needed most was to hear how to be a good friend.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are good guys. They hear about Job’s tragedy, and they do not hesitate to drop everything in their lives to rush to be at his side. They give no thought to personal cost, distance to travel, or time away from their everyday lives. Upon first glance, these three men appear to be great friends to Job. They make their way to him, and are so moved by his emotional plight that they, too are compelled to mourn. They sit with him for seven days, commiserating, consoling and comforting Job – all without saying a word! What great friends! The end.

Nope. Not the end.

They couldn’t leave well enough alone. They HAD to start talking. They just HAD to throw in their two shekel’s worth of advice for poor, suffering Job. They HAD to try to FIX things!

What is it about us that makes us want to fix stuff? Even if we don’t have all the information, we will try to correct things in almost any given situation. I find myself doing it all the time. Something isn’t working right, “Ooh, let me see. I bet I can get it to work.” Doesn’t matter that I have very little mechanical ability! Why should that little tidbit of truth stop me? Someone tells me about some trouble in their life, “Oooh, I know JUST what you should do! First…this, then that and bang – all fixed!” Nevermind I probably have no clue – Why should that stop me?

I can empathize with Job. He’s not thinking clearly at the moment. He’s hurting. He’s mad. He’s clearly, and justifably upset. His response? VENT! He’s been in a pressure cooker for weeks! His emotions, his thoughts, his physical body have been under intense strain, and he needs to let off some steam! It happens to all of us. When we need to spout off, the LAST thing we need is someone trying to rationalize or FIX things! We just want you to listen. Shut up and just listen. You don’t have to agree. You can even think we’re wrong, but for now – Just be quiet. Once the explosion subsides, clarity returns and right thinking follows. Usually followed by the question, “What do you think?” NOW, you can interject. But tread cautiously, the pot’s still HOT!

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar started out so well. They ARE great friends. But like most of us, they let their own discomfort cloud their judgement. They gave into their own needs instead of being sensitive to the needs of Job. What I learned through this reading is that I am just like them. Sadly. But I don’t want to be. I want to be the friend that thinks of the other person’s feelings first. I want to be the friend who is willing to sacrifice my own comfort for the comfort of another. I want to be a friend who knows when to be quiet. Ouch! That one hurt.

I’m thankful for this lesson. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see outside my own self, if even for a brief moment. And I’m thankful for this example in scripture of how to REALLY be a friend.