I Beg to Differ

 

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John Wesley is commonly credited with these words: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Great words! However, allow me to add a bit of perspective.

First of all, not all scholars agree that John Wesley actually said—or penned—those words.

Secondly, they can become a stumbling block to some of us. If I take that quote literally and do all the good I can at all the time I can, my ‘as long as ever I can’ isn’t going to last very long.

  • Jesus rested.
  • The Bible tells us that sleep is a gift.
  • Resting on the Sabbath is a command.

How do we balance the challenge to do all that we can with what I see as a Scriptural mandate to maintain some sort of balance in our lives? The only answer that makes sense to me is the need to do what my Houston pastor advised: Lean in, listen and obey. (Thank you, Ty VanHorn.)

Hannah Smith put it this way: We have nothing to do today but mind.

And Jan Karon, in her lovely Mitford series, quotes Madame Guyon, writing, “Rest. Rest. Rest in God’s love. The only work you are required now to do is to give your most intense attention to His still, small voice within.”

And every day, minding the still small voice of our Lord is likely to be plenty. Sometimes it will lead us to a physical or mental challenge that will exhaust our resources. Most of the time, when that happens, I believe our Wise Ruler will soon nudge us into a season of rest and recuperation. Rest can require just as much trust, obedience and self-discipline as tackling a hearty to do list. Giving in to the need to rest can be quite a blow to an ego that has tied its worth to work.

Remember, though, that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Our good works were planned for us long ago, and the One who planned them equipped us for them. If you’re stretched to the limit, have forgotten to rest, rarely sleep enough or have convinced yourself that Sabbaths were merely meant for another time, I beg you to reconsider.

Perhaps the words of my opening quote should be tweaked a bit to read: “Do all the good God asks you to do, in all the ways he has equipped you to do it, whenever or wherever he provides the opportunity, to all the people he asks you to serve, but never ignore his call to rest.”

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Judgement Free Zone

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I joined a group of women for coffee this morning. We were there to share our lives, our needs, our gifts and our prayers. The woman who brought us together had posted a sign on the wall that read “Judgement Free Zone.” (And one that said, “’Fix-It’ Free Zone” too, but that will have to wait for another day.)

Do you ever feel like the Lord is poking on you? Well, that sign was one more way he used to tell me I need to work on my awful tendency toward judgement. All of life should be a judgement free zone! Still, I struggle to ignore those nitpicky little notions that pop into my head when I see someone doing life wrong (aka not MY way). I’d like to share a few quotes that help me steer clear of judgmental muck and mire. Actually, the first should be enough for us all.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2).

“Give people room to be human.” (Joel Osteen)

“Carry a shield. And treat others as if they don’t.” (Rachelle Gardner)

Carry a shield? Yes, indeed! Since, sadly, we don’t live in a judgement free world, we’ve all got to be wary of allowing the judgment of others to wound us or, worse yet, to dissuade us from following the path we believe the Lord has laid out for us. While we are surely called to serve one another, we aren’t necessarily called to please one another.

Truth be told, though, the person on whom I often exact the toughest judgement is myself. I read these wise words a few nights ago:

“Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love.”

And how do we handle our fiery self-judgement when we’ve absolutely made a wrong choice? Here’s what my pastor says:

“Religion says, ‘I messed up. My dad is gonna kill me.’ The Gospel says, ‘I messed up. I need to call my dad.’”  (Ky Faciane)

Anytime we make the mistake of judging ourselves harshly, the best and only answer is to go back to our Lord, confident that he still loves us and can cover all our misdeeds. ‘Same goes for the misdeeds we see going on in other people’s lives. We can and ought to pray. Sometimes we may be called to counsel. But I’m ready to start building more judgement free zones. Join me, won’t you?!?

Grandchildren and Puppy Dogs

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One of my favorite words is “Nana” or, to be more specific “Nana!!!!” That’s the way my grandchildren say it. I have two who are old enough to talk. Every time they see me, they call out my name as if we’ve been apart for months (even though they live just two doors down.) Unless there’s a fence between us when we catch each other’s eyes, they’ll usually start running for me at full tilt. (And, yes, “Pop” gets the same treatment.)

When did we adults stop greeting one another with unbridled enthusiasm?

No, I’m not suggesting we start yelling and running, but why don’t we exude great joy when we meet one another? There’s no need to reserve such delight for those we haven’t seen in ages. We have it in our power to convey a sense of love, acceptance and importance to those we greet. It only takes a little bit of extra effort.

Steve used to tell our kids that a person’s name is the sweetest word anyone will ever hear. I don’t think that’s about ego. It’s about connection. I challenge you today to expand your “Hi, how are you?” to include a name, a buoyancy of voice, and a hug or handshake whenever appropriate. We never know who needs that sort of encouragement on a given day, so why not be prolific in our affection?

In the marketplace or office, we often deny one another the simple human touch of eye contact—reviewing our lists or sending out texts as the checker, bagger, waiter and courier take care of their responsibilities. We really do have the few extra seconds it takes to treat them like people instead of machines. (And many of them are wearing nametags—another opportunity!)

Even puppy dogs know how to make us feel important by the way they greet us. Surely we can all do a better job than our pets! So, how about it? Are your ready to make a difference every day, just by changing the way you say “Hello”? I hope so. It’s a simple way to follow our Lord’s command to love one another. Try it out! And let me know how it goes.

Notre Dame

photo-1555605563-ef3e084c72b3Notre Dame Unsplash Robin Benzrihem@robinoode

No, I’m not going to talk about the fire or the massive efforts to reconstruct. What I want to recount to you is this sound bite, provided by NPR as the ashes were still smoldering:

“No one who began the work could have lived to see it complete.”

The cathedral’s primary construction effort ran from 1160 to 1260, then continued to be modified as the centuries passed. I see a parallel between Notre Dame and God’s plans for his kingdom. It’s a long-term plan—a very long term plan. Each of us has a part:

  • Gifts and talents to use.
  • Love to share.
  • Kindness to show.
  • Stories to tell.
  • Daily living to do in a way that pleases him.

Sometimes our part is very specific or grand. Often, though, it’s simple, continuous and goes unnoticed. Are you willing to be invisible? Am I?

When Notre Dame was constructed, the project required architects and foremen, journeymen and laborers. Some helped dig the foundation, knowing they would never see the finished fruit of their work. Others were there to put on the finishing touches. Many stepped in hundreds of years later to rework or repair what their predecessors had created. Now, construction will begin yet again. Do we insist on seeing the fruit of our labor? What if God is using us in a long-term plan that won’t wrap up until long after we’re gone?

We are like the massive team of Notre Dame. Our work may cause us to lead or to go unnoticed. God may ask us to begin a new work or to finish an old one begun by a compatriot. We follow our Lord. We accept his assignments without knowing if or when we will see the reasons and results of his requests.

So if you feel small and unnoticed today, wondering if what you’re doing makes a difference, take heart. Serve with joy. we love the One who loves us, and His plan will make a difference through us.

Keep Calm and…

IMG_8116Just days after I read Tish Warren’s chapter on lost keys and began composing last week’s blog offering, I lost, not my keys, but my driver’s license, credit card and insurance card. They were all wrapped up in a $20 bill and tucked into the back pocket of my jeans so that I could stroll purse-free through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the peak of the season.

Steve and I waited in a long entrance line, then chose a quiet trail. It was nothing short of idyllic. We stopped at benches and swings along the way and even nestled into a particularly vibrant patch of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes to take a few selfies. My husband/photographer had us up and down a couple of times, making sure we caught the perfect pose.

Once we returned home and headed back to our responsibilities, I started moving in my typically too-fast manner to catch up from our indulgent morning. Ten minutes later I reached into my pocket to retrieve those very important bits of plastic and my $20 bill. Nothing. Certain I had simply returned them to my wallet on auto-pilot, I took a look. Nothing. Car? Nothing. Wildflower Center? (Oh, my, so many spots where my pocket could have spilled!) 

As the tension so fully banished by a walk in the park slowly threatened my peace, I remembered Tish Warren’s warnings and exhortations. Thanks to that timely read, I turned to prayer and refused the panic. After all, my time and money belong to the Lord. Do I really believe that? If so, any loss of either belongs to him as well. And so, after more searching and a call to the kind folks at the Wildflower Center (who found nothing), I interrupted Steve’s work. He prayed with me, and we began to look together. Then, there they were, IN THE TRASH. In my haste, I had taken the bundle out of my pocket before we ever made it from the car to the house. Then I’d picked up—in the same hand—the map and flier provided by the park and no longer needed. I tossed out the whole collection together.

Whatever made me look in the trash, I do not know. Well, actually, I do know. And the hallelujahs of the finding were almost—not quite—worth the discomfort of the search. But this I also know: trust, secured at least in part because Tish had reminded me of God’s sovereignty and the reality of NO NEED TO PANIC EVER, brought the calm that brought me to prayer that caused me to take a look in that recycle bin while my valuables were still on the top of the pile.

Keep Calm and… is a popular poster and tee shirt phrase these days. I’m not sure we have good reasons to keep calm without the Lord who loves us. But, with him, we have every possible reason. And that’s enough to think about for today.

 

 

The Daily Grind

 

keys-525732_960_720 unsplash stevepbHave you ever experienced inexplicable peace in the midst of a crisis? Probably. Indeed, I hope you can say “yes.”

Next question: Have you ever experienced inordinate strife in the midst of a minor inconvenience? Even more probable. Like you, I have to answer, “Yes, many times.”

Tish Harrison Warren says this in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary.*

“The call to contentment is a call amidst the concrete circumstances I find myself in today.” A few lines later she writes, “I’d developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind.”

Those somewhat heady thoughts are offered within the tale of a typical morning in which the author awakened with joy, headed out with happy anticipation and then crumbled into frustrated despair when she couldn’t find her car keys. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve been there!)

She goes on to say that she maintained a more consistent peace when living for a short while in the tension and danger of a war-torn part of the world than she often does during a typical week in Average America. I can relate. Can you? Have you learned to abandon yourself to Almighty God when the stakes are clearly too high for you to manage, yet somehow forgotten who is in charge when life’s little irritants and inconveniences assail you? (Too often, perhaps, we still hold on to the silly notion that, in some smaller things, we are actually in control.)

I suspect our Enemy knows where to find our weak spots, sometimes better than we do. Fortunately for us, we are created by the same God who is also known as the Comforter. We can run to him even when we are brought down by something as petty as a lost set of keys. So run! Right away! Whenever anything brings us down, may it bring us all the way down to our knees, to a reminder that we serve the Mighty One. And then, may we rest content in the middle of the daily grind. (“Tune in” next week for a rubber-meets-the-road follow up, a tale of when I had to take my own advice!)

*Warren, Tish Harrison, and Andy Crouch. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2016, p. 55. And thanks, Madeline, for recommending this excellent book!

Photo by stevepb via Unsplash.com