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

 

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Philip Yancey Part 2 OR The Mystery Man

 

money yancy SCR3AMFR3AK via pixabay Here’s a second highlight from the talk Philip Yancey gave called “Rumors of Another World.” You can find it here: ,and I hope you’ll find the time to watch the whole thing for yourself.

This is the story of an enterprising young man who was already well on his way to wealth by the time he left high school. You see, he’d paid the front office secretary to provide him with the birth date and home phone number of every student in the school. Then, as each birthday approached, he’d call the parents of that student and pitch this idea: donate $5, and we’ll bake your darling son or daughter a cake. Then we’ll have the whole school sing “Happy Birthday.” (This was back when $5 actually amounted to something. However, I got the impression that the cakes and songs never materialized.) 

That same young man went on to college, then law school. His income reached a whole new level, though, when he invented a cushion to alleviate the discomfort of those who were painfully bouncing around in the metal seats of Ford tractors. Life was good? Actually, no, life was falling apart.

The unhappy millionaire hopped into a cab in New York City and began to talk. By God’s grace, the cab driver paid attention to the conversation and had the courage to interject with some unsolicited advice, “I think you should go see Clarence Jordan. He can help you straighten out your life.”

The man in question took the cabbie’s advice and went to see Clarence, a radical Christian living on a commune. Mr. Jordan listened to that troubled soul and said, in so many words, “It sounds to me like you have entirely too much money. Go give it all away and then come back.” 

Perhaps to the great surprise of his friends, that’s exactly what our mystery man did, giving away 2.3 million dollars, a lot of money today, and an even more considerable sum all those years ago. His next conversation with Clarence Jordan went something like this:

  • “Okay, I gave away my money.”
  • “All of it?”
  • “Yes, sir, all of it.”
  • “In that case, I guess we need to find you a job.”
  • “What sort of job, sir?”
  • “Well, what do you thing makes God unhappy?”
  • “Lots of people have nowhere to sleep at night. I don’t expect he’s very happy about that.”
  • “Then why don’t you go build a house for each person who needs one.” 

And then that man, Millard Dean Fuller, founded Habitat for Humanity.

What a great reminder that God has ways of using each and every one of us!

For a bit more of the story, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Millard and Clarence. 

Millard Fuller was the recipient of numerous awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. In September 1996, United States President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and said, “Millard Fuller has done as much to make the dream of homeownership a reality in our country and throughout the world as any living person. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”

Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Fuller 

Clarence Jordan (July 29, 1912 – October 29, 1969), a farmer and New Testament Greek scholar, was the founder of Koinonia Farm, a small but influential religious community in southwest Georgia and the author of the Cotton Patch paraphrase of the New Testament. He was also instrumental in the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

Accessed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Jordan

I Love YouTube

YouTube geralt via pixabay

I like to watch flash mob proposals and acapella singing groups and funny movie clips. But what I really love about YouTube is the chance it gives me to watch great sermons, new and old, by pastors from all over the world. I watched one recently by Philip Yancey called Rumors of Another World, delivered at the University of California Veritas Forum several years ago. You can find it here:  Let me re-tell my favorite story from that talk, though, the one that struck me most. 

A group of high ranking US health officials met to discuss the greatest threats to long life and well-being here in our country. They made a list of the top problems, including the seven listed below.

·                Smoking and tobacco use

·                Obesity and poor dietary choices

·                Drug addiction

·                Alcohol abuse, including drunk driving and fetal alcohol syndrome

·                Stress based hypertension

·                Sexually transmitted diseases

·                Violent crime

As they pondered solutions to these life threatening and life altering issues, one member of the think tank shed a very different light on the subject. That man was Dr. Paul Brand, a physician who spent years in India working with those who suffered from leprosy. Dr. Brand explained that, while the list I’ve just shared with you is perfectly valid in the US, a similar committee in India would come up with a very different threat roster. That list would include: 

·                Malaria

·                Leprosy

·                Polio, until very recently

·                Smallpox

·                Yellow Fever

“If I went to that group,” Dr. Brand said, “and declared ‘I can get rid of those problems,’ they would say, ‘Wonderful. Then we would live in paradise!’” 

How blessed we are here in the United States! We’re virtually free of all those dreaded diseases. But what have we done? We’ve replaced them with a whole new set of problems that we’ve brought on ourselves. To this, Philip Yancy says, (my paraphrase) “I’ve come to see that, if God designed this planet and our bodies, he did it to give us life to the fullest…I used to think of God’s way, his definition of sin, as a way to keep us from having fun. Now I see that it’s a way to keep us from hurting ourselves. The church teaches us the best way to live.”

So, today, I challenge us all to take a look at that list of US problems and begin, by God’s grace, to eliminate any still lingering in our lives. God’s way IS the best way, and he means for us to take care of ourselves as we live in obedience to him.

Photo by geralt via pixabay.com

I Forgot!

remember I forgot k-images via unsplash

I had a tough day. Not tough by global standards, mind you. I still had clean water and plenty to eat. Not even tough by normal standards. I wasn’t sick. My husband still loved me. My kids were doing well…But it was one of those days when the world overwhelmed me. A busy week had worn me out. I had a few hard issues to face, and business conflicts, and, by golly, my printer wouldn’t even work! By mid-afternoon, I was in bed weeping, then slept for a good long while. I had forgotten—

  • That, while it really is okay to cry, and to be sad on occasion, there’s an infinite Source of joy and support standing right beside me, available if I’ll just stop to notice.
  • That our troubles really belong to Him, and he’s able to handle them all the time.
  • That prayer truly does change things, within and without.
  • That sometimes all we need is rest, and quiet, and a moment to remember…

They say, whoever “they” are, that the best way to learn something is to teach it. In a way, I teach when I write. I have learned these lessons before, but on that difficult day, for a few painful hours, I forgot them. Perhaps you forget them now and then as well. So, here are a few reminders, for both of us, blogs I wrote long ago based on the words of writers I respect:

‘Hope you’ll take these reminders to heart, both today and on the next day that life threatens to overwhelm you. We serve a mighty God, and he can handle whatever comes our way. We may have pain or hardship or even just plain old irritation, but even then we can take a breath and let our spirits rest in him.

Grumbling about a Gift

Grocery grumbling about a gift Fikri Rasyid via unsplasAs I write today, I’m hungry. And my cupboard is bare. Okay, not really bare. By third world standards, it’s bursting at the seams. But I’m out of vegetables, almost out of fruit and down to my last container of homemade soup. Definitely time to hit HEB. (The best grocery chain in the country, for all you non-Texans out there.) I’m a little tired. It’s Friday afternoon, (I write my blogs ahead of time) so the place will be mobbed. Moments ago, I was feeling just a little sorry about having to leave my quiet computer corner in order to go shop, Then I came across this excerpt from my sister-in-law’s most recent email regarding the task of grocery shopping.

“[Grocery shopping is] one of those very gratifying chores, where you have a task to complete and it gets done!  And it’s lovely along the way… I honestly think grocery shopping is good for my soul, since I am more reflective about the abundance of variety and colors in fresh food, extra grateful for provision and the means to buy things that are healthy and good, etc.  Okay, enough of that, but I am with you.  And seriously, thank you for always making time spent on your turf so easy and fun!

She’s coming soon, you see. There will be 13 of us gathered together, and I was telling her how I’m looking forward to stocking up on all the food for our celebration. Usually, I like grocery shopping for the same reasons she mentioned. And as I re-read her quote, I was reminded again of how easy I have it, how easy almost all of us have it.

  • I’ve never had to wring a chicken’s neck or butcher a cow.
  • I don’t even have to weed a garden or grind flour unless I want to.
  • I only pick fruit or harvest fresh veggies when out on a lark in the country.

So, yes, I’m thankful! And yes, I will go shopping—today! In the crowds. As I do, I’ll think about the abundant gift of being able to buy all the food my family needs in one place in about an hour’s time.

  • And when I do the laundry this week, I’ll remember how unusual it is, by global standards, to have so many shirts and pairs of pants.
  • And when I mop the floor, I’ll think of those who barely have a home or maybe have a dirt floor.
  • And when I have to pay those gas prices? I’ll remember how excited some missionary friends of mine were to get a car.

Do you ever complain, then realize you’re actually grumbling about a gift, feeling bad about keeping up with all that you’ve been given? Let’s stop all that nonsense. Begin anew with me today to have a thankful heart. And if you care to share—I’ll be checking in here to read all about it.

May God bless you with a healthy dose of gratitude all week long!

Photo by Fikri Rasyid via Unsplash.com.

Marvelous Mercy by Beth Smith

marvelous mercy m and m robertIn my hometown, you could say anything bad about anybody as long as you said, “Bless their hearts” first, like this:

  • “Bless his heart, he never did have the brains God gave a grasshopper.”
  • “Did you see that outfit Edna Mae wore to church last Sunday? Bless her heart, you know she must be color blind.”

Not exactly the Biblical concept of blessing, huh? And we misused the word “mercy” this way:

  • “Lord have mercy, she looks like a hussy. You’d think she’d have better sense than to wear her clothes so tight.”
  • “Lord have mercy, was that Deacon Jones coming out of the liquor store?”

Sometimes we said “it’s a mercy” or “for mercy’s sake,” or, if we had a lot to say and were in a hurry, just plain “mercy.”

  • “It’s a mercy he hasn’t had a wreck – the way that boy drives.”
  • “For mercy’s sake, you know they don’t have the money for that new car. They’re going into debt again.”

But here’s the truth. “Mercy” and “blessing” are important words when we use them the right way. We are blessed, and God’s mercy is marvelous.

  • Mercy means compassionate treatment. God treats us with compassion when we surrender our lives to him.
  • Mercy means undeserved kindness. Because Christ has paid the penalty for our sins, God gives us mercy instead of justice.
  • Merciful people are inclined to forgive. That describes God, too. It’s a good thing, because we all need his forgiveness.

How do we know God is merciful? In Exodus, when Moses was on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, God appeared and described himself as, “The God of compassion and mercy…slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NLT).

Mercy was a favorite topic of David’s. In the Psalms we read:

  • I have trusted in thy mercy” (Psalm 13:5 KJV).
  • I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy” (Psalm 31:7 KJV).
  • The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 100:5 KJV).

David knew God was merciful, that he needed God’s mercy, and that he could ask for it and receive it. So can we, not because of any goodness in us, but because mercy is one aspect of God’s character. His very nature is to be merciful.

Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) says, “Let us then approach God’s throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Since we receive mercy, we’re instructed to give it as well. Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NIV).

So here’s an unusual challenge for you. Every time you see an M&M let it remind you that you’re blessed by God’s Marvelous Mercy. God is kind and loving. He knows all things and is all-powerful. And being blessed by his mercy is a truly wonderful gift.

Photo by Robert Anasch via Unsplash