Monday, February 20, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Little Things

This four minute clip is a great TEDtalk from a volunteer firefighter who encourages us to do the little things. This from a man who works for a non-profit and regularly trains for a part-time volunteer gig as a hero. He knows about the big things – yet he advocates for doing the little things. 

I am the kind of person who likes to do big things. This is why I love teaching because it is a long string of little things that sometimes add up to a big thing. I still save those notes from kindergarten parents and occasional student evaluations that tell me I made a difference, but, for most of my students I was only a little thing. 

My desire to do big things is how I am able to set aside my anxieties about public speaking and driving in strange cities in order to speak to audiences of teachers and administrators. I am certainly not a big time speaker but I seek to leave a reassuring message. I suspect that message is most often found in a small story.

The truth is most of our work for God is not found in the big things, but in the little things:

A note of encouragement

A shared Bible verse

A prayer

A donation of money, time, or materials

A seat beside a grieving friend

A mindset of empathy

God does not often ask us to do the big things. Most of the time, the work He sets before us consists of small tasks. He does not often allow us to see how these small acts of mercy lead to a big thing. He does not promise us this. Instead, He asks for our humility and obedience.

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. Psalm 25:9

St. Paul understood this. At the beginning of his letter to the Romans we see the sum total of his resume. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. Romans 1:1

Paul could certainly write himself a fancy introduction. He could tell many stories of big things including new churches, jail escapes, shipwrecks, and snake bites. He knows, however, that what he does is not so important as who he is. Furthermore, his identity is found only in what Christ has done for him. This is how the little things add up to big things – the big things belong to God.

May God bless you as you seek to accomplish the little things He sets before you.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Alternative Facts and a World of Darkness

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. Isaiah 9:2-3

We haven’t even finished the first month of 2017 and we already have a new submission for the Oxford English Dictionary: alternative facts. I have heard of alternative opinions, alternative perspectives, and even alternative music, but I was always taught that opinions are opinions and facts are facts.

So it has come to this. An Orwellian world of alternative facts that tells us “It’s all good!” 

An if-it’s-on-the-internet-it must-be-true mindset.

While I could probably be talking about the current political situation, I am instead led to thinking about the world of deep darkness mentioned in this verse from Isaiah. It is a world that attacks us from all sides; world that tries to recruit us into an often manufactured struggle; a world that survives by passing off deception as truth. It is not my world. We are truly strangers living in a strange land.

The strange world we live in feels more peculiar than unfamiliar. This world does not match the values or beliefs of children of God. Perhaps we feel we are the peculiar ones. We dare not seek the light of truth from the world in which we live. We walk in darkness and are in need of a light. 

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

How wonderful it is, how encouraging, how hopeful, to know we have a beacon of truth shining in amidst the swirl of alternate facts. We have a God who knows the ways of man because He created us. He loves us and has redeemed us through the blood of Jesus and His Spirit lives in our heart to strengthen our faith.

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8

This is our grace in a world that demands adherence to the law of untruth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Elevator Floors
So real it's scary

I must say that this is a nasty trick to play on elevator riders. When I go into an elevator I do not give a second thought to safety. Over the years I have made a mental note of enough elevator inspection certificates that problems with the ride to the next floor do not even cross my mind.

Put this up there with one of those primal fears – spiders, snakes on a plane, and floors that drop out from under you.

Although, I must admit the clip is interesting to watch. In an instant people go from being totally inside their heads (What’s for lunch? Will this meeting go well? Does my breath stink?) to being totally outside their heads. We are witnessing the onset of fight or flight response. And some of these victims just might flee right up the side of the elevator wall. For just a bit, they cannot see the floor that supports them.

But, just as quickly as it began the fight or flight mode shifts down into normal gear – all except for the heart rate and emotional response. These continue for a while. That is why, when leaving, several of the victims look back at the elevator as if they cannot quite believe it all turned out okay.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8: 24-25

Isn’t this clip interesting metaphor for hope? If we assume that hope is something we always see we will be disappointed in it. This is the human kind of hope; an optimistic feeling drawn from past experience or current evidence. It is a glass-half-full kind of hope. We think things will go well because we can see the floor below us. Everything is as it should be and all is well.

But, what if it isn’t all well? How do we fare when a lost job, lose a loved one, or a devastating diagnosis drops the floor from under us? Our human hope does not serve us well in these situations. The what ifs start creeping in.

What if we lose our health insurance?

What if I cannot go on without my loved one?

What if the answer to my prayer is not what I want to hear?

We cannot cling to the wall of the elevator with a handful of what ifs.

The hope of the Bible is an assurance. It does not demand that we quickly decide if we will fight or flee. It does not depend on circumstances, strength of character, or bootstraps. Biblical hope is just there, whether or not we see it.

Hope is there because it has already been accomplished for us. A new floor is already in place. The answer is already written. The deed is done and our Salvation has been won.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But, take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

God is not as concerned with our happiness as He is with our Salvation. He warns us that we will have troubles and He makes no promises that we will be able to endure or conquer those troubles. Instead, He reminds us that He has already overcome. He is the hope we do not always see; the hope that saves us.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:43

Go ahead, take His hand. He’s got this.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Missed Blessings

The idea of mixed blessings is an easy concept to understand, but this little girl suffers from missed blessings. As she opens the gift, the kitten escapes. She thinks she has been given an empty box. After her parents encourage her to turn around and look, she brings her hands to her heart and announces “ Oooh, I have a cat.”

One wonders, if her parents hadn’t said anything, how long it would have been before she noticed her gift crouched behind the tree.

When I am faced with a mixed blessing, a blessing attended by grief, I seem to instinctively know how to respond. I separate the good from the unfortunate and find a way to both rejoice and grieve. At least I can make it seem like I know how to respond.

But a missed blessing is a different situation. I miss blessings when I sit right in the middle of one and still continue to complain. Just like this little girl I miss the blessing even when it meows at me from inside the box.

To wit:

I’m frustrated trying to get information or access for one of my contract jobs.

          Ooops -- I have work.

My body continually reminds me that I am getting older and more tired, less strong and less capable.

          Ooops -- I have good health.

I made a mistake ordering online and ended up driving over ten miles to pick up my pizza.

          Ooops -- I have money for food.

I got to spend time with my kids for the second time this Christmas.

Car seat warmers work to keep pizza warm.

I have seat warmers in my car.

Which is no small thing given the kinds of winters we have in Nebraska – oops

          I have a car with seat warmers.

It appears I need more practice with the “Search for Missed Blessings” game. My goal for this year is to turn around and look for the missed blessing. What God gives me rarely runs away and hides. Instead, my blessings sit on my lap and beg for my attention.

I rejoice in God’s love and care for me. I rejoice in my opportunities to worship and serve Him with gladness. I pray God fills my heart and my thoughts with gratitude for His mercy and grace.

God loves me. He loves me through my grumpiness, my pain, my sorrow, my joy, and my missed blessings.

God loves you, too. Happy New Year!

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100