Monday, September 5, 2011

With These Hands - Labor Day Reflections

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”  Colossians 3:23
As I look at my hands I am reminded of my dad.  As I remember what dad’s hands looked like, I have my dad’s hands.  They serve as a visible connection from one generation to another.  
As I look at my hands I am reminded of God’s blessing to me with a godly wife.  With the single silver wedding band, I am reminded of the commitment I made to her and to God to love, honor and cherish always.  
As I look at my hands I see the scars of carelessness that fortunately became transformed into wisdom locked away in the mental caverns.  Note to self: wrenches tend to slip off bolts when knuckles are within striking distance of metal.  Another mental note to file: sickles and knife blades are designed to cut through softer skin.
As I look at my hands I can remember that they have exchanged greetings to a former president, government leaders of all levels, influential business leaders, motivational speakers, renown individuals in sports and very well known Christian leaders.  Multimillionaires and the impoverished a like.

As I look at my hands I recollect holding newborns taking the first breathes and the dying breathing their last.  The “bookends” of life are represented in these hands of mine.
These hands have administered discipline, comfort and encouragement.  These hands have wiped dishes, tables and tears; delivered groceries to the struggling, carried water to the thirsty, and given money to the needy.  
While these hands have been a blessing, they also have been the source of sorrow.  These hands have been raised in anger, clinched in defiance and tools in the tempter’s workshop.
With these hands I have accomplished so much!  I am absolutely positive that whatever your position or station in life, your hands have also accomplished so much as well.  Undoubtedly, you have already begun to reflect on what your hands have done.
Considering the verse of scripture from Colossians 3, our labor, that which we do with our hands, is not to be done for our own “back patting” or for the applause of others.  Our labor is to serve one purpose: to bring glory to God.
As we resume our work schedule this week, let us remember that with these hands of ours we honor God through our labor.  With this in mind, many of us will go back to our jobs realizing we work for a new boss.  
Have a safe and wonderful Labor Day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Whenthen" Disease

There has been a resurgence of an old disease. The consequences of this disease can be catastrophic! Symptoms often include lethargy, compliance, resignation, passivity and mild to extreme cases of procrastination.

It may seem odd, but sufferers of the “Whenthen” disease are easily recognizable by their speech patterns. The following examples will help you recognize sufferers and carriers of the “Whenthen” disease. Perhaps you will discover you have fallen victim to this debilitating disease!

“When the kids go back to school, then I will get organized.”

“When the weather gets cooler, then I will get on a exercise program.”

“When I get caught up on my bills, then I will get serious about saving money.”

“When the economy turns around, then I will be able to get a better job.”

“When my spouse changes their behavior toward me, then I will be happily married.”

By now you get the idea! Right? “Whenthen” isn’t a medical condition, but a mental attitude which can subtly take over your life and in turn determines your present and your future.

Think about it for a moment: How many years have the kids started school and your still unorganized? How many changes of seasons have you witnessed and still hope one more will motivate you to exercise? How often have you talked about getting caught up financially only to be at the same place struggling year after year? How frequently have you blamed the economy for your “dead-end” job? How often are you dependent on your spouse’s actions or attitudes as the source of your happiness in marriage?

As your reading this, you are probably thinking, “Wow, I’m glad there were only five examples!” Just because there were only five examples, doesn’t mean the “Whenthen” disease hasn’t crept into other areas of life. Honestly assess where and when you succumb to this disease. Remember, honesty is the best policy!

After the honest assessment, determine to get well by taking action. Even a small step is better than no step at all! Refuse yourself the option of wishing your life away; take action today.

In closing, a personal story that illustrates the price tag of not taking action. Frustrated by the rising costs of health insurance, I was determined to find another alternative. In February, I began the paperwork to switch to another type of coverage that reflected my faith values. For what I thought were good reasons, I set it aside. And it stayed aside until today! Failing to execute the plan, cost me six months of time, energy expenditures of revisiting the plan and roughly $6,000.00 in health care savings.

One last thought: “If not now, when?”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thoughts for Sunday, August 28, 2011

This evening (Saturday) I have had one eye on the local radar weather map, one eye out the window to see if the radar map is accurate and one eye on the growing list of worship cancellations for Sunday. If the rain and wind arrived as forecasted for our area, more than likely our worship service for tomorrow will be cancelled as well.

With this in mind, I want to share a few thoughts from a very appropriate scripture considering our recent sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount and Hurricane Irene. I invite you to reflect on these thoughts this weekend. Use them in a family devotion when you get up Sunday morning.

Jesus concludes His sermon on the Mount with the words, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24f)

Doers and Doers Not - Everyone who hears the message of Jesus has a choice to make: Will they embrace the message and incorporate His teachings into a lifestyle or will they choose their own way? Unfortunately, this “fork in the road” is very common place today. I wish that it were really as simple as a one time “fork in the road”, but it is frequently I must decide my way or His.

When we stand at the “fork in the road”, we are confronted by the easy-hard dilemma. One way appears to be easy and the other way looks hard to commit to. We have become a society that wants easy every time. Very few employ the discipline of hard choices now for huge rewards later on.

Wise and Foolish Builders - The decision to be a Doer or a Doer Not is likened to builders selecting the foundation on which to build their home. The Wise builder selected the secure rock as his foundation, but the Foolish builder selected the sifting sand as his foundational material. As I consider these two different builders, I see the Foolish builder being impatient and too busy, in a rush to get the job done so that he move on to the next project. I can relate to that approach in life and perhaps you can also.

When we are so caught up with the events of life that we just go from one thing to another, one decision to another, like we are on autopilot, then we can quickly become unintentional Doers Not. In the busyness, we can get confused and disoriented between what is really the way of Jesus or which is really our own way.

Preservation and Destruction - The outcomes are as different as can be. The Wise builder whose home enjoyed the permanent foundation of bedrock was preserved even though the rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on the house. The Foolish builder witnessed the destruction of his home during the storm because the foundation was not solid.

So, what are the lessons?

1) The wise way to life is to live our life after Jesus’ teaching. Such wisdom leads to preservation.

2) The foolish way to life is to live our life by our own understanding. Such foolishness leads to destruction.

How will you choose?

Family Activity:

Sing the Sunday School song: "The Wise Man Built His House on the Rock" (A Google search will yield the words)

Talk About It:

What are some easy choices we make in life? What are some hard choices?

When did you stand at a “fork in the road”? How did you choose what to do? What was the outcome? Parents, this is especially important to share these answers with your children.

Are there some teachings of Jesus that we reframe to suit our choices?

Can you give examples of people who have made foolish choices that have lead to their destruction? Wise choices?