In the last 40 days I’ve hosted an overnighter for 100+ teenagers, took my sons on 2 college visits, met with 5 engaged couples for pre-marital counseling, played volleyball 4 times, preached 5 times, led 2 baccalaureate meetings, attended 6 staff meetings, led 4 summer camp planning meetings, led 2 small groups, taught 4 Bible studies, became CPR and First Aid certified, hosted a simulcast leadership conference and led 12 after school program days. Not factored in are my meals, (which are countless), my hours of sleep, trips to the bathroom (which are increasing in frequency) and my seemingly limitless conversations with friends, co-workers, students and family members.
A lot can happen in 40 days. I want to challenge you to consider an upcoming 40 day block in a new light. The season of Lent is right around the corner. Outside of Catholicism it seems as though Lent has largely been forgotten about. Allow me to do my small part in bringing this important season back to the forefront for those looking to push themselves spiritually.
The Lenten season runs from Ash Wednesday (that’s March 6th this year) to the day before Easter (that’s April 20th this year) and is 40 days in all (minus Sundays). The 40 days of Lent are meant to parallel the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 & Luke 4:1-13.
Lent provides the spiritually hungry with an opportunity for prayer, repentance and self-denial. Often it’s during Lent that many Christians will commit to fasting (food or some other luxury) in order to replicate this 40 day season of sacrifice that Jesus experienced. With fasting comes “extra” or “recently freed up” time that can be spent in prayer, Scripture reading, listening to God, etc.
Often Lent is painted as a “religious duty” or an “outmoded liturgical practice”. Let’s reframe this Lenten season away from that and towards an opportunity to increase our connection with God. As a Jesus follower we should always be looking for ways to connect at a deeper level. Not participating in Lent and “not giving something up” isn’t wrong but the question is “why”?
Why wouldn’t we actively seek ways to increase our intimacy with God? Why wouldn’t we search for greater ways to connect? A lot can happen in 40 days. What would it look like for you to make the most out of the 40 days of Lent. I invite you to join me and others in the “40 Days Towards Jesus” devotional journey that kicks off on Wednesday March 6th.
Imagine what could change in your life after spending 40 days in prayer, repentance and self-denial. Imagine for a moment what 40 days of exposure to God’s Word and His voice could do for you. Join me. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I love reading, but more than that I love reading non-fiction. Real life stories, history of all sorts, weird true pieces of human history that most people would find pointless and boring. I read a book once about the founder of the "Akron Tire and Rubber Company" and I did it in less than a week. I read the biography of Monty Roberts, a real life "Horse Whisperer". called "The Man Who Talks to Horses". And then there are the bizarre reads, "Queen City Notorious: Cincinnati's Most Sensational Murder Cases" and "Queen City Gothic: Cincinnati's Most Infamous Murder Cases". These were the ones I may have needed to stop reading after dark...super creepy. The weird, the boring, the unknown, these are generally the titles that I gravitate towards at the old bookstore or the library.
Mark Twain said, "Truth is stranger than fiction..." While I don't disagree I would say, "Truth is stranger than fiction but fiction is a much quicker read."
It's rare but every great once in a while I'll swing by the library and find something that is clearly far-fetched and blatantly fiction. Sometimes it feels as though I just need a break from real-life, I need to get lost in something ridiculous. I'm currently in the midst of one of those seasons right now. As I was reading my latest library grab "The 49th Mystic" I was surprised by how quickly I was progressing through the book. Before I knew it, I was almost halfway through and it felt like I had just arrived home from the library. I wondered, "Why is it that I can read fiction at a quicker pace than I can read non-fiction?" As I read my mind lingered around that question and I was reminded of words from the Bible.
Proverbs 18:8 says, "Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart." We love a good story don't we? I've always joked that the best stories start out with the story teller looking over their shoulder to see if anyone else is listening. We love those "dainty morsels" and rumors that get passed around. Unfortunately the truth or appropriateness behind the morsels often becomes irrelevant. There's something about hearing bits of rumors that gets our blood pumping right? Much like my fictional reading these "dainty morsels" can be full of real-life plot twists, back stabbing and gotcha moments. What we often forget in our hunt for those morsels is the end result. The Scripture makes clear that those "dainty morsels" find their way into our hearts and when they do we run the risk of damaging what isn't ours to damage.
As a Christ follower you gave your heart to God and invited His Son Jesus to rule and reign in your heart. There's no room for "dainty morsels" of gossip and inappropriate tidbits of information in there. There's one throne of your heart and Jesus refuses to share it with anyone or anything else. We often attempt to excuse away our "dainty morsel" addiction as simple curiosity or genuine concern over a particular situation and never bother to stop and ask if what we're hearing is even true. Beyond that we never stop to ask if any of these "dainty morsel" are even any of our business. We thrive on those "dainty morsels". It feels good to get "the scoop" on the latest news in the office, the neighborhood or even at the church but let's call it what it is, "GOSSIP". When we partake we damage the hearts of others and ourselves. Steer clear. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
As I was shoveling out my driveway this afternoon I was reminded a piece I had written in 2014. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I'm a people watcher. I'd much rather go to the mall to sit and watch people than fight my way through store sales racks. Today, during lunch I decided to swing through the drive through and find a spot where I could sit in my car, enjoy my lunch and just watch people.
While wrapping up my chicken sandwich and preparing to tackle my chili with hot sauce, I noticed these huge piles of snow that were deposited all across the parking lot. With all of the snow that we've had in the area, snow plows have no where to go with the snow other than to mound it up in huge piles all across the parking lots. It's like someone deposited little white mountains all over the city.
What's interesting to me about these piles of snow is that they seem to last forever. Even with the slow onset of warmer weather, these piles of snow seem to be unaffected. They take absolutely forever to melt largely because they keep themselves cold. There is so much snow piled on top of other snow that the inner core of that pile remains below freezing long after the surrounding temperature has risen.
Those piles of snow reminded me of the risk that you and I run. We have a way of surrounding ourselves with people that keep us "below freezing" for as long as possible.
If we tend to be pessimistic, we surround ourselves with others who are also pessimistic. If we tend to be a gossip, we surround ourselves with other gossips. If we are negative and whiny people, then that's who we gravitate towards.
The Bible gives us some pretty clear instruction on this idea in Proverbs 13:20 when it says, "Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." and 1 Corinthians 15:33 where it says, "Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”
What if, in an effort to really honor God with our lives we "unpiled" ourselves from those that were keeping us wrapped up in sin. If we find ourselves in a pile of negativity, gossip or whatever, let's choose to spread ourselves out and let the Son melt us down.
Today marks 5 years since the passing of my father. My family and I gathered at his graveside this afternoon to leave some flowers and to reflect for a few minutes on our time with him. Our family has continued to change and grow and I'm thankful for each of those new faces but for a few short moments today we had the original 5 back together, mom, dad and the three boys. I voiced a prayer and thanked God for the time He granted us to spend with such a man. I prayed that his legacy would continue to live on through each of us and I prayed for strength and courage to continue on without him by our sides. I am thankful for my father's life and I find myself becoming more thankful for how he lives on in those who knew him. As I have every January 6th since his passing, I'll share the words that I shared at his funeral in hopes that you too would pick up his legacy and run with it. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"As I reflected on the words that I would say in this moment, my mind was filled with the memories of a father who left me no shortage of stories to tell and examples to recall and to pattern my life after. I suppose I could tell some of those stories to you this afternoon and you would walk away with a better picture of who my dad was, but ultimately, the best way to understand who someone really is, is to observe the impact that he or she made on the lives of those around them and my dad impacted the people around him.
My dad was a big believer in discipline. Growing up in my house there were no timeouts or counting to three or questions like, “Was that a wise choice?”. You knew instantly when you did something wrong because you got whipped. And if the offense occurred while dad was at work mom simply said the words, “You just wait until your father gets home”. The day before dad passed away I saw one of those little cartoon blurbs on Facebook that said, “My parents spanked me as a child and I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘Respect for Others”. That summed up my dad’s philosophy on parenting. But respect for others wasn’t just something that he told us about, it was something he modeled for us. Dad treated everyone with respect and love.
Although my dad was a man of few words he modeled for his sons what a husband and a father looked like. He modeled for me a life of servanthood as he pampered and catered to my mom. He demonstrated what it meant to be a patient husband. Mom seldom did the dishes, she never shoveled or scraped snow from the sidewalks or car windshields. He always volunteered to clean the bathroom, take out the trash, sweep the carpet, dust the furniture, etc. My dad took care of my mom in every way possible. It’s that example that my wife will attest that I’m still working on but I believe that if I could treat my wife with even a fraction of the respect and love that my dad treated my mom with, I would be an amazing husband. My dad modeled for me how to be a father. The attention that he paid to us as his sons, the countless school projects that he helped us squeeze out at the last minute, the time he spent showing us how to fix everything from A to Z. He modeled what it meant to not only pay attention to his kids but really focus on them and to pass along his knowledge to us. The way that my dad treated his mother-in-law, my grandmother, was one of extreme patience. He demonstrated not only patience, but love and respect and dignity to the mother of his wife. Over the last week since dad’s passing, grandma has said on more than one occasion, “I loved him, he loved me and we loved each other.” That certainly summed up their relationship.
My dad left a legacy.
He left a legacy of faith.
He left a legacy of family.
He left a legacy of discipline.
He left a legacy of hard work.
He left a legacy of faithfulness.
I want you to understand this afternoon that my father’s legacy will live on, it will live on in my life and in the lives of my brothers and our sons and daughters. But you also have an opportunity to carry on his legacy because ultimately my dad was patterning his life after the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. His love and patience and faithfulness that have been highlighted here today are straight out of God’s Word, Paul says in Galatians,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” That is my father’s legacy. During the last few moments of my dad’s earthly life as mom, my brothers and I and are wives were gathered around his bedside he modeled one final act of faithfulness for us. He demonstrated for us how we’re to finish the race. He had been motionless for an hour or so and just moments before he took his last breath he simply raised his left hand straight into the air towards Heaven, lowered it back down and then fell asleep.
Church I believe with all my heart that at that moment he was beginning to see the face of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was at that moment that he heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
It's the first day of the New Year, you're probably busy starting a bunch of new goals so I'll be brief. Allow me to remind you of a few things as you kick off the first day of the year.
1. Regardless of your practice of setting New Year’s resolutions, as Christ followers we should be progressing in our commitment to and development towards all that God maps out for us in His Word.
2. God's action in our lives isn't dependent on our attributes. God doesn't need you and your attributes to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. He uses you and I in spite of ourselves. Let go of your past, look to His future and set goals that are only possible with His intervention.
3. What God creates, God completes. It's true of creation (see Genesis 2:1) and it's true of you and I as well (see Psalm 139:13 and Philippians 1:6) God doesn’t start something and not finish it. He doesn’t walk away from a job. He doesn’t throw in the towel on our development.
4. There is no part of your life that God is incapable of using for His glory and your development. Because of the omnipotence of God, He can use the goals you haven’t achieved as well as He can use the goals you have achieved. Stop allowing your past to control you.
5. God's not looking for "Goals completed", He's looking for obedience.
6. What God plants, He harvests...in His time and in His way. Be patient. (see Habakkuk 2:3).
My hope and prayer for you that 2019 is a watershed moment for your faith. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Yesterday we looked at the first of several ingredients to a successful New Year plan. Our realization that God inspired fresh starts begin with something greater than our own motivation is crucial to our success. We need to lean into God for success and follow through. I'm as guilty as the next person but it's baffling that we strive and toil for so long before coming to God for help. As mentioned earlier, there are bunches of examples in Scripture of the fresh starts that you and I desire around the New Year. Joseph, Peter, Paul, a case could be made for the "sort of" fresh start that Jonah makes.
Let's take a look today at the account of Peter. Peter serves as a classic "fresh start" case. All four gospels record Peter's denial for us in varying degrees. The most concise of the accounts is found in John 18:25-27. This passage basically says, "Peter denied Jesus and the rooster crowed". Luke 22:54-62, Mark 14:66-72 and Matthew 26:69-75 each give more detail and even use significant phrases like, "Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind..." and " Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying..." Regardless of which passage you study, it's clear that Peter was on a rollercoaster. I mean it was Peter who declared in Matthew 16 that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Fast forward a few chapters and it's Peter who was flatly denying that he even knew who Jesus was. Fast forward a few more days and we find Acts 2:22-24 where Peter is boldly proclaiming the truth of who Jesus was and God's plan for humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus. Buckle up, because if that's not a roller coaster of emotion, belief, unbelief, action, inaction, confidence and terror I don't know what is. Sound familiar?
If we're honest, Peter's journey mirrors our New Year goals and all of our other grand plans throughout the year that come and go with the wind. One minute we're on fire, the next we've fizzled out. One minute we're going to change the world and the next we've settled for another episode of the latest Netflix series. What can we learn from Peter to overcome this, "Up one minute, down the next" journey that we so easily find ourselves on?
Allow me to suggest that Peter's rollercoaster ride was due to in part to the company he kept. Think about Peter's declaration of Jesus as the Messiah. The context of Peter's declaration was a conversation that Jesus was having with Peter and the other disciples. Peter was among friends. While the other disciples missed the boat on who Jesus really was, their suggestions were at least in the right ball park. "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah, some say one of the other prophets". They may not have pinpointed Jesus as the Messiah but they were in the neighborhood. It was in this context that Peter, through the revelation of God, honed in on as Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, Peter had positioned himself in the right soil to experience a little growth. Click, click, click, up the hill we go.
Fast forward to Peter's denial of Jesus and examine his surroundings. According to each the accounts Peter found himself in the courtyard, outside, with the guards, with the servants, warming himself around the fire, at a distance, rubbing shoulders with people who made no claim to know or care anything about Jesus. Is it any wonder that Peter so quickly denied his knowledge of Jesus? Buckle up, over the hill we go.
Fast forward with me one more time to Peter's declaration of Jesus at the Christ and of God's plan for humanity found in Acts 2. Take a look at his surroundings. It's the day of Pentecost and Peter is surrounded by Jews from all over the known world. The Holy Spirit had descended as Jesus had promised and everyone was hearing the truth of the Gospel in their own language. The setting must have been electric. Imagine the "Passion Worship Band" or for you old timers, "Bill Gaither" singing your favorite song while Rick Warren or Billy Graham preaches. You'd be through the roof. You're surrounded by believers, engaged in worship and passionately pursuing the things of God. You couldn't help but cry out and declare the wonders of God right? Click, click, click, up we go again.
Perhaps the lesson we learn from Peter is that the company we keep contributes, at least in part to the success we experience. God inspired fresh starts are certainly sourced in God Himself. We need His wisdom to get a clear picture of where we should be going and we need his strength to keep making progress. But we would do well to learn from Peter on the company we keep. Surround yourself with people who share your values. Surround yourself with people that care about your relationship with Jesus.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate your ups and downs. Your ups and downs of goal setting or perhaps the ups and downs of your spiritual journey. Can you trace your ups and downs back, at least in part to the company you kept? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that bad company corrupts good character. These are the lessons we teach our kids but often forget to apply to our own lives. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
The New Year. January 1. Fresh start. New beginning. What is it about January 1st that motivates people to want to start fresh? What is it about the start of the New Year that suddenly gives people that extra burst of “go get ‘em” attitude? In large part it has to do with cultural conditioning. If we’re honest, January 1st is no different than any other day of the year. Technically speaking, every day is the start of a new, fresh 365 day cycle. So what’s so special about January 1st? Most likely we’re motivated more at this time of year because everyone else is as well. We’ve been conditioned to get motivated at this time of year and everyone is posting and sharing their New Year goals so it makes it easier for us to jump in on the goal setting.
I say, “goals all around”. Why not? Regardless of our motivation, if the New Year proves to be a helpful time for you to get the ball rolling, then go for it. The New Year can be a fantastic opportunity to make changes spiritually, maritally, financially, organizationally, physically, etc. So go for it.
The Bible gives us some great examples of those that made fresh starts. In fact, God is in the business of facilitating fresh starts. Peter moved from denying Jesus to declaring His wonderful works. Moses moved from murderer to travel agent extraordinaire. God moved Joseph from abandoned to adopted. All throughout Scripture we see it again and again, God giving His children a fresh start.
As you and I seek this same fresh start in the New Year, let’s take some time over the next few days to examine some of the key ingredients of God inspired fresh starts.
God inspired fresh starts begin with something greater than our motivation. We need more than just us. That’s a tough statement to swallow in our “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” culture but it’s true. Real change, lasting change cannot be accomplished without God’s help. Psalm 121:2 says, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” We’re foolish to strike out on our when we have God’s help waiting in the wings. When we strive for a fresh start on our own we’re akin to the stranded motorist on the roadside blindly tinkering with his engine while he waits for the real help to show up. Why do we tinker with our lives? Why do we tinker with our goals? Does God not know best? Ahh, there’s the question that begs to be answered.
Perhaps our forsaken goals of the past have been sabotaged by the answer to that question. Do we really believe that God knows best? Do we really believe that our help comes from the Lord? Do we really believe that God is greater than our motivations? If we do not, then it’s no surprise that our best motivations have fallen short. It’s no surprise that we have set goals, given up, set goals, given up, set goals, given up.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
We have an amazing example in the person of Jesus Christ. He understands our weakness. He faced the same struggles that we faced. But here’s the Good News, He did it successfully. He accomplished what He set out to do and you and I can as well when we look to Him for motivation, when we look to Him for guidance, when we look to Him strength.
As you move into the New Year, move with motivation. Move with God inspired, God strengthened motivation. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Last week my family was blessed to spend a week in Florida with everyone's favorite mouse. If you've ever done Disney you know that by the end of the week you can feel pretty wiped out. I rode my fair share of rides but in an effort to keep things balanced I also made sure to do my fair share of walking around aimlessly, people watching and of course my favorite Disney pastime, eating. In the midst of one of my wanderings I came across this sign located at Epcot just outside one its largest attractions. I stopped and read it (yes, I'm the guy that reads all the signs at the museum, park and zoo) and was struck by the power of the words. While the words were written in an effort to speak about the importance of properly stewarding our natural resources here on Earth, they could also be applied to our relationships with one another. Think for a moment about what a healthy God honoring relationship should look like. It's difficult to read in the photo but here's what it says:
Symbiosis Between the Land and Humankind
"Symbiotic relationships mean creative partnerships. The earth is to be seen neither as an ecosystem to be preserved unchanged not as a quarry to be exploited for selfish and short range economic reasons, but as a garden to be cultivated for the development of its own potentialities of the human adventure. The goal of this relationship is not the maintenance of the status quo but the emergence of new phenomena and new values."
Rene Dubos (1901-1982) Bacteriologists Pulltzer Prize Recipient Rockefeller University
Powerful words that can and should be applied to our stewarding of this amazing planet God has blessed us with but let's look at this quote through the eyes of those looking to develop healthy relationships. When was the last time that we viewed our friendships as "Creative partnerships"? Even that term, "Creative partnership" communicates intentionality. Creating is something that is designed to accomplish a specific purpose. Do our friendships have a specific purpose? Not in a negative way like you're using someone but do your friendships push you towards your overall purpose? Are you being sharpened? Are you sharpening those you are in relationship with?
Too often we choose to surround ourselves with people that are content to leave us as we are. That sounds like a good friend right, someone who accepts you as you are? What if instead we chose to intentionally surround ourselves with people that wanted to us change, not for the sake of change or their selfish gains but for the glory of God?
What if we intentionally searched for friendships that could be defined as a "cultivating relationship" as one who cultivates a garden? When you cultivate a garden you work it, you weed it, you fertilize it, you break it down and then work towards building it back up. Does that describe your relationships? What if our friends weren't content with our status quo? What if we weren't content with the status of our friends? What if we had relationships where each part was cultivated into the emergence of something new? Not "new" in the sense that the current you or them isn't good enough but let's be honest and admit that we have much to learn from one another and when we intentionally surround ourselves with other God pursuing people we discover that we can be developed and sharpened to a greater God honoring level. My challenge is for each of us to look for and pursue relationships that are truly symbiotic. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
We've arrived at what some believe to be the greatest month of the year: Thanksgiv...I mean November. Thanksgiving is certainly the highlight of November for many. It's certainly a highlight in my family. For my high school sons, it's about the upcoming Thanksgiving break. For my wife and I it's about the opportunity to gather with family and of course our annual Black Friday recon mission. We're not big shoppers but we love watching people so every year we venture to some of the most crowded locations and just watch the chaos unfold.
Regardless of your favorite aspects of the Thanksgiving season, let's pause for a moment and reflect on a few areas where we would do well to remain thankful...since after all, that's kind of the point of Thanksgiving. I'm sure each of us is thankful for family, friends, our job, our kids, our stuff, etc. but let's look a little deeper than what floats to the surface.
Thankful for Trials: This seems like a ridiculous idea but let's not forget where our trials lead us. James says it like this, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." - James 1:2-4. Let's reframe our thinking and start the process of harnessing our trials for God's glory. Be thankful for what comes your way, the good and the bad.
Thankful for Instruction: I'll admit it: I don't like receiving instruction. I like managing myself, I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I'm sure I'm not alone in this thinking because receiving instruction is humbling. It communicates, sometimes verbally and sometimes nonverbally, that we don't always have our acts together...that's tough to hear right? As tough as instruction can sometimes be, it's vital for our development. Paul says it like this to his young protege' Timothy "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." - 2 Timothy 3:16. Instruction from those above you, around you and even below you is importantly but nothing is more important that receiving instruction from God's Word.
Thankful for Grace: The statement I'm about to make will come as no surprise to you: no one is perfect. I for one am in desperate need of grace. I need grace from my wife, my kids, my friends and certainly from God. Here's the risk we run in our constant need for grace, it becomes so common that we cease to give thanks for it. Grace, if we're not careful becomes commonplace and we forget the miraculous nature of God's grace.
Paul says it like this in his letter to the church at Rome, "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins." - Romans 3:22-24
Don't forget about the miraculousness of God's grace and forgiveness in your life.
Thankful for Victory: Here's my favorite part. I have victory. You have victory. We have victory, true victory not in ourselves but in what God has done on our behalf. Paul says it like this, "But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:57. You and I can have victory when we fully grasp what God has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Tough times will come but victory is yours. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
What I'm about to tell you is rather embarrassing. I'm not proud of what I did. It wasn't one of my finer moments. In fact, I'm grateful that no one was around to judge me for my poor decision making. Nevertheless, it happened. Before I tell you my dirty little secret allow me to give you some background on how we got to where we are today.
For many years my church was blessed to have someone who took it as there personal responsibility to oversee the finer details of baptisms. From the outside looking in it's a pretty straightforward process. You get in the pool, get dipped under the water and get out. Pretty simple right? But if you took a moment to peer behind the scenes you would have noticed a little old lady that faithfully greased the wheels of our baptisms. Without fail, sweet little Grandma Alice would always ensure that fresh towels were placed next to the baptistry each morning. She would personally greet each one being baptized with a hug prior to them walking out and then patiently wait in the wings to receive a wet hug as they exited the baptistry. At the end of the service she would gather up all of the wet towels and baptistry robes, put them in a garbage bag and lug them to her car to be washed, dried and returned ready for the next baptism. I can recall on countless occasions her words to me as I exited the baptistry, "Just leave everything where it is, I'll take care of it."
A few years ago if my memory serves me, her health began to prevent her from filling this much needed role. Don't get me wrong, things still get done. The towels are by the pool, the robes get dried and put back and the towels are washed but it's just not the same anymore. The role is filled but now it's filled more out of necessity than drive. What's missing is the passion. She was passionate about filling that role. It wasn't just something that needed to be done, it was hers to do. She owned it.
Now back to my embarrassing moment. As I exited the pool this morning and changed back into my dry clothes I stood in the doorway of the changing room hold a pile of wet robes and towels. I was suddenly reminded of the tremendous role that Grandma Alice played in the life of our church. As I contemplated my next move with my wet towels and robe I ran through a series of options: find something to bag them up in, hang the robe so it can dry, ring out the towels. I instead chose the cheap, lazy option. I simply threw them on the floor of the changing room and walked out. As I made my way down the hallway I reasoned that I would deal with my mess tomorrow.
As I've reflected on this series of events today I've been encouraged and reminded of some important lessons. I'm encouraged by the faithful service of Grandma Alice and others like her. I'm thankful for those men and women who have come before me and modeled what it looks like to use their gifts for God's glory. Grandma Alice has impacted those being baptized for many years and for many years to come.
I'm also reminded that each one of us has an ability that God desires we use for His glory. There are no insignificant roles, there are no menial tasks that don't matter. Peter says it like this in his first letter, "God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen." 1 Peter 4:10-11 from Bible Gateway.
Here's my encouragement to you. Find a way to make a Grandma Alice size difference in the lives of those around you. Find a way to use your abilities for God's glory in a way that when you are unable to continue, you are missed. It's late, I'm tired and tomorrow morning, I'll have to go clean up my mess. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.