3 Simple Questions, 3 Simple Rules: Do No Harm

3 Simple Qustions Do No Harm

I was 12 years old- my brother was 16. He was four years older than me. (Which, if I follow the logic, would mean he is STILL 4 years older than me!) My mom had relented and let him host his first boy/girl party. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, she also did something else in conjunction that rocked my world- she bought GOOD snacks!
My mom was dirt poor growing up. They had to scrounge for everything they got. Therefore, you wasted NOTHING! (Which is why, to this day, I freeze chicken bones until I get enough and then I cook them all day and make chicken broth!) So, that translated to the fact that she basically NEVER bought snack foods. They were, apparently, the work of the devil! (She even made this…stuff…that resembled chunky salsa that she said was “homemade catsup”. Well, you can put a dress on a pig…but it is STILL a pig!) So one of my buddies and I were SO excited that we got have GOOD snacks! That is, until my mom informed us that we were NOT invited to the party! “WHAT?! Oh, this will NEVER do!”
She was, however, insistent. And that made us MAD! So, we hatched a plan to get even. And a more nefarious plan the world has never seen! We brought the dog, a very large German Shepherd named Hans, into the house- where he was NOT supposed to be. We took him down into the basement family room, where the party was GOING to be. And then, one by one…we let him lick the salt off the Fritos…before putting them BACK in the bowl! Oh, I could have made SUCH an effective evil genius!
Over the years, as I have told that story, one question always comes up- did you ever tell your brother that story? Well, of COURSE I did. What kind of human being do you think I am? I absolutely told him…about 4 years ago!
Today, we continue our current sermon series- 3 Simple Questions, 3 Simple Rules. As I have shared before, it’s based on two books written by United Methodist Bishop Reuben Job and the series is designed to establish a foundation between us and God and then look at tangible ways to strengthen that foundation.
The 1st week, we asked, “Who is God?” The 2nd week, the question was, “Who am I?” Last week, we asked the 3rd question, “Who are we together?” Today, we transition from the 3 simple questions into the 3 simple rules. And the first rule is the most basic- Do No Harm. Like the Fritos at the party, it is ALL too easy to do harm. In fact, doing harm is almost 2nd nature to us marvelously flawed humans. But when can make a conscious decision that we WON’T harm those with whom we disagree, then the discovery of new insights becomes possible. This 1st simple rule- do no harm- is just not that complicated. It’s so simple, even a child can understand. It’s simple…but it’s hard. And yet, it is applicable to everybody in every stage of life.
And when this simple rule is practiced, it works wonders. It begins to transform the world around us. We all struggle to resolve complex and difficult issues. But when this 1st simple rule is actually remembered and followed, it often saves us from saying and doing the wrong thing.
Galatians 5:13-16 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
We sometimes think of the free will that God gives us as freedom to do whatever we want. But when we use that freedom to indulge ourselves, when we bite and devour each other, then we stand a good chance of destroying everything. On the other hand, when our words and actions are guarded by that 1st simple rule, then we have the time and the space to think about the consequences before a word is spoken or an action taken. We all know people who seem to be always locked in conflict- sometimes over deep, profound issues and sometimes over shallow, insignificant issues. But regardless of the reasoning, the conflict is all too real, the divisions all too deep and the consequences all too devastating.
But when we agree to do no harm, the climate in which that conflict resides is immediately changed. Why? Because if we agree to do no harm, then we can no longer gossip. If we agree to do no harm, we can no longer speak badly about those involved in the conflict. If we agree to do no harm, then we can no longer manipulate the facts of the conflict. We can no longer try hard to diminish those who don’t agree with us. When we agreed to do no harm, we begin to discover that we stand on common ground, we inhabit common space, we share a common faith, we dine at a common table and, most importantly, we each have an equal measure of God’s love and grace.
     1Corinthians 3:16-20 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”
Did you hear that? We are GOD’S TEMPLE! All these years, we all thought that the CHURCH was God’s temple. But in this passage, Paul makes it clear that the Church is not a building. The Church is not a steeple. The Church is not a resting place. The Church is…the people! Why? Because WE are God’s temple. And that means that, at some level, we are sacred. And THAT means that we need to treat others with the same love and respect God shows us. Above all else…do no harm.
Leroy, responding to an ad in the local newspaper, agreed to buy a mule from a local farmer for $100. The farmer took the $100 and agreed to deliver the mule the next day. The next morning, when the farmer drove up, he said, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news. The mule died last night.” Leroy said, “Well, that’s too bad. Just give me my $100 back and we’ll be square.” The farmer said, “Yeah…about that- I can’t give you the money back. I already spent it.” Leroy thought for a moment and then said, “OK, then bring me the dead mule.” The farmer was shocked, “What are you gonna do with a dead mule?” “I’m going to raffle it off.” The farmer scoffed, “You can’t raffle off a dead mule!” But Leroy said, “Sure I can! I don’t have to tell anybody he’s dead!” Couple weeks later, the farmer ran into Leroy at the local Piggly Wiggly, “Whatever happened with that dead mule?” Leroy responded, “I told you- I raffled it off. I sold 500 tickets at $2 apiece.” The farmer was amazed, “Didn’t anybody complain?” Leroy said, “Well, the guy who won was mad, so I gave him his $2 back…and cleared a profit of $998!” Leroy now work for the federal government!
When this 1st rule- do no harm- isn’t followed, it’s rarely because we misunderstood it or it was too simple. More often than not, it’s not followed because it demands too much self-discipline. To agree to follow this 1st rule, we have to also agree with a lifestyle that is nearly too hard for our timid and tame commitment. But when I’m determined to do no harm to you, regardless, I lose my fear of you. And when that happens, I am suddenly able to see you better and hear you more clearly.
So if this 1st rule is so simple and easily understood, why do so many of us do so much harm? Because, while it’s simple, it’s NOT easy. It demands trust- a radical trust in God’s presence and power and wisdom and guidance. It also demands a radical obedience to God’s leadership. Living out our faith in real time requires our strongest resolve, our greatest faith, our deepest trust AND a heaping measure of God’s grace. To fully adopt this 1st simple rule into our lives is like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon- one giant leap.
     Luke 17:1-5 Jesus said to His disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Jesus here is direct and to the point…AND He’s not hard to understand. “Better to have a millstone tied around your neck and thrown into the sea.” A millstone was very large. Imagine something made out of stone and shaped like a quarter, only it’s 10” thick and 15’ across! A team of work animals would turn the millstone, which sat on top of a wide, flat area of bedrock. The millstone would grind grain.A millstone was big, heavy and expensive. But Jesus says it would be better to have that big, heavy, expensive stone tied around your neck and then tossed into the sea than to harm someone. OK- I think I am beginning to get it! And did you notice- once the disciples heard that, they begged for more faith because they were finally beginning to understood how hard Jesus’ mandate was.
Dave Dravecky broke in the Major Leagues in 1982 as a pitcher for the San Diego Padres. The very next year, he appeared in the All Star Game. And in 1984, only his 3rd year in the league, he helped his team make it to the World Series, ultimately losing to the Detroit Tigers 4 games to 1. In the middle of the 1987 season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants. The next season,1988, a cancerous tumor was discovered on his pitching arm. He had surgery to have it removed and returned to the field the next August. His first outing, he pitched 8 innings and beat the Cincinnati Reds. 5 days later, August 15, 1989, in the 6th inning of a game against the then Montreal Expos, the humerus bone in his pitching arm snapped in two- the cancer had returned. On June 18, 1991, his left arm, his pitching arm, was amputated. He has since become an author and motivational speaker. Dravecky said this, “In America, Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world, Christians pray for stronger backs so that they can bear the suffering.”
To do no harm takes strength to accomplish and it means you have to always be on guard so that your actions won’t add injury to other people. When we commit ourselves to that approach, we start to see each person as a child of God- worthy of His love, which is unearned, undeserved and unlimited. Deep down in the silence of our hearts, we KNOW that we want to follow JC. And we know that following Him is both the best way and the ONLY way to live fully and faithfully. We know it’s the only way to a peaceful, joyful, fruitful life. Deep down in our hearts, we know the life that we want- to follow Jesus. And so we pray for the grace to be faithful as we say yes to His invitation to do no harm.

How Do I Pray?

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    What do you think of when you hear the word “prayer”? Maybe you think of “asking God for stuff”. Maybe you think of not knowing what to say. Maybe you think, “Oh dear Lord, PLEASE don’t let the Pastor call on ME to pray out loud!”

     Prayer is an interesting thing. It is, I would argue, conversation with God. And because it is conversation, it should- like all good conversation- be at least as much listening as it is talking. And maybe that’s the hard part. “How do I know what to listen FOR? How do I even know if God is talking to me at all?!”

    When you pray, there are many ways to do that. And I would argue that, as long as you talk to God AND listen to God, there isn’t necessarily any wrong way to pray. But I want to share a couple of methods that might help, if you find yourself struggling.

    The first approach is called the ACTS model of prayer. It looks like this:

Adoration – “Praise be to God!” -Psalms 68:35

Tell God how much you appreciate Him. Express your love for Him. Praise His power and majesty. This is a great way to begin your prayer time. You should never run out of praise.

Confession – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9

Tell Him where you have fallen short. Be specific.

Thanksgiving – Always “glorify him with thanksgiving” -Psalms 69:30

You have plenty of reasons to be thankful. Thank God for His love, His faithfulness, His patience and a million other things. Express gratitude for what He’s doing in your life. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for indwelling you, and never leaving. Thank Him for being your conscience, your counselor and that “still small voice.”

Supplication – “Make your requests known to God.” -Philippians 4:6

Ask God on behalf of other people. Then ask God for yourself. Tell God what you want, no matter how small it seems to you.

    The 2nd approach is the 5 finger model of prayer. It looks like this:

1) Your Thumb is nearest to you, so begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember.

2) The next finger is the Pointer Finger, which reminds us of those who instruct so pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.

3) The next finger is the Tallest Finger, which reminds us of those who are in charge. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.

4) The fourth finger is our Ring Finger, which is the weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night.

5) And lastly comes our Little Finger- the smallest finger of all, which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

    However you choose to pray, pray often. Make it a daily conversation with God. Get in the habit of prayer…and then KEEP in the habit of prayer.

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Elton John Was Right…Sort Of!

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Elton John is one of my all-time favorite artists. Don’t mistake him for his music- I don’t always appreciate what he does as a person (just like I’m QUITE sure, if he knew me, he would not always appreciate what I do!), but I LOVE most of his music. In fact, the FIRST 8-track tape I owned was his Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album…good stuff!
On October 5, 1973, he released the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The opening track of that album is called Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. Funeral For a Friend is an instrumental he wrote while thinking about what he would want played at his own funeral. He said that the 2 songs weren’t originally intended to fit together, but Funeral For A Friend ends in the key of A, the same key Love Lies Bleeding opens in, so the two were played as one long piece when recorded. The whole piece, at just over 11 minutes long, was too long to be released as a single, but did get some airplay on FM stations. Where it has REALLY found its niche is on tour.

The song is sad and mournful, beautiful and haunting. AND…a rather substantial departure from much of what he was doing at the time. But as I listen to it, I am reminded of one of the harder tasks a minister has…doing a funeral for (to paraphrase Mr. John) a NON-friend. In other words, officiating at the burial of someone you never met. Let me say right up front that it offends me big time to attend a funeral, when I KNOW the preacher never met the deceased, and hear them talk as if they were best buddies! (Blood pressure rising, anger building…!) It’s offensive. So when I do a funeral like that (and quite frankly…I do a LOT of funerals like that! I seem to have earned the reputation as “the funeral guy”…don’t know if that’s good or bad!), I say right up front that I didn’t know them. And then I work really hard to paint a picture of them, based on what I have uncovered.
While I am honored to officiate at someone’s funeral (I truly believe that we ALL deserve the dignity of being remembered when we die), I always am left wishing they would have had a relationship with a pastor so that they could be eulogized by someone who actually knew them. (I officiated at BOTH of my parents’ funerals, in large part because neither of them had a relationship with a pastor…well…that is, except me!)
Do you have a relationship with a pastor? (Don’t be funny…you KNOW what I mean!!) Is there someone who will be able to stand at your funeral and say, “I knew this person well and can tell you about their life”? I hope so…you deserve it. If you DON’T have that…yet another reason to get involved in a church. Try one- if you don’t like it, you can always try another! Keep church-shopping until you find the one that is right for you- it IS out there somewhere! And once you find it, dive in head first. Get involved. Become a part of the church family. It will be one of the best decisions you ever made!!
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Victory Over Cancer

victory in jesus

    Cancer is an insidious thing. Period. Insidious. Horrible. Evil. Nasty. Whatever bad, negative word you can think of…that’s cancer. I had certainly known folks who struggled with…and died of…cancer. But it was my mom who was the first person really close to me who died from it.

    She was pretty young- she was just turning 69 years old when she was diagnosed, during Thanksgiving week, 2003. It was lung cancer and they said she probably had 2 years left. The treatment took a LOT out of her, but she kept on fighting. 2003 turned into 2004 and she started a downhill slide. Her hair fell out. She started losing weight. She had diminished energy. You know the drill- we’ve all seen it.

    And then- the cancer went “into remission”! Huzzah! But boy was that excitement short-lived. She was in the hospital and we went to see her. (My parents lived about 2 hours away from us at the time.) I kept saying, “Something is wrong with her. She’s not thinking clearly.” Others said it was simply the medications she was on, but I was sure it was something else. A few days later…we found out exactly what that “something else” was. The cancer was back…and it had spread to the brain. She didn’t live much longer. On Tuesday, June 22, 2004- 7 MONTHS after she was diagnosed, instead of two years- she died. The next day, Wednesday, a semi showed up and packed up everything we owned- we were moving. The next day, Thursday, everything we owned was unpacked in Central Illinois while we drove the opposite direction to Southern Missouri. The next day, Friday, I performed my mom’s funeral. The next day, Saturday, we drove from Southern Missouri to Central Illinois, stopping in the St. Louis area to pick up our other car and our dog. The next day, Sunday…we collapsed in a heap. The next day, Monday…I started as the new pastor of the church I would serve for 8 years.

    I have been thinking about this a LOT over the past few hours. A pastor couple who serve a church not far from me suffered a terrible loss yesterday. The wife died after a valiant fight against cancer. I don’t know exactly how old she was, but I went to college with her husband and I am 54, so she couldn’t have been very old.

    I am impacted by two things, primarily. First, I am impacted by how much her death brought back feelings about my mom’s death- this many years later. And secondly, and more importantly, I am impacted by something her husband said on Facebook. He said, “Jesus won the final against against my wife’s cancer as she went to her Heavenly home this afternoon.” I am overwhelmed by his amazing show of steadfast faith in the midst of such a devastating loss. Thank you, my friend, for reminding all of us that God IS good, all the time. I pray a blessing on you, your family and your congregation as you move forward. May God’s grace be sufficient.

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Resolutions: Mentor and Be Mentored Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Resolutions Mentor and Be Mentored     Five college friends decided to go out of town and party with some friends instead of spending the weekend studying for their history final. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to school until Monday afternoon- they missed the final. They decided to find their professor and see if they could talk him into letting them make up the final. They told him that they had gone to a nursing home in a nearby town to spend the weekend reading to the senior citizens. They then left in enough time to come back and study before the final. But, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The Professor thought it over and agreed to let them make up the final the next day. The guys were SO happy…and relieved. They studied hard that night and went in the next day confident that they were ready. The professor placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet and told them to start. They each looked at the first problem, which was worth 5 points. It was the easiest question they could possibly imagine. “This final is going to be SO easy.” Each finished the 1st problem and then turned the page to Problem #2. On the second page, it said, for all of the remaining 95 points, two simple words, “Which tire?”

Tonight we continue our current Sunday evening sermon series, simply called Resolutions. Over these 6 weeks, we are looking at things that should be on our New Year’s Resolution list- things we can ADD to our lives that will enhance our day-to-day existence. Three weeks ago, we started with a pretty simple premise- stay positive. Two weeks ago, we took another step on the journey as we looked at being thankful. Last week, we looked at the third item on our list-  understanding the difference between “get to” and “have to”. Tonight, we move closer to the end as we talk about a twofold process- being a mentor to someone…and being mentored BY someone.

Question #1- How do YOU define the word “mentor”?

Question #2- Who has been a mentor to you?

   1Thessalonians 5:9-11 God didn’t choose us to receive his anger. He chose us to receive salvation because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. Jesus died for us. Some will be alive when he comes. Others will be dead. Either way, we will live together with him. So cheer each other up with the hope you have. Build each other up. In fact, that’s what you are doing.

One day, a college professor was getting pretty irritated with his class not participating in the discussion. He stood in front of the class and asked if anybody in the class was an idiot. “If you are, just stand up. Stand up.” After a couple of minutes, one young man stood up. The professor smiled and said, “So- you actually think you’re an idiot?” The student responded, “No, not at all. I just felt bad that you were standing up all by yourself.”

Did you notice toward the end of the Scripture reading? So cheer each other up with the hope you have. Build each other up. Cheer each other up. Build each other up. Mentor…and be mentored. But what exactly does that mean? Well, a mentor is, by definition, “an experienced and trusted adviser”. And TO mentor is, again by definition, to “advise or train someone”. So. let’s start with being mentored. The first step is to identify what area or areas of your life you want to learn more about or be better at. And then, narrow the field.

I suggest you use what I call the Barrel Method. A good, ol’ fashioned barrel is made of staves, strips of wood, held together by bands of steel. And the truth is that the barrel can only hold as much as the height of the lowest stave. If one of the staves is lower than the rest, that is the maximum capacity of the barrel. I use that method to evaluate the church. Identify the lowest stave and seek to raise it so that the barrel can hold more. So, what is the lowest stave in your barrel? What is the one thing that is most keeping you from making forward progress? Once you’ve identified it, find someone…a mentor…who is better at that thing than you are and seek their help, advice and guidance. Be mentored. And once that stave has been raised, identify the next lowest stave…and start the process all over again!

Now let’s talk about mentoring someone. We all have areas of our lives that could stand to be improved, to be sure. But we also all have areas of our lives when we have something to offer to someone else. So instead of looking for the SHORTEST stave..this time you’re looking for the LONGEST stave- what is it that I am pretty good at that I could share with someone else? Whatever it is- God gave you that gift. And He didn’t give it to you so that you could keep it to yourself or hide it under a bushel. Instead, He gave it to you so that you could share it with others and make a positive difference in the world. The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.

Now, you have probably noticed that I have not talked specifically about being mentored or mentoring within the confines of the church. That has been intentional. We all have gifts that translate to the larger world. BUT…we also all have gifts that can specifically help us better connect people to Jesus Christ- our stated mission. What are your gifts that can do that- help connect people to Jesus Christ? Maybe you have a heart for prayer and can help guide others in that area. Maybe you like to sing and can find people who would like to sing too but just don’t have the confidence…or the personal invitation…to do so. Maybe you really enjoy Bible study and can either lead one or encourage others to join in one you attend. Maybe you have the gift of relationship- you are really good at listening to people. If that’s the case, find someone who you think could also be good at that and invite them to go with you as you visit people. Maybe you have the gift of hospitality and really like feeding people and/or making them feel welcome. There are other people who would LOVE to do that…if someone would just take the time to encourage them.

Likewise, what are the areas of faith development in which you feel underprepared? Identify those areas and then find folks in the church who are good at them. Muster the courage to A. tell them that you see that gift in them and B. ask them if they would help you improve in that area. And then be willing to put the time in to shore up that stave in your barrel.

Question #3- Why is it important to both mentor and be mentored?

Healthy things grow. And that means physically…to a point! But it means intellectually and spiritually…always. We should always be trying to improve ourselves. The moment that either we think we have arrived or we simply decide to stop trying to grow…we’re done. Stick a fork in me…I think I’m done. And when that happens, God can no longer fully use you. Your ability to be His hands and feet diminish at best…and stop altogether at worst. I don’t EVER want to put myself in a position where God can no longer use me. We were made to serve. We were made to love. We were made to go out and spread a little of His love and care everywhere we go. We may not be able to change the world in one felled swoop..but we CAN change it one person at a time. But only if we are willing to mentor and be mentored.

Some Assembly Required Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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    I can’t tell you how many Christmas Eve I have spent in my adult life putting together toys. Granted, I haven’t done it for a while, as my boys are 27 and 15! But there were definitely late Christmas Eves where I was desperately trying to put some toy together without  A. swearing too badly and B. making so much noise that I woke the kids up!

    I have been reminded of those days in recent weeks. The church I currently serve has been taking steps to upgrade our in-house library, making it both more accessible and more appealing. Part of that process has been getting some new “furniture” pieces. The first if thm came in a few weeks ago. It is a free-standing rack that holds DVDs and spins. It came in pieces and with no directions. Not even a picture of what it was supposed to look like to use as a reference. I consider myself a pretty smart person. But I could NOT, for the life of me, figure out how it went together.

    So, one Wednesday morning, I brought it with me to our 6:30AM Men’s Bible Study. Eyes LIT up! They saw the challenge and they were on it like a pride of lions on the slowest wildebeest! Within a few minutes- DONE! I can’t remember the last time I felt such a combination of joy and ignorance at the same time!

    Last Friday, another piece of that library puzzle showed up. It is another free-standing wire rack. But this one A. sits on a table and B. hold and displays books. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3½ feet tall and is currently in a box that measures 14” X 12” X 3”! So…YES…some assembly required! It is still in the box!

    Then. later on Friday, my wife and I went to Walmart. While there, she said she would like to get a small bookcase to sit by the desk in the bedroom. So we found one and got it. You guessed it- some assembly required! BUT…I got that puppy unpacked and built in about 20 minutes, thank you very much!

    Then, yesterday, the last piece of the library puzzle arrived. It is a cabinet with a glass-front door that opens to reveal shelves. It will be used at the spot where books are checked out and back in. It came in a box that is a decent amount smaller that the cabinet will be…after it is assembled!

    And lastly, a HUGE box got delivered at lunchtime yesterday. The church gave u8s a generous gift at Christmas, which we used to buy a nicer set of outdoor furniture for our enclosed front porch. The box was easily 5’ X 4’ X 4’. Infact, it was big enough and heavy enough that it came on a BIG truck and was unloaded on a pallet by a hand fork lift. And yet- you can hear it coming, can’t you- there is a decent amount of assembly required!

    So it seems to me that God is trying to tell me something. I go a LONG time with basically nothing to assemble and then, suddenly, I’m just silly with it! Perhaps it’s a reminder that life isn’t usually a “just take it out of the box and instantly use it” kind of proposal. Instead, there is a certain level of effort and work that is necessary to live life abundantly. Few things are just handed to you. Instead, you have to work for what you have and you have to try and make the most of what you get.

    Be willing to roll up your sleeves and dig into life. And when you run into things that you don’t necessarily know how to approach on your own, don’t hesitate to ask others to partner with you to help get things done. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. We are MUCH stronger together than separately.

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

More Art Than Science Monday, January 25, 2016

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    Do you cook? I have found that there are, predominantly, 3 types of cooks: 1. people who can’t boil water without burning it, 2. people who can cook but prefer to work, very precisely, from a recipe and 3. people who cook with “a pinch of this and a dash of that”.

    I find, at this stage in my life, I am a mix of #2 and #3. More and more, I lean toward #3. If I make, for instance, ground beef stroganoff…nothing gets measured. Brown the ground beef with

a couple of diced Vidalia onions. Drain. Meanwhile, cook a package of pasta. Make sure and add oil to the water so the noodles don’t stick and salt to the water so that the flavor cooks into the pasta. Drain. Add some cream cheese, some shredded cheddar, some garlic powder, some salt, some pepper and some basil to the meat. Heat until it’s all mixed. Stir in the pasta. Heat some more. Just before serving, stir in some sour cream. Eat!

    Notice that there was absolutely not ONE measurement in the whole thing. Put some in. Try it. Add more if necessary. Done. That’s the way I cook. It has come with years of experience, but that’s the way I cook. Cooking has become much less a science and much more an art.

    Ministry is much the same way. I have 3 FULL years of postgraduate work that led up to and earned me my Master’s Degree. And there is a lot of nuts and bolts to be learned in seminary. Further, there are TONS of “how to’s” and “top 10’s” out there designed to help you better pastor a church. And many of those things help.

    But as I get older and log more years in the ministry (I am nearing the end of my 19th year…hard to believe!), I become more and more aware of the fact that ministry is much more art than science. The “book learning” and factual data (the science) serve as a great backdrop, but ministry is ultimately lived out in the uncertain, unpredictable nature of day-to-day life- the art.

    God calls us to be flexible, adaptable, bendable. We are to be willing to change and shift as the situation around us…the WORLD around us…changes. And when we CAN adapt to the times, instead of remaining rigid and unchanging, great things can happen!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!