Suffer the Little Children

A young mother was rushing around trying to herd her children in the general direction of the door so that she could try to get to church on time. So many “last-minute” adjustments to make and the clothing options kept coming “undone” as her young girls were making last-minute wardrobe changes after playing around for so long.

The telephone rang and in her rush the young mother answered wondering, “Who could be calling?” It was the children down the street, wondering if she could give them a ride to church. These children played with hers all of the time, but there was always bickering, tugging and pulling. With a sigh the young mother agreed and told them she would be by in five minutes.

They eventually came boiling into the building, a few minutes after the devotional had begun. Passing into classes, the young mother finally began to regain her composure, at least until the baby she had brought to class with her needed some special attention. She was once again swept away by the ongoing whirlwind of childcare.

Later, after worship, when everyone was preparing to return home, we found them. There were two “notes” written in third grade scribble that had been prepared for the collection trays passed around every Sunday. When read, they placed on open display the hearts of the little children who had called for a ride. The notes said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t have any money to put in the bucket.”

All of the trouble and inconvenience involved in moving the flock of children to worship, without the assistance of a border collie, was clearly part of God’s plan. This young mother likely felt that she would have been just as well off to stay home, since she couldn’t relax and “worship” in the midst of her circle of turmoil. “Worship,” however, was exactly what she was doing. She was elevating God above herself in spite of the turmoil that accompanied her.

This “All In” mother likely felt as if nothing was being accomplished, but God has clearly been doing a great work in the lives of the children all the while. We have not been charged with delivering measurable results, merely faithful response to the opportunities He places on our path.

Be “All In” and let God do the heavy lifting.

photo credit: waiting for the birthday party to begin via photopin (license)

Distracted From My Agenda

Our bank has been sold/bought again. I’m not sure how all of that happens, but I have an idea how it impacts the banks depositors/customers. I’m not even sure if customer is the right word or not. I guess it is.

The litle inconveniences like new checks, new debit/credit cards, new transit and routing numbers to change on automatic drafts and automatic deposits are really not all that difficult to deal with, but they require my time and I initially thought of just changing banks. Why did I think of doing that kind of thing? Was it because I do not like to be inconvenienced or distracted from my own agenda? I thinks so.

That is unfortunate. I have been well treated and served. Yet my first thought was to jump and run from this small commitment of time and energy, when I have received so much time and energy from those bank employees. I am not proud of this admission, but there it is.

Jesus had some followers who decided to “turn back” because they just didn’t trust Him (John 6:66). They were not willing to take their eyes off of their ideas and trust them fully to Jesus. While my “bank issues” do not nearly approach this example of turning away from Jesus, they are rooted in the same thing: I do not want to be distracted from my agenda.

It is a common thought process, even among those who try to be “All In” disciples.

photo credit: Denison State Bank – Teller Line via photopin (license)

My Inconvenience May Be God’s Plan

While playing a recorded interview scheduled to air a couple of weeks later, I encountered a “glitch.” Evidently the entire 35 minute interview did not “upload” to my Podcast host. If that description sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. It is not important, forge ahead.

I was playing it in the car so that another person could hear it. I felt they could benefit, so I had no qualms about playing it for them. The recording abruptly stopped after the person being interviewed told about being brought to her spiritual and emotional knees and how she responded. I was frustrated and really wanted the young woman to hear the entire interview.

I started the interview again in the hope that it was just an internet problem and that it would work the second time. We listened and it stopped again! When I arrived home I discovered that only half of the recording had, in fact, uploaded. I re-loaded the interview so that it would play in full when the time came.

Upon reflection, my passenger seemed to be touched by the “testimony” of the young woman in the interview… and she was able to hear it twice! It was no mistake. It was orchestrated by the Master. My inconvenience… His plan… so often the same event.

“All In” disciples of Jesus should never get in a “twist” over inconveniences. God is directing the traffic.

photo credit: Day 256/365 – Who needs a remote? via photopin (license)

Cannot Be Moderately Important

When we think of “distractions,” noise, telephones, texts, interruptions of other origins come to mind. We have, in our minds the schedule for the day even if the schedule is empty and un-demanding. It is my schedule and I do not like nor appreciate being distracted from it or having it “hijacked” by someone else. Perhaps you feel the same.

However, being a disciple of Jesus, a believer claiming Him as “Lord,” is much more than some religious statement or answer to a catechism question. It is a matter of becoming a “bond-servant” in exchange for all of the “spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” that God provides (Ephesians 1:3). “Exchange’ is not even a good word here, because it implies that I have offered up some item or service of value in the transaction… and I have not because I have nothing of equivalent value to offer.

The “bond-servant” decision has, at its core, the reality that my life is no longer mine, but His. My schedule, my desires, my joy, my purpose are all rooted and fulfilled in His scheduling, His desires, His joy & His purposes. My service extends not only to His interests, but to the best interests of those within reach of “my touch.”

The things I usually consider as “distractions” that fuel frustration in my life are either sent from the “deceiver, Satan,” to get me off course, or simply manifestations of my own “non-surrendered self-lordship.” Being an “All In” follower of Jesus is not just a more extreme way to follow Jesus, it is the only way Jesus accepts. Jesus said so Himself: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23). I must stop thinking of distractions as such. I should think of them as redirection from my will to His will.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

The Impact of a Life Well Lived

We can not measure the impact we have upon others. Parents teach their children to care for others above themselves by modeling that very attitude in the everyday mundane-ness of life. Teachers impact their students far beyond the curriculum by their personal carriage and deportment. So it is in the really important matters of life as well.

There have been many whose impact on my life can be measured by my own reckoning. Others have made their mark in ways I can not distinguish or remember. Some have come into my life and passed through in what seemed to be a few insignificant encounters. Others have been a presence for a much longer period.We can never know the long-term impact. So it is with my impact upon others.

The death graduation of one man has prompted this reflection. I heard of him from others and did not quite know what to do with their accounts of his faith, especially given his past. Then I met him. I still did not know what to do with him, but I could no longer discount him.

His faith was simple yet overwhelming in its simplicity. Even in his parting word to his son as he slipped out of his physical body and into eternity, I am bewildered and led. “Its been a blast!” were the whispered words of another Stephen, willing to go wherever and do whatever God’s Spirit directed, always displaying the excitement of the adventure and the trust in his Parent like a child going through Disneyland.

God knows how many were led, not just pointed toward, but led to Jesus by Bob. I have been forever changed, and he probably had no idea the impact God had on me through him. May I be the “All In” servant used by God to impact others so profoundly. May you be as well.

Photo: Bob Hughey

Surrounded by Children

I have taken a week off from writing, you may have noticed… but I suspect few have. It is both understandable and alright if you have not. Sometimes I need to be quiet and listen. Probably more often than I actually do. That is, however, a subject for another day.

During my time of “quietness,” I was touched by an expression I have heard so many times in my life when someone else was leading a group in prayer: “We are gathered as your children in your presence…”

As Cindy and I have passed into our sixth decade of life, our children and grandchildren are busily engaged in their own lives, as they should be. But sometimes we long for them to come… just to be with us… without schedule… without agenda… without electronic devices… without wishing their “detention” in our presence would quickly come to an end… just because they want to be with us. Since we live some distance from all of them there are actually very few times that can happen.

With God it is different. We can “live” in His presence all of the time. We can “go there” in all of the odd moments that inhabit the spaces in our lives. We can program times to “be still” and sit at His feet, marinating in the splendor of His presence. We can be unhurried, unforced, uninhibited in our praise and meditation, “relaxing and rejoicing as His child in His presence.”

Being “All In” is not “all work.” Being “All In” is being “all His.”

 

God’s “Oh-By-The-Way” Assignment

It was unexpected, but aren’t the really moving encounters always like that?  For example, when we were in Green Bay with our son, a newly drafted Packer lineman, while were getting a tour of the facilities, Brett Favre walked by and had a brief casual conversation. Later, I commended Cindy (my Red-Headed Irish Princess) on her great restraint. She could have reached out and touched him… but she didn’t.

Back to the story: I recently had that rare unscheduled day, so I took off after breakfast with the Misses, not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. I considered a day-long road trip to see some old friends who lived a few hours away, but along the way was nudged into a brief side trip to see how low the water was in the lake. I think the Corps of Engineers was getting ready for the heavy rains predicted the next couple of days.

As I pulled up to a boat launch ramp that I have used, I noticed a man standing nearby. I shouted a greeting out the car window and asked about the low water. As you might expect with two older men, we could not really hear each other, so he walked nearer and I got out of the car. That was the unremarkable beginning to a remarkable encounter that was, although unannounced by God, clearly ordained by Him.

The subjects and the length of our conversation was broader and more in-depth than either of us could have anticipated. For this article they aren’t even worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning… and even worth stressing, is that God moves in our lives when we think that we are the ones doing the moving.

As an “All In” disciple I easily forget that He leads me into the paths of others, and others into my path to accomplish His will, not my own. I must keep my eyes, ears and (most importantly) my heart open for the “oh-by-the-way” tasks He assigns along the way.

“He [God] creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:10 The Message)

photo credit: friends via photopin (license)