2017: Page 272

Page 272 was a Friday so the day began early and ended late with an incredible amount of variety packed in between.  There was a light rain falling when I left for work, so no stars were visible to light the night sky this morning.  Knowing it would be a long day, I had considered taking my kayak to work with me to use during a morning break, but the early rain made me decide otherwise.  By the time I had finished the early round of prayer, cleaning, and building prep, the rain had stopped and the dark clouds had been replaced by a scattering of white, wispy ones.  I set up a time-lapse recording of the sunrise, then finished getting the building ready for the day.  

Once the building was ready, I retrieved my camera and then took my wife’s car in for an overdue oil change.  While I waited for it to be done, I took my camera and went for a walk along the river near downtown South Bend.  It was a beautiful morning along the river and I came back with more photos than I would have thought possible for a short walk.  One of the stops I always make along this section of river is at the memorial statue honoring firefighters whose service to the community cost them their lives.  I don’t know the families of any of the names listed on the accompanying plaque, but it reminds me to be thankful for the men and women who have served, and serve today, in an occupation that could well ask them to give their life to save that of another.  Today’s photo was taken during my stop at that memorial site as I prayed for both friends and strangers who walk into situations that everyone else is trying to run from.  Being a servant is often a thankless job and it appears that in today’s political climate, being a public safety servant makes it even more thankless.  So, today I prayed with gratitude for those who serve and I prayed that God would help me to make the most of opportunities to express that thankfulness.  I prayed for protection, courage, and honor to surround all those who serve.  I prayed for a change of heart — both in those who serve and choose to do wrong, and in those who condemn without considering the heart.

After my walk and prayer time, the car was finished so I took it back to work where I spent some time focused on the sermon for Sunday.  The outline for Sunday is CHILD, and I think the title of this sermon in the Living as the Lord’s Servant series is, “Whose CHILD Are You?” — we’ll see. 🙂  By mid-afternoon, it was time for lunch and a break before beginning the evening round of prayer, cleaning, and building prep to have the building ready for Sunday.  So, I picked up a sandwich and headed down to Potato Creek (without my kayak) to do some walking and take some photos.  The wind coming across the lake was steady and cold so I was happy to not be out on it in a small kayak.  The clouds, however, were beautiful and looked like I should have been able to reach out and grab hold of a few of them.  With the brisk wind coming off the lake, I was thankful I brought a jacket and was motivated to keep moving.  Even in the changing seasons and the different appearances of the lake, it seems I always find plenty of scenes that capture my attention enough that I feel compelled to both shoot the photos, then share them with others.

After my walk, it was back to work to tackle the evening shift tasks that needed done.  When I arrived at the building, a couple of the guys had begun to set up the chairs for Sunday, so I jumped in and helped them get that task done.  I am thankful for volunteers who do much to help with so many behind the scenes tasks.  Like many behind the scene tasks, this is one that few notice those who do it but everyone would be quite aware if they didn’t.  The rest of my evening was spent cleaning toilets, sweeping, washing glass doors, mopping, taking out trash, and a variety of other “get the building ready for Sunday” tasks.  At one point I took some trash out and noticed a few deer had gathered to play on the playground, so I asked them to wait while I got my camera so I could take their picture — and they did.  By 10 PM the building was ready for Sunday and my work was done for the day.  As I walked out the front door, I noticed a deer standing in the front  drive under the street light so I dug a camera out of my bag and took a few silhouette photos before heading home and calling it a day.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • For a writer, a day full of activity often means a rather full page in this daily journal.
  • Things change, sometimes rather quickly, and how we adapt is often determined by our attitude about the change.
  • Being “rained out” of one activity in life doesn’t mean that you can’t do something meaningful even if it is different than your plans.
  • We ought to not only honor those who have given their life serving their fellow man, but also those who are willing to do so.
  • I am thankful that God doesn’t judge me based on the actions of the “worst” of people who do similar work as I do — he looks at the individual heart.  
  • For some reason, it seems like it is easier for our nation to look at a group and label them based on the visible actions that we don’t like rather than on the visible actions that we do like.
  • We would be better people, and a better nation, if we spent more time publicly praising the good that is being done and did more of our critiquing in private ways that are more likely to result in change.
  • When I know I have a lot to do, I like to take breaks with God so I stay refreshed.
  • Serving can be a thankless job but you and I have the power and ability to change that — find someone who is serving today and thank them!

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Refugees Among Us

I’ve avoided writing this post because I know I don’t understand all of the complexities of the specific refugee crisis currently fueling much public debate and I seriously doubt that many of those debating it online have much greater understanding than I do.  I’m not writing to take sides because you really don’t need to know my opinion on Syrian refugees any more than I need to know yours.  In my opinion, the bigger question, regardless of which side of the current debate you want to claim, is what are you doing to be Christ to the refugees that are often conveniently ignored?  I think of the refugees who are trying to escape a life of addiction. The refugees trying to be free from a life filled with domestic violence.  The refugees who have served time and need help to keep them from returning to a life of crime.  The refugees of poverty, homelessness, fear, disease, loss, rejection, and/or a mind that’s not functioning as perhaps it once did.  Yes, there are many within our midst who are living as refugees from some traumatic event in their life . . and no, I’m not trying to diminish the trouble and horror faced by refugees from war-torn countries . . . I guess what I’m trying to say is that I believe the actions that you and I take toward the “hidden” refugees in our own cities probably have a lot more to say about our real heart toward refugees than any of our shouting ever will.

So, if you’ve made it this far in the post without deleting it, blocking me, or writing an angry response, here is a list taken from the Hope Ministries website of items that they have need of as they minister to people of my community who are seeking refuge from situations that I haven’t experienced.  I’m guessing most organizations serving in similar ways have a similar list of needs.  I know where God is calling me to start. As you pray, what is He calling you to do?

List from Hope Ministries – South Bend of items needed:

Tampons and pads
Baby wipes
Shaving cream
Men’s t-shirts (Med, LG, XL)
Umbrellas
Band-Aid
Toothpaste
Denture adhesive
Panty Liners
Household cleaning supplies (dish soap, antibacterial cleaners, mops, brooms, etc)
Toilet paper
Ibuprofen and pain relievers
Kleenex
Ear plugs
Transpo Bus 2-Ride Passes
Bath towels
Clean pillows
Bike locks
Adult bikes in good condition
Shampoo and conditioner
Large sizes of diapers and pull-ups (size 4 and up)
Paper towels
Alarm clocks
Body wash
Unscented lotion
New socks for adults
Large sizes of women’s bras
New underwear for men (Med-Large)
Maxi pads
African American haircare products
Boxes of cereal
Sugar
#10 cans of pudding, fruit and chilli beans
Walmart gift cards (for prescription co-pays)
Coffee
Deodorant
Powdered laundry detergent
Shaving razors

In prayer,
Tom

As Each Part Does Its Work

What is your part in the kingdom of God?  What is your part in the local body of Christ He has placed you in?  What are the “good works He created in advance” for you to do?

This is by no means an all-inclusive or detailed list, rather it is a starting point for you to spend time with God asking the question, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”.  If you need help in determining how to best implement God’s answer to that question, talk with one of the elders or ministry staff leaders in your local church.Each Part

The Act of SERVE (Acts 6)

As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid.  Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.

As we reach Acts 6 in our sermon series, we find a need and an example of the Act of SERVE!  Let’s look at some lessons we can learn from the example of the early church.

  • Shortage:  Sometimes we are not serving because we don’t know where to serve or what is needed.  The Act of SERVE often begins when we listen to people and allow God to show us a genuine shortage or need.  While complaining is not a godly characteristic — God says to do everything without grumbling or complaining — open listening to the complaints of others can often reveal a real shortage that is just waiting for someone to serve.  It was the complaints of the Grecian Jews that made the apostles aware of a shortage in the needs of widows being met.  When God calls you to grow in the Act of SERVE, spend time with God looking for a shortage that He may be equipping you to meet.
  • Enlist:  Sometimes we fail to serve because we don’t notice the need, other times it is because we notice the shortage and it seems too big and impossible for us to do on our own.  This is where the next principle comes in — the Act of SERVE often calls us to enlist others to meet a need that is beyond what God has equipped us to do on our own.  When we enlist others it gives them an opportunity to serve with us and it allows us to train together for future needs God may call us to meet.  In Acts 6, the shortage was made known and the apostles recognized a need to enlist others to meet the need as it was necessary for them to stay focused on the work God had given them in prayer and ministry of the Word!  Learning to enlist others to meet a need that is larger than you can do on your own or would take you away from work God has already called you to do, is a vital quality to help you grow in the Act of SERVE.
  • Results: This is the fun part of growing in the Act of SERVE — the results!  When we begin to regularly notice areas of shortage and are able to enlist others in meeting real needs, God gives the results.  God calls us to serve one another out of obedience to Him and in reflecting the nature of Jesus.  Jesus-style love is like faith — it requires action to be alive.  Jesus says that the results of this type of love among Christians is that the world would know we are His.  Verse 7 of Acts six begins with the word “so”.  It is a transition that indicates because the shortage was identified and people were enlisted to meet it, the word of God spread and the number of disciples increased rapidly!    When we are growing in the Act of Serve, we commit to being faithful and trust God to provide the results.
  • Vision:  Sometimes we are not serving because we need an eye exam and corrective lenses that help us to see people and situations as Jesus sees them!  Our vision becomes cloudy and cynical as the world tries to convince us that the only needs that exist are self-created and therefore not our problem.  The Act of SERVE requires that we have the vision to see the service we do as vital and important enough that the quality of our character is at the core of the requirements for the task.  At first glance, it would seem that the need presented in Acts 6 is so basic and mundane that the qualifications for someone to meet that need would be pretty basic — we might go looking for people who had experience in the food-service industry — yet the problem is addressed with true vision when the primary qualifications for those who would serve is that they are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  When we spend time asking God to help us see people and situations as He sees them and when we view the spiritual qualities of our life as the most important qualification that we have, we are well on our way to growing in the Act of SERVE.
  • Envy:  If only I could leave chapter six without discussing this final point.  Yet there it is, unmistakable envy rearing its ugly head directed at one living out the Act of SERVE.  It still happens.  People serve God with reckless abandonment and as they serve others in His name God brings about the amazing result of drawing people to Himself.  There seems to be a part of us that is so much about us that we can’t stand to see others reap the results of faithfully serving God — at least not if their results look better than our results.  We must be very careful that we allow absolutely no room for envy to take root and express itself in our life.  It is one of those thoughts that we must take captive and make obedient to the word and will of God.  It is also something we must be warned of — when we grow in the Act of SERVE, others will envy the results that are provided by God.  Knowing it is coming will not keep it at bay but it should help us to rest in our relationship with God and break the power that envy has over us.  When the religious leaders saw the results of God working through Stephen’s Act of SERVE, envy settled in and grew to great hatred and animosity expressed toward Stephen.  When you set out to grow in the Act of SERVE, you must be on guard against envy by being prepared and allowing God to give you the confidence to stand firm in your relationship with Him.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of SERVE?  Do you spend time with God noticing the Shortages, Enlisting the help of others, trusting God for the Results, seeing everything with the Vision of Christ, and guarding yourself against Envy from within and without?  I pray that the act of SERVE expressed through your life will boldly show the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!