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I had finished the early round of prayer, cleaning, and building prep, the rain had stopped and the dark clouds had been replaced by a scattering of white, wispy ones.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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. . . And Then Some

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.   And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:39b – 42 (NIV)

Several years ago I was introduced to the phrase, ” . . . and then some.”  It was brought up in the context of customer service and described a policy of doing what was expected and then some!  While the wording was new, the concept was not.  It was the way I was raised and taught by my parents as we did business at the local farmer’s market.  When someone would buy a pound of produce, we would weigh out the pound to make sure the customer was getting what they paid for  and then we would add a little extra to the bag . . . and then some.  For me, it had become a way of life so when I heard this phrase it resonated deep within my spirit.

This way of doing things is much older than me . . . even much older than my parents.  It is the way Jesus taught that His followers should live in relationship with one another and with the world!  As a Christ-follower, you ought to do what is expected, and then some!  To go above and beyond what is expected is a very rare character trait these days both in personal lives and in ministry organizations.  If you look at the teachings of Jesus you will see that it was too common or popular in His day either.  As I look at my life and situations I have been in, I think there are a number of reasons why this “. . . and then some” lifestyle has a tendency to drift out of use.

One of those reasons is that it is unnatural.  Left to our own desires, we are more likely to look out for our own needs first rather than consider what would benefit others.  It takes work, discipline, and the power of God’s Spirit to go beyond what is expected or required.  If we are not deliberate about serving others and going the extra mile, we typically slide into the path of least resistance and only do what we have to do.  

We also severely underestimate the opposition.  On the surface, it doesn’t look like that big of a deal — a little extra here, a little extra there.  What difference does it really make.  It is not really that big of a deal.  I can do this with my eyes closed.  While many times the “. . . and then some” that I am talking about is indeed small and seemingly easy, never underestimate the power that is in it.  Because giving beyond expectations is a Christ-like quality, the enemy attacks with great speed and force to get us to stop.  

Pride often stands in the way of our living an “. . . and then some” lifestyle.  We have a hard time humbling ourselves to serve others.  Pride says that I am most important and I should only do that which lifts me up.  We read the words of Jesus from Matthew 5 and pride begins making excuses as to why that doesn’t apply to me.  Pride says that every good thing in my life is because of me and if I worked hard for all that I am and all that I have, then so can everyone else.  Pride fails to remember that “every good and perfect gift comes from above” and that God’s purpose in giving us various gifts is so we will use each one for the benefit of others — His body.

Related to pride is the sin of greed.  We go to great lengths to disguise this but, if we look under the masks, greed is often found holding on to what we have while demanding that others give us more.  When greed and selfishness control our life, the “. . . and then some” lifestyle completely disappears.  Instead of going above and beyond, we find ways to do even less.  When greed takes over there is not only no “. . . and then some”, but even those things that have always been included are now extra.  Our eyes and mind shift from “How can I serve the people who God has brought to me?” to “How can they serve and support me?”.  This is a very dangerous place to find ourselves in because we end up losing so much more than the minor things that we have tried to hold on to.  Jesus asked the question, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?”  The combination of greed and pride sets us against God and God against us — “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

It is my prayer that I continue to learn and practice this lifestyle of “. . . and then some”.  I pray that each person reading this will spend time with God examining how you are doing in serving others and building them up according to their needs.  I pray that the world has a clearer picture of Jesus as we serve them in His name — doing what is needed and then some!

Final Preparations

If you knew that this year
     was the last you would get.
Would you be more active
     or quietly sit?
Would you talk more of Jesus
     and tell the good news?
Or keep to yourself,
     which one will you choose?
If this is the year
     that Jesus will come,
Will you be ready,
     will He say, “Well done!”.

 If you’re not too sure
     of what He would say,
I ask you to listen
     and seek Him today.
He gives us the truth
     throughout His good Book.
So why don’t you sit down
     and take a good look.
If we read His story
     from beginning to end.
We’ll see His desire is
     to call us His friend.

 So how should you answer
     and what should you do,
If this is the year
     Jesus comes for you, too.
Ask Him to cleanse you
     and wash away sin.
Love and serve others,
     their soul seek to win.
And if you should wonder
     how God you could please.
Then feed, clothe, and visit
     all who are “least of these”.

 If you should ask me
     just what does that mean.
I’ll point you to Jesus
     as He shares a scene.
He tells us a story
     of quite a large crowd.
Some are cast out to
     a place that is loud.
The only real difference
     as He made His choice,
Were they serving others —
     the ones with no voice.

As I was praying for a couple of families who have lost loved ones in the past week, God opened up this poem in my mind and out it came.  I pray that these words are a help and encouragement to you as you consider your readiness for the Lord’s return.

In prayer,
Tom Lemler

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Christmas Reminder (Matthew 25)

Christmas is here,
     the day’s finally come.
When people will gather
     for good family fun.
As you come to dinner
     and pull up your seat,
There are people are out there
     who have nothing to eat.
You have two choices,
     what to do with that news.
Sharing with others
     is the one that I choose.

God tells us clearly 
     to help those in need.
But often I fail to
     because of my greed.
I need reminded
     to care for the weak.
To stand up and speak out
     for those who can’t speak.
It doesn’t take too long
     to notice out there,
Someone who’s hurting,
     then show them you care.

To visit the lonely
     and care for the sick,
Give food to the hungry,
     and the message might stick.
It’s all about doing
     what God said is best.
To hear Jesus tell you,
     “Enter into my rest!”
I pray that this Christmas
     you’ll clearly see,
Hope is for everyone,
     not just you and me!

I pray that you consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 this Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. His birth, death, burial, and resurrection was meant to be good news for all the people! What are you and I doing to make that good news known?

In prayer,
Tom

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