Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Finding Our Balance

January 28, 2016

“Come to me and I will give you rest-all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke.  Wear my yoke–for it fits perfectly–and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”  Matt 11:28-30

So many people in our culture feel stressed out, burned out and under constant time pressure.  Many of us consistently rob ourselves of sleep in order to get more done.  We set goals, establish priorities, yet constantly have our priorities interrupted by things beyond our control, and we live with continuous frustration and guilt over the things we didn’t get done.  What does Jesus mean by this quote?  What does it mean that His yoke fits perfectly, and that He gives us only light burdens?

Lets face it, we live in a culture of comparison and competition, and the one who does the most is judged the best.  We also evaluate achievement as success, and one of the marks of success is income level, but also recognition, and applause.  Awards, promotions and publicity also indicate we are good and valuable.  Even our children’s achievements are, in our minds, a reflection of our own goodness and success.  We are very much molded by this culture whose definition of human value is what we do, how much we do, and how much money and publicity we get for what we do.  We have a carefully constructed image to uphold, which includes our perfect family, and our perfect home.  We tie up our worth as a person in this image.

What if Jesus light burden turns all that upside down?  What if Jesus instructions to us about His priorities include living one day at a time, doing the good that is set before us by our location and circumstances, and talking to Him hourly about what He wants to show us and assign us?  He plainly didn’t care about money as long as we had the necessities.  He plainly didn’t care about the long list of “shoulds” His own culture placed upon people.  He didn’t care about appearances, but valued what was in the heart.  People came before schedules, and He often stopped what He was doing–even praying, to care for a need that arose.  He was supremely spontaneous.  He rested when needed, and made sure His disciples rested too.  He put a high priority on prayer.  But when reading the gospels in great long gulps, you begin to notice things about how Jesus was living.  He was never in a hurry.  He didn’t live by the clock or the calendar.  He tended to needs, including His own, but His definition of need varied from that of the surrounding culture.  Even in a simpler culture like the Jewish Culture of 30 AD, people were concerned with how they looked, how much money they had, their future security, their spiritual standing and so on.

What if we looked at our calendar and organizer and asked:  “Jesus, how much of this do You value?”  “How much of this am I putting on myself?”  “How much do I really need to do here?”  “What is most important from Your perspective?”  “What if I prioritize according to Your directions and not misplaced guilt?”  “If I put you first, will you take care of my needs?”  “You already said you would.”  We hear about people who almost died from a health issue totally re-make their lives.  They must change things according to different values if they are to live longer and not die of stress related illness.  Why wait till it comes to that?

Sell the Boat

March 12, 2011

After Jesus rose from the dead and after he appeared to the apostles in the upper room, He appeared to them again at the Sea of Tiberias.  The apostles knew Jesus had risen, but they absolutely didn’t know what they were supposed to do next.  So, after all the dramatic and miraculous events of the past three years, they returned to what they knew best, their fishing boats.  And thats where Jesus met them again.  Jesus reinstated Peter, who in fear had denied three times that he knew Jesus.  And Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep”.  In order to move on and fulfill what Jesus was calling him to do, Peter would have to sell the boat.  This was all Peter knew.  It had been his livelihood all his adult life.  He understood fishing.  He trusted fishing.  Jesus gave him a miraculous catch of fish, and then told him to do something else.  Peter would have to sell the boat and cut his ties to the familiar and the comfortable. 

Is there something I know I am being called to do, but I am hanging back?  Is it because its out of my comfort zone, it seems too difficult and I’m sure I’m not up to it?  Is there something I’m not willing to give up?  Do I love something more than pleasing my Lord?  Is it a vocation, a place, a home, a possession, a relationship, a group where I belong?  What is my boat?  Will I sell the boat?

My Unique Calling

March 8, 2011

A few years ago I heard the question asked in a bible study “What is God calling you to do that only you can do?”  When I thought about that at some length it became apparent to me that there are indeed some vocations that only some people can do with great effectiveness.  When I look at those things only I can do, it certainly narrows the field of possibilities, clarifying my choices.  For instance, if I am in a field where a license is required, only license holders can do what I do.  If specialized life experience is required to have credibility, only those with that life experience can do that job credibly.  If certain education is required, only those with that education can do it, etc.  Expanding on that thought, where should I minister as a vocation or avocation?  I can look at my background.  Do I belong to an ethnic group that gives me credibility with that group?  Do I speak a language that allows me to minister to those who speak that language as their first language?  Do I have membership in a group that gives me an entrance to its meetings?  Do I belong to a professional group that gives me voice with them?  Do I have a unique life experience or even a disability that gives me insight into and fellowship with certain groups of people?  All these questions can give me insight into a certain vocation, ministry or calling where God may be leading me because I would be doing something “only I could do” with credibility and maximum effectiveness.

Doing my Best

March 8, 2011

Once in awhile I like to examine my life and see where I’ve come and where I’m headed.  I want to give God my very best.  Of course, I never reach my goals, but we tell students to always reach high, because even if they don’t make it they’ll travel farther than if they reached for the low pickings.  With that in mind, here is my meditation.

Am I giving my best to God in my prayer life?  Do I give God some quality time each day, and do I speak honestly to Him whatever is on my heart?  Do I remember to thank Him for who He is and all He has done in His world and for me personally?   Prayer “on the hoof” is part of “Praying always”, but if thats all I give Him, its superficial.  Do I have an appointment with Him each day?

Am I giving God my best in study and thinking?  So many of us think our education ends when we graduate, but in reality that was always supposed to be the doorway to learning on our own.  Do I really study the bible?  Do I read commentaries so I understand the context and history better?  Do I read learned authors?  Do I study and form opinions about the great issues of the day?  If I spend my time on inane activities and entertainment, I am not giving my mind the food it needs to serve me well, and I’ll live a shallow life.

Do I do my best helping others?  Do I take time to notice what is going on around me?  Do I notice what is going on in the world?  Am I doing something about what I see?  I may not be able to do much about suffering in far off lands, but there is suffering going around me in the people I see every day.  Do I look beyond the surface in the events happening around me in the workplace, in my neighborhood, and in the people I see every day ?

Am I doing my best with my finances?  The money God has given me is His, and He has made me manager of it.  Am I managing well?  Am I conserving and growing what He gave me so that I can financially support worthy projects and help others, or do I use my money mostly selfishly?

Am I giving my best to serve God’s work?  Do I use all the gifts, time and ability He gave me wisely to serve His work in the world?  Its great to serve in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, but if he gave me the ability to manage things, maybe my best service is to be on the board of the ministry that runs the soup kitchen.   If God gave me counseling ability, maybe I should be counseling the patrons of the soup kitchen on a weekly basis.  It all depends on my gifts.  I can’t be what I’m not, but I can be the best me that I am.

Am I giving my best in sharing the thoughts, faith, hope and encouragement God has given me?  Do I offer words of encouragement and hope to those who seem to need them most, whether spoken words or written words?  With texting and e-mail, instant messaging and all, its so easy now to offer someone some words of support.

The way I read the words of Jesus, I think he looks at our lives through two lenses.  One is how much we love Him.  We show that in two ways–our prayer life and our love for others.  The second lens is what we did with what He gave us.

No, I don’t meet my own standards, and for that the skeptic would call me a hypocrite.  But I really do believe these things, and I want to be faithful in trying to attain them.   My reach exceeds my grasp, but may I never stop reaching until I meet Him in Heaven.

Prayer for my Vocation

March 8, 2011

Lord, I really want your best for my life.  I want to serve you to the very best of my ability.  Mostly, I just want to be where You have called me to be.  I want to be a humble, obedient servant.  I don’t want to look down on any kind of work.  Neither do I want to serve you in a way that doesn’t use all the gifts you’ve given me.  Impress on me Lord whether I am acting from prideful desires.  Impress on me Lord whether I’m acting out of a love of the familiar and don’t want to step out of my comfort zone.  Show me where I’m being selfish and where I’m trying to prop up my own ego.  I open my hands Lord and let go of what I want.  I want what you want for my work.  Not my will Lord, but yours.

A Tool in the Hands of God

February 17, 2010

Mother Teresa used to say “I’m just a tool in the hand of God.”  As true as this is, our understanding of what it means deepens with our spiritual maturity.  Young believers look at a completed work and think “Look at what God helped me do”.  With more years of experience the same believer says “God used me to do this” all the while thinking “He chose me because I was the most uniquely gifted for the job.”  In that thought is a tiny bit of pride that God’s choice to use them made them somehow superior to others who may also have been considered.  Many more years with the Lord makes the believer think “God chose me for this job although I was totally helpless to do it myself.  That way His power alone would carry me and there would be no doubt that this work was God’s doing.  To God be the glory!”

Knowing my Ministry

February 17, 2010

When I wonder what is my calling, I have to remember that it may change over time.  I am first of all a servant of Jesus.  Whenever I see needs in the lives of the people around me, or needs in the ministries I support, I am receiving a cue from Jesus.  In filling these needs I have noticed, I will be walking in the ministry He has prepared for me.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Eph 2:10

Best Selling Self-Help Books

October 7, 2009

For the past 30 or 40 years there has nearly always been a self-help book on the bestseller list.  Some of the personal stories are quite astounding and very inspirational.  I’m very happy for the people who beat addiction or crime and now have a nice life.  I saw a television interview with such a man.  He beat crime and drugs by changing his thinking and his self talk.  Now he is a best-selling author with a family and a nice life.  Very inspirational, but I caught myself thinking “now what?”  So many addicts were very successful people with a family and a nice life.  They all said their life felt empty, meaningless and without purpose.  A meaningless life is painful and drugs numb the pain.  And I asked myself “Where is God in this success story?”  It is from God we achieve our sense of meaning and purpose.  He made us all for a purpose and He tells us what the purpose is.  Without that taproot of purpose I’m like a rose I planted that blooms great for awhile and then dies for lack of a root system.  Getting off drugs is wonderful.  Getting off drugs without God has its limits.  If my car has an empty tank and I need to make a 10 mile trip, I can push the car 10 miles and write an inspirational book about it.  I may receive loads of admiration for my feat in achieving the 10 mile push through sheer will power.  I can also fill my tank with what the car was made for and drive 400 miles in that time.

What Do I Want

September 21, 2009

When it comes to the world of work, I think our default setting is “What do I want?”  We ask children from a young age what they want to be when they grow up.  However, while what we like and what we are good at are similar most times, questionnaires and tests to find out what we like may be asking the wrong question when we are trying to find out our vocation or calling.  It is indeed useful to know our talents and gifts, but the next question ought to be, what kinds of things are God and his people doing around me.  When I see a field of work or organization or ministry that grabs my passion, then I need to ask what is my fit in that place.  What can I do to advance the work of this entity with the gifts and skill sets I possess.  We ought to be asking, “where can I be the best I can possibly be for God?”.  We love God and the more we love Him, the less we want to give him mediocrity.  Asking how to give Him the very best development of everything He has given me, is a different question than “What do I Want?”  Its a God-centered and God’s work centered question rather than a “me” centered question.

How to be more productive in retirement

January 1, 2009

Retirement is a wonderful thing.  It is a time to be ones own boss and set one’s own goals.  At the same time one may find oneself undirected, having fuzzy goals, and eventually becoming bored and depressed as days become less meaningful.

It helps to stop and think about ones purpose in life.  We were all gifted in some way, have values and interests, and these things were meant to be fulfilled.  When we determine our larger purpose, the area where our abilities, values and interests intersect, and we see a need we can fill with our unique purpose, voila, we have our calling, ministry or meaning.

Now, we have to stop puttering.  We need to look at our days in light of our meaning, and set some goals for ourselves.  If we still seem to be drifting, it helps to look at each day and see where we spend our time.  Are we getting distracted and frittering away our time on useless things like long-winded phone calls that go nowhere, surfing the internet with no purpose in mind other than entertainment, watching too much tv, playing games etc.  We need to look at how we spend our time in relation to our overall calling, and our general callings such as family needs, and see where we simply waste time.  Then we just have to be mindful of the big picture as we organize our days now that we are our own boss.  Being our own boss still means we have a boss.