This weekend I’ve observed two different scenarios where donation amounts were either given in the moment or were remembered from the past. Both provided an important reminder: Every Gift Matters.
Friday during the match challenge for our nonprofit counseling center’s fundraising luncheon, multiple donation amounts were announced ranging from $20 to $1,500. Bet you can guess which got the loudest applause. The “oo’s” and “ah’s” squinted my face. It’s natural to celebrate the big splash. Yet, who’s to say the $20 donor didn’t make the biggest splash they could.
This morning in his sermon, my pastor shared financial miracles from the church’s six-year history. The range again was wide-$4,000 to $250,000. No “ooing” and “ahing” from the crowd. But he made his point. The amount isn’t the key. It’s the provider of the gift; in the church’s viewpoint, that’s God.
These two moments offer a couple of significant challenges:
Celebrate all the gifts. Behind each one is a person, a person who took a step-a step of sacrifice, of obedience, of community, of love. Every step matters.
God and his child know the sacrificial level. The amount isn’t what pleases God; the sweet aroma that God enjoys is a gift that says, “You own it all. You matter more than everything.”
It was a significant insignificant comment. And it stuck. Most likely you had no idea. But that’s usually how those go.
In describing your morning routine, you halted then flew by the fact you get up at 4:30 in order to get everyone ready for the day and get to work. As a guy who moans about mornings period, that didn’t go unnoticed. As an adult with no children, that urged my respect. As a bachelor, that forced a pause.
In my opinion, no one in their right mind chooses to get up at 4:30. But you don’t really have a choice. And I’m guessing that’s because if you don’t you might lose your mind. And you nor your children can afford that; at least, that’s what you’re modeling.
I’m guessing if I could ask 16-year-old you what you’d be doing at your age, she wouldn’t say getting up at 4:30 to do “all the things”:
Have three minutes to yourself
Check the dryer
Check the dishwasher
Wake the rest of the house
Sign school stuff
Doublecheck everyone’s everything as you walk to the car
And that’s just the physical stuff. Lack of life experience leaves her unable to comprehend the emotional journey she’s going to take between then and now. No matter why you’re single (never married, divorced, separated, widowed), she has no idea the weight on your shoulders, much less your heart. All the emotions I won’t bother to list-generated by your own thoughts and likely magnified by those who should know better-she had no idea they were coming.
Before I share the five things I most want you know, I want you to know that we (dad, mom, siblings, children, neighbors, coworkers, friends) see you. We see your tenacity. We see your fortitude. We see your faithfulness. We see your love. Even though you didn’t choose this place, you are choosing to stay in it. No leaving. No abandoning. No quitting. No resigning.
And all the things we see, God sees. I believe he wants you to know he is pleased with you today and every day.
I close with these final thoughts:
I’m sorry for all the judgment you’ve gotten/get/will get. It’s ugly. And it’s not a gift from God.
I’m sorry your 16-year-old-self’s dreams aren’t reality. Yes, that’s life. But it’s not the vision you had. Yet, God is with you even in the broken dreams.
I’m happy your children have you. You are the mom God intended them to have. He knows that. They know that. We all know that.
I’m grateful for your faith model. Not everyone chooses to keep their faith when their dreams are shattered. Be of good courage. Fear not.
Tomorrow is the next day of the rest of your life. Sure, reconcile with the past. But God has something ahead that only He can give you. Keep getting up. The rest of your life is waiting.
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
Psalm 139:14 TPT
This is one of those verses where translation matters. And this translation gave me something new to consider.
Most of the other translations read the psalmist declaring he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What a head-shaking nuance to consider being made mysteriously complex. And to sound joyous about it.
There’s normally a negative tone when being considered complex. We say it about ourselves to ourselves. We say it about others-well, maybe we just think it.
Whoever we say it to, what if we changed the tone? What if we celebrate instead of bemoan the complexity of how we’re made?
I had to practice this today. I was in a setting where there were open displays of people’s makeup. Bemoaning tried to reign in my head, but it couldn’t stay because of the joy in the room. Why? No one was pointing out flaws, dislikes, or disapproval; no one was bothered by their own or anyone else’s complexities. Like-minded psalmists caught their breath and marveled.
Lord, forgive us when we fail to marvel. May we stay amazed in your mystery.
Got a “no” this week. Many times I’m perfectly content with one, even freed. This one…no.
48 hours later I was. How? It started by expressing honest reaction and ended with exploring agreeable alternatives.
Left in react mode, “no” can quickly become divisive, hurtful, accusatory, disappointing, even grudge-building. A pivot to option-seeking tells everyone as bridge-building as possible, “This isn’t over. Game on!”
God gives out “no”s frequently. And unfortunately, his children can stay in react mode far too long. A chasm grows that isn’t beautiful nor life-giving. Noone truly enjoys this season.
Finding ourselves in a God-forsaken chasm doesn’t have to be the end result. In fact, the pursuit to rising out of it could result in a closer relationship yet to be experienced.
This pursuit could start something like this: “I hear your ‘no.’ Can we talk about other options?” This conversation often leaves me in a much better place, chasm closed.
Go ahead. Lower any pride in the way. You might be surprised how much better the resulting “yes” is. So much better.
I don’t know that it matters how long someone has been a professing Christian to wonder why you still have thoughts like this one: “Is my faith good enough?” Or maybe, “Am I doing this right?”
I just read a line from a devotional that might help us all, whether you’re fresh in or a long hauler.
Was Abraham’s faith a faith without deeds? No way, says James. Abraham trusted God so much he was willing to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22). His faith was not only a conviction about the existence of God; it was a conviction that was ‘made complete,’ that is, shown to be true faith, by his deeds of devotion. And so was fulfilled the statement of Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” To believe in God in the biblical sense, argues James, involves a commitment to action.
James 2, Worldly Favouritism (YouVersion)
99.9% of us will never be asked to carry out Abraham’s test. But if we’re attempting to communicate daily with the Holy Spirit, we are asked to do ordinary faith deeds every day. When we do, our faith is being made complete.
When we hold our tongue from gossiping
When we don’t return hate
When we respect our elders
When we love the unlovely
When we are generous with our time
When we say yes in spite of our fear or rebellion
When we have compassion for a stranger in pain
When we weep with those who weep
This list could go on and on. The meaningful and encouraging word from this devotion was that my faith may not be perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s active.
At the end of each day, may we look back to see where our faith was active and hear a whispered, “In you I am well pleased. Your faith is complete.”
Earlier this week I found myself in a place familiar to all of us. I wouldn’t call it buyer’s remorse, not even decision regret. Probably more like, something’s not right, so a step back seems like a good idea.
When we find ourselves in these places, one of the best things we can do is stop talking only to ourselves and divulge our thoughts to someone else. Even if they don’t do anything but listen, we often get some perspective or different focus that uncovers a better viewpoint.
Within 24 hours of doing that, I came to a realization. What was really at play was there wasn’t an issue at all, other than I was looking for a way out. Rather than admit my own sabotaging, I was making a few small things one large thing. And then this thought smacked me in the head…
It’s not hard to find the door in the room.
So many times I’ve tried to leave the room before it was time. If you have that pattern, then you know what it’s like to be looking for the door but not know that you are. And when you’re looking for it, it’s pretty easy to find.
There are quite a few questions we can ask ourselves once we have this awareness. Truth be told, sometimes the right answer is to leave the room. More times than not our timing is off, and there are reasons to stay that we would rather not bother with or tell ourselves we don’t have the energy for. Here are three questions I asked myself this week once I realized I was asking, “Where’s the door?”
Why am I looking for the door? If this isn’t the most important question, it’s got to be pretty close. An honest answer will clarify if the search should continue. My honest answer told me to stop looking.
Who’s in the room? That might seem like an odd question, but it’s founded in the idea of grounding. When we notice the faces of everyone in the room, we are forced to pause and consider what leaving the room means to everyone, not just ourselves. Again, sometimes the person that needs the most consideration in the room is us, but leaving everyone else out of our consideration reveals an issue that most likely has little to do with being in the room with these people.
Why am I here? This question is a perfect follow up to who’s in the room. As we consider everyone in the room, a natural viewpoint to bring clarity is founded in purpose. Several times I knew I was supposed to leave a room even though others in the room disagreed. They believed my purpose wasn’t done, but I knew otherwise. TRUTH: It’s only time to leave when your purpose is done. If your purpose isn’t done, stop looking for the door.
In my efforts to look up these days, something caught my eye today as I walked by this church steeple. Do you see it?
Looks like they’ve been growing for a while. Probably hasn’t caught too many people’s eyes…yet. It is on the other side from the road view. And the roofline of the building behind them also keeps them hidden. Do you see them?
My first question was a pretty obvious one: How in the world are those weeds growing there? Something like 30 feet off the ground, on a dirtless structure. Weird.
My next question was more reflective: How many steeples have weeds growing in their shadow that aren’t being addressed? In this case, I’m thinking about all kinds of things.
Accountability of leadership
Protection for members
Factions forming over nonspiritual concerns
Of course, this thought could be asked about all social units, corporations, and communities.
Weeds aren’t hard to identify or address. This requires two basic routines: observant eyes and willing hands.
Observant eyes are aware that weeds grow and aren’t surprised when they see them. Without willing hands to address the weeds, the weeds keep growing, they go unaddressed. Willing hands define those who know that the weeds must be addressed and aren’t afraid to do so, the sooner the better.
Which are you, the observant eyes or the willing hands?
What’s being done about the weeds in the shadows in your family, in your city, in your business, in your church, in your own heart?
Last night I finished reading Rich In Heaven by Chris Mackey.
This morning I got an example of what Mackey wrote about told to me by a stranger. There’s something about snowbirds (a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter) and conversation. They don’t shy from it.
I’m on vacation in Orange Beach, Alabama. If I turn my head just so, I see the Gulf of Mexico right now. This morning I decided to walk the beach first thing. After being stopped by one snowbird to view passing porpoises about 100 yards out in the water, I was stopped by another couple to chat. I really don’t know what started the conversation. But 10 minutes later, the husband had told me all I needed to know about his family.
I didn’t ask his name. Since he’s from Gardendale (which probably doesn’t really classify him as a snowbird…it’s in the same state), I’ll call him Dale.
Dale is retiring April 1st from Alabama Power where he’s worked for 46 years. One of his younger brothers retired today. His wife said Dale’s a little miffed by that. His other younger brother took over the family farm. His wife said he’ll figure out that wasn’t a good move.
Dale doesn’t care for the beach; he’d rather be on a bushwhacker. That reminds him of growing up on the farm with his parents. They’re both gone, but he’s very proud of who they were. When his dad passed, people told Dale stories of how he’d done something personally impactful for them that they’d never forget. That’s who he was.
From Dale’s own experience, he remembers when his Dad would announce in church that the next weekend his corn crop would be ready for people to come get whatever they wanted. They stood in lines for that free corn. And the same with the family chickens. They always had 2,000-3,000 chickens (Dale said that wasn’t a lot. I’ve never had one, so that sounded ginormous to me.). Dale’s dad would announce a Sunday prior that fryers would be available the next weekend. That meant Dale and his brothers would have to skin them to be ready to give away.
Dale said he never got a satisfactory answer from his dad why he didn’t ask folks to pay for that corn or those fryers. His dad only said, “One day you’ll understand.” When Dale said they were never rich or anything, I replied, “Your dad was a different kind of rich.” He replied, “And I understand now.”
Chatting with my vacationing neighbors reminded me of a few things Mackey wrote:
We ought to think about “us and ours” instead of “me and mines.”
The way to more blessing is giving what you have away.
God is displeased, not by what we choose to give Him, but by what we refuse to give Him.
The two types of people in this world are not the haves and the have nots but the “use wells” and the “do nothings.”
The rich in heaven are those who are not okay with God working out His plan apart from them.
Nothing promotes inaction more than comfort.
It is the place where you refuse to grant God access that marks the extent of heaven’s reign in your life.
A year’s commitment to anything can sound daunting. I imagine that’s the feeling most people have when they consider committing to a 365-day Bible reading plan.
Besides that, most of those plans are designed to take you through the entire Bible. A worthy goal for sure-I believe one that should be set and achieved at least once in life. Yet, the challenge to get that done in a year can be tempting to ditch, say, around Numbers 22 (just a random guess…nothing scientific…or biased against whatever happens in that chapter and book).
I completed one of those plans once on YouVersion…in about 3 years. See my point.
It took me that long because I choose to take my time. And I like to veer off track. If I want to campout in Jonah longer, I do. If I’m intrigued by a theme in Romans, I’ll take a break from the plan and complete other plans covering that theme…as many as I want as long as I want. I color outside the lines.
But the idea of reading a portion of the Bible every day does not mean you have to read the entire Bible in any set amount of time. All it means is placing a priority, developing a rhythm in your day that includes reading the Bible. Whenever you do it, how long you do it, where you do it, that’s entirely up to you. And, for those other rule breakers, what you read is also entirely up to you.
For quite a while, I’ve been using YouVersion reading plans. And for the first time this year, I’ve decided to use them to customize a year-long reading plan. It’s already added richness to my reading. Want to give it a try? Here’s how I’m doing it.
Determine to Make a Daily Commitment. Pretty obvious, but if you aren’t resolved to it, you won’t make it to December 31st. Sure, you might miss a day here or there. Understandable. I have already. Give yourself some grace and think about the fact that odds are you’ve got 5 minutes to give to this commitment and missing it a couple of times doesn’t make you a loser. If you are in, move on to step 2.
Decide on a Theme. There’s a popular trend that’s replacing making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of setting goals and aspirations, you choose a word that you’d like to guide you for the year. Not sure about that, check out this podcast episode to learn more. I started this in 2020. Each year I’ve utilized it differently, more broadly. This year, that word is what I’m using to customize my Bible reading. My word for 2023 is rich (maybe more on that later). Know your theme? Move on to step 3.
Search Plans. On the YouVersion app (download it now if you haven’t already), you can search for reading plans simply by typing in a word. When I typed in rich, dozens of reading plans were available. You’re ready for step 4.
Save for Later. On each plan description, you have two choices: sample and save for later. Sample allows you to check out any day of the plan. I do that to get an impression if I think I’ll complete it. If I think so, then I save it for later. You don’t have to start the plan when you find it. I’m not worrying about saving enough plans that equal 365 days, by the way. I just saved the ones that looked interesting to me for now. At the moment, I’ve saved enough plans to get me through April (total up the days for each plan to see how many days you’ve already covered). Saved at least one plan? Final step is next.
Follow the Thread. As you read each plan, some verse/story/character will stand out, grab your attention. Take note. Follow that lead to search for other plans to save for later. For instance, since I did my initial plan saving, the book of Luke and the chapter of 1 Chronicles 29 have gotten my attention. Adding reading plans for those has increased my initial plan list by five plans adding 53 days. Feels very fluid and interactive.
That’s it. I’m convinced this approach is going to continue to prove worthwhile and meaningful. By the end of the year, I anticipate remembering more, appreciating more, and embracing more of the Bible. I’ll be more rich.
By the way, I just looked up Numbers 22. That’s where a donkey talks. You might want to check it out. Not sure what thread that starts, but have fun.
Yesterday, I had a first. My pastor’s wife sent me a handwritten letter; never gotten one from any pastor’s wife. It was a gracious note of thanks. I want to share a little of it and then reveal an observation.
…Six years ago we spent money on a keyboard. We had no one that played keys, but we went ahead and purchased the keyboard for the church. There were so many weeks, months, and even years the keyboard went untouched, and the post it note of a prayer request sat on the wall of the office. It read, “A keyboard player.” We all prayed and we waited; we believed God would bring someone who would want to serve in worship and use their giftings on that keyboard. This past Sunday I was reminded that GOD IS FAITHFUL-not always in the timing we want but always in His perfect timing! Thank you…
Cool story, right? What she didn’t know, and no one at church knew until now, was that God and I had a completely different conversation that same Sunday about my playing keys at church. I mean completely different.
Not to go into too much detail, but very few people really know the work I’ve done over the years to not be too hard on myself when it comes to music, particularly playing the piano/keys. I’ll never live up to my perfectionistic expectations, and sometimes it gets the best of me. That Sunday it did.
After the worship set, I was pretty much in a wrestling match with God, couldn’t concentrate on what the pastor was saying due to all the guilt and overreacting stuff that comes with perceived failure. If I’d written a post it note in that moment, I’d probably had to have immediately brought it forward for confession, if you know what I mean. There wouldn’t have been anything holy about it.
If I’ve learned nothing else in these moments in my adult life, I’ve learned that 99.9% of the people that were in the same room have no idea what I’m thinking about that “failure” and would say if they did, “What are you talking about?” The honest ones would say, “Get over it, John.” And my real friends would say, “Get over yourself, John!”
God and I talked about this for the next 10 hours. That conversation is between me and him. But the end result was my acknowledging I knew the solution and had been holding out on it. A figurative post it note I’d had for a few months was more a “want” than a “need.” And in this case, God showed me that the want wasn’t necessary, and the need was actually more important. I got over myself.
There are numerous observations from these two stories about a Sunday service and a keyboard. But the one I most appreciate is this: God has zero problems having multiple conversations with his children at the same time about the same thing going in completely different directions.