He’s Not the Dry Cleaner

I picked up my dry cleaning yesterday. It was actually two separate tickets, so that says something about the lack of urgency of my dry cleaning routine. When they say, “It’ll be ready tomorrow by five,” I courteously reply with thanks. If I wanted to reply in kind I’d say, “No rush. See you in a few weeks.”

There is the rare occasion when I realize I need something that quick. A wedding or funeral demands a quicker pickup. So I’m more in the “I’ll see you then” mode.  I’m in need, and I’m expecting them to deliver.

If we aren’t paying attention, we can treat God like the dry cleaner. We pull up in the drive-thru lane, drop off our needs, say thanks, and go about our day without much urgency.  No big deal. Unless it’s that rare occasion. Then we might actually be more demanding of him than we are the dry cleaner.

To be clear, He isn’t the dry cleaner.

He doesn’t say, “You tell me when you need it, and I’ll get right on that.” He’s not a business owner needing your business in order to keep the doors open. He’s not in the business of keeping you satisfied.

But here’s a question: What about those desperate times when you are truly in need of support, or connection, or at least an acknowledgment that He’s there? We understand in that moment He isn’t going to completely solve our issue, but can He at least let us know He’s on the job.  We aren’t an irate customer; more like a hurting son or daughter.

Recently I found myself torn between treating him like the dry cleaner, fully knowing He isn’t, and like my heavenly Father.  I won’t share all the dialogue, but suffice it to say it was more than a short conversation in the drive-thru.

And what He did was what He promises to do. He heard my cry.  He didn’t totally solve my issue, but He gave me what I needed to get back on the road.  His answer to my question, “What are you doing?” was, “Whatever it is, I’ll give you the strength for it.”

And that was enough-especially when I stopped acting like His customer and more like His child.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt

Serving Frank

Two weeks ago I received an email from a stranger. It was Thursday after a rather trying Wednesday. The email was from a daughter who had an urgent request. Her 86-year-old father was dying from liver cancer, living alone in Bradenton while she and her brother lived in other states. A few weeks earlier she and her husband had visited her dad and had brought him to church that Sunday.  I had spoken that Sunday; therefore her reason to reach out to a stranger with her request.

It was a simple request…Go visit her dad and talk to him about spiritual things. Truthfully, my first thought was, “I’m doing my best to keep up with what’s already on my to do list. I’m drained, but I’ll try to go by.” As it turned out, her dad Frank lived less than two miles from me. I told myself, “There’s no excuse to not go by on your way home.” 

Today, four visits later, I’m so glad I did. What a genuine, rich spirit! We could have visited for hours each time, but his strength required short visits. Thursday we said goodbye. His children came to take him with them for his final earthly trip before his eternal trip.

This interaction is on my mind for many reasons, but one has to do with the reading plan I started this week on @youversion. Author Brittany Rust penned a seven-day plan entitled Pouring Into Others When You Feel Empty. Day two’s devotional included this thought:

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are stronger than you know. Helping others isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to stretch the limits of your capacity to discover the limitless strength found in God. God has made you capable of bearing the burdens of others–will you open yourself up to be used by Him to do so?

The verse she connected to her devotional was from Romans:

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There are days we don’t feel strong. On those days, God often gives us an opportunity to meet a “Frank.” My prayer is that I don’t miss anymore Holy Spirit moments, that I choose to bear the weaknesses of those who need to be served, and that I reject to please myself in order to serve future “Franks.”

Handicaps 

​If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk. Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12:6‭-‬10 MSG 

I had dinner last night with a guy who has “handicaps.”

  • He has back problems. 
  • His wife battles Crohn’s.
  • He is a bivocational pastor.
  • He has 2 special needs kids.

And that’s his present. There’s more in the past.

Yet, he said throughout our talk, “God has used adversity to mature me, to deepen my relationship with him. I wouldn’t want to repeat any of it, but I’m thankful for it.”

  • What handicaps/limitations can you learn to take in stride and with good cheer? 
  • What abuse, accidents, bad breaks, or opposition do you need to let God take over? 
  • What could be your strength testimony, your handicap story?

Fruity Fridays: Digging Deep

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies

Before I walk in, I think to myself, “Self-Control. I got this.

Why wouldn’t I? There are a lot of things in life to which people lose control of themselves. Alcohol, drugs, lust, hatred, anger, thoughts, friends, words. I mean, of course, I have slipped up here and there, but by no means do I consider to not have self-control. I don’t use destructive language. I don’t really get angry. I try hard to capture my thoughts before they capture me. I have never been drunk…not even buzzed.

But as I sit down, it doesn’t matter though because the chips and salsa are placed on the table before I even order. Game over. I haven’t even had a chip yet, and I already know that they will just need to place my meal in a to-go box.

Sad, but true. Though I do find it funny, that no matter how hard I try to discipline my life, there is always something that can defeat me.

Lately, that thing is me. As a freelance filmmaker, work isn’t always coming in. As someone new to an area, it can be challenging to meet the people who can give you the work you need. Lately, there has been a lot of pressure on me (mostly, by myself) to drum up new work. I have confidence in my abilities and in my personality. But when it comes time to solicit work or to network, the excuses come so naturally that I treat them as if they are the truth. “I don’t have time for this,” “I need to get this thing done before I can do that,” or “I can do this later …I wonder what’s on Netflix.” (It’s like trying to start a diet!) Then, when I lay my head down at night, I hate myself. I wasted my time. I set myself back another day…and for what, a few more scrolls of Facebook or a couple more episodes of TV.

I just read the parable of the two men who built houses in Matthew 7. One man built it on rock, and the other one built it on sand. It is easy to miss the depth of this because most of us have never built a house, let alone one in 1st-century Israel. To get to the rocky base of the land over there, people would have to dig several feet through hard-packed sand. That is miserable work that no one wants to do….unless…they want to build something that will last.

I am sure that you are like me, and you know exactly where you need to start digging down deep to build that thing that you want to last. You know what your excuses and weaknesses are. But if you want to be able to go to bed fulfilled each night, you need to become diligent and purposeful. For me, I quit watching TV on my own, I only am using Facebook to communicate with people I work with, and I definitely don’t sit down to eat some chips and salsa but that is related to a totally different problem. I am digging deep so that I won’t be defeated by some silly thing like excuses.

Now, I can’t close this without giving some specific clarity. Our strength and foundation aren’t found in ourselves. It is God. This whole series is about the fruit of the Spirit. I can honestly say that I don’t dig with my own strength, but with God’s. Eric, without God, takes shortcuts and finds the easiest-path-right-now option. But I receive strength from God through the Holy Spirit. The foundation is Him and His truth. And God is always taking people on journeys to help them discover just how much they can accomplish for His glory.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #18-Where to Run

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs) 

One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment…The name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected. Proverbs 18:1,10 HCSB

These two verses are a study in opposites. 

The Isolater 

  • Runs toward his desires, potentially away from better choices 
  • Runs away from wisdom rather than toward surrender

The Righteous 

  • Runs toward God first and always
  • Runs toward strength and protection rather than selfishness and rebellion 

Running Tuesdays: Hype or Hope or Hypothermia (Recovering after a run)

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

I remember my first long run; it was approximately 10 years ago when I ran 11 miles without stopping! I was jubilant and I was DEAD; absolutely worn out, the rest of the day was a fog! I remember wondering how people were capable of running such high mileage and then getting on with the rest of their day. I would hear conversations like, “I am going to Ikea after this to pick up a bed for the baby,” or, “I can’t go to breakfast because I have to attend my son’s little league game,” or, “After this we’re off to Disney,” and so on – and all I could think was, “After this I am going home to die on the couch”! I just couldn’t imagine it! Each week when I would run 10+ miles on a Sunday morning I would literally be spent! 

After doing a little research I was introduced to post workout drinks. These were supposed to replenish the nutrients your body loses on such long runs; they are touted as having the perfect 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So I tried them – I tried all of them! And …. although I received favorable feedback from others who tried these concoctions, it was hundreds of dollars later when I decided they didn’t work for me.  

Let me attempt to explain how I felt after one of these gargantuan runs. I didn’t feel achy or stiff. It wasn’t even about tired limbs; it was plain and simple fatigue that would permeate my entire being and reduce me to a blob of nothingness that could do nothing more than flop on a couch.

One day I read an article that stated ice baths were the key to rid the body of “fatigue blues” – I went for it – No holds barred! My preferred method was as follows…. Fill the tub with tepid (almost cold) water, enough water to cover legs and hips – almost waist high. Have 30-1bs bag of ice within arms reach of the bath tub. Carefully climb into water – fully clothed (don’t change out of running gear to include socks). Once body is fully immersed, slowly empty the ice into the water – Brrr! The trick is to try and remain perfectly still and not hold your breath. Now …. Stay like that for 20 minutes! After the alarm goes off, JUMP out of tub, rip off freezing wet clothes as fast as viably possible, dry off and wrap yourself in warm towels. Once you are swaddled in towels, jump into bed until your body slowly regains feeling and then take a nice hot shower – Voila! 

Okay, this is torture – but it WORKS! It really, really works! I found myself doing this after every long run – the benefits were worth the 20 minutes of torture. Let me explain what it did for me. After going through the aforementioned regimen, I would honestly feel as if I hadn’t run at all; I would feel as fresh as if getting out of bed after a 9-hour restful night. It was magic! I became one of those individuals who too could shop in Ikea, go to baseball games or go off to save the world. I started to recommend these torture sessions to all of my running buds; I had found the “fountain of youth” for runners, but alas, no one else was as brave – they wouldn’t even consider it!  

Fast forward: several marathons and half-marathons later and ice baths are a thing of the past. The reason … your body eventually gets used to the pounding of the pavement, and it magically appears to strengthen and endure all by itself – naturally. Where I used to spend my energy after a race running to fill the tub with ice, I now use that energy to find the first available beer and a nice meal to celebrate.