Card

Last week my son was sick so I spent some time going through my files at home. In doing so I ran across a file of illustrations and observations mostly from my first years of ministry. In that file was a card from my first year of full-time ministry is Missouri.
No one ever quite prepares you for that first year out of college and into the “real world.” Your first job is usually less than desirable as you are willing to take almost anything for experience and a paycheck. This was no less true for me when I entered the ministry. I went to a small town just 45 minutes north of my college so my wife could commute every day continuing her education. The “village” as they called it consisted of 110 people and an unbelievable amount of dogs. Many of the people were older and were content to stay there till they died. Any younger people wanted to get out, but didn’t have the education or the motivation they needed.
As you can imagine it was not a great place to live or to work. That first year out of college was greeted with hostility, disappointment and rage. And those were just my emotions. At the end of that first year I fell into utter defeat until I finally submitted my resignation.
My wife and I left all of our possessions in the house and set out for 8 weeks to find a job. When we were finally successful we returned back to load up our stuff and move on. We classified it as one of those tough experiences that we used to grow into maturity.
Now back to my file. Inside of it is was a card from that first year that was stuck in the door sometime while we were gone. I pulled it out and looked at it, my response of laughter was overwhelming. It was a Christmas card actually complete with a tree on the front. Open the card up and inside it is signed by a couple in the Church with the handwritten phase, “All our love.” It all seems sweet right? Well, the funny part is what is written on the outside of the envelope. It was suppose to be written to my wife and I – Matt and Michelle. Instead in handwritten ink it says “Mark and Misseli.” I kid you not. I had ministered at this Church for a year, spending every week preaching the Bible to these people and they did not even know my name!! Now I suppose I could tell you that it was written on a program that was handed out every week and placed on a sign in front of the building just for added emphasis. This couple gave a card to me with “all their love” even though they didn’t know my name!
I have since recovered from that first ministry experience, but I will never forget those people and that year. I imagine they quickly forgot me, since they never even really knew me…or my name!

Advertisements

Emergency

Believe it or not, I have just finished getting my taxes done. Every year since I started ministry I have used a gentlemen – and now his son – in Lincoln Illinois at H&R Block. They are experts on clergy taxes and make sure I do everything properly. I used to drive there every year and have them done personally, and now I handle everything over the internet.
I am writing this not to tell you about my life, I am writing because I was reminded of the large sign that hangs behind the desk of my tax accountant. It reads:

“A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

How often I have received calls where the person didn’t act until it was an emergency? I have thought of those words many times my life. In fact, for the last 10 years or so I have used a variation of that statement in ministry. I tell people:

“Just because it feels like an emergency to you, doesn’t make it an emergency to me.”

Both of these statements have proven true to me over and over again. People often fail to plan or think things through and then they want me (or someone else) to help them … immediately. I have found that if you plan and prepare there are only a few emergencies in life.

Happy Monday and Happy Tax Season:-)

Edwin Louis Cole

In 1996 I went to a Promise Keepers Rally in Indianapolis Indiana. One of the main speakers at that particular conference was a man named Edwin Louis Cole. Honestly, he was one of my favorite speakers and he said some things that really spoke to my heart at the time. Upon returning home I found out more information about his ministry to men, his books and even signed up for a newsletter. Of all the material I have purchased or read of his I have found a book of quotes by Mr. Cole to be the most inspirational and thought-provoking. Since many people have never heard of this man and teacher I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes from his booklet “Manhood 101.”

• “Every man has three men to deal with: The man he thinks others see. The man he thinks he is. The man he really is.”
• “All wrong conduct is based on wrong believing”
• “There are times when silence is golden, others when it is just plain yellow.”
• “Crisis doesn’t make the man; it only exposes him for what he already is.”
• “God will not do our part. We cannot do God’s part.”
• “Change is the only constant in maturity.”
• “Change is not change until it is change.”
• “Don’t pray for opportunities.” Pray you’ll be ready when opportunities come.”
• “You are only qualified to lead to the degree you are willing to serve.”
• “Fathers who punish children for doing wrong, when they haven’t first taught them how to do right, are themselves wrong.”
• “We tend to judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.”
• “Our relationships with others are reflections of our relationship with God.”

There are plenty more, but these are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy.

Forgiveness

I have an idea that has been swirling around my head for years now. Here is the idea; Most of us have a cheap substitute for true forgiveness called “understanding.”
I first thought of this when listening to a Christian. They were describing some sin that another Christian had committed. Then they said, “I just don’t understand how they could do that!” This person was right, it was hard to understand how someone could do this despicable action. My question is “does God call us to understand everything?”
Here is what I know about Christians. We are called to forgive one another even if we do not or cannot understand why this bad thing happened. True forgiveness looks at an incident and says “I will never understand how you could hurt me like that, but I know that God wants me to forgive you. So I will.”
This is where gossip becomes so deceitful.We think, “If I just tell people the rest of the story then they will understand.” We spread rumors and gossip in an effort to “help people out.”
The reality is that God does not want us to attempt to understand everything in the world.  He wants us to forgive the evil as he has forgiven us.
So the question for you is this:“Are you offering people forgiveness or are you trying to understand their behavior?” There is a world of difference.

Fake

I watch a lot of sports. I used to play, now I watch it on TV and most recently I have watched my boys participate. There is something about amateur athletics that has caught my attention for years. After most games they make the teams line up and shake hands with the other team.
I remember doing this in grade school, and people are still doing it. We always said a deeply heartfelt, “good game” to our opponents.
Upon watching this, I realized how fake these handshakes are. One team just lost and the other just won. One group wants to say, “We’re better than you,” and the other just wants to hide somewhere or throw something.
While watching this post game ritual I couldn’t help but think about Church. How many people walk in and out of worship shaking hands and saying “Good morning,” without really meaning it? They would rather be yelling at you or hiding from you than shaking your hands.
I am not sure what to do with this information. I can post it here and put it in a sermon. I can encourage people to do better, but I understand it might not make a difference. The only thing meaningful I can do with this info is look at my own life and try to become more real and authentic. I can ask questions of people and honestly try to open up myself. I know it won’t be easy, but it is better than being fake.

Perspective

Much of the advice and information that I read is useless. But occasionally some good advice comes along that helps shape the way I think and view people. So here is something serious for you to consider.

“We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.”

If you think about it, it will help mold the way you look at people.