In the Grand Scheme of Things

TrainLast month, I set out for work on what I thought would be a typical Monday morning commute – long, but necessary. After 45-50 minutes of driving, I parked my car and made my way onto the loading platform at the train station. It seemed that the trains were delayed (not unusual during this railway construction phase here in Philly) but I didn’t think anything of it. Boarded the train and away we went. The train stopped after only a few minutes. A voice crackled over the intercom, “There will be a twenty-minute delay due to a medical emergency.” After a low murmur arose from the train’s irritated commuters, we all sat and waited.

After what seemed longer than the promised twenty-minute delay, the train started moving in the right direction. It’s about time, I thought to myself. After pulling in to the next stop, we were all met with unpleasant news. Due to the nature of the medical emergency ahead of us, they were shutting down the westbound track that crossed over the river into Philly. We were advised to get on a train heading eastbound. Eastbound? That is not in the direction of my destination. That is the opposite direction of the work, people, and meetings that were waiting for me.

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See-Through People

See Through FoodsThe Wall Street Journal recently (August 13, 2014) published an article detailing the surge of food and drink retailers to use “see-through” packaging to market their goods. Generally, goods sold that show at least some of the product are selling better. The piece highlighted the delicate balance of using this type of packaging with a variety of different foods. For instance, potato chips don’t sell well with “see-through” packaging but tortilla chips do. Granola, pricey juice drinks, yogurt, and pizza are examples of “see-through” items that seem to be selling better than their “hidden” competitors.

The research was clear (no pun intended) – shoppers are more inclined to buy when they see what they’re getting. But here is the kicker – “transparent packaging is surprisingly hard to make. Food often isn’t ready for a big reveal after a package has suffered shipping, shelf stocking, and other jostling.” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2014, See-Through Food Packaging Boosts Sales

Now this grabbed my attention! Having worked and interacted with people of all shapes, sizes, political persuasions, different levels of religious fervor, and a sundry of other temperaments, I am convinced that the most attractive people are those who we can “see through.” And let me tell you – just as actual transparent packaging is hard to create for the retailers, a transparent life is hard to live. Why? Because just like a bag of chips, life has a way of causing “shipping problems, shelf stocking, and other jostling” to occur day-to-day.

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Christians Struggle Too

Christian DepressionWith the recent suicide of Robin Williams due to severe depression, I have heard many well-meaning Christian friends comment something like this:

“It just goes to show that money doesn’t make you happy.”

“Wealth, fame, and popularity does not bring joy.”

“Having lots of money or being famous will not bring you inner peace.”

And although I agree with the truth behind these statements, we sometimes like to say certain statements to bolster the position of the Christian. We say them to show (albeit falsely) that we don’t struggle with these types of things. I am sure you have heard them. They go something like this:

“We Christians have that inner peace that the world doesn’t have.”

“Having Jesus Christ in my life keeps me from being depressed.”

“If they only had God in their life, they wouldn’t struggle like they are struggling now.”

Anyone that has been a Christian for any length of time and has dealt with people, knows the real truth – Christians struggle with depression too. 

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Right This Way Please

WalmartIf you know anything about my wife, you know that every time we drive by a Wal-Mart, she places her hand over her heart! Well, maybe not EVERY time but seriously, Wal-Mart holds a special place in our heart. Why Wal-Mart? I’ll get to that in a moment.

Growing up in Northwest Montana, we were not privileged to have a Wal-Mart in our town. In fact, Wal-Mart did not have a presence in Montana until 1992. By then, I was in my sophomore year of college. No, we had the utmost “privilege” of shopping at the only other “mart” that was in town. Yes – we suffered by shopping at Kmart. I guess I should say my mother suffered while shopping at Kmart. I do not have fond memories of Kmart for several reasons. First, every Kmart I have ever been in has something like 37 registers with only three of them open for service. Usually, one stands about seven deep in line just dreaming about another one of the multiple registers being open for service! Second, I do not believe the words “customer service” and “Kmart” were ever found in the same sentence (until now). I have never had the privilege of actually finding a Kmart associate to help me in the department that I am aimlessly wandering in the unfruitful search for an item. One must traverse their way halfway across the store to hopefully spy a Kmart associate. However, this is not the worst of it. When you do find one and ask for the item you are looking for, the conversation goes something like this:

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Restart

RestartIn my day job, when I am asked to assist an employee with a problem, I often ask them a very important question. If their response is in the negative, I nearly always ask them to do this one thing before we go any further. This one thing has solved more problems in the type of work that I perform than anything else. Recently, as I asked an employee this question, she looked at me with a sheepish grin (one of those grins that said, “I know I should be doing this more often, but I’m not) and told me “no.”

Before I finish that story, I think the first time I remember seeing a verse next to his signature was during high school. You see, my dad’s company had gone out of business and for a period of 3-4 months, he had to go out-of-state for employment to provide for our family (if you only knew my dad – he is the best Christian I know). So, he got on a plane in Missoula, Montana and flew to southern California to work with my uncle in his construction business.

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“Hey – I Need Your Help…”

Serve2“Hey – I need your help,” he says to me as I walk by him and a few of his co-workers in the hallway.

I think to myself ‘I do have a name’ as I cringe and try to continue walking.

“You see, my PC has not been functioning properly ever since the new updates have been rolled out across the network,” says Joe Smith (name for anonymous employee). “You aren’t busy are you?”

Of course not, I just walk around the workplace all day.

“This has really been bugging me and has really hampered my productivity for the past week.”

If it has been this bad, why didn’t you call the help desk??

“I’ll just let you work on this and will be back in a bit to check on you.”

Hey buddy – don’t you realize I have a bunch of other things to do today?

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They (the Olympians) Do It To Obtain a Corruptible Crown…

medal 2The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ended last weekend. My family and I couldn’t get enough of them! For the most part, our family enjoys sporting events and when the Olympics rolls around every two years (summer/winter), we watch, cheer, and “oo & ah” on a nearly daily basis. You’ve got to hand it to the Olympic athletes – here are people who have trained much of their life for this moment (or in the case of the 50K cross-country skiers – an hour and 45+ minutes). I always feel bad for the skater who falls on her first triple-axle during the long free program or the speed skater who is nudged on the first turn and goes sprawling into the boards. They have trained for countless hours for this moment.

I admire the Olympic athlete in any sport. They train and train – countless hours are spent honing their muscles, their balance, their strength, their resolve – all with one goal in mind. They want to win to stand on the medal podium. Hear their nation’s anthem. Make their country proud. Win the gold medal. A very noble pursuit indeed. I applaud every athlete from this recent Winter Olympics.

But I couldn’t stop thinking of a certain phrase of Scripture in which the Apostle Paul refers to some type of Olympic Games in I Corinthians 9:25, Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. Paul is not denying, denigrating, or demeaning the efforts of the Olympian. No, he just puts it into perspective. And what a perspective for the Christian! Verse 24 we are admonished to run, that ye may obtain! In verse 26, Paul tells you what he is going to do. Whether you join him or not he says, I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.

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Live For God’s Approval

If you choose your wardrobe upon what others might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to attend a certain leadership/ministry conference because of what some might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to post a helpful article or quote online that you just read due to the name of the author and what others might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to make ministry changes in your church due to what fellow brethren might think, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose to sidestep certain topics in your preaching ministry, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose to elevate preferences above convictions, you are living for man’s approval.

Running: My Enemy, My Friend

“Why in the world am I doing this?”
“I feel pretty good right now!”
“I feel like I am going to die.”
“That was a great run.”
“That was a…well, rather exhausting run.”
“I feel like I could run for miles!”
“I feel like I couldn’t run for another ten feet!”

Anybody that has picked up running as a sport has felt and expressed all of the above statements and more. Growing up, I played nearly every sport imaginable: soccer, basketball, football, floor hockey, tennis, racquetball, hacky-sack (is that a sport?), skiing, snowboarding (a bit), biking, etc. And although many of these sports involve running, some of them quite extensively, running is not the goal. It is one of the many components of that sport.

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Help Me Reach These Goals in 2014

j0439558I have been all over the map concerning resolutions or goals (I prefer the word goals) for a New Year. Some years, I set very concrete goals; others, I had no goals. And some years I had very generic goals (which are quite hard to measure). Closing out 2013 and charging into 2014, I have pondered the subject of setting goals for the New Year.

When I think of great men and women of the Bible, I cannot help but think that goals were a major part of the life of many of these people. Take Joseph, for instance. He had to be able to set goals and see those goals through to fruition as the second in command of Egypt while gathering grain and corn during the seven years of plenty. Solomon set goals for both the building of the temple of God and his own house. I am absolutely convinced that the apostle Paul was a goal-setter. He did not wander aimlessly going wherever his journeys led him. He was a man of passion for the Lord Jesus Christ and set high goals in starting churches and visiting the churches he started during the various missionary journeys he took. Philippians 3:14 is often quoted in support of setting a goal –  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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