At Peace With The Ordinary

A young mother found her four-year-old son crying as he was tying his shoes. “Why are you crying?” she asked. “I have to tie my shoes,” he sobbed. “But you just learned how. It isn’t that hard, is it?” “No, but I’m gonna have to do it for the rest of my life!”  Sometimes ordinary, everyday tasks seem too overwhelming. There are those moments when the thought of doing the same things every day for the rest of our lives seems devastating. We don’t want to become boring old people.  While our lives can be filled with exciting and fun activities, most of our time is taken up with routine tasks that just have to be done. We must keep the house clean, fill the car with gas, pay the bills, do the grocery shopping and replace light bulbs among our many chores. Author Gordon MacDonald writes that we must learn to “make peace with the ordinary.” That phrase has stuck with me over time. I have often found it difficult to stay interested in my everyday chores. Making peace with the ordinary is really about living a disciplined life. We can’t accomplish our dreams and desires if we can’t master the basics of everyday living. Like Mom used to say, “Make your bed before you go out and play.” There are lots of exciting and challenging things to do in this world. There are plenty of dreams to pursue and we shouldn’t make excuses as to why we can’t make progress. However, it’s necessary that we make peace with the ordinary. In order to make a difference in this world – to have an impact on others – we must first be disciplined in the ordinary areas of our private world. Go to the ant, you sluggard;    consider its ways and be wise!It has no commander,    no overseer or ruler,yet it stores its provisions in summer    and gathers its food at harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Don’t Despise The Little Things

The rebuilding of the temple wasn’t going well. It seemed to be taking forever and people were starting to question if it would ever be finished. Jerusalem after the exile was still in ruins. Daily living was difficult. There was a desire to see the temple rebuilt but it had now been close to twenty years and work was progressing slowly. God spoke to the prophet Zechariah in a vision and among other encouraging words said, “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (Zechariah 4:10) Don’t despise these small beginnings might be a good translation. God was assuring Zechariah and the people that he was still at work and would be faithful to complete it. It is sometimes hard to see God at work in the small things we do. Our world emphasizes big and flashy accomplishments. Teaching a Sunday School class of four or five students might seem small, but you have no idea how God might use the lives of those children. Giving a small sum in the offering might seem like it makes no difference to the church budget, but God knows just how he is going to multiply that gift. Inviting someone to church can be a simple act of friendship but don’t underestimate the power of an invitation to change lives. From small seeds grow mighty trees. Don’t compare your gifts and contributions to those that get all the attention. Don’t despise the little things that God is doing. His timeline is different from ours, his ways above our ways. Don’t weary in well doing or serving the Lord. One day all the world will rejoice when they see what God has done with the small things.

Treasure Hunt

Noah Muroff of New Haven, Connecticut bought a secondhand desk from an online ad for $150 dollars. When he got it home it won’t fit through the door. After several tries, he finally decided to dismantle the desk and take it piece by piece. Hidden under one of the drawers was a bag of cash. Not just a little cash – a lot. Like $98,000 in various bills, all rolled up in a bag. The family was stunned as they opened the bag and counted the money. What an amazing find in an old desk. Noah is an honest man and so he telephoned the seller ten minutes after the discovery. The seller had received the money as an inheritance and forgot where she had hidden it. Really! How do you forget where you stashed nearly $100,000? Many of us have fantasies about finding money in the attic or buying a missing Picasso at a flea market for $10. Discoveries like that are fun and financially rewarding. Some people spend their whole lives hoping something like that will happen to them. Others actually spend time hunting for hidden treasures, looking for an unexpected bargain or hoping to stumble onto a deal. Paul told the people at Colossae that they had already found a great treasure. He wanted them to understand the great mystery of God, “namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) When I read the story about Noah finding the money I couldn’t help but think about what I would do with the cash. (Of course, I too, would return it. But in my mind I pretended the owner couldn’t be found.) To most of us, that is a large sum of money, a real treasure. But the Bible doesn’t equate dollars, gold, or riches with treasure. The real treasure is far more important and significant than money which will someday be all burned up. Too often we forget the value of what we already possess. Our search for treasure is over. In Christ, we have everything we need. We are to start living off the benefits that our treasure brings to us.

The Times They Are A’Changing

I wasn’t yet born when Bob Dylan released one of his most memorable songs, The Times They Are A-changin’. It is a song about the rapid transformations people were experiencing post-World War 2. It resonated with a younger generation who were impatient with progress, but the lyrics of the song seem to apply to just about any moment in time. While Dylan’s song might have had a particular context in mind, his poetry does have echoes of the Book of Ecclesiastes. This morning I am thinking about the verse that says, “a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8) The times are indeed changing and yet there have been times like this before.     The West has lived through an incredible period of stability, economic and political. Perhaps we have forgotten that this has not always been the case. In fact, the kind of peace we have experienced in the last 80 years is rare in human history. It really shouldn’t surprise us that we see conflict today. The question is, how do we as Christians respond? The divisions in our world seem so deep. If you mention support for one cause, you are accused of being against the other. We grow fearful of expressing general concerns or even stating clear biblical truths. What do we do? First off, in our daily lives, we need to ensure that we treat everyone we meet with respect and courtesy. “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17) Frontline workers from the medical field to restaurants are quitting jobs because people are rude and difficult. Christians ought to present a different aroma, offering words of encouragement and support in an age where difficulties abound. Second, we don’t need to have an opinion on every international issue. It’s complicated and complex. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) This posture doesn’t mean that we stay silent but rather we take time to measure our words. James encourages us to pray for wisdom when we need it. Finally, we should not fail to continue our spiritual disciplines – gathering in worship, bible reading, times of prayer and fasting, and service of others. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13) In the midst of a changing world we must be steadfast in our commitments, even while others around us waver. The times are changing. The world our children are inheriting is very different and there is little we can do about it. But we are not helpless. When we prepare our hearts before the Lord, we can offer the world a very different picture of peace in a time of war.