If We Dare, A Labor Day Prayer

Throughout the years, I’ve noticed a mischievous thing about Labor Day weekend. If I’m not careful, I miss it. I can get so caught up in the sensational hoopla of picnics, yard work, or a last-hurrah-of-summer getaway that I mindlessly skip over this holiday’s true significance.

Might we dare to think, stir, and move a step or two deeper this year on the meaning and opportunity of Labor Day weekend?

Originally, Labor Day was so much more than a calendar marker for wrap-up of summer, the pool’s closing, and launch of all things flavored pumpkin spice. Call for such a day was the creation of the labor movement and dedicated to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country. The first state bill for Labor Day was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During that year four more states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York—created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in DC and the territories.

I’m afraid we too often forget just how meaningful and significant our daily work is in the scope of God’s original call to humans (Genesis 1-2) and his ongoing redemptive plans (Ephesians 2:8-10). For disciples of Jesus who are seeking to actively grow in holistic faith, there’s a thought-provoking, responsive prayer, originally penned by Jim Cotter and Paul Payton.[1] If we dare to pray this prayer, it might just refocus our outlook and help guide us into an even more robust, holistic perspective on the vital role our work plays in God’s great work in this world. It goes like this:

Leader: Let the sowers of seed bless you, great God, the gardeners and farmers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the fishers and foresters bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the bread from grain bless you, great God, the wine from the grape sing your praise.

Everyone: May the transformations from cooks bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the spinners and weavers bless you, great God, the designers of clothes sing your praise.

Everyone: May the salesmen and retailers bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sounds and silences of music bless you, great God, the great composers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the improvisers of jazz bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the software and civil engineers bless you, great God, the architects sing your praise.

Everyone: May the pastors and clergy bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the marketers and advertisers bless you, great God, the entrepreneurs sing your praise.

Everyone: May the attorneys and judges bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the educators bless you, great God, the academics and authors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the doctors and nurses bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sculptor and scientists bless you, great God, the business owners and janitors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the artists and baristas bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Amen.

We’ve prayed this congregational, responsive prayer in our church’s worship services. Might you dare to pray it personally, share it with friends, and even potentially share it in your congregation?

[1]Jim Cotter and Paul Payton. Out of the Silence . . . Prayer’s Daily Round (with changes by Mark Mohrlang and adapted here for congregational responsive prayer).

Beyond Walls and Borders—Working to Bless Foreigners

immigrants

(Special Note: This was originally published in January 2017. Perhaps it still conveys some contribution for the current controversy. Much of the original content was crafted in book creation two years prior—WAY before the political turmoil and raging debate of the current landscape. My aim was/is to help advance a more Christ-honoring posture—not to add gasoline to the fiery political debate. Blessings!)

Ten days into a new presidency, the media is abuzz with controversy. (I know, shocker! Did we really expect anything less?) What are we to make of declarations like “America FIRST!” and executive orders aiming at exclusion and long-term consequences for refugees, immigrants, and others seeking a homeland in our midst? No matter where you fall on the political landscape, every Christ-following leader must boldly seek to explore the issues through the lens of King Jesus’ redemptive plans for the Gospel. How will our allegiance—whether to Trump or to King Jesus—create healthier rhythms of mission, including strategic choices for treatment of others in our workplaces?

Wise leaders cultivate profitable business for greater job creation that leads to poverty alleviation—marked by marvelous dignity on behalf of every worker. A very deliberate aim for blessing-focused, workplace leaders is to strategically express God’s love to the outsiders—the foreigners, the marginalized, and those previously outside the faith community.

With such focus, we embrace God’s global mission—to welcome and enfold others. We discover a model leader in an Old Testament business owner, Boaz. Leading man in the Ruth narrative, he very intentionally lived out Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Recall Ruth’s label; she was readily known among Judah’s inhabitants as “the Moabite.”

Here is the thick, loving thread of God’s mission, to reach the nations, to intentionally include the outsiders, those from other people groups (Gen 12:1-3; Matt 28:18-20). Action-biased love for the foreigner is a phenomenal method of applying the second greatest commandment, the others-oriented portion of our calling: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39). When Boaz welcomed Ruth and supplied work in his field, he was demonstrating the faithful life of a God-follower. In a real sense, he was a gospel-centered, mission-driven, disciple-making business owner.

Our daily business and work endeavors can leave a definitive, emotional-spiritual impact toward others’ redemption, especially people who are not yet a part of God’s family. Don’t forget, Ruth was previously an outsider, riffraff from Moab. Boaz and his team took a risk, included her on their labor force, and very deliberately embraced God’s mission (Ruth 2).

Ralph Broetje had a dream one night as a teenager. Ralph explains: “The dream was that I would own an apple orchard and use the money we made to help feed kids in India.” In 1968, Ralph and his wife, Cheryl, bought a cherry orchard in Benton City, Washington. During the first three years, the orchard was plagued by a deep freeze, excessive rain, and treacherous fruit flies. It appeared the fledgling enterprise was ruined and ready to fold. Providentially, help arrived when the Broetjes received the immense blessing of financial backing from a dream team of friends. As a result, they were able to persevere and see stable progress across the coming decade.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Broetjes purchased hundreds of acres of sagebrush land in the Columbia Basin of Washington State. This was not previous apple orchard territory. It was risky, but they began to plant apple trees. The trees grew and the orchard began to thrive. In 1984, the Broetje family embarked on a mission trip to Mexico. Their trip proved to be transformative for their business’ entire focus. Ralph explains: “That mission to Mexico made me realize how hard it was for people there to dream about achieving anything, because the opportunities did not exist. I understood that they were coming to the United States for better opportunities for their families. It gave us more insight into what their needs are, and it reminded me of why we had this orchard. It wasn’t so we could keep building things for ourselves. It was so we could try and give back to the families we worked with as much as we can.”[1]

In the wake of that trip, the Broetjes have not only developed numerous additional full-time jobs, but a large complex of single-family homes and apartments, available to rent at low cost to year-round employees. In addition, the New Horizons Preschool and Vista Hermosa Elementary (K–6) were founded. The Vista Hermosa Foundation supports local initiatives for families and reaches out to partner with underserved communities around the world. Such partnerships exist in over thirty countries, including Mexico, India, Honduras, Colombia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad, Haiti, Jamaica, Romania, and the United States.

In recent years, the Broetjes’ work has continued to thrive and flourish. They have developed additional endeavors, like CASA LLC and Mano a Mano, supplying further focus on housing and community building. These endeavors contribute to educational outreach and on-farm seasonal housing for workers needing temporary shelter. Today, the Broetje Orchard in Washington State stands out as a blessing business, accomplishing God’s mission in amazing ways, both locally and globally.

Workplace leaders dare to risk, step outside their comfort zones, and develop holy anticipation for what God might accomplish with each of their relational opportunities. In Workplace Grace, Bill Peel and Walt Larimore encourage us: “Whether we work on a factory floor, in a cramped cubical, or in the corner office, each of us is significant and every gift is important in God’s master plan to draw people to him. He has given us the privilege of being part of the world’s redemption. Never forget small things—a word of encouragement or a simple act of kindness—can be used by God to accomplish big things.”[2]

In whatever daily work we do, when both our actions and words are carried out in the character of Christ, we can reach others with Christ’s redemptive love (Col 3:17, 23–24). In the days ahead, let’s join Boaz and the Broetjes. Will you wonderfully welcome and creatively employ the foreigners, the refugees, and other outsiders in your daily work? We must remember, this goes beyond the partisan chatter over walls, the President, and his executive orders. It’s a serious matter of allegiance to King Jesus and his missional orders—to keep our hearts and borders open, to bless the foreigners with His loving Good News.

This post is adapted from chapters five and eight in EmotiConversations: Working through Our Deepest Places, coauthored with Holly Hall-Pletcher. EmotiConversations is available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and other favorite booksellers.

 

[1]Broetje, http://www.firstfruits.com/company-history.html.

[2]Peel and Larimore, Workplace Grace, 79.

If You Dare, A Labor Day Prayer

Throughout the years, I’ve noticed a mischievous thing about Labor Day weekend. If I’m not careful, I miss it. I can get so caught up in the sensational hoopla of picnics, yard work, or a last-hurrah-of-summer getaway that I mindlessly skip over this holiday’s true significance.

Might we dare to think, stir, and move a step or two deeper this year on the meaning and opportunity of Labor Day weekend?

Originally, Labor Day was so much more than a calendar marker for wrap-up of summer, the pool’s closing, and launch of all things flavored pumpkin spice. Call for such a day was the creation of the labor movement and dedicated to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country. The first state bill for Labor Day was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During that year four more states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York—created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in DC and the territories.

I’m afraid we too often forget just how meaningful and significant our daily work is in the scope of God’s original call to humans (Genesis 1-2) and his ongoing redemptive plans (Ephesians 2:8-10). For disciples of Jesus who are seeking to actively grow in holistic faith, there’s a thought-provoking, responsive prayer, originally penned by Jim Cotter and Paul Payton.[1] If we dare to pray this prayer, it might just refocus our outlook and help guide us into an even more robust, holistic perspective on the vital role our work plays in God’s great work in this world. It goes like this:

Leader: Let the sowers of seed bless you, great God, the gardeners and farmers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the fishers and foresters bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the bread from grain bless you, great God, the wine from the grape sing your praise.

Everyone: May the transformations from cooks bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the spinners and weavers bless you, great God, the designers of clothes sing your praise.

Everyone: May the salesmen and retailers bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sounds and silences of music bless you, great God, the great composers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the improvisers of jazz bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the software and civil engineers bless you, great God, the architects sing your praise.

Everyone: May the pastors and clergy bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the marketers and advertisers bless you, great God, the entrepreneurs sing your praise.

Everyone: May the attorneys and judges bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the educators bless you, great God, the academics and authors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the doctors and nurses bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sculptor and scientists bless you, great God, the business owners and janitors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the artists and baristas bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Amen.

We’ve prayed this congregational, responsive prayer in our church’s worship services. Might you dare to pray it personally, share it with friends, and even potentially share it in your congregation?

[1]Jim Cotter and Paul Payton. Out of the Silence . . . Prayer’s Daily Round (with changes by Mark Mohrlang and adapted here for congregational responsive prayer).

Fire and fury, Charlottesville and antifa—Let’s work for STRONGER HATE!

I’m trying to make sense of the whirlwind. From President Trump’s blustery words with Kim Jong-un to the raging supremacists in Charlottesville, it’s been a firestorm of a week.

Gusty words. Murderous vehicles. Voices cry, “Enough is enough. The hate must stop!” And now the antifa are raising their voices AND fists. “This hate must stop,” they shout, “And we know how! We’ll throw punches and obliterate such horrible hate.” Huh? I’m still trying to make sense of the whirlwind. So are you.

In the midst of the storm, I’ve been wrestling with this concept—

I think we need a stronger hatred. I’m serious. Please hear me out. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope . . . Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone . . . Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (NLT)

It’s wonderfully noble to “hate well.”[1] Hating well means we despise and push back all that is evil in our own hearts and collective conscience. Starting with me, I must vehemently combat the attitudes and actions that promote rank racism, self-consumed vengeance and violence. If there’s any battle to launch, it must start in my own heart.

St. Paul insists that we all CAN work for peace. He calls for genuine love, enthusiastic service, blessings instead of cursing, real-time empathizing, intentional harmonizing, and an everyday willingness to hang out with ordinary people. In these ways and more, we actively “hate evil” and “work for peace.”

Do we grasp the deeper purpose of peace? Additional biblical passages relate the necessity of serious action for Christ-followers, even employing the language of work. Consider these:

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalm 34:14 (NLT)

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

Do these Scriptures have non-violence and the peaceful resolution of conflict in view? Absolutely. Are these truths applicable for both personal relationships and international affairs? Most certainly!

But do these Scriptures simply present a passive posture? Absolutely not. The core biblical idea behind peace is the robust, action-oriented Hebrew ideal of shalom. Christ’s peace includes redeemed humans actively working for other humans’ flourishing.

Richard Foster correlates: “Shalom embodies the vision of a harmonious, all-inclusive community of loving persons. The great vision of shalom begins and ends our Bible . . . The messianic child to be born is the ‘Prince of Peace,’ and justice and righteousness and peace are to characterize his unending kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7). Central to the dream of shalom is the magnificent vision of all nations streaming to the mountain of the temple of God to be taught his ways and walk in his paths.”[2]

Such Christ-honoring, grace-fueled call to “work for peace” supplies the basis for SO MUCH grace-based work. Christ’s church today is being moved toward—

Stronger collaboration

Rather than rushing to join the saber rattling on “the left” or “the right,” more churches are working harder to actually communicate and motivate for positive change. Stephen Graves affirms: “Collaboration can be a freeway system for the gospel to travel. Non-collaboration can be a disappointing dead end or stifling roadblock.”[3]

Such collaboration begins with a highly personalized, one-person-at-a-time, heart-by-heart approach. Let’s admit it. We all have an encrusted aversion toward those people who are “the others”—those souls and skins who seem so antithetical to our own likes, loves, dislikes, and preferences. In great contrast, collaboration means I cultivate a holy hatred for my personal arrogance, laziness, and disgust for “the others.” Then I move to very deliberately love those people who hold different perspectives, different skin color, and the plethora of preferences that so often fuel my prejudices. Flaming passion for Christ’s mission is a serious antidote for our pandemic of racism. We can each choose to host a meal, join “the others” for coffee, express Christ’s loving message, and intentionally respond to others’ active overtures for conversation.

Strategic innovation toward greater flourishing

More and more churches are working toward Gospel-proclamation through creative, innovative community development. Such development aims for redemptive businesses and more missional workplaces that lead toward economic growth and an overall shalom that’s grounded in Christ’s holistic saving grace. Where this is happening, both globally and in communities near our churches, such innovative work supplies a beautiful picture of counter-intuitive kindness (Romans 12:9-21). Creative discipleship groups join with brighter business plans, producing vibrant, Gospel-motivated movements in communities. Christ’s good news prompts more people to experience greater flourishing—real peace with God and one another.[4]

Herein lies the Christ-like ideal of working to evoke positive change, forward momentum in the lives of people who are in need spiritually, socially, emotionally, and financially. We dare not forget, such real need includes you and me! We are each impoverished, in need of meeting God’s grace on multiple levels. The local church with which I serve has certainly not arrived on these issues of racism, God’s mission, and innovative shalom. Like most churches, we still have miles to go. But we are actively teaching, promoting, and mobilizing for greater one-on-one peace-making as well as stronger regional mission and more thoughtful global impact. Healthier hatred of what’s wrong in our world and our more loving pursuit of peace are rooted deeply in Jesus’ kingdom agenda.

It’s stunning to realize: the Prince of Peace calms the storm and accomplishes his royal work today through us! Let’s thoughtfully hate what is wrong in our world and overcome that evil with love-motivated good works—all for Christ’s glory. And remember—it can start today with just one warm conversation over coffee!

 

 

 

[1]Life guru Henry Cloud expounds this concept in 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Life and Love. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 139.

[2]Streams of Living Water (New York: Harper One, 2001), 171.

[3]The Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal (Fayetteville, AR: KJK Inc, 2015), 122-123.

[4]For a regional example in south-central PA, see celebratecolumbia.com and on the global scene, explore the amazing work of hopeinternational.org.

Dishes and Crosses—Is your work ever done?

My wife, Nancy, is oh-so-creative in the kitchen. The delectable dishes she concocts are scrumptious, but the resulting piles of dishes sometimes seem insurmountable. Occasionally, one of our three boys pitches in, but they frequently have right-after-dinner plans. (Hmmm. I wonder why?) Consequently, Nanc’ and I wash a lot of dishes. There are times when my attitude is A+ positive. I put on music and flirt with the chef. But I must confess, there are many days when my do-the-dishes mood is not so stellar. I hang my head and think to myself, “Why does it feel like this job is never finished?” You ask the same exhausted question regarding your own most dreaded chore, whether it’s dishes, laundry, floors, yard work, or _______________.

That dreadful day at Golgotha, Christ cried out, “It is finished!” (John’s Gospel, 19:30) What did he mean? We might assume Christ was so profoundly exhausted that he was exclaiming, “The cross has been agonizing, and now, it’s OVER!” Perhaps. But perhaps he meant even more. Throughout Christ’s time on earth, he worked. He worked hard. In Mark 6:3, people recognized him as the carpenter. A tekton engaged in hands-on work with wood and/or other sculpting and building materials. Prior to assuming his role as Rabbi-Miracle-Worker, Jesus plied the trade of his father, Joseph. With Christ’s baptism and inauguration of his kingdom initiatives, his Heavenly Father’s mission-business shifted into a next phase of implementation. Jesus taught crowds; he trained disciples; he touched the suffering; he transformed lives by his grace. In a real sense, his hands were still sculpting. Like most jobs, he had to work around the haters and cynics. On one such feisty occasion, he replied, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John’s Gospel, 5:17)

The language of Jesus’ cry from the cross was ripe with significance. Tetelestai. “It is now fully accomplished, totally completed. The plans have come to fruition. It’s paid in full. Redemption has fully arrived!”

How might Christ’s decisive cry, “It is finished!” impact our daily work?

We can affirm the value of long-term planning and implementation. Much of the Father’s work—and then his Son’s work—involved establishing and working out the ancient prophecies. Christ’s life work demonstrated marvelous fulfillment of those plans, culminating in extra-dynamic ways with the cross, resurrection, and ascension. Consider this: when we make strategic plans and work hard to implement them, we are more fully living out the image of God, matching his very character and transformative intentions for us. As we work with him, relying on his plans, we actually find deep rest in his finished work on our behalf.

We can infuse our daily work with his redemptive aims. Christ’s loud personal cry, tetelestai, declared the complete arrival of redemption. This should motivate us to make sure our own work keeps redemptive purposes in view. How does what I do today serve with humble sincerity, bless the mess, clear the confusion, and bring truly Good News to people who experience too much bad news everyday? With both our daily actions and our daily words, we can share Christ’s hope-filled redemption. My attitude starts to improve as I deliberately pray over those greasy plates and spoons, thanking God for the mouths and hands that have touched them. Dish towel in hand, I can boldly ask the Lord to nourish, cleanse, use, and encourage those dear ones in his service.

We can work hard, relying on God’s grace. The Apostle Paul, after rehearsing the creed—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—insisted that he had worked harder than all the other apostles, “—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) In like fashion, it is the grace of God that confidently propels our own work today. We can fully trust him and praise him for such grace!

We can intentionally plan to finish strong. What does it take to finish strong in your life work? How do you keep from burning out with exhaustion? In their discussion of a strategy for entrepreneurs planning to finish well, Richard Goosen and R. Paul Stevens lend five insights: (1) Keep articulating your life goals, not just when you are young, but throughout life; (2) Constantly refresh your sense of calling; (3) Engage in an accountability group; (4) Practice thanksgiving day and night; and (5) plan on lifelong learning, blending study, work, and play all along the way.[1]

‘Ever wonder what Christ felt on certain days in the carpentry shop, especially when working on tough projects? Did his work feel exhausting? Probably. After all, he was also human. How often did the skin on his hands get dry-cracked and calloused? What expression crossed his face when a splinter snagged him? And I wonder what words crossed his lips when he wrapped up an especially challenging project? I have a hunch I know, and you probably do as well. After all, there was the day his hands held rough-hewn beams, and they felt the ugly work of nails. And on that day, Christ cried out, “It is finished!” That cry was for you, for me, and for countless others who find much-needed rest in his gracious work on the cross.

Take heart. Such finished work and triumphant word supply all the grace we need to press on, work hard, and finish strong.

 

[1]Richard J. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens. Entrepreneurial Leadership: Finding Your Calling, Making a Difference. (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2013) 176-179.

 

Beyond Walls and Borders—Working to Bless Foreigners

immigrants

(Special Note: This was originally published in January 2017. Perhaps it still conveys some contribution for the current controversy. Much of the original content was crafted in book creation two years prior—WAY before the political turmoil and raging debate of the current landscape. My aim was/is to help advance a more Christ-honoring posture—not to add gasoline to the fiery political debate. Blessings!)

Ten days into a new presidency, the media is abuzz with controversy. (I know, shocker! Did we really expect anything less?) What are we to make of declarations like “America FIRST!” and executive orders aiming at exclusion and long-term consequences for refugees, immigrants, and others seeking a homeland in our midst? No matter where you fall on the political landscape, every Christ-following leader must boldly seek to explore the issues through the lens of King Jesus’ redemptive plans for the Gospel. How will our allegiance—whether to Trump or to King Jesus—create healthier rhythms of mission, including strategic choices for treatment of others in our workplaces?

Wise leaders cultivate profitable business for greater job creation that leads to poverty alleviation—marked by marvelous dignity on behalf of every worker. A very deliberate aim for blessing-focused, workplace leaders is to strategically express God’s love to the outsiders—the foreigners, the marginalized, and those previously outside the faith community.

With such focus, we embrace God’s global mission—to welcome and enfold others. We discover a model leader in an Old Testament business owner, Boaz. Leading man in the Ruth narrative, he very intentionally lived out Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Recall Ruth’s label; she was readily known among Judah’s inhabitants as “the Moabite.”

Here is the thick, loving thread of God’s mission, to reach the nations, to intentionally include the outsiders, those from other people groups (Gen 12:1-3; Matt 28:18-20). Action-biased love for the foreigner is a phenomenal method of applying the second greatest commandment, the others-oriented portion of our calling: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39). When Boaz welcomed Ruth and supplied work in his field, he was demonstrating the faithful life of a God-follower. In a real sense, he was a gospel-centered, mission-driven, disciple-making business owner.

Our daily business and work endeavors can leave a definitive, emotional-spiritual impact toward others’ redemption, especially people who are not yet a part of God’s family. Don’t forget, Ruth was previously an outsider, riffraff from Moab. Boaz and his team took a risk, included her on their labor force, and very deliberately embraced God’s mission (Ruth 2).

Ralph Broetje had a dream one night as a teenager. Ralph explains: “The dream was that I would own an apple orchard and use the money we made to help feed kids in India.” In 1968, Ralph and his wife, Cheryl, bought a cherry orchard in Benton City, Washington. During the first three years, the orchard was plagued by a deep freeze, excessive rain, and treacherous fruit flies. It appeared the fledgling enterprise was ruined and ready to fold. Providentially, help arrived when the Broetjes received the immense blessing of financial backing from a dream team of friends. As a result, they were able to persevere and see stable progress across the coming decade.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Broetjes purchased hundreds of acres of sagebrush land in the Columbia Basin of Washington State. This was not previous apple orchard territory. It was risky, but they began to plant apple trees. The trees grew and the orchard began to thrive. In 1984, the Broetje family embarked on a mission trip to Mexico. Their trip proved to be transformative for their business’ entire focus. Ralph explains: “That mission to Mexico made me realize how hard it was for people there to dream about achieving anything, because the opportunities did not exist. I understood that they were coming to the United States for better opportunities for their families. It gave us more insight into what their needs are, and it reminded me of why we had this orchard. It wasn’t so we could keep building things for ourselves. It was so we could try and give back to the families we worked with as much as we can.”[1]

In the wake of that trip, the Broetjes have not only developed numerous additional full-time jobs, but a large complex of single-family homes and apartments, available to rent at low cost to year-round employees. In addition, the New Horizons Preschool and Vista Hermosa Elementary (K–6) were founded. The Vista Hermosa Foundation supports local initiatives for families and reaches out to partner with underserved communities around the world. Such partnerships exist in over thirty countries, including Mexico, India, Honduras, Colombia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad, Haiti, Jamaica, Romania, and the United States.

In recent years, the Broetjes’ work has continued to thrive and flourish. They have developed additional endeavors, like CASA LLC and Mano a Mano, supplying further focus on housing and community building. These endeavors contribute to educational outreach and on-farm seasonal housing for workers needing temporary shelter. Today, the Broetje Orchard in Washington State stands out as a blessing business, accomplishing God’s mission in amazing ways, both locally and globally.

Workplace leaders dare to risk, step outside their comfort zones, and develop holy anticipation for what God might accomplish with each of their relational opportunities. In Workplace Grace, Bill Peel and Walt Larimore encourage us: “Whether we work on a factory floor, in a cramped cubical, or in the corner office, each of us is significant and every gift is important in God’s master plan to draw people to him. He has given us the privilege of being part of the world’s redemption. Never forget small things—a word of encouragement or a simple act of kindness—can be used by God to accomplish big things.”[2]

In whatever daily work we do, when both our actions and words are carried out in the character of Christ, we can reach others with Christ’s redemptive love (Col 3:17, 23–24). In the days ahead, let’s join Boaz and the Broetjes. Will you wonderfully welcome and creatively employ the foreigners, the refugees, and other outsiders in your daily work? We must remember, this goes beyond the partisan chatter over walls, the President, and his executive orders. It’s a serious matter of allegiance to King Jesus and his missional orders—to keep our hearts and borders open, to bless the foreigners with His loving Good News.

This post is adapted from chapters five and eight in EmotiConversations: Working through Our Deepest Places, coauthored with Holly Hall-Pletcher. EmotiConversations is available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and other favorite booksellers.

 

[1]Broetje, http://www.firstfruits.com/company-history.html.

[2]Peel and Larimore, Workplace Grace, 79.

Discover your most joyous Christmas ever!

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My new book, Henry’s Christmas, is rolling off the press in the next few weeks!

It’s an adventuresome Christmas tale—destined to carry you beyond the daily work stressors, relational turmoil, financial fears, and family feuds so typical during this season. Take a marvelous journey with Zach, Maggie, and old Henry.

Join an action-packed, insightful journey with this set of colorful, current-day characters. Meet the original cast of biblical characters from the ancient Advent scenes, and discover faith-filled courage, kingdom anticipation, jubilant joy, and gracious generosity. Suspense, romance, theology, and mystery combine in this compelling story, helping us discover God’s greater purpose and mission in our workplaces and families during the Christmas season.

Designed for personal inspiration, family Advent reading, or use in your small group or Sunday school class, this story is conveyed through twenty-five fast-paced chapters, grouped into four weeks, with a set of discussion questions and recommended exercises included with wrap-up of each week’s section.

Official release date is November 14, but be watching for pre-order links, being posted during the coming week.

Grab this engaging resource and encounter your own joy-filled transformation in your workplace and family life this Advent!

If You’re Dreading Going Back to Work . . .

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I grew up dreading work. My father was a loving dad, but like many parents, he was set on cultivating a monster work ethic in his son. This included bailing hay in scorching August heat. (Can you sympathize with a scrawny middle school kid, drenched in sweat with scratched up arms?) Dad also tossed me underneath vehicles and had me turning wrenches when I was very young. (Apparently, he had no appreciation for child labor laws.) I got bloody knuckles, along with crumbling rust and dripping grease on my face. When Dad discovered I was not mechanically inclined, I was handed a broom and assigned cleanup duty in his shop. Yes, I grew up dreading such manual labor. And I learned at an early age to dread going back to work, especially after a few days off.

Perhaps you have similar sentiments following this long holiday weekend. We readily think certain jobs are more glorious, while we deem other lines of labor to be of little importance. We categorize—there’s the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary.” There’s the “mundane” and then the “marvelous!”

If you’re in a season where you feel like your current job falls in the ordinary or mundane category, you probably need some fresh motivation to go back tomorrow. Consider these back-to-work motivators, straight from God’s grand story in the Bible (I’ve included pertinent biblical reference addresses so you can explore on your own.)

You’re actually being VERY God-like when you work!

When we first encounter God, He’s working; he made humans in his image to rule and to reign (yes, it’s royal lingo)—to lead strong in labor. Genesis 2:15 shares that God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to work it. It’s a rich word meaning “intentional service with an attitude of worship.”

As you head back to work, let this thought motivate you: “My daily work in whatever garden God has placed me is a seriously good way to live out God’s image, to serve others, and to worship my Creator!”

Our daily labors—our efforts, feelings, and overall outcomes—took a big tumble. (See Genesis 3:17-19) Our struggles arrived when work went topsy-turvy and fell along with all of the original Creation. The Curse entered the scene because of sin. Now, we encounter thorns, thistles, and sweat. Just knowing this certainly doesn’t make everything feel better, but it does lend us greater understanding regarding WHY work often feels so miserable. As you head back to work, let this motivate you:

God started working to redeem all of Creation—and this includes our work efforts and outcomes.

He extended grace to humans, and he chose Abraham. He called him to go and be a blessing! God said that all humans, every nation would be blessed through Abraham. (See Genesis 12:1-3) Let this motivate you as you return to work: God is working to reverse the curse, to bring us blessing, and that includes blessing for our daily labors!

God did not abandon his plans for human leadership in daily work. (See Psalm 8)

The psalmist emphasizes that we still “rule and reign” over God’s creative work. Whatever you do—whether scrubbing toilets, leading a sales team, flipping burgers, or mentoring kids during retirement—every task still matters to God!

Jesus was and is an amazing worker! 

We often forget, long before He was the miracle-working rabbi, Jesus was originally a carpenter, probably taking over Joseph’s business. When confronted by critics, he said, “My Father is always working, and I myself am working.” (See Mark 6:2-3 and John 5:16-18.)

Don’t miss this motivator for tomorrow’s labor:

Your daily work can be infused with greater meaning—real significance—as you focus on pleasing Christ.

Recently, people shared with me on Facebook & LinkedIn their favorite thing and their most frustrating thing about their daily labor. A guy working for the water company told me his favorite work feature is “working outside,” and his most frustrating is “working outside.” Another person said her favorite is “working with the public,” and her most frustrating is “working with the public.”

Randy Kilgore encourages us: “Who we work with and who is impacted by our work are not merely economic considerations; these issues are part of our spiritual service. Work is not merely a means to an end or a place to put in time or raise funds. Our workplace can be holy ground . . . faithful service to the Father.”[1]

MadetoMatter

Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24 supply rich motivation:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

One final motivator: The future is bright with God’s plans for human work.

In God’s grand story, Eden will be restored as the culmination of Christ’s work, and work will be fully redeemed. Houses will be built; crops will be planted; children will be raised. We will indeed still work, and it will be work like we have never worked before! (See Revelation 22:2-5 and Isaiah 65:17, 19, 21-23)

Let’s head back to work with “all our hearts,” remembering that our daily work marvelously matters to God!

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[1]Randy Kilgore. Made to Matter: Devotions for Working Christians. P. 92.

Working with Dad

Dad & Dumptruck

I heard Dad say it often. “I love to work!” He seldom camped on a single profession. Some dubbed him “scattered, shot-gun-like, a jack of all trades.” Reality—he was skillfully gifted in a variety of arenas. His sundry mix of roles included commercial coach bus driver, car salesperson, pastor-teacher, camp director, entrepreneurial auto repairman, truck driver, and avid church ministry volunteer.

I often wondered: Did some of Dad’s work matter more or less than those jobs that were churchy, distinctly ministry-oriented? Randy Kilgore lends holistic insight: “God is at work in every corner of creation, not just the church. He is present in the stock market and the supermarket . . . in the assembly line and the picket line. When we become one with Christ, we join Him where He is already at work.”[1]

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Ironically, many of my best father-son memories involve working with Dad. I usually grumbled under my breath and held such labor in low regard. Little did I know that these sweaty experiences would supply formative personal building blocks for my own outlook on work’s significance.

I mowed grass for the first time when I was seven. Dad walked immediately behind me, his hands giving the push right next to mine. My chin barely touched the lawnmower’s top bar; toes were mere centimeters from the blade. (I’m fairly certain there is a statute of limitation on child endangerment.) I was thrilled at such a big opportunity, failing to fathom the agonizing years of mowing yet to come.

While living in rural MI, our family worked a small hobby farm of animals and crops. I rose at 6 a.m. each morning—bright sun or blowing snow—to perform a vast list of smelly, grimy chores. Gather eggs, slop hogs, milk goats, and clean stalls. The same monotonous routine took place around 5:30 p.m. each evening. “’Builds character, Son. ‘Builds character.”

Dad owned a ’61 GMC pickup. The summer I was twelve, we worked tediously at replacing the motor and refinishing the body. I assisted by handing Dad grimy tools, crawling in and out from under the truck, holding greasy parts in place, sanding fenders, guzzling iced tea, and pretending to help Dad solve what seemed like endless setbacks. I was big stuff.

Saturday mornings during high school, I would drag my lazy bones out of bed to join Dad for breakfast and the big job of visitation. Our church had a bus ministry that transported children to church on Sunday mornings. In order to prime the pump, reach out to families (and hopefully boost Sunday attendance), we would visit each child’s family. Every Saturday was a new people adventure, an all-out foray into a foreign land. Houses were jungles filled with rambunctious breakfasts, blaring cartoons, and stinky furniture—plenty of drama and trauma, the likes of which I had never beheld.

Dad also taught me how to run a chainsaw, chop logs, build a fire, bale hay, change a tire, and quickly prepare to deliver an encouraging faith talk for a ministry team.

Thirty years later, I realize I also learned big building blocks that proved formative to my own work perspective. These include:

  • Every job has tedious, mundane tasks. Don’t gripe. Just do them; then you can ride bike, play Atari, build the tree fort, or read a book.
  • Worst first. This is now one of my own favorite axioms, and my children groan. Set out early to conquer the least fun jobs. Then you can do the tasks you actually enjoy.
  • Hard work can be fun. Your attitude makes all the difference.
  • God is crazy about people. He especially loves the ones with smelly couches who yell at their kids while burning waffles on Saturday mornings.
  • Creativity is good and God-like (Genesis 1-2). Dad repainted the GMC truck multiple times. It started out banana yellow, shifted to classic black with an orange tiger stripe, and finished as candy apple red with a metallic fleck (my personal favorite, because I was a part of that final paint job). Creativity is a joy-filled tool to be employed in virtually any job, a genuine gateway to ingenuity.

Greg Forster declares a vibrant connection between our Heavenly Father’s work and our work: “We can be fruitful because we are made in the image of a Father who creates . . . we do work within the universe he produced to produce blessings within it.”[2]

Joyfortheworldwrench

Call it rose-colored glasses, but I now realize that working with Dad was truly good. And I find great encouragement in realizing I am in good company. Christ held a very near-and-dear perspective regarding his Father and his Father’s work. When accused of desecrating the Sabbath, he taunted the Pharisees with his own Father’s monster work ethic. “My father is always working . . .” (John 5:16-17) And Christ went on to explain that for insight, direction, and agenda, he takes his cues from his Father. “. . . the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing . . . the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.” (John 5:19-20)

When I reflect on the works accomplished by both of my Fathers, I am indeed amazed and inspired anew to follow their lead.

[1]Randy Kilgore. Made to Matter: Devotions for Working Christians. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 2008, p. 130.

[2]Greg Forster. Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence & Can Begin Rebuilding It. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014, p. 221.

Gratitude Pie @ Work

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Just say “thanksgiving.” What’s your knee-jerk picture? Perhaps you envision a turkey or maybe family gathered around the table. For me, it’s PIE! Several of my most precious holiday memories include Grandma’s oh-so-creative concoctions. She would work relentlessly for two days prior to the great feast, hand-rolling crusts and baking a scrumptious assortment of pies. Classic pumpkin, deep-dish apple, dark chocolate pudding, and the delectable pecan. The lineup was placed atop the garage chest freezer, remaining nicely chilled in the crisp November air.

Two legendary family members had a special way of expressing their gratitude for Grandma’s hard work in the kitchen. Following our family’s indulgent dining on the grand bird and sundry side dishes ‘round the oak table, Uncle Bob and Uncle Buzz would each pick a pie from the garage freezer top. Yes, each of them, a WHOLE pie. With great care, they would lavishly layer their selection with whipped topping. Once the white fluff was complete, my uncles would give Grandma a grateful kiss, exit the kitchen, and promptly plunk down in a living room recliner. With fork and whole pie in hand, Uncle Buzz and Uncle Bob would watch football and devour an entire pie. To this day, I have no clue how they stuffed it in. For a young boy like me, this was indeed an impressive scene to behold. Gram would chuckle and beam from ear to ear with her own grateful grin. She reveled in their gratitude. With amazement, I aspired to such capacity in consumption. Alas, to this day, I am lucky if I can down two pieces of pie across Thanksgiving Day. My uncles still hold the family record!

How might our daily work evoke greater gratitude? Chesterton said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

Psalm 145:10-11 declares: All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power.

I am struck by this reality. Both God’s works—what he has created and what he is accomplishing—and his faithful people are capable of expressing praise and thanks. Both the outcomes of God’s intentional efforts as well as the people who serve him—BOTH have the capacity to bring him gratitude and make him famous. In fact, such spotlighting of God’s impressive kingdom work has distinct missional results. Psalm 145:12 says, “So that all people may know of your mighty acts . . .” And verse 21 echoes similar motivation behind such thanks and praise: May everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.” More people in more places recognize and experience his glorious kingdom through such gratitude!

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I put out the challenge to our gathering of friends this past Sunday to “come ready to share next Sunday” where they see God at work in their workplaces, their families, their neighborhoods, and across all of their lives. We’re planning for open microphones in our Sunday services so people can share a feast of thanks together! As I am preparing my own heart, I’ve come up with my starter list, where I see God at work. These include: My amazing family, Nancy and our boys, as well as my incredible mother! I am also grateful to God for a tremendous church family, Manor Church, and the privilege I have to serve with a fabulous team of leaders. I am oh-so grateful for God’s provision of “daily bread”—the stuff of physical food, creative clothing, running vehicles, and a fine roof over our heads. I’m also grateful for some serious “whipped cream” in my life that added to the pie this year. Over the top stuff has included extra-gracious opportunities like Henry’s Glory being published and read by people. What a joy to see how God is working to change my life and others’ lives. I give him great praise!

How about giving thanks for the way Christ works through the tough stuff? Along with you, I’ve had my share of disappointments, heartaches, and stresses this year. Eugene Peterson says, “God works patiently and deeply, but often in hidden ways in the mess of our humanity and history.” In that light, we must certainly thank him for the messy stuff as well. Even there, Christ is working!

How about you? What’s your “gratitude pie” taste like?