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]

MadetoMatter

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

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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!

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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?

 

 

Christmas and the Blessing Business

Scrooge for Blessing Business Blog

‘Tis the season. Both the big screen and local stages portray the classic tale, A Christmas Carol. At a pivotal point in the plot, Tiny Tim share his now-famous line, “God bless us, every one!” Such sentiment served as the antithesis of Scrooge’s own humbug. Original readers of Dickens’ tale were moved by the frail yet endearing boy’s optimistic plea, and future audiences have continued to be stirred. In my own family, any characters that dare to be grumpy during December are mocked with a sarcastic “humbug!” They quickly get the message. “Straighten up thy attitude!”

Consider how Dickens’ choice of words might motivate us as leaders in our workplaces and evoke a current-day response. How often we just breeze past the word bless, relegating it for consoling nearby sneezers or impressively accompanying churchy comments. I am afraid we give it little deeper consideration for everyday application. Meaning for this rich Hebrew word bless is explained by one scholar like this: “An enduing with power for success, prosperity, and longevity. . . . a blessing that confers abundant and effective living upon something or someone.”[1] Here’s a synthesis of this definition, perhaps a bit more memorable way to express what it means to bless:

We bless when “we give more deeply so others can live more fully”—so someone or a group of people can thrive—truly flourish.

In his winsome book on business and faith integration, Jeff Van Duzer describes one of the primary aims of business —intentionally contributing to what he dubs human flourishing.[2] With such bigger perspective, leaders who are seeking to integrate their faith in holistic ways deliberately correlate their own everyday work with the potential for profound flourishing, helping greater life emerge for their employees, coworkers, clients, and other business contacts. As Scrooge discovered just in time for Christmas morning, the bottom line in business becomes even bigger than the thrill of “a lot of buying and selling.” Through intentionally giving of our time, training, coaching, money, encouraging words, a listening ear, creative leadership, and overall energy, we intentionally engage in the business of blessing!

On the Saturday afternoon before Christmas, when I was ten years old, Dad and I walked downhill to the intersection at the bottom of our road, to visit the local barber. For a brief era, we lived in this dismally depressed coalmine town—Monongah, WV. Though our own family’s finances were stunningly meager, Mom insisted both her boys look good for Christmas Sunday services. We found the barber in jovial spirits, quite talkative regarding his own anticipation of the coming week’s festivities. Dad went first for his cut, followed by my turn in the chair, which included a classic boost-up on the vinyl-covered board to raise my height. As he worked his scissors and clippers, he buzzed me with kind questions about my hopes and anticipations for Christmas week. Once my ears were lowered, Dad surrendered cash to the barber, $3 per head. Though I do not recall doing any whining or grumbling, in hindsight, I realize the joy-filled barber must have sniffed out our family’s economic condition. He placed Dad’s $6 in his register till. Then he wisped out a crisp ten-dollar bill, folded it twice and shook my hand, pressing the amazing gift into my palm. He grinned and said, “Please buy your mom and grandma something special.” He had listened, sensed, and then he blessed. (‘stunning to realize, based on inflation approximations, this was something like handing a kid a fifty today) I have never forgotten that moment of generosity.

How will your workplace be a blessing business this season? I hope we can all join Ebenezer, Tiny Tim, and the benevolent barber of my childhood. May we not only speak the blessing, but also schedule the extra moments, slow down to listen, share words of hope, risk some extra capital, and more strategically invest in people. With hearts and souls determined to help others flourish, let’s truly work with God.

“God bless us, every one!”


[1]Harris, Theological Wordbook, 132.

[2] Van Duzer, Why Business Matters  (and What Still Needs to Be Fixed), IVP, 2010.