Pies and Hubcaps—In Praise of LOCAL Business

With four drivers in our family, we delayed the extra purchase as long as possible. Finally, I caved into the impassioned teenager pleas. We purchased the third vehicle. It’s used, an oldie but a goodie. We were barely off the car lot before our firstborn was declaring his aim to improve the look of the wheels with new hubcaps.

Our quest for the right new look began online, but we soon found ourselves saying, “’Just wish we could really see and feel what we’re getting before we buy.” In the midst of our hunt, I discovered the Hubcap Barn in Manheim, PA. It’s less than five miles away. Placing a phone call, I was immediately wowed by the personalized interaction and quick mental recall of inventory. Later that afternoon, my son and I were climbing the barn steps and picking out four original, matching hubcaps. We got a great deal including details about how to make them shine. As we drove away, I reflected. “There’s something so unique about buying local, a tangible intangible you just can’t get when buying online.”

I’m struck once again with the realization that Jesus’ own business approach was very local. As the God-Man, he certainly had the wherewithal to make his carpentry business much bigger, even global had he desired such an instantaneous reach. Instead, “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, MSG). Jesus’ down-to-earth incarnation included his work-a-day business.

After the formal start of his Messianic ministry, he returned to his hometown as guest speaker at the local meeting place. The townsfolk first praised him but then scoffed. “He’s just a carpenter . . . “ (Mark 6:3). Such critique serves as sturdy evidence. Jesus was well known by the locals as the neighborhood carpenter way before he was recognized as the traveling preacher and miracle-worker.

With our current-day buzz about “being the church” in our communities and living more missional and incarnational, how deliberately diligent are we in cultivating local business that’s God-glorifying? Do we more intentionally shop local businesses with the aim of fostering relationships, stimulating the local economy, and sharing gospel witness for the glory of God?

My life is enriched and our local region is oh-so-blessed because of places like Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA. (Yes, owners Byron and Beth Borger are oh-so-kind to carry my books!) The Borough of Columbia is much stronger because of a great place like Café 301 (301 Locust Street, Columbia PA).

Pies Galore and More of Mount Joy, owned and operated by Donna and John Alexander, has been serving up delectable pies for over five years now. Our local community is much sweeter because of such Christ-honoring business impact!

Vintage & Co. is a fantastic shop on Marietta Ave, Lancaster. Shoppers encounter marvelous antiques, refinished tables, Country Chic paint, and all sorts of wonderful treasures of yesteryear.

Zack Erswine winsomely reminds us: “In order to follow Jesus we have to go through a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth” (The Imperfect Pastor, 2015). I am grateful for Jesus’ down-to-earth, close-to-home, person-to-person business practices. And I’m motivated in fresh ways to applaud, frequent, and encourage local business for the sake of God’s kingdom. Here is an especially wonderful perspective and practice to carry into Christmastime.

Yes, Jesus’ great commission takes us global, but I am also praying we follow in Jesus’ local missional steps with even greater frequency and passion.

Where will you shop this weekend?

 

 

Working through despicable disappointment

With glowing anticipation, everything inside me believed with utmost confidence that I would get the job. Multiple interviews had revealed great chemistry with the stellar slate of senior leaders. Based on my mix of strengths, I was bringing a complementary set of gifts to the team. And I was excited to learn and grow in the presence of such high caliber colleagues. It was a match made in heaven and also a tremendous next step for our family.

I had been waiting for the final details to fall into place and the offer to be extended. Seated on a warm August morning in a bustling café, I was surrounded by books and papers, deep in work while basking in the warm morning sunlight. My mobile rang. Based on a string of previous positive conversations, I knew the number on the screen quite well, and I was excited to take the call. I quickly stepped from the noisy café into the brilliant rays of sun. (With pronounced memory, I can still see the very stretch of sidewalk that I paced that day outside the café doors.)

With every previous conversation, the hiring leader’s tone had been warm and upbeat. This time, much to my psyche’s surprise, the leader’s voice on the other end of the call was quite different. His spark was gone. It did not take him long to get to the point. Very matter of fact, he conveyed that the organization had just decided: “We need to go a different direction than we originally thought, but we immensely appreciate your robust engagement in the process. Thank you. You have a promising future. Best of luck!” Okay, wow! I was back on my heels and suddenly grasping for a response. What to say? Total loss. I felt blindsided and desperately disappointed.

My sad sidewalk scenario happened many moons ago, but in recent days the all-too-familiar emotions have echoed in my soul. In this current season, I have witnessed what seems like a truckload of disappointment for close family and friends.

A friend is experiencing bad business breaks—what seems like one after another—and then another. He has been slammed with both loss of revenue and a groundswell of criticism from clients and associates.

A young man I know was passed over upon consideration by a prestigious sports team. He had so anticipated playing with the organization. Sadly, this represents deep personal loss. A lifetime dream now gone.

After seven years cancer-free, another friend was recently told that the cancer has returned. A new round of surgery and treatment is necessary. It’s heartbreaking.

One of my own sons received the jolting news that he was not a finalist for a major scholarship. It seemed so promising, this potential award and provision through this avenue for his education.

We’ve all known something similar. Truth be told, rather than wallowing in self-loathing, it’s empowering to embrace this stronger axiom:

Life’s disappointments can actually be appointments that lead us toward something greater, stronger, and more productive.

How do we work through such shadow seasons, those times of dark and desperate news? In the face of serious disappointments, we can take a deep breath and choose to say, “This IS indeed disappointing, but it is really only part of the story.” There’s usually much more going on, more that we just cannot yet see. We can look for the cheerful, even sillier side, to see the surprising reasons to laugh. An old Hebrew proverb says: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) (And after all, people do so often behave in goofy and comical ways when they are creating our disappointments.) We also work through disappointments in healthier ways by looking and listening for what we might deeply learn. It is often in the waiting that our patience quotient grows stronger. We stretch and learn tenacity.

Perhaps most importantly, we work through disappointments best by remembering that God is still working. Joseph of ancient Jewish history experienced a desperate pileup of disappointment. The eleventh son of Jacob, daddy’s favorite was mistreated and betrayed by his brothers. Enslaved but then rising in the ranks in Egypt, he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct while on the job. He was promptly imprisoned, eventually promoted while there, and then comically forgotten by someone who could have quite easily effected Joseph’s release. Years later as Vice Regent of Pharaoh’s affairs, this step-at-a-time, too-familiar-with-failure leader would stare into his flabbergasted, frightened brothers’ eyes and speak those stunning words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)[1]

In the face of disappointing setbacks, we can be encouraged by similar deep truths from the Apostle Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29, NIV)

Take heart! God is still faithfully working through all things, even through your most devastating disappointments. I look back on that August morning on the café sidewalk and chuckle now over how desperate I felt. In reality, God was protecting and leading me. Had I taken that coveted role, I would have most likely landed smack-dab in the middle of the gigantic mess that unfolded for that organization during the next year. I also might have missed out on several amazing opportunities that emerged in the months to come, including serious appointments for God-honoring influence and mission.

It is so seriously good to know that God is still working His good, even through our most desperate disappointments!

 

[1]For a tremendous treatment of business insights from the life of Joseph, see Albert M. Erisman’s erudite book The Accidental Executive (Hendrickson Publishers, 2015).

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.

My One and Only Resolution for 2017

new-years-resolutions-chalkboard

I’m sick and done with resolutions. Okay. There, I said it.

Work smarter. Not harder or longer. Clear the clutter and get your stuff organized. Join a gym and lose the weight. Surf social media less; practice more productive habits. Quit smoking; walk in fresh air on lunch breaks. Drop snarky gossip; be kinder to coworkers and clients . . .

We can each add our own declarations to the list of best-intended, platitudinous resolutions. But I say, “Bah-humbug!” Have you had enough of the “New Year, New You” mumbo jumbo? I know I’m not alone. Many folks have a propensity for cynicism. Perhaps you can tell, my own inner Scrooge emerges as the holidays wrap up. I can’t help it. I’ve kissed one too many resolutions in the past, only to break up about five or six days later.

In case you’re still wondering, I’m not making resolutions this year. Except for ONE, and I have a hunch this one is a keeper.

In these wrap-up days of ’16, I have been pondering a dusty old Psalm from the archives of Holy Writ. At first glance, Psalm 90 feels pessimistic, pathetically Ebenezer-esque in tone. Moses was grumbling as he conversed in prayer with the Lord. He recalled how God himself has always existed, “from everlasting to everlasting” (vs. 2). Moses, the legendary leader of God’s people, observes how humans don’t actually live very long. In the wake of sin’s curse (Gen. 3), we too quickly return to dust. We might live seventy years, maybe eighty if we’re extra-strong. Like dreams in the night, we are swept away. Like spring grass, we sprout up but wither in the scorching sun. It feels like God tracks our sins and is frequently angry with us (vs. 3-11). Moses had his own list of regrets, epic failures, and ugly consequences contributing to his own cynicism. (See Numbers 20:1-13 and Deuteronomy 32:48-52.) But he makes ONE resolution in the form of a prayer, ONE heart cry that changes everything:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.      (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

stopwatch-striking-midnight

He’s calling for a deeper, daily personal awareness, with full-throttle aim to live well. Following his prayer of resolve, Moses’ tone marvelously shifts. He anticipates God’s own shift in attitude, a return of His compassion and non-stop love, a newfound reason to sing for joy, a swap of their bad days for good days. He even anticipates a revival of God’s wonderful work on their behalf and God’s extra blessing for productivity in their everyday work:

Establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17 NIV)

I will pursue wisdom every day in 2017! There it is. My one and only resolution!

Biblical wisdom is skillful living, choosing to go God’s way on your everyday paths. Application includes your workplace, family life, finances, conversations, leisure and hobbies—EVERY road you travel! The Apostle Paul urges similar resolution in Ephesians 5:15-17: Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (NASB)

Howard Baker has observed: It is true, I suppose, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions . . . but so is the road to heaven. My daily decisions become the mechanism of translating my holy intention into holy living.[1]

What’s it look like to pursue wisdom daily? At the core, in its most primary way, this means I will seek Christ, his character, his teachings and road map to reorient my interior world. I will explore and encounter Him, then choose HIS ways in all I do and say. After all, Jesus is the fulfillment; He is wisdom fully personified!

In a posthumous work, Stephen R. Covey urges us to “Get wisdom . . . the goal of primary greatness is wisdom.” Covey posits: “wisdom is knowing that sustained, positive change begins on the inside,” and “wisdom is manifest when character and competence overlap.”[2] Such emphasis on the work of internal changes—a holy marriage of character and competence—reflects the heart-focused priorities of Moses, St. Paul, and Christ Jesus himself!

So I’m aiming to make all my days count in 2017 by centering them in the Lord Jesus. Join me in praying with resolve at the start of each day in ‘17: “Lord, increase my heart of wisdom today. Fill me with your character and your competence for living well!”

Who knows? Perhaps if I pursue a heart of wisdom every day, I’ll also discover through Christ a greater life fulfillment, even on my difficult days. It’s almost certain we’ll encounter greater joy and gratitude. Walking Jesus’ wise ways, we’re bound to truly forgive others and make peace with feisty coworkers. And we can take courageous new steps of missional living, to be bolder witnesses of His grace in our everyday opportunities.

With this one resolution for ‘17, we will be employing KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and “first things first.” Long before Covey popularized the mantra, C.S. Lewis said:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first things and second things.

Let’s resolve, our first and most essential thing for 2017, to pursue wisdom—Christ himself! And who knows? Perhaps we’ll also gain the heart and skill to get more organized, lose some weight, and maybe even become less cynical. Okay, let’s not push it with that one. First things first!

[1]Howard Baker. The One True Thing. (Colorado Spring: NavPress) 2007, p. 57.

[2]Stephen R. Covey. Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success. (New York: Simon and Schuster) 2015, pp. 161-169.

Discover your most joyous Christmas ever!

henryschristmaslargefront

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!

Henry’s Glory—Back to School in Nigeria!

Henry's Glory Cover

God is at work all over the world! He has graciously allowed Henry’s Glory to journey into some very special communities in the past two years. One of those new places is Nigeria! In the coming school year, a principal is planning to have 50+ upper-level students read the book.

Segun, the school principal, has graciously granted us an interview. Enjoy gleaning bright insights into their endeavors!

John: “It’s a great joy to hear of God’s work through you and your teachers, Segun. Would you please share with us a bit of background about your school, your students, and your school’s unique characteristics?”

Segun: “Our school is a k-12 school named Kingdom Citizens International School, located in Jos, North Central, Nigeria. Founded in September 2004 by The Kingdom Citizens Pavilion (our church is the mother organization), we use basically Nigerian Government curriculum. We have about 400 students and 37 staff. Our school’s vision/mission is to produce students who will have a global mindset and national relevance.”

Nigerian map

John: “What are you aiming to accomplish in your student’s minds/hearts related to a biblical worldview, and specifically God’s perspective on work and vocation?”

Segun: “We have been exposed to several training events, seminars, and books about Theology of Work, and it has shaped the minds of our staff immensely on how to approach work from God’s perspective. This mindset is what we are trying to pass along to the students by making them see God’s perspective through every subject matter taught to them. We are currently undergoing a course called Worklife Restoration and Advancement Project (WRAP) by Dr. Christian Overman. This course is really revolutionizing how a teacher should weave Theology of Work into the curriculum in a systematic, intentional, and repeatable manner. It is a three-year course and we are just about to conclude the second year. The impact of this course is already being felt in the lives of our students and their parents. The whole intention is to INTEGRATE Biblical worldview and Theology of Work premises into the government-approved curriculum.”

John: “I’m aware that you plan to include Henry’s Glory in your required reading for Middle/High School students in this coming year. How do you anticipate Henry’s Glory will help shape such worldview related to work/vocation?”

Segun: “Henry’s Glory is such a fabulous book that teaches Theology of Work in a prose format. I really enjoyed reading the book. It has a way of helping one assimilate the basic truths of God’s perspective of work as one enjoys the story. I believe that our students will enjoy reading the book as it is written with a fictional design and will drive home the basic truth about work that the teachers have been trying to get across. I am also sure that the stories in Henry’s Glory will guide our High School students in making accurate career choices as they graduate from our school into the Universities.”

John: “Thanks so much for your enthusiasm for the book and your plans to utilize it with your students. How may we best pray for you, your teachers, students, and their families?”

Segun: “Kindly pray that God will enable our staff to continue with the momentum and excitement that they have in the WRAP program. Also pray for our students to remain open to this new paradigm of teaching that incorporates Biblical worldview into every subject matter. Please pray that the parents of these students will continue to cooperate with the school to use every means to consolidate on the teachings of accurate perspective about work to their children. Many thanks!”

John: “We are grateful for this opportunity, Segun, to partner with you in shaping young leaders’ perspectives! We will indeed be praying, and thank you for your meaningful work for Christ!”

nigerian-school-segun

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.