Bourdain, Spade, and Denethor—Loving Parts Unknown and Known

He was so skilled, such a stunning character. We are so sad—so deeply sad. What more can be said?

Our collective emotion was rocked this week as more amazingly talented creators—high profile leaders—chose their own exit. We feel such sorrow together.

What more should be said?

My reading and training on grief have coached me to say nothing. Less is more. Remain silent. Do not preach or dispense advice. Simply grieve with the grieving.

And under almost every circumstance, I concur. Indeed, we pray comfort and divine hope for family and friends. We live ever-cognizant of the heartache of mental illness and the struggle of addiction. Ours is a pulsing grief, oft best unspoken. Together, our hearts ache.

Albeit for a moment, indulge me. Perhaps lean into a shade more reflection. I am compelled to break from the normal silence of our society’s prescribed, safe decorum. When we witness such a sad avalanche of remarkable people, it seems that some further commentary might be appropriate. Perhaps, a few next level thoughts might prove helpful to someone. And we join together in confessing, there are still parts both known and unknown.

I shall not engage in diatribe against the supposed emptiness of the splendidly wealthy and the wickedly successful movers and shakers of current culture. Over my years, I have seen too much. Suicide regularly claims the upper crust as well as the best of us lower crumbs. She plays no favorites in her deceptive malice. Life’s pressure, pain, and resulting hopelessness are no respecter of persons.

In the wake of Anthony and Kate’s self-determined exits, my mind has been moved with sadness. And I am drawn into a Tolkien scene and several correlating truths. Beware. This scene happens far from the Shire but not yet Mordor. We find Gandalf and Pippin in one of the dreadful, messy middle places of Middle-earth, the Citadel of Gondor during the apex of the Battle.

He was so skilled, such a stunning character. Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, had served many years as the ruler of the city and surrounding parts, both known and unknown. Overwhelmed by the Shadow and Sauron’s dark influence, this long-time leader chose to do the unthinkable.

With great haste, Pippin desperately explained to Gandalf: ‘Denethor has gone to the Tombs, and he has taken Faramir, and he says we are all to burn, and he will not wait, and they are to make a pyre and burn him on it, and Faramir as well. And he has sent me to fetch wood and oil.’

Denethor’s son, Faramir, had been wounded in battle, a wound the father assumed to be fatal. Gandalf and Pippin raced to the house of the dead in an attempt to rescue both father and son. They rushed in, and we read: “Denethor stepped backward before Gandalf as one amazed.”

Gandalf and Denethor engaged in a volley of heated argument. Denethor declared: ‘Battle is vain. Why should we wish to live longer?’ The old wise guide responded, attempting with all his might to clear the crazed perspective. O if he might talk even an ounce of sense into the frazzled leader.

‘Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death…only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.’

Here is one powerfully germane, highly potent statement from the Wizard’s lips. Before we quickly shrug, shake our heads, and dub this as insensitive, provincial, or even judgmental, let us ponder the depth of Tolkien’s analysis.

Gandalf was drawing from the deep recesses of his memory, reaching back to ancient times in earlier ages when rulers chose to exit life of their own accord. His analysis was profound. The root cause was a dark blend of pride and despair. They allowed Dark Power to get the better of them. (Catch the rest of the story in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Chapter 7.)

But notice this standout statement: Authority is not given to you…to order the hour of your death. Tolkien was very deliberately conveying through the wise lips of Gandalf his own world and life view. Humans are ultimately accountable to their Creator. From Tolkien’s perspective, to think otherwise is a misguided, under-the-Shadow, yes even arrogant perspective. When the leading persons of a culture arrive at believing they hold the authority to decide when they shall depart, they are beguiled by “pride and despair.” But Tolkien does not end with diagnosis. In typical Tolkien style, there is hope and wonderful good news.

Gandalf’s next words to Denethor conveyed so much: ‘Come! We are needed. There is much that you can yet do.’ He called the Steward of Gondor to recognize his important stewardship. He called him to humbly recognize his sacred calling and how much he was needed.

We must all remember, even in our darkest moments:

The choice is not our own. Yes, this runs contra popular, pervasive perspective, the groundswell of societal opinion. Misguided, we think we should rule our own entrance and exit. Sadly, we are now slogging through the Shadows of such dark thinking.

We are needed. There are still friends, coworkers, clients, precious children and spouses who do indeed need you to stay in the battle. Choose to stay. Please choose to stay!

There is much we can still do. There are new parts and places to go—both known and unknown. There are fresh meals to create and taste. New people to meet and bless. There are fashions to still make, meetings to lead, and products to create. There is Good News to share, bad news to battle through, and love to spread profusely.

We all battle with our own blend of pride and despair. We all have demons, addictions, and old enemies. Amidst the voices of dark despair, may we listen instead to the voice of Gandalf and ultimately our Creator. Hear him say: You are not your own. You are loved.  You are not alone. COME! You are needed.  There is much that you can yet do. There is hope!

 

 

The Messy Middle—when you’re not flourishing

My three sons are now enjoying the zenith of their youth. With thick hair on their heads, they readily revel in highlighting their dad’s graying, thinning, Friar Tuck up top and his less-than bulging biceps. I remind them that I can still take them any day in a wrestling match. They grin and sport a “We wouldn’t want to hurt you; we still need your paycheck” look.

This summer alone, my two oldest are adventuring for work and mission in Los Angeles, Port-Au-Prince, Moscow, and D.C. If he’s lucky, their father might trip off to New Jersey some evening if there’s a little gas remaining in a vehicle. Sure signs of my own middle age on Middle-earth.

That’s all tongue-in-cheek. Really. I’m seriously thrilled my boys are flourishing. And there’s our beloved buzzword. It’s everywhere these days, zooming about in the titles, texts, subtitles, and subtexts of the latest, greatest, brightest, and mightiest of current thinking on the good work and Good News for our desperate world.

“God wants humans to flourish.”

That’s true. I concur that from the earliest pages of the Gospel story to the final shout of Revelation’s victory, God is working for his humans and all creation to experience redeemed flourishing—all for his glory.

But my heart is aching these days for the messy middle where most of us spend so much of life. What about the hard-working entrepreneur whose best-made strategies seem to produce zilch in profits five years in a row? What about the uber-creative, aspiring artist who can’t land an agent or garner more than fifty followers on Twitter? What about my beautiful friend from high school who’s passionately checking off her bucket list as she battles cancer? And there’s my friend serving in that stifling hot, undisclosed location on the other side of the globe, laboring to learn a new language, to make new friends with Muslims and somehow make ends meet—all for the good of Jesus’ kingdom work.

I’ve been reminded lately that this messy middle—the graying, not-so-flourishing places where most of us live most of life—can actually be a very good place. Dusty words from the old prophet Habakkuk supply some beautiful ugly perspective:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” —Habakkuk 3:17-19 (KJV)

Such vivid description of NOT flourishing! But right there, Habakkuk made the choice to rejoice and find his strength in the LORD God.

How do we become such joy curators & joy carriers, especially when it feels like we are not flourishing? Here are 7 ideas you might find empowering in the messy middle:

Create more holidays! Recall that holidays were originally HOLY days, like Sabbath and festivals. Why such intentional plans? God himself celebrates, delights, and gushes joy, even at the end of each day of Creation (see Genesis 1-2)!

Celebrate thanksgiving daily, not just in November. Deliberately make lists of situations, people, and provisions for which you are grateful. It’s tough to stay stuck in doom and gloom, pessimism and skepticism, when you are reflecting thanks.

Laugh on wholesome humor. If you need a kick-starter, go watch a couple clips from Michael Jr. or Tim Hawkins on YouTube. Get ready to laugh.

Hang out with joyful people. They are contagious!

Break from your devices. Sometimes, we think we’re not flourishing because we’re stuck playing comparison games with everyone else’s stunningly beautiful lives as portrayed on Fakebook and Instacram. Admit it; you might need a break.

Bless and serve others! There is something SO uplifting, therapeutic, Jesus-like, and joy-producing about deliberately focusing on other people’s needs, interests, and opportunities.

Start now. Choose joy in the present! Psalm 118:24-25 motivates us: “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!” (NIV)

Even in such messy middle, those seasons when it seems like our work and overall life is not flourishing, we can make our bigger discovery—this choice to rejoice. We can find fresh strength in Christ. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll discover there’s actually something new beginning to flourish in our souls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Something

Wind and the wintry mix were pounding our roof as I awoke. (‘Must confess, the little kid deep inside me said, “Ah, the storm did indeed arrive.”) After a foray outside with Brody, our golden retriever, I began the joyous task of carefully stripping newspaper, strategically clumping kindling, and then lighting the flame. Within moments, my boys were gathered around, basking in the glow.

I’m struck with the integral connection between holy interruptions in our regular schedules—these God-appointed disturbances, like snowstorms—and the opportunity to make something. We learn of the God who oh-so-creatively makes things in Genesis 1. Many years later, Jesus reminded his critics that his Father is always working (John 5:16-18). So I’m challenged today with the opportunity.

I can make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. I sense the Lord’s promptings today. “John, whatever you do during this storm, you must make something.” Just perhaps, we might each hear his whisper carried on the winds and driving flakes of snow. Build the fire and keep it burning all day. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. Make french toast—and bacon, and eggs, and waffles. Go all out. Throw on your warmest snow clothes and go make memories—even just thirty minutes worth—with your kids. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this wintry blast.)

So, why not make something? You get the idea.

Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing God’s intentions for our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are made by our all-wise Father, for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (check out Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.

Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours. Now go make something!

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.

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.

One Extremely Trendy, Very Dangerous Thing We Do at Work

judgingothers

We were stunned. No one would help us. My wife, Nancy, and I stood in the men’s department of a fine store, looking at new suits. In my mid-20s and having just completed my master’s degree, I was about to start a new job. I had received a very generous graduation gift, so we allocated it toward new dress clothes. I donned a navy pinstripe blazer and stared into the mirror, contemplating how seriously good I looked. Sales clerks were busy, apparently too busy laughing and chatting. After some awkward moments of no assistance, Nanc’ walked over to the sales counter and asked a question, anticipating that her inquiry might shake out some attention. Met with a curt answer, the associate’s nonverbal responses screamed, “I’d really rather not be pestered.” He quickly returned to his animated conversation with work cronies. They glanced my way and chuckled.

After several more minutes of being ignored, we looked at each other and shook our heads. We knew exactly what was taking place. They had sized me up, performed a snap judgment, and decided that I was not worthy of their time. “Too young. Not nearly professional enough in his current garb.” Apparently, I did not fit the profile of the typical big spenders who frequented their department. Why bother with me?

Snarky judgment and snide comments are extremely trendy, all-too-much the norm in our daily workplaces. Stephen Graves wisely urges leaders: “An organization that values people will demonstrate care by . . . how it communicates with people . . . It will treat them with kindness, fairness, dignity, justice, and compassion . . . intentional about treating people decently.”[1]

Jesus made a very pointed prohibition in Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge . . .” And he proceeded to explain the rationale for his caution. Judging other people makes us very vulnerable in return. Jesus knew that judging others often has a boomerang effect. How do judgmental attitudes show up with our coworkers, employees, and clients? We think and say things like,

  • “That had to be one of the most ludicrous presentations I’ve ever seen!”
  • “Can you believe she only turned in those measly numbers last quarter?”
  • “He is certainly not the sharpest crayon in the box. Can you believe he . . . ?”
  • “I know before I even open this doc, their proposal is going to be a real joke.”
  • “Whatever you do, don’t invite her to go to the conference. She always . . .”

Jesus probed: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5). Extra-stunning to realize—Jesus was employing a comical picture, most likely straight out of his own experiences with woodworking in his family’s carpentry business (Mark 6:3). Jesus was no stranger to flying sawdust and boards.

judgenot—plankeye

Judging others at work is extremely dangerous. Christ calls us to work humble and helpful, not judgmental and hurtful. First, I must make certain I have addressed my own integrity issues before I jump to scold or correct others. First, I need to truly bring my A-game to the team before I label others as inadequate for the job. When I do believe I have genuinely discerned that something should improve or someone has room to grow, I must employ kind, empowering methods of addressing what/who needs changed (Gal 6:1-2). Work humble and helpful, not judgmental and hurtful.

A wise practice is to pause regularly for self-evaluation. Good doses of personalized judgment are healthy for our workplace interaction and influence. Two questions can assist you:

  • With which coworkers or clients do you need to stop being judgy, and instead, start being more humble and helpful?
  • Any wooden planks you need to first remove from your own eye, before you help someone remove their sawdust?

Nanc’ and I moved on to another store to make my professional clothing purchases. There is serious irony in the salespeople’s jump-to-judgment about me that day. What they did not know was that I had more than enough money in my pocket, a stash of cash thick enough to purchase not one, but two very fine suits. Though they never knew it, their judgmental outlook cost them some serious commission. Judging others at work can prove very dangerous. To this day, we chuckle over how they judged me, and all the more over their self-incurred loss in the process.

[1]Stephen R. Graves. The Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal. (Fayetteville, AR: KJK Inc. Publishing) 2015, p. 125.

 

 

 

Gobbling Leaves and the Work of Gratitude

Thanksgiving—Leaves

Our Golden Retriever, Brody, does the goofiest dance while outside walking on blustery fall days. Gusts of wind toss leaves up the road, and my crazy canine chases them—as if they are squirrels—snapping at them, as if to eat them up. Brody is a leaf gobbler. He has munched leaves since he was a puppy. People told us he would grow out of it. He’s now six years old, and he still chases and chomps on fall foliage. When not gobbling, Brody loves to leap in large leaf piles that line our street. (Did I mention he also chases and chews on his own tail? Yes, we’ve affectionately dubbed him the dingbat dog.) Whether it’s gobbling or leaf pile jumping, Brody delights in the leaves.

While the dog is totally thrilled with the leaves, it’s a different story for the humans. The neighborhood is abuzz these days with a cacophony of blowers, rakes, and mowers. We’re handling the leaves with backbreaking labor, often necessitating a hearty dose of Advil at evening’s end.

Honestly, if I’m not careful, all of the fall cleanup can easily leave me grumpy, leaning way more in the direction of a grumbling heart instead of a grateful-as-a-Golden, joy-filled soul. Under the burden of such tedious tasks, I can allow my attitude to downward-spiral into disgust, discontent, and overall disgruntled feelings. Instead of glowing with Brody-like delight and gratitude, I can wallow in deplorable grumbling.

Deep down inside, you probably realize it. These attitudinal issues are not unique to the fall season’s yard work. They creep into our everyday workplaces, meetings, and projects. Our offices, corporate road trips, and bustling stock rooms can become the breeding grounds of sour moods, discontent, whining, and griping. We can slide into self-talk that is utterly dismal:

“So much to do, so little time.”

“Why do I have to work with these Debbie Downers?—what a negative environment!”

“If only I had a better team . . .”

“If only I made a bigger paycheck . . .”

“Why can’t I work different hours?”

“If only I could land my dream job . . .”

“If only the boss really knew how much I’m worth . . .”

“If only I received a surprise inheritance or won the lottery . . .”

We seldom set out to deliberately adopt such pervasive and debilitating outlooks, but they soak into our psyches, take deep-reaching root, and end up holding a pervasive sway that keeps us from flourishing in attitudes and actions.

‘Top of this decade, Charles Shelton of Regis University wrote The Gratitude Factor[1], winsomely encouraging people to give thanks for their work, recreation, relationships, and other everyday experiences—recognizing that all our daily events actually flow from God’s grace. Shelton encourages a disciplined exercise of thankfulness, including a “daily gratitude inventory.” Great progress can be made in our perspective when we orient our thankfulness toward others, their gifts, and their unique contributions within our community.

“Gratitude is the antidote to the ‘grumpies’, the ‘gimmes’, and the ‘gotta-haves’!”

What might happen if we each more strategically applied the gratitude factor in our daily work? What if we chose to say, “Immense thanks, Lord, for this current job. Right now, it’s very challenging, but I’m trusting you to grow my tenacity and character.” Or if we honestly reflect, “I’m often easily frustrated, Lord, by my quirky coworkers and ferociously feisty clients, but upon further reflection, my life might be rather boring without them. Seriously, I am choosing to thank you for them! AND I thank you for opportunities to bless them and help them encounter your grace.” Or perhaps you’d say, “Father, I’ll admit, I wish I made more money, but there are thousands of people ‘round the globe who would love to earn what I do. I am so grateful I have work and an income!”

The Apostle Paul urges us: “Be joyful always . . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So, this evening as I’m raking, I’m going to intentionally switch it up. I’ll aim to be invigorated in the gusts of wind and to joyfully dive into my leafy labors. As I do, I’ll be joining God’s will—what he so deeply wants—my more intentional movement toward a grateful heart!

With a Brody-like outlook, gratitude can work greater joy and more confident faith in each of us. Let’s go gobble and dance in the leaves!
Brody and Leaves

[1]Charles Shelton, The Gratitude Factor: Enhancing Your Life through Grateful Living. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2010.

Rolling Back to Work (how to greet your dreaded fall schedule with greater joy)

Rollercoaster in clouds

I LOVE riding roller coasters, and I love the fact that my boys sincerely enjoy jumping on to join me. This was not always the case. I found a picture from several years back. We were trying to convince one son that the biggest coaster at Hershey Park would be a joy to ride. He stood in line waiting, growing more anxious, dreading every inch of the track, and longing to bail out. We managed to keep him in line, got him to ride, and he finished with a big smile. (Yes, this is before and after.)

Hershey Joel and JarodHershey Joel and Jarod after

Contemplate the concept of coasters. We can’t help but conclude it’s a bit crazy. Think about it. You willingly place your body into this large contraption of metal, plastic, wood, bolts, and thousands of moving parts. The aim of this device is to hurtle you down the tracks, throw you into loops, then send you screaming until your voice is hoarse. It’s really rather awesome and requires a crazy amount of faith.

‘Truth is, how we roll back into fall’s work-school schedule requires similar trust and adventuresome perspective.

I could read it in many friends’ eyes and hear it in their voices this week. It seems we are all plunging down the tracks too fast, headed back toward normal workweeks and ferociously full schedules once again. Some of us feel dread, disappointment, and self-induced preliminary stress over soon-to-be early wake-ups, oh-too-predictable meeting schedules, and an overall return to the ridiculously full-throttle pace. Sarcastically, we say, “I just cannot wait to get back to my marvelous, wonderful, oh-so-fulfilling daily grind.”

How do we roll in healthier ways? Is it possible to discover a different perspective when we already feel overwhelmed? How will we roll into the tedious tasks, piles of projects, and fall’s spike in work expectations?

Consider this provocative point of wisdom from Proverbs 16:3. “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”

Proverb on Work-Commit

This lead off, ancient Hebrew word “commit” conveys a potent, picturesque concept. Among Scriptural incidents, the word was used of rolling a boulder over the door of a cave to incarcerate enemy kings (Joshua 10:18). This same word played a pivotal role in the covenant scene for the Israelites of Joshua’s day, as they intentionally and devotedly rolled back into practicing circumcision and experienced their guilty reproach being rolled away (Joshua 5:19).[1]

Proverbs 16:3 challenges us to COMMIT, to deliberately let our work concerns, plans, strategies, and worries roll toward God. We can commit to rolling our work issues, opportunities, and each endeavor in God’s direction, trusting Him to empower, infuse significance, and establish our plans. Rolling our trust His way can transform our attitudes from dread and gloom to adventure and productivity.

Consider three simple yet profound ideas for how to roll stronger as you head back to the normal full schedule for the work-school routine.

With start of fall, start a new habit. Commit your work to the Lord with start-of-the-day prayer. Too many mornings, we rush into our mad dash, forgetting to actually tap into our Lead Consultant’s great guidance. What might happen if we slow down at the start, to actually roll our concerns, challenges, and opportunities in His direction? Such transference of trust can lead to a deeply personal transformation, bringing greater peace and joy.

Commit to go God’s way—follow His directions—in all you do and say all day. As you trust Him and consult His Word, He will supply you with real-time wisdom, commands, principles and precepts that challenge the norm, set you on new paths, and call you into fresh opportunities for influence. Determine and say, “Lord, each step of my workday, I’ll roll your way!”

Roll into your fall work and full schedule with a fresh sense of adventure. Commit to greater productivity, creativity, and pursuing God’s mission. It’s wonderful to realize that God planned long ago for us to engage in purposeful, creative, difference-making work (Genesis 2:15, Ephesians 2:10, and Colossians 3:23-24).[2] When we truly sense how our daily work can bring God glory and reach others with his redemptive plans, even the seemingly mundane, thankless tasks and pressurized schedules can take on serious joy and significance.

With such deliberate prayer and a greater sense of adventure with God, we can be “on a roll” with fall’s work, bringing God glory with greater productivity—experiencing almost as much joy as riding roller coasters. Instead of dreading it, let’s revel in it. There is phenomenal opportunity for our fall endeavors to bring him greater glory!

 

 

 

 

[1]Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press), vol. 1, 162.

[2]Wayne Grudem, “How Business In Itself Can Glorify God,” On Kingdom Business: Transforming Missions Through Entrepreneurial Strategies (Wheaton: Crossway), 132-133.