Twenty-Eight Days?

I’ve heard that if you do something every day for 28 days it becomes a habit. I’m not sure if that’s true, but its true I’ve heard it. But it sounds reasonable. Would the reverse be true? If you stop doing something for 28 days it breaks the habit? 

So, what behavior would you like to become a habit? A few thoughts:

  • Exercise 
  • Reading books 
  • Doing unlikable chores
  • Pulling weeds/gardening 15 minutes a day
  • Making the bed (assumes you aren’t already making it) 

A few thoughts on habits to break:

  • Leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor
  • Yelling at drivers during morning/evening commute
  • Irritating other drivers during morning/evening commute 
  • Falling asleep during meetings at work 
  • Playing mean practical jokes on the guy who falls asleep during meetings

That all sounds wise and useful.

Something Better

Yesterday morning I was in a parenting class with 48 parents of preschoolers. The teacher was encouraging the parents to take advantage of the time they already spend with their kids to teach them about God. She was emphasizing the value of doing these things over time, that children learn best by doing something over and over again.

For Instance

  • Play CD’s of music from their bible classes at church.
  • At bath time, get a boat and a few plastic figures and teach Noah’s Ark.
  • Cuddle with them and assure them you and God love them.
  • At bed time pray for them and with them and for their friends.
  • Read bible stories every night.

You get the idea. 

Then one of the moms shared a story. Whenever she goes somewhere with her preschooler she points out the sun and the sky, saying  how beautiful they are and that God made them. One morning they were headed someplace and mentioned that the sunrise was beautiful. Then she heard her daughter in the back seat begin praying and thanking God for the sun. It was a moment. 

Twenty-Eight Days 

There is great value in doing important things every day. 

  • Finding time to pray
  • Reflecting on God’s Word 
  • Being kind to someone 
  • Honoring your commitments
  • Teaching a child the value of knowing God

Mother and daughter praying in bed

To Close

Be awesome today. Do something truly worthwhile. Love and care for your children. Nobody has as much potential for shaping your child’s heart than you.

Shape it well. 

 

Fear or Faith, Its Up To Me

Some of My Childhood Fears

  1. The neighbor’s big barking dog
  2. Something under the bed at night
  3. Being the new kid in class
  4. Going to the blackboard to do math problems
  5. Snakes

Kids have fears. I don’t think its genetic, I think it’s taught and I was taught to fear snakes. “The only good snake is a dead snake,” my Dad would say. That stuck with me. 

Some of My Adult Fears

  1. Failing in my ministry
  2. Fatal illnesses 
  3. Something happening to my kids
  4. Becoming ineffective and useless 
  5. That in the end I wasn’t good enough 

My fears were learned over a lifetime and rooted in the core of self-esteem issues.

Often our fears are based on imaginary problems resulting in unreasonable anxiety.  

An Example

Years ago, I was in my office at the church when I got a call from an elder of a very large church in Nashville. They were searching for a new Senior Minister and said I was at the top of a very short list. He told me about the opportunity and asked If I would like to bring my family for a visit. I said, “No.”

I didn’t think about it or ask for a day or two to get back to him, I just said no. 

Why?

Because I was afraid. I was afraid of the idea of leading a really big church. The fear was based in inadequacy, that I wasn’t good enough, not possessing the requisite skills. I was intimidated, flattered, by intimidated. We didn’t visit. 

Over the years I’ve wondered if that was a mistake, a missed opportunity, the shutting of a door that the Lord had opened.

The Boat Story

Remember Simon Peter asking Jesus if he could go out to him to have him on the water? Jesus said yes and out of the boat he went, walking on the water. But began to sink. He saw the stormy winds causing the big waves and he doubted. The word doubt means to lose confidence. In that moment, Peter lost confidence in Jesus. 

peter-walking-on-water

Losing confidence was about looking at things that cause fear. Peter could have walked the whole Sea of Galilee if he had kept his eyes on Jesus.

To Close

Let’s be encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. Trust requires us to stay focused on his word and his power. It’s a faith experience to walk with Jesus in confidence. It’s a fear experience to give our attention to anything else. 

Shalom

Just A Small Treat

Here’s what happened.

A couple of months ago I bought a new car. It was pre-owned, but it was new to me. Then a couple of Sunday’s ago, one of my little friends came up after church and asked me for a ride in my new car. I felt so cool and I said, “Sure.” 

 I checked with the parents, who I’ve known forever, and arranged to pick up their child from school. We went to dinner and had Fettuccine Alfredo. We talked and laughed and had a great time. 

We didn’t like any of the restaurant’s desserts so I asked what a good dessert would be and the answer was,

“Sugar” 

I thought, “Sugar” was a reference to anything with sugar as I know Mom is health conscious and doles out the sugar sparingly. But no, it was the name of a candy store at the mall. 

We went to the mall and found the store. Sugar was an understatement. It had more kinds of candy, chocolates, and treats then I could count. So, I wisely said,

“Get anything you like.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. 

Sugar_Factory___Retail_7-800x445
Not the store we went to, but close, really very close.

I need to say that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a candy store so I was thinking it would be around $15.00. Nope, it was $47.95. I stood slack jawed as each item was scanned and the total kept climbing. It was a Mt Everest kind of climb. Frankly, I didn’t care how much it cost, it was the sticker shock!

I left the store with a big bag of sugary delights and a very happy kid. As we walked to the car I had two immediate thoughts: 

  1. Really Rick, $47 worth of candy?
  2. Her mother is going to kill me. 

Then it was time to take my friend home. My new car is a convertible and I think that was the idea to begin with, so, with the top down we headed home and I dropped off a smiling child with a 27 pound bag of candy.  (Not really, but that’s how it felt.)

It was epic and I had so much fun.

To Close

The older I get the more I understand why Jesus enjoyed children. If children decide they like you then they’ve also decided to love you. The love of a child is a pure thing, freely given, without guile and without measure.

jesus-and-the-little-children

I learned a song when I was a kid, “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.” Its true. I think it’s the parents that give him fits. 

Thank you Jesus for your example and for teaching us how and why the Kingdom of God belongs to the little children of the world.

Shalom

Gathering a Circle

My cousins and I were once asked to heard some chickens. It was a joke on us.

Chickens won’t heard. 

boy and chickens
Not me or the chickens I chased, but close, really very close.

Other Animals Difficult to Heard

  • lizards
  • goats
  • badgers
  • humming birds
  • small children  . 

Last Night

We tried something different. We asked our Life Groups to come to the building. They didn’t all come, but 16 groups did and about 250 people gathered. We had to set up more tables and chairs. We talked and visited and enjoyed seeing everyone. There was a fun table game for everyone to do.

FullSizeRender   FullSizeRender[3]

Then we stood and lined the four walls of the gym. We were crowded and people stood shoulder to shoulder and two and three deep. We sang a few songs, had a prayer, and then left to have our Life Group meetings in classrooms. It was organized for two groups to meet together, an older and a younger, it was inner-generational. The teens, middle schoolers and children had their own events. 

It was simply marvelous. 

FullSizeRender[6]   FullSizeRender[4]

The Connection

People got acquainted that had never met. We each shared a few thoughts about ourselves. We laughed a lot and realized how much we all had in common, from people in their 30’s to people in their 80’s. 

We called the event, “The Circle.” 

Jesus had circles. His apostles were a circle of followers. Among them were a smaller circle of three: Peter, James and John. He also had a close circle of friends: Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a family of a brother and two sisters. Jesus often stayed in their home. 

To close

Crowds can be unruly. Goats will find their own way. Kids run and play. Getting any group of people to cooperate can be challenging. 

But last night, we had the Circle and then had smaller circles. It was tremendous. I enjoyed people of all ages and could easily see Jesus in their lives.

It wasn’t like the chickens at all!

Shalom

Even His Clothes

Labor Day

Sure, why not? Let’s have a national day of non-labor.

 Labor Day was created by the labor movement and inaugurated as a federal holiday in 1894. For a 124 years we’ve recognized the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Congratulations, you don’t have to go to work.

The Timing

I find the timing interesting. After three months of Americans taking time off for vacations, trips, and get aways, we enter September with a day off of work. Banks are closed, schools are closed (having just started). Federal offices are closed, no mail.  

You know who isn’t closed today:

  • Starbucks
  • Home Depot & Lowe’s
  • Denny’s 

So it isn’t all bad. Even on Labor Day you can get a cup of coffee, a Grand Slam breakfast, and whatever you need for home care and repair, so labor on. 

My Labor

I’ve labored, here’s a partial list:

  • 8th grade I did yard care for my Bible Class teacher.
  • 9th grade I used a hoe to weed crop fields.
  • 10th grade I worked on two different farms and a hog farm. 
  • 11th grade I put up hay bales, all summer long.
  • 12th grade I worked after school at the Skelly Gas Station out on the hi-way.

I earned $1.00 an hour for weeding fields. Farm work got $1.25 an hour. The Skelly Station paid a $1.50 an hour, It was skilled labor! 

And Now?

Well, now I’m the Senior Minister for the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, Texas, a very pleasant Houstonian suburb. It’s a great job and I’m blessed to have it.

Reasons for feeling blessed:

  • I have a job instead of being unemployed.
  • I make more than a $1.50 an hour.
  • Only work one day a week. (as some suggest)
  • It’s a great church
  • Get to work with a phenomenally gifted staff.

 

And Jesus?

Was Jesus ever employed? Scripture says he was a carpenter, which is a bit confusing since the word translated as “carpenter” actually means builder. Most building in Palestine was done with stone. Was he ever paid? 

He once said that he had no place to lay his head. People gave money for he and his apostles to travel and minister; and we know Judas stole from the fund, but was that gainful employment? 

At his death Jesus owned nothing. Even the clothes on his back were taken. With outstretched arms he hung naked on the cross and the King of Kings owned nothing; no money, property, or possessions.

He preached, healed and ministered to the masses, all for no charge. He never asked for anything. Well, he once asked a woman for a drink of water.

Thank you Jesus. You were the son of Joseph, the son of David, the Son of God. You were the Lamb that gave his life. You were the perfect sacrifice to bring us back to God. You  labored to get it all done and get it done you did, you even said so:

“It is finished.”
And then you died.

The Bible

Happy Labor Day

Which One Are You?

Sponge, Funnel, Strainer and Sifter

sponge  funnel  strainer  sifter 2

 

What?

From the Rabbinical Jewish Talmud, there are four types of students, or hearers, who sit among the Rabbis.

1.”The sponge,” who soaks up everything.

2.”The funnel,” who takes in at one end but lets it go at the other end.

3. “The strainer,” who strains the wine but retains the lees. 

4. “The sifter,” who removes the coarse meal but collects the flour.

Sound Familiar?

It is similar to the teaching Jesus gave about the farmer who went out to plant his seed. It wasn’t about the farmer, but the different soils the seed was cast upon. There were four:

  1. The packed soil of the hard path that was impossible to penetrate.
  2. The rocky soil so full of rocks the roots had no place to go.
  3. The weedy soil that kept the plant from maturing and becoming fruitful.
  4. The healthy soil that was soft, receptive, and ready to support life. 

As we know, Jesus spoke the parable to illustrate four kinds of hearts.  

The Project

Over the summer I’ve been transforming my back yard. Not the whole yard but the flower beds that line the fence on three sides. They were overgrown with bushes, shrubs, trees, flowers, vines, and ground cover; it looked like a rain forest. Besides being an overwhelming jungle it was just too much to maintain. So, I’ve been thinning, pruning, and removing. I’ve been pulling out three kinds of wild vines and all the ground cover.

Along the way I encountered four kinds of dirt:

  1. Dirt that hadn’t been worked in years, it was hard and unyielding. 
  2. Dirt that was saturated with small rocks form earlier landscaping.
  3. Dirt that was rooted from the weedy and thorny vines.
  4. Dirt that was soft, clean and without rocks, roots, or weeds. 

I’ve spent the summer digging, pulling, uprooting, cutting, raking and leveling. It’s September 2 and it’s finally coming together! Yeah. 

If the soil had all been #4 soil I would have been finished weeks ago.

When it comes to cleaning up an unkept flower bed, give me soft soil without weeds, vines, or rocks. With clean and receptive soil I can easily plant new things and shape the soil to accommodate whatever I want to do.

With Jesus

I hope that’s how Jesus finds my heart. With a clean and receptive heart he can easily plant new teaching and shape me to accommodate whatever he wants me to do.

clean soil

But am I? Am I the 4th soil? Am I the sponge? Or am I something else. What about you? 

Shalom