There are times during the day when we need a snack. Maybe we skipped a meal, or maybe we just need a little pick-me-up. So, we scour the food pantries and scavenge through our desk drawers. Fueled by our hunger, we look for something to silence the quiet grumblings of our stomach and satisfy the cravings of our taste buds. What is your go to snack? A granola bar? A banana? A cup of yogurt? Do you prefer salty or sweet? All things being equal (which sadly they are not), I would grab a cookie or candy bar every time the pangs of food deprivation hit me. If only ice cream cones and peanut M&M’s were just as healthy as baby carrots or celery sticks. But we know better. Unfortunately, the junk food that is most appealing is also the stuff with the least amount of nutritional value.
[ree-kal-uh-breyt] verb (used with or without object): 1. to correct or adjust the gradations or settings on (a measuring instrument, sensor, or other piece of precision equipment). 2. to reexamine (one’s thinking, a plan, a system of values, etc.) and correct it in accord with a new understanding or purpose.
Recalibrate. This is the word that’s been on my mind these past couple of weeks. In Luke 10:38-42 we encounter the familiar story of Martha and Mary. Jesus and his band of disciples show up for a surprise visit. Can you imagine? This was not a shared Google calendar event and there was no text message to provide a heads-up of their pending arrival. Facebook events were not a thing back then, so no way for this traveling teacher to RSVP. No warning at all. Just a knock on the door and suddenly Martha had a house full of at least a dozen guests. Martha gets to work “preparing the house”—cleaning, searching for bedding, and making food. These are all good, hospitable things. You and I would have acted similarly if we were in her shoes (or sandals). But not so with the one she probably thought she could rely on the most. Her sister, Mary, simply sits down and listens to Jesus. Are you kidding me? What a lazy bum! Get off your butt and get to work! At least, that was Martha’s initial and understandable reaction. Truthfully, it would have been mine too. Fortunately, she took a better approach than giving her slacking sibling a piece of her mind. An exasperated and frustrated Martha comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Here’s what I’m thinking about doing. As the summer months kickoff, I’m thinking about telling my wife that I am going to take the summer off from her and the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously still love her and the kids too. They are still really, really important to me. Honest! It’s just that there are some other things I want to get done this summer also—and sometimes they cramp my style. Places I want to visit and things I want to do; having a family can just slow me down from checking things off of my bucket list. Don’t worry. I will reassure her that I’ll see her again in three months. Plus if there is some sort of major emergency, I will probably check in with her for an hour or so. I may even make an exception for a week or two in August so we can do some sort of obligatory family vacation. But other than that, it’s “Sayonara baby!” Think about it... for the next three months I’m not going to waste any of my resources—time or attention, energy or money on my family. Just three glorious months of no one to make happy but me. No more coming home, spending time with family. No more cleaning. No more dishes. No more laundry. No more conversations. No chauffeuring kids to games or piano lessons. I am going to spend 92 straight days doing whatever I want, whenever I want.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it does. This is not really going happen. I would never do such a thing; and my wife would not let me. 😉 Even the suggestion of taking a summer off from your family sounds neglectful and absurd. Which wife in her right mind would tolerate a husband living in selfish solitude golfing and fishing the summer away without her? Yet the irony here is how easy it is to take the summer off from God. Seriously! Sure we may not see it that way, nor do we always do it intentionally, but the summer months often lend themselves to a less than consistent worship schedule. As our summer schedules fill up we can find ourselves tripped up by Satan and slacking in our “remember the Sabbath” duties. Vacations and trips to the lakes or down to the Jersey shore are the norm during the summer—but that doesn’t mean our worship habits should take a back seat.
God will understand you taking a well-deserved vacation. He told you to “rest” on the Sabbath, as He knows you need a change of pace in order to recharge your batteries. Exodus 20:8-10 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” God didn’t tell you to ignore worshipping Him for months at a time, but instead, find ways of worshipping him as you take a break from the busyness of your daily life. Maintain God as a priority in your life, not just when it is convenient. So on Sundays over the summer whether you’re in town or somewhere else—go to church. Be immersed in His story. Seek out a place to worship God and be fed by the holy goods that only He can give. Worship is the place where God promises to meet us and give us His life-giving, forgiveness-granting goods. Church is the place where God gospelizes and graces His people.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrew 10:23-25
I have a confession to make. There are times, when mid-week rolls around and I try to produce a devotional thought for this blog, I cannot help but think, “What’s the point? Does anyone even read it?” Whether or not this is actually true I have no way of knowing. Obviously, I hope that at least a few people do take the time to read or at least skim through it. More than stories waxing poetically about my beloved old car, there is a genuine attempt to bring the Word of God into the daily routines and happenstances of our lives. Every scenario and situation of life can be a teachable moment if we just still ourselves long enough to consider what God might be telling or showing us. Plus, no matter who you are, the occasional spiritual pep-talk helps ground us in the fact that God is with us. Even still, on occasion, when it is time to type, all I can pessimistically think of is “What’s the point?”
The irony of my thinking really hit me one morning while reading the Bible. The moaning and groaning I do over unverified neglect towards a simple church newsletter or blog pales in comparison to the obvious and undeniable neglect of a publication far greater than the meanderings of this site. Consider the scriptures—the Holy Bible. No question this is a compilation of writings that regularly goes unappreciated and unused. You and I are no exception to that. How often do our Bibles sit on the shelves collecting dust while we read different magazines, supposed self-help books, and scroll through social media feeds? More than we care to admit, we fail to read it. We shrug off the treasures it possesses and roll our eyes at the timeless counsel it provides. Can you imagine God thinking to Himself—“What’s the point of giving them my Word if they don’t use it. They don’t read it. They don’t do what it says. I’m not even sure they care about its existence. So what’s the point?” Here God gives us direction and instruction for our benefit, details His immense love for us in Jesus, and so much more. But like a stubborn old geezer, we refuse the very prescribed medication that treats every form of hopeless and slows every sign of despair.
Fortunately, God’s patience goes right alongside His probable frustration. Despite our tendency to shun it—the Word of God stands true and steadfast… throughout time and over all history. It is always there for us. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). God has given us His holy Word—full of promises, strength, encouragement, and so much more. It is indeed a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. “For everything that was written… was to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) And God has put so much more into His Word than just a few painful writer’s block moments at a keyboard. Sweat. Blood. Sacrifice. God put His life on the line for this Book, His Word to you and me. He has given us a wealth of information regarding all that He has done for us. So crack the good book. Dust it off and turn the pages. This summer, as you are basking in the sun or sitting beachside or on a boat in the middle of the lake—crack the book. Or use your phone--yes, there is an app for this too! Whatever form it takes, actually read the Bible. You don’t have to go cover-to-cover. But read the goods that God gives you. Explore the depths of His great love for you. Discover the many ways in which He desires to teach and grow you in faith and in faithful living toward Him. Happy reading!
“A Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't.” (Charles Spurgeon)
"When is enough enough?"
This is the question I was asking myself late Tuesday night and wrestling with again early Wednesday morning in regard to my beloved car. Only days after a fresh oil change and fixing my leaky exhaust, a new issue has surfaced. It’s always something, isn’t it? This time it appeared like the unwelcome culprit was the transmission. This is no small thing. And it pushes the price tag of necessary repairs to the $1-2,000 range—at least! Melancholy and gloomy visions of bidding farewell to this gray, four-wheeled treasure saddled my mind as I drove to two different mechanics this morning. Was this really the end? Would I actually have to come up with a new illustration for weekly blogs and Bible studies? I thought we had more time together. I just washed and detailed that car last weekend. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. And as much as we love that car (i.e. no monthly car payments), the reality is that after 15 years and 210K miles, the time may finally be here to stop pouring money into an old car and start searching for a replacement. Reliability and safety now compromised; this could be the breaking point. When is enough enough? When is it no longer worth it? BUT… after a second opinion, there now appears to be a glimmer of hope for my beloved, rusty and zip tied motor vehicle. I’m now cautiously optimistic that the problem is much less severe and not nearly as expensive. If this is the case, we’ll opt for the repair and not the new car. For the time being, my faithful Corolla appears to be on the cusp of receiving a stay of execution.
When is enough enough? We have all asked some version of that question of ourselves. When we’re unhappy in a job. When we are in damaging or unreciprocated relationship. When we’re treating a sickness or disease that refuses to go away. When we keep chasing dreams or possessions that still leave us empty. When we compare our own lives to the highlight reels of other’s social media feeds. In the unrelenting rat race of American life, we are always on the go and always chasing after something to get ahead or keep up with the proverbial Jones. It can be exhausting. And no matter the context, when we get to asking such a question, it suggests that something is off, something is askew. It is a frustrated point when we realize that all our good intentions and best efforts did not solve the problem. It still persists. It’s never fun to be in a position when we must consider if what we’re doing is prolonging the inevitable and wasting precious time, money, or sanity!
Have you ever done anything stupid? Gotten in trouble? Broken the law? Cheated on an exam? Destroyed a relationship? Of course, this is a silly question because we have all done things before that we are not proud of. It is who we are as part of a fallen creation—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Even when we do not intend to be malicious or foolish we still often find ourselves going down a path further away from what God desires for us.
Taking a look at different world religions and even other “Christian” denominations (Islam, Scientology, Sikh, Wiccan, etc.) we see a format of belief that stresses doing good and being pious. Most of these false religions put an emphasis on "righteous living" as means to enter from this life to the next (in whatever form that takes). Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Do that every year. In their minds, eternal life is completely dependent on their own works, actions, behaviors while living upon this earth. In other words, it is all up to them. If you’re like me, you find very little comfort or hope in that. All the more reason to celebrate the truth revealed in Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures.
As Christians we most certainly do not believe this. After all our Lutheran battle cry echoes the words of the Apostle Paul, we are "justified by faith apart from works" (Romans 3:28). Don’t get me wrong—this is not a license to sin or do whatever you want. Of course, righteous living is important but not because it influences the grace God gives to us. This is good news! It means that in spite of all your moments of weakness and stupidity, God counts you as righteous and gives you his grace simply as a GIFT through Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary message of many other religions, it is not at all up to you! In fact, it’s not even
As the weather continues to warm up, the proverbial pandemic lockdown is slowly easing up. After a long, snowy winter where we were forced to hunker down, the chains have now been unlocked and we are being allowed to emerge from our fortresses of solitude. We are finally able to be out and about again—though still wearing masks and staying socially distant of course. Spring air, warm temps, bright sun… it feels so good to be outside. I would imagine this is true for most of us; eagerly outdoors with almost reckless abandon—going on walks, planting gardens, riding bikes, attending the sporting events of our children and grandchildren. Going from winter into spring, in many ways, it feels like we are moving from 0 to 60 with the snap of the finger. As my wife recently observed about our own family schedule, “It feels like we’re burning the candle at both ends!” No doubt about it, the busyness has resumed!
Do you remember the “time out” from your childhood? Ah yes, the infamous child-rearing technique affectionately dubbed time out. Where a child has to spend one minute for every year of their age on the naughty chair, thinking about their not-so-nice behavior. Time out. It gives a child time to rest and regroup, albeit forced, and break away from the chaos and destruction that led them there in the first place. “Stop crying. Catch your breath. Stop flailing your arms and legs. Calm down and relax.” Surely you remember those days. Perhaps you’re still living in them. Whether your broods are toddlers or teenagers, those minutes of imposed isolation enable them to regroup from their sibling clashes, unruly outbursts, maniacal meltdowns, or reflect on any other defiant indiscretion of word or deed. For all those unavoidable and undesirable times when our kids go a bit too far and become a bit too out of control—that is why we have time out.
Hear these words from God, “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). God is reminding His people (us) how important it is to spend regular quiet time in conversation and meditation with the One who created time to begin with. Prayer. Worship. Bible study. These things are essential to us slowing down. But unfortunately they are usually some of the first things to go when the demands on our time and attention ramp up. This ancient Old Testament verse is a still relevant Biblical prescription for using time out. To be sure, as used by parents and teachers today, the time out is a form
The middle school drop-off line…
Each morning before heading to work I drop my oldest son off at our local Middle School. Yesterday, I noticed that in a stretch of about seven cars, there were two Lexus, two Mercedes-Benz, one BMW, and me. There were also a mini-van or two in the distance behind me, but I couldn’t tell what kind. Truth be told, I saw so many of the Mercedes-Benz on the road driving around or near the school today I actually googled the logo when I got to work because I had no idea what kind of cars they were. Reflecting on this, I couldn’t help but laugh. Sitting there in a line of luxury cars and SUV’s, was me and my 2005 Toyota Corolla. Slightly rusty, stained with paint, and held together (beautifully I might add) by gorilla tape, zip ties, and a stainless steel screw. The old Sesame Street song came to my mind, “One of these things is not like the other, One of these things just doesn’t belong…” Of course it was not hard to know that in this small parade of high-end and fancy vehicles, it was mine that stood out as a mechanical sore thumb, indeed not like the others. And if there was any uncertainty or confusion, the noisy exhaust of my nonconformist car acted in a way as if to proudly and boldly advertise it’s inferior value.
Have you ever felt that way—inferior or less valuable? This is an easy trap the Devil lays out for us. We see all kinds of “pretty” people on TV and the internet. People who not only look good, but also seem to have it all together. They have life figured out and are excelling in every desirable measure. We look at the luxury lives and fancy families of other people, while we go sulking back home to our lamentable lives. The highlight reels of social media feeds lead us to this place of comparison and competition. This is a dangerous place to be! When we find ourselves here, the Devil begins to work sinful feelings of ingratitude and disdain. We begin to resent those around us and envy their gifts or successes. We are frustrated with God that our lives can’t be “as good” as those around us. Why can’t I enjoy my job like they do? Why can’t I have flawless complexion and no grey hair? Why can’t I be as smart as they are? Why can’t our kids behave like theirs? Why can’t we take nice vacations like them? Why can’t my car be fancy and new also? No matter what this looks like for you individually, the measuring stick will always get you stuck. Stuck is a never a place we want to be.
Driving to church for a meeting on Tuesday night I passed a bad accident. Route 15 was backed up and traffic was at a near standstill for several miles. Like most commuters, when the traffic first slowed I was annoyed at this unplanned inconvenience. But as the big picture came into view I joined many other rubberneckers staring at the chaotic scene saturated with an abundance of first responders. Police cars, fire trucks, ambulances all over the place. As we tend to do in our family when seeing such things, I sent up a prayer on behalf of the afflicted and the first responders. Sadly, the closer my route took me towards the scene, the image was heartbreaking. A large SUV lay upside down, off in the ditch. Medical workers still swarming around the car. Then I noticed, off to the side of one of the ambulances, a stretcher; it was covered in a white sheet. You’ve seen enough of the news and crime scene television shows to know what that means. My heart sank and my prayer immediately took on a different tone. Lord, have mercy!
Just like that, in an instant, a life (perhaps multiple) is sadly snuffed out. Tragically this type of calamity happens far too often. Death is never good and always unwelcome—especially when it comes so suddenly. And it could happen to anyone of us, at any time. We’ve heard it before, “Two things in life are certain… taxes and death.” Hardly an uplifting message. This may be somber thought, but it is an unavoidable reality. Car accidents. Senseless shootings. Terminal diagnosis. Life is a gift and no day is guaranteed. This should cause a person to stop and think—a time to reflect and recalibrate. It did for me last night. What are some of the things you keep saying you’ll get to? I’m not talking about things like finishing your basement; we all have an unending list of home projects. Nor am I referring to ways to further keep yourself busy at work to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. What about the more important things? Visiting your parents. Taking your kids to the park. Taking your grandkids fishing. Going out for dinner with your spouse. Volunteering at a nearby charity. Finally taking some time away from work to go on vacation. Beginning healthier habits and taking care of yourself.
Far too often, these are the things we put off. They sit on the backburner until we forget about them or they fall off completely. We’ll get to them… eventually… we hope…
I’m on the hunt for some cabinets. Not new ones, old ones. Kitchen cabinets that have since been deemed unwanted or become unused by their original owners. They’re going to be used in my garage. Even if they’re scratched up or beat down, if the price is right (cheap) I’ll put them to use. I simply want something to better organize the space and hide the clutter. It doesn’t matter to me how fancy or new they look. Truth be told, the more plain and banged up the better as I would imagine that will make the price that much more of a bargain. I’ve searched a variety of places thus far to no avail. Facebook marketplace. Slowly driven by yard sales. Perused the Habitat restore in Randolph. Oh there are indeed things out there, but nothing for the lower price point that I’m looking at. They are cabinets after all, nothing worthy of great investment on my part. So because I am not willing to pay a steep price at all, I’ll probably have to wait a bit before I actually find some that will work.
Easter Sunday wasn’t that long ago. The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. He is risen indeed, alleluia! This victorious battle cry of that day still rings true. As do these words from the Apostle Paul, “… for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Did you catch that? Paul is reminding the people of the direct implications of Easter. Yes it changed everything; but it also very personal. God bought YOU with a high price. We’re not talking about old, unwanted cabinets anymore. Paul reminds the church of Corinth just how valuable and precious they are in the eyes of the Heavenly Father. Good Friday and Easter showcased the price that the Almighty Creator was willing to pay as the cost for His wayward sheep. Human reason and worldly logic would have turned their backs on selfish, unfaithful and sin-stained people. Like damaged cabinetry, certainly they are not worth such a high price. But not to our Heavenly Father. Instead of deserting us in the dry lands of our self-destructive behavior, He takes action to show there is nothing He wouldn’t do to make things right again. No price He wouldn’t pay. No action He wouldn’t take.