Friday, February 27, 2009

Taking a Sabbath

I have the wonderful opportunity to take a break; a rest, with my wonderful wife.  I will be gone until March 11th so maybe take some time to read some previous posts.

I will be back...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lesson from Nature

Today was pruning day.  Namely, we have a couple of ornamental cherry trees that I pruned today...really, pruning isn't an accurate term; more like "chop-job."  I decimated the trees today, cutting off about 80% of the branches.  Funny thing is, but about May/June, the two trees will be blossoming like always.  You see, the pruning "stimulates growth."  The act of pruning a tree, a rose bush, a shrub, a rhodendrun...the very act of pruning actually helps to cause the growth.  If you never pruned, the branches (and thus, the entire tree) would begin to look dead.  By pruning regularly, you stimluate the growth that helps the tree look its best.

You know where I'm going with this...
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Sometimes God has to prune us.  That pruning is usually painful...but yet, the pruning is also necessary for our growth, and to help us be who He created us to be.  Pruning is necessary and can take many forms.  Sometimes God might cause a trial or "pruning season;" other times He might simply take a situation and use it to prune us.

The point?  I read this short little passage today, right in the middle of 2 Corinthians, which helped me in light of these times of pruning;

"It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going."

If/when you face those times of pruning, it's time to remember that our hope, our trust is based on the things we can't yet see.  We know that this life is a shadow, a mist; it is here today, and gone tomorrow...yet God's truth remains.

If you're in a time of pruning, hang in there, and remember what happens after a season of pruning - the blossoms grow and a new beauty is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Post Worth Reading

This is a post worth reading!  Let's just say I was challenged, convicted, and also, as a pastor, saying a heart "amen."  Check it out...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Running Lesson

Here's another running lesson - "work from rest."

So I have a loop I run - usually takes me about 17-18 minutes.  On one particular day I stopped mid-way through my run for about 1 minute exactly, just to say "hi" to someone I know that I was passing on the road.  I figured that with the stop, two things would happen; 1) I'd have a slower time and 2) I'd have a tough time getting going again.  I was wrong on both counts - even though I stopped, I still turned in a 17 minute run and in fact, the 2nd half was much easier than usual.

Here's the principal: "work from rest."  Most of us work hard and then, after the work is done, we try and rest.  Rest is always taken only if there's time leftover at the end.  However, I want to proposed that the best work is done "from rest" not "before rest."  Just as the short rest I took on the run fueled me to go faster for the 2nd half, so a "rest" spiritually and physically can fill us to run harder and faster in the work before us.

1) Sabbath rest is SO important.  6 days you work, 1 you rest.  Simple.  I have much more to say on the Sabbath here.
 2) Even in the middle of a day, "cat-naps" can give you that extra boost you need to keep going.  Don't "work SO you can rest," but "work out of your rest."

Now if only I can implement what I just Paul said, "I am the worst of [offenders]" - but I challenge you to endeavor to put this principle into practice.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Joshua Bell

So I just heard about this story about Joshua Bell; ever hear of him?  The story is almost two years old but bears repeating.  Joshua Bell is arguably the most famous concert violinist in the world, currently - he is world renowned!  So the article talks about an experiment that the Washington Post did; read below...or read the full article by clicking here.

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

After playing some of the hardest and most famous violin pieces ever written, 43 minutes straight, one of the best violinists in the world made a grand total of $32.17.  Not one person stopped and lingered for any period of time, and not one person recognized him or the "genius" of his playing.

The Point: This story brings me back to one of the Sabbath Principles: SLOW DOWN!  Do you ever take time in your day to slow down?  To breathe?  To observe?  To listen?  To read?  To see?  To walk?  To notice the lines in a leaf, the beauty in a sunset, the sound of nature?  Slowing down is essential to worship, and essential to life.

I confess: slowing down is terribly difficult for me...but it is so necessary.  Whenever I manage to slow down I find out how much I need it, and how much it does breathe life back in to me - and most importantly, I hear God.

So let this story be a reminder to you for the need to slow down, and observe.  I hope if I ever come across a scene like Joshua Bell playing the violin, I'm not moving so fast that I skip right by.

Again, full article here.

"For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD." (Exodus 31:15)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Lesson from Running Shoes

Shoes: I got a new pair of running shoes the other day and promptly tested them out on my loop. The shoes I had been using were extremely old and left me constantly aching, sore and tired. The new shoes were amazing. I chopped 30 seconds off my best time by doing nothing but buying new shoes. "What's the point," you ask?

As I was running I was struck by a choice I now had. I could continue to do my same loop, 30 seconds faster with the new shoes, and feel pretty good about myself. Or, I could use the new shoes to run even faster and farther; making the shoes a "catalyst" in a sense. The choice would be up to me.

So it is with our spiritual lives, we often hit places where we could easily "coast" and keep doing the same things, never pushing ourselves run farther and faster.   It is a constant temptation to "coast" - I am guilty of this myself.  Then this verse popped into my head;

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (I Cor 9:24)

I just want to encourage you to make sure you are constantly "running in such a way as to get the prize." Our enemy prowls around like a lion seeking to devour you - run hard, run fast, and run to win!

Wonder what will hit me the next time I go jogging? :-)