Filtering by Category: Work Matters

Today is Monday. Surprised?

Monday is here again. Did it catch you by surprise? Are you living as Dave Ramsey says, "Thank God it's Friday, O God, it's Monday?" I want to encourage you to leave behind your "I'm surviving mindset." Every day I see it. Men and women who are already defeated in their minds. You ask them how they are and they respond, "Alright. I'm surviving." Or, my favorite non-positive but not-that-negative response, "not bad." What does, "not bad" mean?

This is how we too often live: Monday is low, Wednesday is hump day, and Friday is party time. The weekend is lived with abandon, and the week is lived without intention.

There are times in life when you just have to get through. Times when you just have to get to the other side of a season.

But God holds out abundant life to us now. That abundant life is not reserved for successful people that we outwardly recognize as successful people. You can work a lemonade stand in Bangladesh with this abundant life.

This abundant life of the believer is the present reality of the everlasting life that will be our eternal reality. I'm not talking about money, or material possessions, or prosperity though I will warn you that embracing this abundance of life often leads to all kinds of abundance. It goes with the grain of reality.

The essence of this abundant life is a joy, an affection of the heart, a passion of the Spirit. It is a life that works itself out from an inner reality into a mindset and then into action. Yet as with many other practical matters, the flow of motivation actually works in reverse, and action begets affection. In other words, you act in accord with what you know to be true (God is your joy) before you feel the reality, and then you find that your joy swells as you act.

So with this abundant life, Monday no longer has to be a day of mourning that the weekend is over. In fact, Monday isn't even the first day of your week. As a believer, you began your week yesterday on the Lord's Day, and you began it in the best way possible: in worship.

Today is Monday and instead of surviving you can do something different. This too is a day the Lord has made. So go live it as a gift. Live it with intention. Work your heart out in faith with joy. Start now.

Get Your Hands Outta Your Pockets

Working with my father was always a treat.  He knows how to work.  His capacity for hard work has always amazed me, and when a teenager, sometimes frustrated me.  "Why can't we just play today?  It's Saturday.  Let's do something.  Can't we pay somebody to build these forms?  Do you have to do everything yourself?"  His capacity for hard work amazes me even more now as an adult in the working world myself. The thing about him is that when you work with him whether digging a ditch or working on a coding project he expects your attentive focus.  I know the look well.  He's looks you straight in the eyes and his eyes are saying, "are you paying attention?  Don't waste my time.  We are going to take the time to do this right the first time."  Or something like that.

Invariably my youthful inability to keep focus led me occasionally to drift off, staring into space or at the ground, and my hands would find their way to my jeans pockets.  Until I learned not to do that.  He would bellow, "Get your hands out of your pockets!  Get over here!  Do something.  Can't you see what I'm trying to do?"  Get busy was the message.  Only God knows how many times I heard that.  It is so programmed in me that every time I am around people doing physical work, to this day those words and that voice come to mind, and I can't put my hands in my pockets.

Two lessons that Dad taught me in all that.

Number one: the way to get things done is to start now, and attack until the work is done.  No one else will do it.  It will not do itself.  It will not start accidentally.  Nor will it finish all by itself. Projects are completed only when you push relentlessly.  It's called tenacity with a great big dose of the old adage if it's gonna be, it's up to me.  This is true whether you are talking about building a business, earning a degree, renovating your living room, learning a foreign language, or starting a ministry.

Number two: anticipate the work before you.  So many, many times he would ask, "can you not see what I'm doing?  Don't wait for me to say anything, watch for what I need, and what you can do and do it."  Keep your eyes on the current task and the next half-dozen before you.  Occasionally one ought to step back and look at the whole project but the important tasks are what you can do today.

It's not that planning is not important.  It is.  But the only plans that matter are the ones that get put into action.

I've got some friends who've started churches.  They had no perfect plans.  But they started.  If you've got a product you're designing, you need to schedule your shipping date.  When are you going to get to done on that book, article, goal, house, project, or degree?  When are you going to ship?  When will you just start?

This Day and That Day

There are only two days to worry about: this day and That Day.  If you don't know what that Day is then you are probably not ready for it. Today, a family buried their mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, great-grandmother.  Three days shy of completing her 83rd year on earth, my wife's grandmother took her final step toward that Day.  Today, those 83 years were distilled into an essence.  Her essence was faithfulness.  She bore the fruit of the Spirit of love.  She commended the Faith and the Gospel of Christ by a life well-lived before God and in the midst of her community, church, and family.  We know she had prepared for that Day because it was so evident.  At the last, it was her prayer to go on and be with the Lord.  She was not afraid.  Now she is in the presence of Jesus, her body now awaiting the Trumpet.  And soon, we will lay waiting as well.

There are only two days to worry about: this day and That Day.  Live this day for that Day.  You will not be disappointed.

Get A Rhythm

"When you get the blues," Johnny Cash sang, "come on, get a rhythm." Whole lot of wisdom in that country song.  Advanced common sense or something like that.

As a part of my 2011 resolutions, I have attempted a mental shift in my approach to the disciplines I want to establish in my life. I believe that mental models,  something like metaphors, are useful for structuring or creating tactics for personal change.

Take the word routine for instance.  Not an exciting word.  Close to rut.

Discipline is not a bad word, and I really like it.  Closely related to disciple which is something we are supposed to be as Christians.  But the word can be a bit stoic and stiff.

Habit is a not-so-bad word as well.  But kind of blasé.

The word I've adopted for the things I want to accomplish on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis is rhythm.

Now that's a word I like.  Rhythm is a musical term.  It means the metered movement of beats in time.  A predictable pattern of elements in time.  But not a stiff pattern.  Notes can be played staccato, forte, pianoforte, and a thousand other ways.  Furthermore, there's the offbeat.  Adagios have rhythm, Gospel has rhythm, and rock has rhythm.  And Jazz has rhythm.  Jazz is predictable but it's not.  You can improv, take a solo, play the notes differently, but all within the rhythm.  You can even skip a note and not hurt the song and might even help it.

And rhythm is fun.  You can dance, sing, run, play, drive, hum, and tap to rhythm. Rhythm has a sense of joie de livre that routine or habit will never have.

So what I'm trying to inculcate in my daily, weekly, monthly life are rhythms based on Christian disciplines to build good, godly habits in my life.  But instead of thinking of rigorous disciplines like an ascetic, self-flagellating monk, I'm trying to move to the beat of the right kind of drum.

Rhythm allows for freedom.  Sometimes when we approach prayer or fasting or Bible reading or exercise we often have someone else in mind.  Now, Uncle Jay, he used to pray every morning from 6 to 7.  Wow.  What a disciplined guy.  That's what I need: discipline to be like Uncle Jay.  Nope.  There's no rule to pray in the morning for an hour.  You are free to be you in Christ.  Think rhythm.  Maybe you should pray at night for 15 minutes to start.  Get in the rhythm.

Furthermore, rhythm provides a pattern but not a rule per se.  You can skip a beat and then next measure hop back in to the pocket.   You are never gonna be a perfect manager of your time, attention, action, or resources.  You are going to have to improv a lot.  But that's ok, it's one of the big mysteries of life.

The question is what do you want to change?  What 2-3 rhythms do you want in your life each day?  Start moving to the beat, get "in the pocket," and play your life to the right kinda drum.

Resolutions and Personal Development, Jesus Style

It's kind of late to talk about resolutions but maybe this is just the time that your resolutions need another jump start.  And who says resolve is limited to New Year's Day? Lots of people rag on resolutions but I think they're a good thing.  There is a lot about most people that need to change and we can change but nobody's gonna do it for us.  We got to take an honest look in the mirror and be honest to God to ourselves about ourselves.

And as a Christian I believe in sanctification and personal development so a whole lot of things some critics have mocked as psychological or secular I actually find useful.  Dale Carnegie, for one, had a lot of good things to say.  The difference of course between secular personal development and biblical sanctification is that the aims are different.  God's plan for personal development is that each person become a unique likeness of Jesus Christ.  If that is God's plan for you and me, to be like Jesus, then one of us has got to change, and it ain't Jesus.

The other difference is that the Christian has greater resources to draw upon, namely the formative power of the Scriptures, the person of Jesus of Nazareth revealed in the Scriptures, and the presence of the Spirit.  None of which lessens our responsibility to resolve, discipline, and work, even attack what needs to change.

The Apostle Paul stated in the indicative: "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works." (Eph. 2:10).  We are his, raised up, and sat with him in heavenly places.  This is our status in Christ.

Yet Paul states in the imperative: "put off the old self ... and to put on the new self." (Eph. 4:22-24).  And the goal? "...to attain... mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13).  We are in Christ but we must strive to put on Christ. We are in Christ, but we are becoming like Christ. This means resolve is required, resolve to be like Christ.

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