This song and video captures the message of Good Friday to me:
This song and video captures the message of Good Friday to me:
Today, millions of Christians around the world will take time to remember what Jesus did on his final night as a free person. They will gather in worship spaces and most will share in the Eucharist, communion, celebration of the Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper or whatever name they place on the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. They will hear readings from the Bible that recount Jesus’ actions during the day, that night as they shared a meal, and then when they went to an olive grove to pray until Jesus was arrested. For me, one of the often overlooked reality of this night was found in the actions of Jesus while they were gathered in a large room for a meal. Here is how the Bible records it:
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:2-5, NIV)
For me, this is the sign of a servant heart. This action reminds me that I need to work to have a servant heart. I need to strive to identify and then follow through on ways that I can serve others. My Lord gave me this example. It is an example that I need to follow in all aspects of my life whether it is at work, in my home, or in my community. Jesus time and time again demonstrated a servant heart. We would all be better off if more of us displayed servant hearts as well.
Recently there has been another rash of murders, attacks, and chaos in our world. From the stabbing incident in Pennsylvania, to the bus/truck accident in California, to a recent murder in a small Iowa town, there seems to be violence running amok. This week we have also been reminded of the horrible bombings which took place a year ago at the Boston Marathon. Add to these the unrest in the Ukraine and what appears to be an attempt by the Russian leader, Putin, to re-establish a Soviet Union of some degree, you can easily say that there is not a lot of sense in any of this.
Yet, we as humans want to try to make sense of these situations. I think that we want to make sense of this because that allows us to gain some control over situations like these. We want answers so that we can prevent these types of activities from occurring again. We want answers so that we can “help” people before they take such destructive paths. We want answers so that we can protect ourselves. We want answers so that we know who to blame since we know it is not our fault.
However, life tells us that there is not always an answer. Life tells us that even if we take all the protective measures possible, violence and destructive events still occur. Life tells us that we cannot always stop these events. So this can lead us to despair and a sense of hopelessness.
Hope does exist. Hope is found not in ourselves or our human ways of protection and prevention. The psalmist writes, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9, NIV) As a believer, I have to find that I don’t need to make sense of any of this. I couldn’t even if I truly tried. I need to trust that the Lord can make sense of it. So during this Holy Week as we move toward remember Jesus’ death on a cross, that was a senseless act on the surface, I rely on the truth that it will make sense when God’s kingdom comes into its fullness.
Each day contains little surprises, the question is am I alert enough to see them. Surprises are on my mind this week because yesterday I received news that was a great big surprise to me and as I think about this Sunday being Easter, I think about the surprises that we will celebrate.
Surprises can obviously be small or large. I do well with noticing the big surprises but I cannot say I always do well noticing the small surprises. These surprises occur each and every day but generally go undetected by me. They may be the arrival of a new green plant on a spring morning. Or the surprise might be having the privilege of watching one of God’s creatures as they go about their activities. There actually are a lot of little surprises that the Lord places in each day.
This week as I participate in the activities of Holy Week. I am going to try to pay special attention to the little surprises of each day. These little surprises will move me closer to appreciating the bigger surprise that we will celebrate on Sunday when we hear declared, “He has risen! He has risen indeed!”
This has been another hectic week in my life. I am sure that everyone that reads this post can relate to it. We all have hectic weeks that can seem to go on endlessly and become very exhausting. In fact, there can be a whole string of these weeks. So as I sat in my office this morning I began to wonder how to survive a hectic week, or a series of hectic weeks. The thought that came to my mind was one word….. PEACE.
During weeks like this one, I think that it is important to find periods when I can just sit and let peace flow like water over my spirit. I struggle with this because during hectic times I feel any time not spent on taking care of tasks become wasted times. However, when I am frantically moving from task to task or appointment to appointment, I know that I can easily become frustrated and often make mistakes which I have to correct and that takes more time. So much like the importance of planning, I think that taking time to allow peace to overcome you results in great rewards.
I also want to say that the peace of which I speak is not what we normally think of when we heard that word. Most of the time we think of peace as being the absence of conflict. This definition is an acceptable one but not the only one. The peace to which I am referring is a peace of spirit, a calming of spirit. As a believer, I find that only one source of this true peace can be found. Jesus speaks of this peace as he is preparing the disciples for his death. He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV) This is the peace that I need to flow like water over my spirit.
So I encourage you to take time to experience the peace that Jesus promises if you are having a hectic week or a series of hectic weeks.
I am sometimes amazed how individuals can make some situations so complex when they do not need to be. It is true that when you are dealing with people who come to situations from different angles, there can be an increasing complexion which develops. However, not all situations have to be that complicated.
I was part of a discussion recently that brought this to light for me. The discussion centered around faith and what is expected of followers of Jesus Christ. It became clear that way too often, we have a tendency to create a long list of expectations for believers. However, when you study the whole of Scripture, it becomes very clear to me that there is only one choice that is demanded of followers of Christ….. Choosing to believe in Jesus Christ. All other choices and actions are in a response to what Jesus has done for us but does not have a bearing on whether we will spend eternity in the presence of God or in the absence of God.
While this discussion centered around faith, I think that the important lesson that was clear to me is applicable in almost every aspect of our lives. We need to truly examine a situation and determine if it is really as complex as initially thought or is there a simple choice/decision that needs to be made which will handle the situation. Leaders need to assist the groups that they led with reducing the complexity where possible and deal with the real issue at hand.
So the next time that I encounter something which I find to be very complex, I am going to strive to take a step back to determine if I am creating a complexity or if there may be just a simple aspect with which I need to deal.
Have you noticed how life is ever-changing? Yesterday was a very good example of the way life can change rapidly. The day started and I felt I needed a long-sleeve shirt and a light coat to be outside; the temperature was on the cooler side. By the afternoon, I was shedding the coat and changed into a short-sleeve shirt because it had grown quite warm. In the evening, I attended a meeting and definitely was glad that I had put on a coat since the temperature had dropped rather significantly. Then this morning, I am putting on my winter coat once again as the temperatures started below freezing. This is a lot of change in a relatively short amount of time.
Life does not always have such rapid and significant changes but life is definitely ever-changing. When you really think about it, you have changed from the time you began reading this post until you have reached this point in the post. Again, the changes probably are rather minor but there are changes. You may have changed the way that you are sitting. You may have changed from one room to another if you are reading this on a mobile device. You may have changed your thoughts as you have read along. The point is, there has been change.
In my mind, life is change and without change there is not life. This can be either a comforting thought or it can be a frightening thought. If you are wanting change because your current situation is not what you desire, then you probably find comfort in knowing that change is definite. If you have concerns regarding what change might bring into your life, then you might be frightened by the thought that change is inevitable. Either way, we cannot stop change. Either way, nothing can stop change.
So with an ever-changing reality, the key is learning how to be adaptive to change. How do we respond to change? How do we adjust the way we live or our perspectives? Yesterday, I adapted to the change in weather by making changes in my wardrobe. I could have tried to fight the change and refuse to adjust what I was wearing but all that I would have accomplished is being too hot or too cold. The change was going to occur whether I wanted it to or not. That is what we need to remember as we look at the ever-changing reality of life. We cannot stop it and so we need to choose whether we are going to adjust our behaviors and perceptions or if we are going to suffer. This is a choice of which we do have control.
The last week has been just a complete whirlwind for me. This may seem evident since I have not posted in over a week. Last Monday I traveled to St Louis for a conference. The trip was relatively uneventful and had some fun aspects to it. The conference ended on Wednesday and I left to make a long, unplanned trip to central Nebraska. Being in the car for over nine hours is not something that I want to do frequently. Then it was back to my home location on Thursday. Friday was my only day in the office (although I did work all of Saturday morning) and so it was definitely a day of “catch up.” The busyness continued into the first part of this week. I would have to say that this is the first “calm” day in my office.
Last week caused me to ponder the true meaning of Sabbath. Traditionally, Sabbath is considered the one day each week when we are to relax and not do work. This follows a pattern set by God and affirmed by God in what we know as the Ten Commandments. However, many of us find it very difficult to set aside a specific day every week for Sabbath. Life seems to have so many demands that we often are always on the run. So we often feel guilty that we do not honor God’s commandment of keeping the Sabbath. I would caution us not to let the guilt overwhelm us. Especially since the guilt does not seem to lead us to change behavior.
In my devotions this morning, one part of a passage that I am reading throughout this week actually reminded me that the concept of Sabbath is far more important than the “day” of Sabbath. The passage I was reading was John 9:1-41. Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath which causes some Jewish leaders to label him as evil. It is clear to me that Jesus was more interested in caring for the blind man than he was about honoring the day of Sabbath. People always came first in Jesus’ life.
So I am convinced that the day of Sabbath is not nearly as important as the concept of Sabbath. The concept of Sabbath is to take a break. It is an opportunity to quiet the whirlwind which we call life and to spend time focusing on people, relationships, and our relationship with the Lord. Each person has their own way of relaxing and creating calm in their life. The key is to make sure that you are consistently taking Sabbath and benefiting from stopping the whirlwind even for a short period of time. God knew that we could not keep up a crazy pace of life and so God modeled and then instructed us to find some calm.
I am going to work hard on honoring Sabbath in my life, I hope you will do the same.
Today, I was called upon to comfort some friends who have received tragic news. Every once in a while, I need a gentle reminder that there is One that can be trusted. Maybe you need that reminder at times. So I have chosen to share this video with you since I needed to hear it myself.
I do not want to say this very loud, but I think spring might actually be arriving. The temperatures (although very cool today) are beginning to climb and remain higher than they have been over the last three months. With all this change in temperature comes the inevitable flooding of rivers from their banks. For me, this imagery coincides with the flooding of needs that I am feeling as a leader. Just as it seems that the water of the rivers are a bit uncontrollable during this melting of winter, the various situations which are calling upon me as a leader seem uncontrollable. However, I can learn from the rivers and the land around those rivers some valuable lessons that I can apply to my work as a leader.
First, this situation is not permanent. As we continue to progress through the spring, the amount of snow and ice that is melting will diminish. With the diminishing of the snow and ice, there will be less water filling the rivers and streams so their levels will decrease. The timing of this will depend upon the amount of snow and ice upstream, the change in temperature rates, and the amount of additional precipitation which occurs. However, from experience, we know that the river levels will decrease and the flooding of lands will end. This can also be said in regards to the demands for attention and involvement in situations by me as a leader. There are many situations that are placing a large demand upon my time and energy. I can easily feel overwhelmed by all of this. That being said, I know from experience that this will change and the demands will reduce. I have no idea the exact timing of this reality and like the river levels, there are many variables that will impact the timing, however it is not a permanent situation and it will subside.
Second, there are some ways to reduce the impact. During flood situations, people establish sandbag walls and other types of levees to keep the water from overcoming areas which they wish to preserve. While it is true that these temporary attempts do not always work, they usually at least reduce the lasting impact that the flood waters may have on the area. This is true in my situation as a leader. I need to create barriers or boundaries to protect the important areas of my life. In order to do this, I need to make very conscious decisions regarding the amount of time I devote to any given situation. It does not mean that I ignore the situation or those involved, but I make clear decisions when I am going to respond and when I am going to dig into the situation. Every situation seems like a crisis for the individuals that are directly impacted. I must be sure that I evaluate each situation and access priorities. I must make clear decisions regarding the amount and type of communication that is necessary. In this time of emails and text messages contact is almost instantaneous, however, I can choose the timing and frequency of my reading these messages and my responses. I need to determine what are the most effective means of dealing with each situation. By creating boundaries, I ensure my mental well-being which will make me more useful for the individuals in each of the situations. I can mitigate the impact of the flood.
My hope is that these lessons from nature will help me be a better and wiser leader. If that is true, I will be able to provide stronger benefits to those who look to my leadership.