"Do not worry about your life, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."Matthew 6:25-29
My son performed in a musical version of the Wizard of Oz at his school over the last few nights. Closing night was last night and Heather and I and some family friends were there to cheer him on. It was an original script written by the director and he added a number of current pop culture references and a very comic touch to the proceedings. Near the end the good witches of the North and South work out some sibling rivalry and then burst into song. It's a musical, right?Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate musicals but I love my son...
The good witch of the South was ready for her solo, had her mike at her lips. It shorted out. Dead as a doornail. This thirteen year-old just kept on singing. She could not be heard but she stayed focused and in character, as best she could, and finished the song. We were an appreciative and understanding audience. We clapped enthusiastically for her.
She stayed on stage. She rode the wave. What was her alternative? Throwing herself on the floor? Leaving the stage in shame?
She rode the wave. She had another opportunity to sing a few moments later and a stagehand ran her a working microphone. She sang her second piece and was again congratulated with applause.
On a daily basis, our mike shorts out. The bottom falls out of our paper bag. How we respond and how we choose to continue may say everything about how we trust (or do not trust) God.
*Ken Mitten is a licensed clinical social worker at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.He was born in southern New Jersey and raised in upstate New York near Rochester. A theater major as an undergrad, he lived in Chicago for 15 years before relocating to Memphis. He and his wife, Heather, a psychiatric nurse, are proud of their eleven year-old son, Eric, who has shown some interest and talent in the performing arts as well. Ken is writer and founder of Daily Courage, encouragements for men, and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
≈ Devotional for Tuesday, October 27, 2009
“Sanctity of Life”
2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn,
3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified." 4And they shall build the wastes of old, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:2-4 - 21st Century King James Version)
I recently attended The Nature Conservancy of Texas’ 17th Annual Houston Conservation Leadership Awards Luncheon celebrating nature and honoring the spirit of conservation in Texas and around the world. The natural features and ecosystems of our planet are interwoven, and conservation undertaken at home has a global impact.
The featured speaker was an award-winning photo journalist with National Geographic, Joel Sartore.(www.joelsartore.com)During his remarks, many of his photos of endangered species, such as amphibians, were featured on several large screens around the ballroom and they were absolutely exquisite.God’s gift was apparent; the sheer talent of this man was beyond my comprehension.(Somehow, photos taken on my little digital camera will never come close to the breadth of his pictures.) Joel has traveled the globe for National Geographic and other magazines for over 20 years.
As the audience listened intently to his belief that we are all responsible for preserving the gift of life that God has given us for many generations to come, the story became even more compelling when he wove into it a very personal journey, one that took him no further than his own backyard.
The story brought tears to many of us and there was some emotion in his voice when he talked about the diagnosis of his wife’s breast cancer and all that it entailed.None of us expected this as part of his presentation, but it reiterated that all life is so very precious.
He had numerous awards, but had been away for such long periods, he didn’t even know his own children as well as he should.But, time at home for an extended period, supporting his best friend/wife through this journey, brought the entire family closer. The wife has come through, by God’s grace, and is doing fine.(Her story, as seen through his eyes, has been featured on CBS’ Sunday Morning and in National Geographic.)
Isn’t it just like humans, our backs have to be against the wall before we truly get it?!?Life and its hardships don’t stop and we often value many of the wrong things.Sometimes, we have to be brought to our knees before we acknowledge that it’s not about title, position, or awards.It’s the sanctity of life; it’s those people who journey with us…friends, spouses, children…whatever the relationship is…that are much more valuable and should be treasured.
Today, I am reminded that we have a responsibility to protect our earth and each other. There are many things we can do individually and collectively to leave this planet better than we found it.While we’re at it however, let’s hold each other accountable and tell those we love to get regular checkups…be they mammograms, prostate exams, or colonoscopies, encourage regular exercise, good dental hygiene and better dietary habits.
And, when we’re on our knees, let us thank God for all of the blessings he has bestowed and appreciate the beauty he has placed in our lives – in nature and in our own backyards.We may not get another chance.
GospeLines Prayer:Thank you Father for providing a wake-up call.Some of us need visual cues and others need to hear the words and still others are so lost and continue down the same path time and again.
We have so much to thank You for, Father, and we don’t say it enough.I know I don’t.
Help us to relish the gifts You’ve given to us, especially those You’ve sent to share the journey.A caring and compassionate heart is more powerful and special than any title, position or award.Help us to use our resources wisely and in all things, give thanks to You.
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Men’s Ministries Director at my church is a layman who is also a licensed clinical social worker on Leukemia Service at one of our major hospitals in the city. As part of his ministry to our church, he writes a daily article of encouragement.I invite you to read the one I have posted below.
“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated film originally made in 1993. Tim Burton, director of Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to name a few) produced the film. For the purposes of this encouragement I am not going to dwell on the plot, but instead focus on one character, The Mayor.
The Mayor is a portly wide-bottomed man always in a suit and pinstripe pants with a blue ribbon-type nametag that identifies him as The Mayor. He is a glad-handing man of the people, desperately trying to keep up appearances. His eyes are constantly spinning and scanning and there is always a transfixed smile on his face. He is a character fraught with anxiety about his town, his leadership, his image. The unique thing about The Mayor is when he is anxious, angry, at his wit's end his head spins around to reveal a gloomy, pale, anxious scowl. Who he will be at any given moment is up for grabs. He has no control over his shifting emotions and bottled up anxieties (always ready to boil over). Regardless of this lack of control his entire existence is an attempt to keep these emotions under wraps.
Does this sound at all familiar?
I am focusing on this character because my wife, Heather, has at times when I am let's say... unpredictable (a.k.a. impossible to live with) referred to me as The Mayor. My head will spin around (not really) revealing an emotional polar opposite to the one I had been displaying just a moment before. These are usually times of stress and preoccupation with some internal struggle (makes it sound so noble!) and Heather will exclaim, "Morning Mayor!" to clue me in to my... unpredictability. One reason why I love my wife is that she knows me. At times, she knows what I am feeling/how and why I am hiding/struggling with something before I do. I need this. I am thankful for this bond with my wife. I am not always thankful at the time but… well… you know what I mean.
Our response to our shifting emotions should not be an attempt to conceal them at all costs. Remember the Snake in a Can practical joke? Spring-loaded toy snakes are shoved into a tiny mixed nuts or peanut brittle can. You screw off the lid and snakes come flying. When we shove our snakes deep down inside/when we are not surrounded by or do not seek out those who know us well whether it be wife or family or Christian brother (those who will remind us when we are having a Mayor moment) there is a significant amount of shrapnel when the lid comes off (and eventually the lid will come off).
Written by Ken Mitten
≈ Devotional for Thursday, October 29, 2009
“When we’re angry at God”
Recently, someone told me they were angry at God because He hadn’t given them the one thing they wanted most – physical gratification.While thinking about how to reply, the Spirit led me to James 4:1-3 in the Amplified Bible.Paraphrasing, this scripture states:
“Strife and quarrels arise from the sensual desires of our bodies.When these desires are unfulfilled we become jealous and covet what (we think) others have. We become filled with anger because we are not able to obtain the gratification we seek or the happiness (we think) that will bring.If we ask God to satisfy our longings, He does not honor our request because we ask with selfish motives.”
Through His Holy Word, our Lord tells us that “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” Everything that is in the world - the craving for sensual gratification, the greedy longings of the mind, and the assurance in one's own resources or in the stability of earthly things - these do not come from the Father but are from the world.The world will pass away, and with it the desires and the lust of it; but, he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life remains forever.(1st John 2:15-17 - AMP)
So, just as you received Jesus as Lord, continue to live rooted in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.Let no one take you captive through hollow philosophy (which depends on human tradition and the principles of this world) rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:6-8)
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged.Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.Forgive, and you will be forgiven.Give, and it will be given to you.A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38)
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:29-31)
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God.Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will accept.When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask?Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” (Romans 12:1-2 - NLT)
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
≈ Devotional for Friday, October 30, 2009
"Too Average to Belong"
Our group of teens desperately wanted to do something special for the adults of our church, to show appreciation for all they had done to make our summer program memorable. Through their sacrifice and hospitality they encouraged and loved us toward the best summer youth program we had experienced in a long while. But it wasn’t done with money. It came from their hearts.
We decided that we would put on a talent show at summer’s end. Mind you, there wasn’t a lot of talent in our group but that didn’t matter to anyone. Our do-it-yourself summer would end on just the right note. We scurried around building sets out of cardboard, and spotlights made from tin cans we got for free at the cannery were hung precariously from the ceiling with much worn extension cords. Every one of the kids got involved but few had any real gift of performance to offer. There was “singing” and poetry-reading; one group did a pantomime, and another lip-synced a favorite hymn.
The audience clapped and cheered each number as though it came straight from the Lawrence Welk Show. We couldn’t have been more pleased at the turn-out and the reception. Those wonderful church leaders didn’t show up because we were the most talented, they came because we belonged together. What an evening to remember!
Right after moving to Tennessee Sherry and I spent the better part of a year visiting different churches in preparation for a project I am still working on. We were particularly interested in discovering as much as we could about congregational worship. One thing we noticed was how little participation there is in the public presentation of the service. Seldom do churches allow the laity to become involved in activities such as public prayer, reading of scripture, or even making key announcements. It’s all done by paid staff in most places.
And the music is mostly presented by paid performers or super-talented individuals. Usually there is a group of three or four gifted vocalists who “perform” while the words are splashed on screens above what we once called a choir loft. You will seldom hear anyone with an average voice lift their vocal praise in church anymore.
What about all of us who are marginal in talent? Have all the average poets, artists and singers been handily excluded from sharing what we have to offer in celebration and praise?
Mark Pierson, a Baptist Pastor, writing on the subject of excellence of performance versus increased congregational participation, has this to say, “If excellence is a primary goal (rather than participation), then the weak, the timid, the depressed, the disabled, the unskilled, the sick, the introverted, the overweight, the less attractive, the poor and the untalented aren’t going to get a look in. They’ll be relegated to being spectators for someone else’s worship performance… It’s only in being open to as much participation as possible that community can be built.”
The church should be a place where everyone fits in. No wonder so many average church members who have been faithful stewards (in life AND finances) through the years are now looking for someplace to belong. Let us be careful that the rules of membership and worship do not become so exclusive that the majority feels left out because they are simply too average.
GospeLines Prayer:Heavenly Father, What an awesome experience to have the freedom to worship You in spirit and in truth. Thank You for the gifts You have so lavishly showered on your children; may we serve You with all that is within us and not be accused of compromising You or Your Word. Amen and amen