Thoughts to enourage our trust and dependence on Jesus…
The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle* and said to him, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Leviticus 1:1-2 NLT
Following Mary’s example, the fundamental practice for healing the wounds of the false-self system is to fulfill the duties of our job in life. This includes helping people who are counting on us. (1)
My real apprenticeship in the ministry was served right there on that modest farm at my father’s side. There was always work to be done and lots of it. Though my dad was rather laid back as farmers go, he was a hard worker. There were cows to be fed, hogs to be slopped, eggs to gather, manure to be shoveled, hay to be cut, baled, and stacked, corn first to be planted, then cultivated, later picked, then finally shelled, grain to be drilled and harvested. I learned from dad the invaluable lesson that the best work of all is work done for its own sake. (2)
Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evil only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.… The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him, misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility (3)
My favorite Christmas memory will always be playing a LORD piano in my grandfather’s basement, while he (a former professional singer), my Uncle Bill, my Uncle Butch and my Dad sang together in harmony. All my cousins would be lined up on the stairs, and it was great. I remember doing it from the time I was 11 till I was 15, and I still miss the peace and harmony of those days.
But this post is about my second favorite Christmas memory, and that occurred for a few years at the corner of Lincoln and Tustin, in the city of Orange. I worked graveyard shift at a Denny’s there, and the place was always packed – waiting list for 23 of 24 hours we were open one year.
As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, the quotes above all reminded me of that precious time in my life, of working my tail off waiting tables, and the generosity of those people I served.
Like Senkbeil, this was my best training for ministry, learning how to really listen to people, not just for their order, but to make them feel at home. And yes, the best work is simply done – as it lays before us.
In the midst of that hard work, I often forget the dreams that were shattered In the brutal years of 1986 and 1987. I just soaked myself up in my work, and somewhere I still have the comment cards from that day… which showed that I could care and help people. So Keating’s work reminded me of that unique blessing of simple hard work- fulfilling the duties of life, just as the Virgin Mary did. It is hard to say to God that we want to let Him bring about what He desires… knowing that may not dovetail in with our plans.
Which brings us to Tozer, and the idea that there is misfortune, that what is going on in our lives has a direct purpose. He has promised such in places like Romans 8:28-38 – where all things work for good – because they cannot separate us from God. When I struggle with misfortune, or what I perceive to be misfortune (like my connective tissue disorder which can cause pain, and literal heartache) or anything else, I need to know God is in charge. I can then throw myself back into my work, knowing God is taking care of the rest.
I wish I would have learned this back in the day… but I can see it… in the satisfaction that ended those Christmas Days and the double shifts I worked. (11pm to 7 am, then back at 4-midnight) Oddly I miss them now, the energy, the people who had no where else to go.. and the satisfaction that at the end of the day.
God was with me… and still is… and with you!
(1) Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 355.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 1–2.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Devotional thought, late in the day:
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT)
I started this morning by heading out to visit my mother. Along the way, I stopped for breakfast a a place I worked during college. Five years or so ago, they remodelled it. I guess the did recently, restory the walls tables and dining counter. It was like being at home, after a long time ago. (the hostess figured out how long ago… nice girl reminding me how old I am!)
On the way, I stopped at my dad’s gravesite, or more exactly, the National Cemetary columbarium – the wall in which his ashes are now kept. The picture here is of his plaque.
Then my mom and I shared quite a few memories over lunch, which in and of itself brought other memories. Dad’s been gone 4 months tomorrow, and yet… it doesn’t seem like its been that long.
Then one of the first songs I leared on the guitar, (gulp 42 years ago) came on among the music they played in the restaurant. Thoughts of the catholic brother who taught me came to mind. Then, I looked up at the television hanging off the ceiling behind my mom, and there was a game at Pepperdine, where i worked for most of the 1990’s. Without a doubt, that University is fhe finest place I’ve worked for, and watching basketball games in the fieldhouse there was always great. In the 14 years since i’ve left, I haven’t seen them on television once, yet this day, on a television in a restaurant some 100 miles from the campus, in a retirement town, there they are?
Then came the news, a reminder that 20 years ago, (while I was at Pepperdine) we suffered the Northridge Earthquake. At the time, Kay and I were living in this cute i bedroom apartment. Memories of seeing the carpent and linoleum ripped in half – the early morning spent on Topanga Blvd with 600 other victims. We would not live in that place again, save for a night without water, electricity, etc, when they said it was safe – only to wake up the next morning with signs we had to rip through, telling us the building was again red tagged and you weren’t allowed to enter. (nice of them to let us know when they made the decision sometime around midnight!)
Memories abound,,, some are good… some are… well, let’s just say some are. They mean something because of the time we invested, the people we knew.
One of the things that really comes alive in Lutheran theology is the understanding of remembering and the sacraments. Luther’s words about starting and ending each day remembering that you are baptised are often repeated, not because of the act itself, but because of the promises given to us,
Even more, the passage above is precious, for it is more than just memories – it is the process of re-living the moment, of our minds dwelling on and in the moment. All of those memories of past times are very important, but this time with Christ, with comprehending with heart and soul as well as mind – that He is with us, that His love meant dieing for us, and bringing us through that death so that we will live with Him….
There are memories, then there is doing this…
May it be ever more than a distant memory….May it be our lives, lived in communion with Him. AMEN