Perspective and Bedtime

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By Brian Sharpe

Why is it so easy to lose something that is so important? Why is it so easy to focus on what doesn’t matter versus what does? Why is it so easy for us to get distracted from the mission God has called us to live? I know I forget way too quickly that I am here for a purpose, and that purpose is not my pleasure.

Since I became a father it has been my job at night to put my kids to bed. The more kids I’ve had, the less fun I’ve had putting them to bed. The original thought was that Tomina was with them all day, so this was a chance that I had with my kids that I could make special. I sometimes read them a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible and then pray with them. It always amazes me how much time they want to spend with me when they want to stay up longer. While this has a little to do with me, it has more to do with the fact that they don’t feel ready for bed. Almost every night I will go back into their rooms and check on them before I go to bed. When I check on Joel, he sometimes will wake up enough to give me a hug and a kiss and tell me he loves me. Then he will drift back off into sleep land.

It is at those moments that I feel my perspective being challenged. It is at those moments that I remember the way God feels about me, because I know what I am feeling about my son. It doesn’t matter what happened that day. He could have been the biggest pill, but, at that moment, I am overcome with how much I love that boy. Then my thoughts go to, God loves me so much more than this.

As we go through life, we have these moments where our perspective is challenged and even changed. God uses our experiences to remind us of His love for us. He also reminds us that He is here. It is when I remember that God is with us and that He has called us that I remember I am here for a reason. My reason is to be His witness to everyone I know. It is a perspective thing. We cannot forget what we are called to do. We cannot forget how much God loves us, and remembering that should compel us to share Christ with those around us.

Think about what matters to you, what you focus on most. Does it have eternal value? Is it helping you accomplish the missions God has you on while you’re here on this earth? We are not guaranteed tomorrow. That statement is not to guilt or shame anyone, but to put life into perspective. Life is short. God loves us and has called us to Himself. Because of this, we need to live on mission, sharing His love with those we come into contact with. It is a perspective thing, and perspective is a funny thing.

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Life Can Be Messy

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By Jim DeAngelo

We were at Long Beach this last week and had a great time. I will always enjoy this memory of taking Sandra on the beach in my Jeep and driving in the sand. I asked Sandra if she wanted to try it — usually she said no, but this time she said YES. She had a great time laughing while doing donuts and spins. Yet we were not the only thing on the beach. During the last few weeks, 100 million jellyfish had died and washed ashore, and the smell was quite overpowering. Well, Sandra went spinning into these jellyfish, slipping and sliding. The Jeep’s undercarriage was coated from the splashes of these rotting creatures. It was quite overpowering.

Well, we dealt with it with smiles. We called the incident “Sandra’s follies.” It was quite an effort to clean up the mess, and there is still a good amount of residue — including the smell! — left. But it will clear sometime in the future (I trust this to be true).

When the events of life are hard and the future looks bleak, we have the choice to trust God and our relationship as His sons and daughters, knowing that it will work out. Because of who we are through Christ, we can put our trust in Him and know that He is truly in charge. We can take comfort and acknowledge that, through the relationship with our Heavenly Father, we look forward to the situation coming to a close. We can take joy in this. If we don’t choose to trust God, however, we can choose to be overcome by the events and the impacts.

So what does the Jeep, smell, and hard events have in common? Life has messy parts, it smells, and it’s hard to clean and get through it. Yet, like our relationship with our Father in heaven, it does work out, and the smell and difficultly goes away. We can take our rest, joy, and comfort from this along the way.

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I Want to Waste My Time

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By Jeff Foerster

My work is focused, my attention is directed, and my clicks are precise. Each image and each caption is carefully read and logged in my short-term memory for comparative purposes. I can easily track my progress toward my endgame, as all are ranked in order of speed. So there I am, dedicated to the task of researching and compiling data crucial to, uh, something or other. There is just enough peripheral information to keep me interested and moving forward, onward toward that approaching goal of uncovering the one — the fastest aircraft in the world! I wade through differing builders and differing sponsoring countries. When a Russian variety makes the list I feel a small sense of competition building, until that plane is superseded by an American aircraft. Then, as this is revealed before my eyes, nationalism is renewed and patriotism stirs within me. I, as an American, am back on top — a victor once more. And all I had to do was click on a slideshow built for the selling of advertisements. Then, something unforeseen took place.

Just below the image of plane number 12, a banner appeared. In a rectangular box plain text spread from left to right across the screen. Unencumbered by decoration, the displayed message was clear: I WANT TO WASTE MY TIME. This is not good advertising. There was no flashy imaging or scrolling text to garner my attention. It didn’t make promises of fulfillment or happiness, however temporal. It didn’t intrigue my curiosity with intellectual ponderings. Nothing of the sort. In fact, the message comes close to being insulting.

Yet I was stunned by this most simple, monochromatic missive. The words before me became almost audible. You see, I had spoken to someone the night before this odd occurrence and revealed to them that I thought God was opening my eyes to how I spend the time He has given me. Lips slightly parted and brows raised, I sat there, staring, then reading and rereading the text to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I felt exposed, like just becoming aware I had been watched for an indeterminable amount of time. I may have laughed or just shaken my head, though I don’t recall. This had to be one of the bluntest, timeliest messages I have ever received in all my years.

I am not about to delve into concepts of synchronicity or weigh in on the idea that “there are no coincidences.” I will not meander down rabbit trails or set the stage for doctrinal dissertation. What I will do is remind myself and declare to you that each day is precious because it is a gift that our God and Father gives us to unwrap as the day itself unfolds. Each day provides opportunity to take a stand and praise our Maker. How I choose to spend the time given to me declares my priorities, my values, and my loves.

What are you going to do with the time given to you? Who, or what, will it declare that you love?

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People are Hard Work

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By Dan Amos

“Community is an Elim strength, but there’s much more to do as many are lonely and hurting, leadership included.” Pastor Martin introduced the current sermon miniseries on relationships with this statement, which was the last sentence of the Elder input to the annual report a couple years ago. The input was generally positive, pointing out where we had moved forward with personnel, property, and programs. But it didn’t seem right to present a positive report when people reading it might be thinking, “Yeah, but I’m lonely and hurting.” And that very thought had just been expressed by several in leadership at a retreat that fall, me included. So I tagged on the incongruous statement as an acknowledgement of need, of an area where we need to grow.

Relationships aren’t easy, and they take effort. We, collectively, have a responsibility to be open to new relationships. Every relationship won’t be of the deep friendship variety. We are too different, with different interests, backgrounds, and baggage, for us to expect all to be at the same level. Even Jesus concentrated his time on a few of the twelve who were chosen out of the many. And beyond our community responsibility we have individual responsibilities.

Relationships take time. Acquaintance relationships don’t take a lot of effort, but they also aren’t particularly fulfilling. Deeper relationships can be fulfilling, but they take a significant investment of time and, because of the finite nature of earthly time, we are limited in how many we can deeply invest in. My circumstances then and since have limited my time and energy, and I have made choices that have limited my investment in these deeper relationships. The result is that at times I have been lonely and hurting. I know what the solution is, but I have to choose to implement it.

And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more. – 1 Thessalonians 4:10

Relationships aren’t about me. Most of you know I go to the men’s retreats infrequently. A lot of men love them and come back refreshed and rejuvenated; for me, they are work. Several years ago I was having lunch with some people and an impertinent young man asked if I was going that year. I said, “No.”

He countered with “Sometimes it’s not about you,” and explained that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to because we can’t be in community when we don’t. I had no wiggle room and went to the retreat that year. I’ll go again, too, just not every year, and that whippersnapper is now our Associate Pastor.

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. – Proverbs 13:10

Relationships are with imperfect people. If you get to know me, I can almost guarantee I will let you down and you will do something that rubs me wrong. That’s just the nature of who we are. I have stuff going on in my back story and you have stuff in yours. We don’t always have that in mind when we process our interactions with each other. I am under stress at work, which none of you see because we don’t work together, and I’m not very good at leaving that stress behind when I do see you. That is just one thing I carry that affects how I act and react. My strongest relationships will be with those who can look through the stupid things I do or say, who are in a position to speak wisdom into my life, or who just love me anyway.

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11

Relationships take work: A simple search of Proverbs on relationships yields a wealth of simple but profound wisdom that often comes down to loving others more than yourself: listen more, forgive repeatedly, speak less, be kind, value the eternal over the temporal, discern foolishness, accept wise counsel, avoid quarreling. There are things that are incumbent on us in building relationships. Though they are simple, they are often difficult.

I have to take responsibility for my part in my relationships. When relationships fail or don’t go to the next level, there is rarely a one-sided reason. It’s not all about the other person; when they fail, I have to look at my part in why they failed … and do something about it.

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