Do you hear what I hear?

I closed my eyes in the struggle to quiet my thoughts and settle my heart. I was having trouble this morning finding the stillness within to ponder a bit of scripture, to make space for the Spirit to illumine the words before me. My old antique clock–the one that hung in my childhood home and now keeps time in my grownup home–tick-tocked loudly from its place on the wall just above my head, reminding me that I was losing precious time…

When I was younger, I measured time in years. As I grew older, months became the unit of measure. Growing older still, it was measured in weeks, then days. Now sometimes it feels like I measure time by the hour, if not by the minute

A few more minutes passed as I tried to tame my mind, and I gradually became aware that the steady rhythm of the clock’s pendulum had quieted. With a sigh, I realized that I had forgotten once again to fetch the old key and wind her up–a must for antique clocks!

For a moment or two, the silence seemed deafening.

But in the absence of that noisy tick-tocking reminder of time marching by, I became aware of other sounds, the sweeter sounds of a new day…

…a mourning dove’s gentle coo

…the sweet song of the windchimes outside my window

…a cardinal’s joyful trill.

My mind quieted and my heart settled as I simply listened. The Spirit was indeed illumining me, tuning my heart to the heart of Creator God. I was being invited to let time stand still while I communed with God, sharing his delight in his beloved creation. In those quiet moments I also sensed his whispered reminder that I, too, am his beloved creation.

My prayer for you today is that you would allow time to stand still for a bit, inviting the Holy Spirit to quiet your noisy world…and in that silence and solitude you would experience God’s joy in all his creation…especially in you.

Show me the money!

I’ve always thought that line was somewhat crass, but it worked for Jerry Maguire, so I thought I’d give it a try! Let me tell you what prompted it…

Today I was on a call with a pastor who recently led a group of other pastors during breakouts at a conference. Prior to their first meeting, Matt contacted those who were to be participating in the group to see which issues were currently challenging them. The only response he got was “money.”

I totally get that. I was laid off from a church staff position 20 months ago. I had served that church for ten years. I wasn’t the only one laid off; half the staff–24 people–lost their jobs that day. I know firsthand the stress the recession has caused for many churches across our country, and the fear many pastors and staff live with as they wonder if they will have a paycheck next month or the month after.

God can work this for good, you know. Romans 8:28-29 have been my “life verses” for several years now. God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose…. It was a momentous day in my life when I got around to asking, “So, God, what is your purpose?” I found my answer in the next verse… For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…. God’s purpose for believers is that we become like his Son.

What does that have to do with money? Certainly, Jesus was not a lover of money! No, Jesus was a lover of people. He served others in a myriad of ways and at various times, His ultimate act of service being His atoning death on the cross. Dr. M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. (Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary) defines spiritual formation as “being conformed to the likeness of Christ for the sake of others” (emphasis mine). As a ministry leader, how are you encouraging others to be like Christ for the sake of others?

Two things you need to get a handle on…

  1. People who serve according to their God-given design will find joy and fulfillment. Their hearts will enlarge just like the Grinch’s.
  2. People open their wallets, pull out their checkbooks, and swipe their credit cards for things that bring them joy and fulfillment.

I’m not advocating the plug and play approach to gifts discovery and ministry placement, so don’t think this is a fast fix for your financial woes. This isn’t about manipulating people to get to their money. This is about serving people according to the Ephesians 4 model. But Jesus did say that we will be blessed when we serve. Might it follow that churches who equip their people to serve will reap a blessing?

What’s your next step in shifting to an equipping culture? You really don’t have anything to lose… and the Kingdom to gain!