Not Okay

Rain or shine, sleet or snow – he was always there. Sitting on a bucket-turned-upside-down as a stool, I would drive past him on my way to the post office in the small community where I live. He always made eye contact. He sometimes smiled. He usually waved or nodded cordially in my direction. Once he tried to bum a cigarette from me, but I was powerless to help him out with that one. He was a fixture there, at the crossroads of neighborly concern and I’m-late-for-an-appointment, but until yesterday, I didn’t even know his name. It was Bob.

Weed-Wacker Bob.

I turned the corner toward the post office yesterday and noticed an empty spot on the shoulder where he would normally sit. Instead of the elderly, white-haired man with a weedeater, propped up against the fence in a sea of political signage was this sign:

Weed Wacker Bob Memorial

And it made me sad. It makes me sad. And it makes me ask questions – some of which make me uncomfortable today.

What was my responsibility to Weed-Wacker Bob? What I mean is – as a child of God with resources to share, should I have given him something? The only thing he ever asked me for was a cigarette. And the opportunity to whack my weeds. I gave him neither. Instead, I smiled and waved and drove right on by. Year after year. After year.

How did he die? I wonder. Was he alone? Did he have a family? Friends? Loyal landscaping clients? There must have been others who actually stopped and talked to Bob, maybe giving him a job or a ride or a cigarette. Right? Someone else surely has been picking up the slack all these years for Weed-Wacker Bob… They must have!

But what if I’m wrong and everyone else on their way to the post office smiled and waved and drove right on by – just like me?

I set the bar low with Weed-Wacker Bob, and yet Jesus says:

“Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (The Message)

I am faced on this day with a mirror of sorts, found in the pages of God’s Word. I don’t need to ask myself what I want from others – I know I set the bar high in that department. And there was clearly no initiative-grabbing going on in my head – no doing-it-for-them as I smiled and waved and drove on by.

And this is not okay.

I am not okay! I am disobedient, selfish, apathetic and lazy, but I am not okay.

I am in need of rescue, just like Weed-Wacker Bob and everyone else who has ever found themselves in a puddle of regret and despair and at the end of themselves. And yet – thanks be to God! – this is right where He wants us to be:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

That is good news, because today I’m feeling pretty darn less of and in desperate need of God’s more-than-enough.

Rest in Peace, Weed-Wacker Bob. Rest. In. Peace.

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Workaholic L4L.09

Confession Of A Workaholic - They Say That Eve...

Image by echam+dikya+dzara via Flickr

The WORD

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’

Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.’

They replied, ‘We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?’

Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.’” John 6:24-29 (New Living Translation)

This text follows Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Those who had been fed realized that Jesus had moved on, so they followed him across the lake. Let’s read these words again, this time from the TNIV:

The crowd realized that Jesus and his disciples were not there. So they got into boats and went to Capernaum to look for Jesus. They found him on the other side of the lake. They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “What I’m about to tell you is true. You are not looking for me because you saw miraculous signs. You are looking for me because you ate the loaves until you were full.  Do not work for food that spoils. Work for food that lasts forever. That is the food the Son of Man will give you. God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.”

Then they asked him, “What does God want from us? What works does he want us to do?”  

Jesus answered, “God’s work is to believe in the One he has sent.”

Everyone knows a workaholic.

Some of us ARE workaholics.

The dictionary definition of workaholic is: somebody who has a compulsive need to work hard and for very long hours. Somebody addicted to work.

The people seeking Jesus had a compulsive need, in response to experiencing the miraculous signs and wonders of Jesus’ ministry, to do what Jesus did. Maybe they genuinely wanted to heal and feed the masses. Maybe they were caught up in the swell of excitement around Jesus and simply wanted to re-create that environment around themselves. Either way, these people had the potential to become addicted to work, and Jesus knew it.

The APP

Jesus recognized that this eager crowd had all of the markers of becoming workaholics; people who could very easily get lost in their work, losing track of the reason they were doing it in the first place.

Isn’t that just what happens to US? We find a job that will pay the bills, put our education to good use and allow us to contribute our unique giftedness to a purpose or cause that we can (hopefully) get excited about… and it sucks us in. Before we realize what has happened, our priorities shift, our time management goes haywire and we find ourselves dreaming workplace scenarios in the night.

Becoming a workaholic robs us of our sleep and our relationships and our health. What started with clarity as a beautiful thing can easily end up a disastrous mess when we lose track of why we’re doing it at all.

It’s no different in the church.

We get recruited to serve as a Sunday School teacher or sound technician. We like feeling useful. We like the idea that what we’re doing is God’s work. We figure that if we do even MORE for God, it can only be a good thing (right?), so we take on more hours or additional ministries.

Somehow we move from serving out of a response to God to serving in order to get a response from God.

Jesus knew we would be tempted to make our work the focus, which is why His response to this crowd of enthusiastic do-ers is worth our literal consideration today…

God doesn’t want our busyness.

God doesn’t require long hours.

God isn’t impressed with our spiritual resumes.

The only work God wants from us is our BELIEF in the Savior. Period.

Do yourself a favor today and make a list of what you do. List everything you do on a normal day, in a normal week. Then ask yourself these questions:

What are you doing that feels like busyness?

What are you doing that takes long hours, especially hours away from those whose lives are connected to yours?

What are you doing that serves mainly to build up a resume of spiritual service?

What are you doing that fits poorly, feels heavy or conflicts with something in your life that you value more?

God is giving us  permission to spend all of our energy on believing in Him!

Take Jesus at His Word.

He’ll take care of the rest.

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