It’s Harvest Time

“May we never tire of doing what is good and right before the Lord

because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest

if we can just persist.”

—Galatians 6:9 The Voice

 

This is your season for doing great things for God. Harvest is a time for reaping the results of fertile growth. If we refuse to get weary or discouraged, we are recipients of the promise of a rich harvest. That yield grows up from seeds of persistence and motivation you’ve sown.

Paul wrote these words of encouragement for us today, not just in a letter to the church at Galatia nearly 2,000 years ago.  First, he had a warning. Watch out! Beware of the twin enemies of fatigue and exhaustion. Don’t get tired of doing good. Refuse to let low energy and lethargy to get in your way.

This morning, I woke up texting a loved one who was flying home from a business trip and a travel day that began at dawn. You know what that’s like. The alarm sounds at 4:00 a.m. and the journey to the airport takes place before the sun comes up. Long travel days require a buoyancy that normal workdays do not. We make those sacrifices in our personal or professional lives because we have a goal in mind—like launching a planned family vacation or attending a business conference.

Doing God’s work takes the same verve. I believe that the French call this kind of exuberance joie de vivre.

The “great harvest” God has for us is only visible according to His timetable. Whether that’s now or later doesn’t matter to me. God takes care of the “when.” It’s doing the work that counts.

This is your hour, your moment. God chose you for a special task. Your work is calling you! Someone is waiting for your touch, your action, your reach, your smile, your word. Your hand on their shoulder. Your cup of cold water on their lips.

The Help You Never See

When our enemies heard the work was complete and the surrounding nations saw our wall, their confidence crumbled. Only one possible conclusion could be drawn: it was not just our efforts that had done this thing.    God had been working alongside us.  —Nehemiah 6:16 (The Voice)

 Here’s one thing we assume about God’s Word: people who have a whole book named after them are usually pretty remarkable. Indeed, the story of Nehemiah is an example of why miracles and labor go together. The Book of Nehemiah illustrates The Power of Purpose.

You were born on earth to fulfill your purpose. I will not presume to know what your assignment is, but I can tell you this: just like Nehemiah’s, your mission is restoration. Whether that mission is to sing a song, write a book, preach a sermon, or save a city, you are in the restoration business. Your task inevitably involves renewal, repair, building and rebuilding that benefits someone else. Bottom line: you are to help others live their best life, in fellowship with God.

The important thing is this: when you are achieving your destiny, when you are in the right position and when you are doing the work you have been assigned to do, the wok of the Holy Spirit is present. In fact, the Holy Spirit is right there, working beside you. Incredible, isn’t it? The third Person of the Godhead, Himself providing the help you cannot see.

You also may not see the enemies who oppose you. “Enemies?” you ask. “Why would I have any enemies?” Great question. You will have enemies; know that and move forward. Nehemiah clearly saw those opposing him and the work.  But when those enemies observed Nehemiah’s success, they lost their confidence.

How do you know God is partnering with you on your assignment? Here are some indicators. God is there when:

  1. You apply yourself, without reservation to the work He has given and refuse to stoop to distractions or nonsense. Use Nehemiah as an example; his response to critics was: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
  2. You realize you must cling to God as your only support. Your close relationship with Him ensures a positive outcome.
  3. Great work is being done and results are the blessed and successful. When that happens, God’s support is undeniable.
  4. The plans of evil collaborators are clearly defeated in the end.
  5. You celebrate early—even before you see your work completed, because you know that the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

Wherever You Pitch Your Tent, Build an Altar

then he set up his tents and built an altar there to honor the God of Israel.

—Genesis 33:20, Contemporary English Version

One of the memorable songs of the Motown era—made famous by the Temptations—was a seventies tune with lyrics written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”  It has been said that the extended instrumentation on the song is as famous as the vocals. The Temptations’ version is an enduring depiction of classic soul.  And soul music always tells a riveting story.

Remember the lyrics?

 Papa was a rollin’ stone

Wherever he laid his hat was his home

And when he died

All he left us was alone.”

 I have no idea who the writers had in mind as “Papa,” but on this we can agree:  there are better examples of family leadership. Personally, I have only lived in four different cities in my entire life. Three of those major, lifetime moves were guided by my late husband and life partner and were based upon God-given directions about ministry.

As a Biblical example, Jacob was a papa whose transitions were broad. Jacob was undisputedly one of the most unique individuals who ever lived. The Genesis account (chapters 31 to 33) describes one of the great transitions he engineered for himself and his family. Spiritually, he transitioned from being a trickster, swindler and cheat one day to becoming a Prince with God the next.

The King James Version and other translations say that Jacob named that altar in Shechem “El Elohe Israel” or “God, the Great God of Israel.”

I am creating my personal El Elohe Regina, celebrating God, the Great God of my own life. My personal altar is a place that will forever bring praise to God and allow me to celebrate the great work that He has done in my life and in the life of my family.

Whatever your ballad, whatever your story, be like Jacob and decide this:  wherever you pitch your tent, you just oughta build an altar.

Mr. Demille, I’m Ready for My Close-up (or, Tyler Perry…Are You Out There?)


I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day;

night is coming when no one can work.—John 9:4 NRSV

 

 

Lights, camera, action!

Last Saturday evening, I trudged out into the February chill to hear author Eric Metaxas speak of how William Wilberforce launched a heroic campaign to end slavery.  There were a billion reasons that came to mind as excuses to stay home where it was warm and cozy. An hour and a half after taking my seat in the auditorium, I was glad that I came. Author of the book, “Amazing Grace,” Metaxas told riveting stories about how one person used his talent and influence to make a lasting global difference, impacting millions of people. The lecture was riveting and inspirational. I left telling myself:  “I’m ready to do something really big!”

I think I am ready for my Oscar. How about you?  Or we could plan a trip to LA, take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and see if anyone placed our stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…but forgot to tell us.

Among the more memorable words ever spoken in the world of cinema, for some strange reason, I suddenly recalled this famous line from the picture, “Sunset Boulevard.” Actress Gloria Swanson slinked down a winding staircase and said, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  Swanson was Norma Desmond in the ‘50s classic and her lines addressed famed director, Cecil B. DeMille.  Playing Norma to the hilt, Swanson was ready to face all of “those wonderful people out there in the dark.”

There are even more people in the dark today. Who knew that we could find inspiration in the portrayal of an attention-driven actress? But this is the inspiration we need to tackle our God-given assignment and this is the strength we will find to help people walk into the light of Christ.

Well, this is the moment for your close-up.  I am challenging you to begin your most important quest—not necessarily to become a famous actor but to take on the pursuit of your really big role: accomplishing your divine purpose in life.

What is the one big thing you feel chosen to do? What great dream do you have for making a difference? What will you do to make the universe a more peaceful and joyous place?

You may be the one to positively impact someone halfway around the world. Closer to home, God may be counting on you to reach out in a new way in your own neighborhood or family.

Today is your day! This is the moment to find your true self.  If you don’t mind my saying so, it’s time to go big or go home.  Just go do it—whatever it is that God created you to do, do it now.  It doesn’t matter what work you envision; just don’t be a procrastinator. If you don’t do it, it may never be done. Ready for your close-up?

Is This What Jesus Said to Do?

We each go through life looking for the meaning of our calling, the purpose of being alive, the reason for taking up space in the universe. We look for connectedness to a greater purpose. I know I do. I believe that, as long as I’m alive, I have a purpose. There is a work still to be done.

There are people we haven’t met, places we need to go, tasks that yet need the unique touch of our hands.  We squint to see the rich cord connecting people, circumstances, places and events—to find out the “Why?” of it all.

Above the door in his pastoral office, my husband had affixed the words of the great commission:  “Go ye therefore…”  Followed by the promise:  “Lo, I am with you always…”

In the last few months, I have reconnected with a pivotal part of my history. Before moving to Wisconsin, we spent four years living on the campus of American Baptist Theological Seminary, now American Baptist College. Those were years of awakening, of bonding with those who became lifelong friends—all as dedicated to sacrificial ministry as we were.

Now, I am back on the Holy Hill, strolling across paths that span these marvelous fifty-three acres on the edge of the Cumberland River. Views of the city from here are breathtaking. Sometimes I stay until dusk just to watch the diamond of Music City come alive, as lights come on.

One of the people I needed to meet is Professor Janet Wolf. I am astounded by her vision of Christian leadership and of our responsibilities for community building and social justice. Every conversation with Janet has caused me to consider what Jesus told us to do. Our individual “go” and “lo.” Dr. Wolf teaches classes in the Tennessee prison—but not just in the prison, one class is on death row. As part of her Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, she teaches “Transformative Justice” and “Community Building and Conflict Resolution.”

God’s timing is so precise. He knows what we need to experience. When I took my seat at ABC’s commencement ceremony last week, I chose a spot near the rear so that I could be a quiet observer. Dr. Wolf delivered the prayer.  Her words were so Holy Spirit-filled that they were like a mighty wind blowing across everyone present on the Library lawn.  I asked her to share them with me…so that they could bless you.

This prayer is for every graduate in the class of 2012, everyone who watched a child reach a milestone, and everyone who wonders if God still calls us to touch lives—in prisons or in palaces. You be the change agent God requires today.

Gracious, life-giving and holy God,

we come this day with joy and with thanksgiving.

Thank You for the gift of this day

and for all who gather here,

for the power of your presence, the wideness of your mercy

the enoughness of your grace.

Surely you are good and we are thankful.

 

Thank you for ABC and all who have labored here.

For almost 88 years, on this holy hill, you, O God,

Have been calling forth and raising up

Prophets, pastors, and protestors;

teachers, transformers and truth tellers,

nonviolent but militant warriors and saints.

 

Over and over again, on this holy hill, you, O God,

have made a way where we saw none;

you have opened doors when others slammed them shut.

You have propped us up on every leaning side

when things got hard;

and we thank you.

 

Thank You for those who graduate today,

each one a miracle, a sign of your steadfast love.

Thank You for their courage and creativity,

Their passion and persistence, their fierce determination

and defiant trust in your promises.

Thank You for all who accompanied them,

those who loved them and fed them,

those who supported them and encouraged them,

those who challenged and prodded them,

those who refused to let them give up or in

or settle for less.

 

Pour down your Holy Spirit upon us this day and always,

that we might be all you have created us to be—

Channels of healing and hope,

agents of change and challenge,

instruments of justice, generosity and joy.

In Jesus’ name.

                                                Dr. Janet Wolf

 

Note: the above prayer is abbreviated. Please check back here tomorrow; I will post the prayer in its entirety.

Yes, You Can–Take Your Spirituality to Work!

On one thing we can agree:  for the average individual, the workplace has its challenges.  What is critical is how you confront those challenges. People bring their emotions to work.  They can be unhappy.  Insecure. Jealous.  Angry.  Depressed.  Or just plain unpleasant.

I wonder what would happen if you infused the workplace with your faith? What if you decided to bring your most loving, compassionate, calming, forgiving, self-assured ego to work?  How would you go about doing that? What impact would it have on the lives you touch?

As a consultant, I have been up close and personal with a variety of organizations over the past two plus decades and observed a range of workplace behaviors. In many ways, as adults, we haven’t made much progress since kindergarten.  In a down economy and with unemployment high, people feel pressured to keep their jobs and to look good to their superiors—even at someone else’s expense.  According to a CBS News special report, workplace sabotage has increased.  This ranges from pranks to malicious attacks.  Someone steals your work and takes credit for it. A colleague covers up their mistake by blaming you.

Here are three steps you can take to become the person you are meant to be at work—a human being with the nature of Christ in you.

Step One:  Every day, as you enter the work environment, see yourself as nothing less than your “best spiritual self.”  God wants to be present in everything we do. See yourself as God’s trophy in your workplace.  If your light is hidden, uncover it. Cultivate it. Be prayerful.  Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once spoke of looking at the backs of people’s heads and praying for them, silently.

Step Two:  Do the right thing.  Whatever others say or do, make your response positive. If you’re provoked, don’t be quick to retaliate. Sometimes retaliation backfires and you end up looking as culpable as the other person.  Even if the situation is challenging, bring out your best smile. Years ago, someone gave me this advice: “Smile; hold your head up, even if you’re dying hard.”

Step Three:  Be solid and stable.  My son, Randy, is a firefighter and emergency medical technician who faces crises every day.  The people he attends encounter life-threatening situations and, sometimes, he puts himself at risk to aid them.  Every day brings an unexpected surprise. The one consistency is his compassionate spirit. I’m convinced Randy was born for this work. You may not fight fires or use the Jaws of Life to rescue a victim from a wrecked automobile, but you can still experience what it is like to bring spiritual values to work.

As of this day, make this your mantra:  Faith is not just my Sunday pursuit!