On the Importance of Being…….

As my brain continues to wrestle with the closing of a chapter in my career and wondering what the next one holds, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading and praying.

As my time at GLA is down to less than a week,  as we finish up the details on my last project on behalf of the kids at GLA, I’ve been reading and re-reading an article that Ann Voskamp wrote.   I’m going to write a couple of different blog posts about the parts that speak to me.   I hope you’ll read the whole article.

Ann talks in the article about the importance to your spirit to giving yourself time to be creative.     She also offers 7 keys to how to be more creative and nurture your own soul when you do.    I’m not going to write about all of them, but on the ones that hit home the most to me.

“Quit trying to fit. Why try to squeeze all your extraordinary into ordinary?”

I’m part of a Facebook group that was started by author and motivational speaker (understatement) and humorist, Jon Acuff.   The group consists of over 2,000 people with one common goal in mind.   We all are, in one way or another, dissatisfied with the ordinary.    Our dreams and aspirations are as different as the people that you see walking through O’Hare airport.   But we all believe that we can do something extraordinary – and most of us believe that God has called us to do something more than the ordinary.

So, what does the ordinary look like?   It’s different for everyone – kind of ironic isn’t it?   But the ordinary is when you try to fit into a box that’s made for someone else.   The ordinary is when you don’t look for ways to be part of what God’s up to.   

The ordinary is when you don’t live your life in a way that is pleasing to God.   There’s a guy I go to church with who drives a truck as his “job” but he’s anything but an ordinary truck driver.   I have heard so many stories about how he has shared his faith and has been a witness for God.   He’s definitely not squeezing his extraordinary into the ordinary – he’s taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

So what does that mean looking forward?

  • I believe that God has shown, in my time at GLA, that He can use me to help accomplish extraordinary things.   I’m not even going to mention any particular stories because I’d run the risk of forgetting or leaving some out. 
  • I had the opportunity on Saturday to spend an hour talking with a  dear friend who is taking a totally different and fresh view of mission work.   I’ll have more thoughts about what that means – but to figure out how that view is extraordinary and how it might translate into what God wants me to do takes time.
  • In order to truly understand what God wants, not only for me but for all of us, takes time.   And it takes quiet listening.  
  • And one of the hard things is that while it takes “being still” and quiet listening to God, the needs are still there.

But I know this, taking the time to be still, taking the time to let God use the extraordinary in you and in me will make a significantly bigger difference than if we settle for the ordinary.

I don’t plan on settling for the ordinary – do you?

Tom

What You Want to Give To Me……

“Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

A friend of mine just posted this on Facebook.   There’s a couple of things that really struck me about this……

“Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?”   That is so true – so many of the problems in the 1st World stem from our belief that we are what we have.    We are important because we drive the fancy cars and go to the right schools and golf at the right places.   This prayer unwraps that idea and says, “God, who am I if I don’t clink to those “things” that I know don’t matter?”   I’m scared to admit that I’m not what I own.

“Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?”     I wrote earlier about accepting the cure.   We don’t need stuff, we don’t need a list of impressive degrees, we don’t need a long list of accomplishments.   We just need to accept the cure and then do what God tells us to.

”I am……what you want to give me.”   How much richer, deeper and more meaningful our lives would be if we focused on that rather than getting caught up in the “acquisition” of stuff, of feelings of importance and instead said, “God, what do you want?   What do you want me to do?   What do you want to give me?”  

It’s all His anyway, why do we act like it’s all about us?

Tom

The Future–What Are Your Plans?

As my time at GLA winds down, I was having a conversation with someone I’ve known for a while (but not someone who I’d consider a friend – just more of an acquaintance).   We were getting reconnected regarding family, jobs, banking, my time at GLA and I told him that my time at GLA is very close to being done.

“What are your plans?   What do you see as your career moving forward?”

My response?   There were two parts:

To Find Out What God Wants – I know that God’s got a plan.   I could talk or write for hours (if not longer) about how God has been at work orchestrating our adoption of our two kids, our longer term involvement in Haiti, my move from banking to the non-profit world.   It has been obvious that God has been at work in all of this.   God is drawing one chapter to a close.    He hasn’t allowed me to turn the next page yet – glimpses of it, but not the full chapter.    My goal is to find out what God wants.

And do it.   Once I find out what God wants, I want to do it.   Because I know that if I do what He wants, I’ll be able to do it with His blessing, with His leadership and with the internal joy (not happiness – those are two different things) that comes from following God’s call.

So, I don’t know what’s next, but I know who does.   And that’s all I need to know right now.

Tom

P.S. Stay tuned, I promise I’ll share this journey with you……

Lessons from Noah

Genesis 6:22 – “Noah did everything God commanded him to do.”   (The Message)

It’s simple.   Do what God tells you.

It’s hard.   Because God isn’t always standing right next to you actually talking to you like he was with Noah.

It’s simple.   It says in the Bible what God wants us to do.

It’s hard.  Because some of the commands in the Bible don’t translate clearly from Bible times to today’s times.

It’s simple.   “‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’  Mark 12:29-31 (MSG)

It’s hard – the busyness, materialism and constant noise of our world make it hard to hear God let alone obey His commands.

But it’s worth it.   Noah followed God’s commands and had the opportunity to play a huge part in the future of God’s people.

If you and I follow God’s commands, what role is He having us play in the lives of His people?

And they are ALL his people, whether in the 1st world, the 3rd world, all of them.

Tom

50,296 Acts of Love

So, this morning, after I dropped my daughter off at school, the local Christian radio station played Jason Gray’s song, “Acts of Love.”   You know the line?

“With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come.”

“God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you”

This afternoon, my daughter and I spent some time finishing up the inventory of the diapers that we’re going to be sending on the container down to Haiti next week.   IMG_1253[2]

And guess what – we saw and counted 50,296 acts of love.

That’s right, 50,296 diapers so far – with another 40 boxes to come yet.    That’s 50,296 times where someone said,  “I want to help the kids in Haiti.”

IMG_1257[1]

With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come.

IMG_1261[1]

With 50,296 acts of love, the kingdom is closer to the children in Haiti than it was.

It’s not just about diapers.   It’s not just about clean bottoms.   It’s about listening to the heart of God and caring for the little ones who don’t have a family who can care for them.

Thank you, 50,296 times – with more to come!

Tom