Monday, September 29, 2008

Do not seek the treasure.

Last week I vacationed with my family on the beaches of Padre Island, TX. Thanks to MTV, most people think of spring break and crowded beaches when they hear about Padre, but my family has gone to the same national seashore campground for over 20 years (usually every other year). This campground has no frills-there's only electricity and running water in the bathrooms. We stay in a pop-up camper just off the beach, with the ocean in view. We love it.
While at the beach, we enjoy walking up and down the shoreline, talking and looking for sea shells, sand dollars, and other stuff that's washed ashore. This trip was a little different because of hurricane Ike. There was minimal damage in the area we stayed, most of it had been easily fixed before we arrived (about a week after the storm hit), but there was an incredible amount of debris on the beach.

We usually expect to see jellyfish, seaweed, small shells...the usual. This time, there were countless trash cans, DVD cases (some still had the movies in them!), water and coke bottles/cans, furniture, toys....the list could go on forever. On other trips to the beach, when we've gone "beach combing" (looking for stuff) we get excited about a large or pretty shell, a sand dollar that's still at least 50% intact, or cool pieces of driftwood... But this time, our eyes were drawn to the junk...We spent hours in the first few days examining and sometimes picking up and keeping stuff that had washed wasn't until the third day that we really started looking for shells and other natural stuff.

Sometimes we do that in life too. We seek after "stuff." We run around trying to compile the most stuff and seem to never be satisfied. All the while, we're missing what God has in store for us. We fail to notice the beauty in this world, we can't see all the wonderful things God desires for us because we're looking at all the junk in life...things that we think will bring us happiness, and get more and more disappointed when the new and shiny objects fade.
What treasures are you seeking? How much of your time do you spend chasing after stuff- material possessions of this world? Would it be easier to understand what God's purpose is for us if we would shift our focus from the "treasures of this world" and looked for ways to invest in people rather than things? Start looking for ways to serve, instead of compiling. For it is service that we will be truly rewarded with treasures that are bigger than we could ever imagine.

"[Moses]...chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." Hebrews 11:25-26

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do you spend time?

Sunday night, after youth activities, I drove to Dallas to my college roommate's house. I stayed overnight and then he drove me to the airport early this morning. I'm currently on a flight to Corpus Christi, TX to visit and vacation with my family. This trip was originally scheduled for September 12-18, but there was a bit of a hurricane problem.

I haven't seen my family since May, partly because we're so far away from each other, and partly because my job keeps me busiest during the summer months. So, it's nice to be able to take a few days off and spend them with the people I love...catching up on the happenings of life. The beach is our favorite vacation spot. My parents have pictures of me at the same beach from my toddler years all the way up to 2005...soon we'll have pictures from this year. I love the beach, I love connecting with my family in a low-stress setting...taking each moment in and enjoying it for what it's worth. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this week of family vacation.

How do you spend the time you have with family? Too often, we spend our time like our money- we look for ways to part with it as soon as we have it...don't follow?
We seldom just enjoy a day. We worry about tomorrow, think about that assignment, meeting, whatever... It's hard for us to just live in the moment...we spend life with our finger on the Fast-forward button, and forget how press play, or even pause. We waste our time in the now, selling it for thoughts of later, tomorrow, next week.... I love going to the beach because it makes me want to slow things down, stay another day, forget about the things I'm worried about. It helps me
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46: 10

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Showing up

I am not sure who to credit this to, but someone a few years ago gave me a wonderful peice of advice about doing any kind of ministry.

"Never underestimate the power of showing up."

It seems simple, too simple to have any real effect. But showing up is the most important thing in any kind of ministry. Time is probably the most valuable thing we have in our culture that celebrates multi-tasking and overloading schedules. It's hard to "find the time" to do things we know we should, so when we physically show up, it means more than we could ever know.

When the advice was given to me, I was interning with Project Transformation. I believe it was during the first week of the 9-week program. I was expressing my anxiety about working with elementary-aged kids. I had never worked with kids that were younger than 6th grade, and that summer, the oldest kids were 5th graders. To top it off, a few of them hardly spoke any English! As I voiced my concerns, someone spoke up and gave me that advice, adding, "You don't have to be amazing, you just have to be there." I took the advice, and did some wonderful work with kids that needed to be loved...all by just showing up, every day.

As Christians, we often find ourselves thinking, "I can't do that. I'm not going to be any good." We fill our heads full of negative thinking, and hope that someone else will step in. Chances are, if you're trying to give reasons why you can't do's exactly what you have to do. You don't have to be amazing, just show up. Go. Serve. Love.

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ," Ephesians 3: 7-8 (NIV) (bold added)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thoughts on a quarter century

This post, I'll break from my usual format of doing something devotion-based. Instead, I'm going to post a 10 things that I've learned about myself and about life (in no particular order) that I think are worth sharing. There are a lot of things that I could put on this list, but I've only given it a few days of thought. Anyway, here it goes:

1. I'll never know enough to be completely satisfied with my knowledge about anything.

2. I'd save myself a lot of trouble if I could put down my pride long enough to ask for help.

3. Friends and family can get you through a lot. Strive to return the favor whenever possible.

4. It's better to give people a chance to get to know me before I start "acting myself".

5. I really enjoy being able to not act my age on a regular basis.

6. Even though I consider myself a very patient person, I need a lot more patience on a regular basis.

7. Making plans rarely works for me because things seldom happen the way I think they will.

8. Many of the things I've resisted the most, turned out to be the most beneficial to me.

9. Worrying does more harm than good.

10. Life is funny, you just have to learn to look at it the right way.

Disclaimer: Please don't expect me to follow my own advice...because I'll always make mistakes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Calm after the storm

Last week, our church hosted more than 150 evacuees from Port Arthur, TX. It was an interesting experience, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to help those in need. We didn't experience too much in the way of weather...unusually high winds and lots of steady rain for about two days, but it was enough to flood low points in town and break some tree limbs. The weather was pretty miserable, and if you know how I feel about rain, you can imagine how much I didn't enjoy Tuesday-Thursday of last week (as far as weather goes).

But I did notice that Friday and Saturday were absolutely gorgeous days- with sunshine and highs in the 60s & felt like late October. It was great. The grass and trees were so green and the air was so crisp and clean from all of the rain....I could go on, but you get the point: the weather was as close to ideal as I've ever seen during early September in Texas.

Sometimes life is hard- we're going through difficult situations and we think that our troubles will never fact, they can even get worse! But we should always pay just as much attention to the time after the storm as we do to the storm itself. Difficult times in our lives result in growth spiritually and as a person. We come out of difficult situations with a new perspective, and sometimes a renewed zest for life...much like the way the storm left our town- cool, clean air and greener grass/trees. Whenever you're facing trials in life, know that it will pass, and that there is an opportunity for things to be better after it's over.

"Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:28-30 (NIV)

Monday, September 1, 2008


...The professor looked around the room, waiting for volunteers, while I tried not to make eye contact. It took a little while to get the five volunteers, but eventually the need was filled. I kept thinking, "I don't have time....someone else can do it."

To this day, this is my biggest regret from my college years: not volunteering to help with the evacuees from Katrina and Rita in 2005. I know I had a test and lots of books to read, but I can't remember what the books were, or what grade I got on the test/quizzes. I could have spared some time and helped others in need, but the truth of it is, I didn't want to. I was selfish. I normally would have done anything for that professor, he was one of my favorites. But I just "couldn't" volunteer to help him at the shelter.

It still bothers me that I didn't help. Partly because I don't remember what class the 'important' test was in...or even what it was covering, but mostly because I put things before people. Huge mistake. Any time we, as humans (not even mentioning the Christian part) begin putting things before people, we begin to lose some of our humanity...the part of us that is good...from God.

I've been offered a chance for redemption. While I wish that people weren't having to stay at our church, I see it as an opportunity to make up for what I didn't do three years ago. I have a lot of important things to do this week, but they can wait until the people have been taken care of. If you're in Texarkana, please volunteer at a shelter. And if you're in a town that has evacuees, find out how to get involved with helping people that have been displaced.

"As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' "

Matthew 14: 15-16 (NIV) (bold added)