Monday, June 15, 2009

A Judgement Call

Last week I had the privilege of attending a senior high youth mission trip in a rural area of Texas. Our youth group has gone on trips like this with the same organization for the past three summers. Each trip is in a different place, with different participants, ....

This time, instead of being out in the heat swinging hammers, weilding a 3-inch paintbrush, and dusting off the circular saw; I was leading worship, helping plan games, setting up for events for everyone after the day was over. Part of my job was to go offer encouragement to the work teams at their different locations, take pictures, and maybe talk to the owners of the house they are working on.

One of these locations has been burned into my memory. But it doesn't stand out because of the "client's" situation... it was because I assumed. As I walked up to the site the team was sitting with the client and discussing over sack lunches. There was a man sitting on a four-wheeler about 30 feet away. It was obvious that he was there checking on the elderly owner of the house. His body language said "I'm watching you," his arms were folded and he had a very removed disposition about him. I decided that he wasn't friendly and probably didn't like us being there.

After a while at the site I noticed one of the other guys from our group talking with him. I thought maybe he needed to be rescued from an unpleasant conversation. So I went over and was amazed to hear about the struggles this man had been through. He had lost many loved ones, he was there because it was his mother's house we were working on...and the reason he didn't get off the four-wheeler had to do with a disease that had made breathing difficult when walking. I felt ashamed that I had judged this man, who turned out to be one of the nicest clients I've ever met... lesson learned.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you too will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2

I hope that others look beyond my body language (which was misleading in this case), and actually get to know me before they decide what kind of person I am.

This week, strive to let people be themselves before you decide who they are. I'll try to do better.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Increasing Returns

There's a word that's been on nearly every mind lately. Very few things have been able to bump it from the spotlight of conversations and news broadcasts. "Recession" It seems that this word has us all spooked. Afraid to take risks we would have called "investments" just two years ago. We've gathered up all those investments, worried about the job market, struggled to pay bills... and maybe even worse. It is as these times that I begin to think of two stories from the Bible: 1- the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), and 2- Jesus' advice about worrying (Matthew 6: 25-34).

But there's a lesser-known passage I'd rather share with you:
"Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.
You ask, 'How have we robbed you?'
'The tithe and offering- that's how! And now you're under a curse - the whole lot of you - because you're robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams...' " Malachi 3: 8-10 (The Message)

The passage seems focused on monetary offerings to God. Sure, there may be churches that are really struggling financially because their members are struggling.

But when I read this, I thought about a different kind of offering. One that many churches have been in desperate need for years- volunteers. I read this passage and thought about what's most important to me, what do I "hoard"? The answer of course is my time- I'm very protective of it. I cherish my time off, I guard against things that cut into my free time, I pass up opportunities because "I'm too busy."

Are you anything like that? One of the highlights of the past year for me was volunteering to read with a 1st grader for 30 minutes every week. I found that it was often the best part of my week. Last month, I looked at my volunteer sign in sheet and counted the hours from September to May, expecting the sum of the hours I'd volunteered to be huge... twelve. 12 hours over about 250 days.

Do you think you're busy? Try taking a little time out every week to volunteer. When it's over you may be suprised with how little time it actually took to make a big difference. Give your time, and see if God doesn't "pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams."