The Menial and the Commonplace

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012. Today is “‘I Want To Start My Own Business’ Day.” No. I don’t. Sorry. I’ll probably do better with the alternative, which is “Make Your Bed Day.” I can handle that.

On this date in 1987, Fatal Attraction premiered. Anyone who is even thinking about cheating on their spouse should watch this movie.
On this date in 1971, Donny Osmond hit #1 on the U.S. pop charts with “Go Away Little Girl.” Don’t even ask me to post that video.
In a related story, on this date in 1857, Mormons and Paiutes murdered 120 emigrants at Mountain Meadows.
On this date in 1985, Pete Rose got his 4192nd hit, passing Ty Cobb’s career hit record. He would retire during 1986 with a total of 4256, a record that still stands today. It stands so tall that there isn’t an active player within shouting distance. Like Nolan Ryan’s strikeout record, it will probably never be broken.

And, on this date in 2001 (also a Tuesday)…

We got in a good workout last night. I tried the “adaptive motion trainer” again, this time at a much lower level. I think that was my problem before. I was doing it with too much resistance. It was much better this time, and I still burned almost 600 calories, so I’m happy with that. This machine gets you a better full-body workout than the elliptical, because it pretty much forces you to use your arms, while the elliptical allows you to just use your legs.

Father, I pray that you would reveal yourself to me, by your Spirit, through your Word, this morning. May your Word speak truth to me that gives me strength for this day.

Today I’m reading Psalm 103. Another one of my favorites (because of some of the middle verses), this one was written by David, and is purely a praise psalm. There are several worship songs composed from the first few verses.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Verse 8 holds a beautiful truth.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

And then, the marvelous truth of how God has dealt with our sins.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

How far is the east from the west? If we consider a straight line, east and west are separated by an infinite distance. That’s how far my sins have been removed from me. The truth is in the line of that song that says that I stand before the Lord as though I had never sinned. I am forgiven. “He’s alive and I’m forgiven!” (Different song.)

Yet, the Lord remembers how frail we are. Because, even though my sins are all forgiven, I still falter. But,
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

I am overwhelmed by his great love and mercy.

My Utmost For His Highest
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14

We cannot select our surroundings for ministry. We can however, be “very selectly God’s in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us.” Harking back to yesterday’s reading about how we will react when the “big crisis” arises, Chambers says, in today’s reading, “The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.”

What Jesus did for his disciples in the above setting was very menial and commonplace. So much so that it completely shocked them. It takes all of God’s power in me to do commonplace things in this way. “Can I use a towel as He did? Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of.” Pastor, how would you react if someone asked you to wash dishes? I’ve known a few who would not have condescended to such a common task.

I need to watch the kind of people God brings around me and see what kind of person I have been to him. He tells me to do for them what he has done for me. “I’ll do that when I get to my final place of ministry.” I was shocked, once, when in seminary, to hear a teacher tell me that what I was learning was not for the church I was serving in at that time. This would be for when I was “successful” and had a “big church.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I almost walked out of that class. Lost all respect for that teacher in that moment, and almost for the entire seminary. “To talk in this way is like trying to produce the munitions of war in the trenches–you will be killed while you are doing it.”

Let’s compare this to a marathon race, to bring it home. If I want to run a marathon (26 point something or other miles), I have to train by running. I can’t just show up on the morning of the race and expect to be able to even finish, much less make a respectable showing. Neither could I just pick up the trombone that’s been sitting in my bedroom for the last few years, and play a symphony on it. You have to train…you have to practice. “If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.” By the way, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to run a marathon. I would, however, love to play a symphony on my trombone.

I have no idea what God is training me for, but more and more, he’s teaching me about being faithful in the little things. He is showing me (sometimes quite painfully) how I need to treat people, how to minister to even the most undesirable people. I’ve had to swallow pride and humble myself before people that I felt were difficult to deal with and purposefully obstinate. And you know what? I’m getting along pretty well with them, now. I really don’t need to be concerned with what God has for me in the future. I only need to do what he has for me now, no matter how menial and commonplace. If I have to wash dishes, so be it. If I have to wash someone’s feet…I’ll do it. The power of Christ through the Holy Spirit within me will enable me to do whatever needs doing.

Father, I thank you this morning, that you have chosen to use me in your kingdom. I pray for the power of Christ to enable me to do whatever task you have for me this day. I also pray that you give me meekness and humility to do whatever task you may have for me, no matter how menial or commonplace. I have been praying a lot lately for the characteristics of the Beatitudes to be alive in my life. Meekness is one of those characteristics, and it is one that I struggle with a lot. I find myself failing to exhibit humility a lot of times, and I continue to pray for that. Jesus showed such amazing humility when put on that towel and went around washing the dirty, smelly feet of his disciples; feet that had been walking around the filthy streets of their city. There’s not telling what was on those feet. But Jesus, your Son, the savior of all mankind, bowed down and washed those filthy feet. And we dare to think that we are too high and lofty for certain tasks! I am humbled by this very thought, Lord. I pray that I will have the correct mind about these things. And I pray that you continue to pummel me with such thoughts until I am able to perform any task you give me, without so much as a second thought.

As I continue in this journey, I pray that I will remain faithful to “practice” what you are teaching me, so that, someday, I will be able to play a symphony of faith. I rejoice in your provision for me, and I celebrate what you have done in my life in the last year, drawing me ever closer to you, as well as closer to the Church. I can truly say and sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” You have done great things for me, and I bow in humble adoration when I consider that, yes! You have removed my sins as far as the east is from the west!! Hallelujah! May I never fall back into the sins from which you have rescued me!

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for Christi, as she is hurting a little worse this morning. I pray that the MRI will be scheduled soon, so that we can know what needs to be done to relieve her pain. I pray that you would heal her back issues and correct this pain. I pray, too, that she will have a day free of stress and worry, at her job. I pray for a smooth day at my job, and I ask that you keep me ready for any opportunity to share your love with someone else. Give Stephanie a good day, as well, drawing her attention to you during this day. Show her how much you love her, Lord.

I thank you that my friend Debbie got a job yesterday!! I continue to pray for jobs for Mike and Christia. Oh, and Amy, too! She’s looking for a job, and may have one lined up after a recent interview.

Give me clarity this morning, and keep me focused as I pray for others in my private prayers.

“In the arms of your mercy I find rest…” Yes! God has removed my sins as far as the east is from the west. He “washed my feet.” How shall I, then, not show that same mercy to others?

Grace and peace, friends.