Big and Small Parts

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. ~Napoleon Hill

My sons were involved in community theater during their school years. The older one enjoyed acting as well as being behind the scenes. He built sets, painted scenery, ran lights, and was a stage manager. His roles ranged from supporting actor to lead actor.

The younger son didn’t care for acting, but he enjoyed the technical side of theater- carpentry, electrical work, lighting. He built sets, operated sound and light equipment, handed props to actors, set up and cleaned up.

Both of them were important to run the show.

The church was just getting up and running. There was concern about leading the movement now that Judas Iscariot was dead. What were they supposed to do?

They turned to prayer and scripture for their answer.

It seemed right to them to appoint another leader, one who had been with them from the beginning. They came up with two possibilities: Matthias and Justus. They chose Matthias.

There isn’t any more commentary on either of these men after that. All we know is that they were both good enough and trusted enough for the people to put them forward.

Perhaps Matthias was better suited for staying in Jerusalem because of family commitments or connections. Perhaps Justus was needed elsewhere or in another capacity. Maybe Matthias had more knowledge of money, or culture, or the scriptures. Or could it be that Justus was going to be an early example of a martyr, like Stephen?

Only God knows why Matthias was chosen over Justus.

Only God knows what you have been chosen to do and why.

Perhaps you are to be an example of faithfulness to other young marrieds while your husband serves a lengthy jail term.

Maybe you are adept at learning languages and are asked to be a missionary.

It could be that you are to be the mother or grandmother of a future world leader. Right now you are called to spend time with that child, patiently guiding and directing him or her.

You may have no idea why or what God is calling you to do.

That’s alright.

God does.

And like Matthias and Justus, you must do it. Not for the sake of glory or fame, but for the glory of God and him alone.

It’s very true . . .

There are no small parts.

 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV

I Will

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

He always wanted to be a missionary, but J. Oswald Smith was susceptible to sickness and disease. One mission assignment after another ended with his return to the States to recover from some new malady. So in the 1950’s, Smith gave up on being a missionary and began serving at a church in Toronto.

He gave up on being a missionary, but not on being mission minded.

He spoke to his members about the great work that needed doing, and they raised $282,000 for missions in one year alone.

He began helping other churches raise funds for missionaries. He helped one church in Boston go from a $3200 missions budget to a budget exceeding $200,000 in only six years.

How many more people heard the Good News of Jesus because of Oswald Smith than would have ever heard it by listening to him alone?

Last month I thought I should offer to host the community Bible study that I attend. I prayed about it, but felt a definite “no” being given.

Why in the world should I not host the study? We have a large house with no children left in it. It is a central location to many in the group. And it’s a Bible study, for goodness sake!

But I put aside my arguments and listened to God.

Another woman, growing in the faith, offered to host. It was a big step for her who so recently had spoken of the tongue lashing her father gave her for teaching Bible class at church.

What do you feel called to do? Is it what God is asking you to do, or is it just what you want to do?

Ask God what he wants.

His answer may not make sense at the time, but you can be sure it is the right answer.

 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

Fresh Bread Obedience

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”  ~Annie Dillard

I used to read The Little Red Hen to my Kindergarten students.

You probably know the story. The hen wants to make bread, but first she has to put the work into it. She asks for help, but everyone has other things, better things, to do.

It didn’t take long for my students to catch on to the repetition: “Not I,” said the dog. “Not I,” said the cat. “Not I,” said the duck. “Then I will,” said the Little Red Hen, and she did.

And then the bread is ready to eat.

“And who will eat the bread?” asks the Little Red Hen.

You know the answer; don’t you?

How many of us are the dog, cat, or duck? The bread smells wonderful, but the sweat that it takes stinks.

You know what it is going to take to help that single mother- your free nights turned into babysitting, your extra cash spent buying kids’ underwear and socks, your family Thanksgiving expanded to “outsiders”.

Or what about that college kid that seems so lost? You just got your own kids out of the house, but here is this one needing laundry, meals, rides to the pharmacy.

Maybe your story is an older neighbor who needs their lawn mowed, leaves raked, a hot meal, a sidewalk shoveled. He sits in the dark, a glowing television his only companion.

Genesis 11 and Joshua 24 gives us just a hint about what might have been.

Abram’s father, Terah, gathers together his family and sets off for Canaan, but they stop in Harran. Abram is with his father for 135 years before Terah dies. Joshua 24 tells us that Terah worshiped other gods.

Somewhere along the way, Terah didn’t do the work. Was he the intended one for the Promised Land? Was God asking him to begin a new nation? Did God instruct Terah, only to lose him to other gods?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that Terah never saw Canaan- the land of future promise. He never got to eat the bread.

It was given to someone who was willing to put in the work.

Has God called you to work?

What is your answer?

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. Matthew 21:28-31 NIV

Winter’s Work

God already knows what we’re made of, but perhaps He wants us to learn what we’re made of. I think we would all agree that we learn more from our tough times than from our easy times.~ John Bytheway

A good friend of mine was cleaning out old magazines and thought it would be nice to pass them along to me. They were writing magazines from about 2005 to 2012. I understand the gesture, but it meant that for several months a large box of magazines sat untouched in my office, creating clutter and mayhem in my orderly mind.

Finally, last weekend I browsed through the magazines to see if there was anything that might benefit me. Seeing that span of magazines all together gave me a perspective I wouldn’t have had if I had read the magazines over seven years, a little each month.

The common theme in each magazine was . . . You just have to do the work. There are days, even weeks, when you will write gobbledy gook. Write anyway. There are going to be long stretches without inspiration. Write in spite of it. There will be times when you don’t feel like it, don’t want to, can’t imagine. Guess what. Buck up and write.

Ben-Hadad, King of Aram, felt ambitious and called together 32 other kings. “Let’s go take over Israel.”

It sounded like a good idea to the other kings, and they headed out.

But Ahab, King of Israel, received a message from God. “Go ahead and fight these little turkeys. I’ll give them a flogging that’ll send them running.”

Ahab wasn’t so sure. “Who should I send out?” Success looked impossible, at the best unlikely.

God told him to call his junior officers and lead them out against the Arameans and the other armies. Ahab did as instructed- one of the few things he got right in life -and God answered with power and success.

And with further instructions.

“Spend the winter preparing because in the spring they’re coming back.”

So God tells Ahab to knock the snot out of the enemy, and when he does with obvious help from God, he is then told to get ready because the next time it will take more effort. Hmm, That doesn’t sound right.

I believe God asked me to write. And yet here I so often sit, staring at a blank screen, thumbing through old notes, surfing the net, scrolling through Facebook. If God wants me to write, why doesn’t he give me the words, the thoughts, the creative juices?

Because I have to do the work.

God calls you to something, too- parenting children, creating a work of art, teaching a lesson. Maybe he asks patience with your aging parents or with your students and their parents. Perhaps he is showing you an open door for a new position at work.

But instead of being easy, you find out you have to take tests. You have to get up really early. You have to study extra hard. You have to spend time with people who drive you crazy. You have to repeat yourself in newer, kinder ways. You feel like really bad, uninspired gobbledy gook.

Your success seems impossible, at least highly unlikely.

This is your winter. The time to prepare for the war ahead. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, and sharpen your sword.

God has called you.

The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’” 1 Kings 20:28

Screening Your Calls

callingWhatever your calling is as a service, follow it – that’s beautiful. ~ Hill Harper

This evening is my retirement party. That’s right; at 46 years old I am retiring.

Thirteen years ago we started home schooling our first born. Today is the last class I will teach to my own child, our second born, Amos. Today, after thirteen years of teaching, guiding, lecturing, demonstrating, and even banging my head on the table, I retire.

“Why did you decide to home school?” is a common question. The next common is, “Will you home school all the way through?” This last is asked with varying degrees of horror and respect.

We started this journey when our first son failed to thrive in the public school kindergarten. His personality and character traits didn’t meet the expectations of the school system, and rather than see him suffer more distress, disappointment, and depression, we removed him from that environment.

Some home school families say they were called from the beginning to educate their children at home. We never felt that. What we felt was a call to be the best parents we could be to Jonathan and Amos. So if we weren’t “called” to home school, why did we bother to go “all the way through”?

Because as time went by we could see the blessing and the correctness of the choice, for us, for our boys, for our family. We couldn’t explain it to you. Some people thought we were wrong. Some people tried to discourage us. But there was no denying the inner peace it gave us to choose home education.

Now that I am retiring, the most common question is “What will you do with all of your free time?”

Well, I am still going to teach home schooled students as a tutor once a week. I also thought I was going to teach online, but that avenue of income was thwarted, and I can only imagine it to be God. I threw out my sheep skin three times, and the answer was always “No.”

I also will serve at the rest home, at church, in the community. I will continue to look for ways to have a positive impact for Christ and the Kingdom.

But what I am called to do professionally is write. Again, I can’t tell you how I know; I can’t explain it. Some people think I am wrong, and some people discourage it. But the inner peace about it is encouraging.

Occasionally God calls in a loud, demanding voice. But more often he whispers and he waits. He waits to see if I will respond, if I will act, if I will obey. Afterward he gives the peace.

Until the peace comes is a frightening time of uncertainty, self-doubt, and frustration. You begin to wonder who really is on the other end of the line. I want to encourage you to not screen your calls; don’t ignore the directives. Don’t turn directions and go what seems to be the logical, practical way. God is seldom logical and even less often is he practical in human terms.

Have trees been rustling in the wind of his whispers? Do they seem like crazy voices, insane ideas, overwhelming endeavors and commitments?

It may be God calling. Will you answer? Will you act? Will you obey?


For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NRSV