Setting Things Right Again

There are a number of things about me that are weird.  Stick around and I guarantee you will find one for yourself to laugh at.  There really is no limit.  Making new ones every day, but there are some golden oldies that have been around for a few decades.  Wanna hear one?  Here goes.

Sometime around the age of 7, I took it upon myself to do a little project, and I recruited my brother and the neighbor kids in this rampant display of ridiculousness.  Looking back, I even think this was weird, but I do remember it vividly as something that meant a lot to me even though I think everyone thought I was insane.

This is not the mower, but it captures much of what I remember in its stellar good looks!

My Dad had a little push mower.  Green in color with a white Briggs & Stratton motor on top.   The mower ran well, but looked rough. The handle, once chromed, was pitted with rust.  The deck was covered in layers of “grass juice”, dried clippings, and was scratched up from years of use.  The motor was covered in dust, oil, and again, “grass juice”.  

I can’t tell you why, but I remember that I looked at it one day and I decided that it needed to be cleaned up and put back in order.  So, in what can only be described as delegation gone wild, I got 3-4 other kids to join me in cleaning up this mower.  I don’t remember if bribes were involved or how exactly I talked them into it, but they showed up.

So, there we were, armed with a bunch of rags and whatever aerosol products I could scrounge up in the garage that might have some type of solvent properties, we gathered around a 20 inch push mower with the determination to make it shine like new.

I can’t recall how much time we put into the project, but I do remember needing to talk a couple people into coming back to the job and trying to help them capture my vision despite their comments of “waste of time”, “just going to get dirty again”, and “you’re crazy”.  Who knew I was in career training…

At the end of the project I remember standing up, by myself because I had finally been abandoned by my crew, and looking at the mower expecting to be filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Before me sat the fruits of my labor and it was…

Still a scratched up, stained, rusted, and still fairly greasy mower.

There was not a lot of appreciable change to the mower’s appearance.  Yes, the “grass juice had been washed off, and the dried clippings and caked sand were no longer all over it, and there were even parts of the motor that showed the slightest glimmer of shine in the paint, but it still looked rough.  I was disappointed.  It felt like a waste of time with no discernible improvement.

Later that night, Dad asked me about the mess that I had left on the floor of the garage.  Piles of rags, empty spray cans of brake cleaner and WD-40, and the pile of dried clippings we had scraped out from under the mower deck gave evidence of my deeds.  I told him what I had done and said I would go clean up the mess.  I said it was a waste of time anyway.  He said something then that I have not forgotten.

“It might not look like you did a lot on the surface, but what you did do will make a difference.”

He then went on to tell me that in cleaning off the motor, it would run cooler which was better for the motor.  In cleaning the air filter I was protecting the engine from debris that could damage it.  In getting all of the grass clippings and junk scraped off the deck, I was removing stuff that trapped water and created rust so I was helping the deck last longer.

My restoration project did not turn out like I had hoped it would.  There was no obvious change, but it had made an impact for the future.  Because I was willing to take the time and put in the effort, the mower was going to run better and last longer.  It was, in some ways, a success.

I wonder if that was the catalyst that has given me an appreciation for making the old look new and the broken re-usable.  Since then I have been interested in auto restoration, home repair, and recently using reclaimed materials to build things.  It seems like I am always trying to figure out how i can take something broken and realize the value in it.

God saw the value in His broken people and provided a way for us to become new as well.  Through the redeeming death of His Son, we can experience life change and eternal life with God.  On the surface we might not seem that different, but changes are made, and if we submit to the process, those changes will multiply in us until they are seen by those around us.  There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.  Let me say that again,

There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.

I have reached the end of another book study in the Bible, and it is time to move on.  Colossians taught me a lot about how we are to #SERVEandGROW in life.  We serve God and we serve others.  That is how we grow.  It’s not a difficult formula.  Pretty much just those three steps.  So easy I can follow it!  I have enjoyed the study , and I hope that anyone who read along with me did too.

Now I am going to take a swing at something different.  I have pretty much stuck with books of poetry or doctrine, but now I want to do a book of history.  It will change some of how I post my thoughts, but I will try to keep with the same basic format of a post a day with a verse and a  thought.  Forgive me if the text gets a little small from time to time.

We will be going through the book of Ezra.  This is the story of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish exile when Babylon took Israel captive.  The city and the temple were destroyed, the “choice” people were taken away, the walls were torn down, and only a few stragglers were left behind.  Jerusalem was in shambles.  A near wasteland.  

God wanted a #Restoration.

God began orchestrating what needed to happen to bring His people home, and He started with the #Restoration of the temple.  Later Nehemiah would follow and rebuild the wall and set the city back in order.

Ezra’s efforts might have seemed a little odd.  In rebuilding a city, would it not make more sense to build a wall first?  Many would agree, but God knew that there needed to be a more important change first.  His presence was needed.  The city would not be complete because the temple was rebuilt, but without the temple, the city might not have been built.  The restoration of Jerusalem needed God more then man.

#Restoration is needed in my life.  There are things I have let go, things I should have taken better care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Steps need to be taken to scrape out the junk that might be keeping my life from running as God intended.  I may need to wipe away some stuff that lets me see things that need repair.  All in all, I am in need of God’s redeeming, restorative work.

As I read through Ezra, I will be looking for what God has to show me in that regard and sharing my findings as I go along.  I will post them on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page, and I hope you will follow along.  If you see something that speaks to you, let me know!  I would love to talk to you about it.

Relentless Growth requires us to not only keep driving forward, but to be willing to take time to #Restore things that need work.  We have relationships around us that need God’s hand in them.  We have things in our past that we need to learn to overcome and use for God’s glory.  In His hands, there is nothing that is not salvageable.  Give your heart and life to Him and see what He can do with it!


What Can (Should) I Say?

Arguments. Protests. Anger. Riots. Responses made well, and responses made too late.  To say that the news has been a little heated lately is a bit of an understatement.  It seems like no matter where I look, somebody is angry about something:

  • Monuments are being taken down because they are offending people who see them as a tribute to slavery
  • Protests are being held over the removal of the monuments because people believe that some people are better than others based on the color of their skin.
  • People are protesting the protests because they see the monuments as historical and not racist.
  • Police officers are being shot because they are wearing a blue uniform that some people feel represents an overuse of authority.
  • A recent post in my community had a young man stating that if a police officer chose a line of work where he gets shot at, that is his problem.
  • A neighboring city is hosting two replica ships built to look like Columbus’ Niña and Pinta, and protests are forming over the impact that Columbus had on Native Americans.
  • The menu also changed in the cafeteria at work.

The statements I made above are all true and are presented merely as a fact, and not as an argument or a statement of my position.  After all I have heard and read recently I have only one position that I would like to have heard:

We just need to stop talking for awhile.

I really would like the arguing to stop because while I have thoughts on these issues, it is simply too loud right now for anyone to hear what anyone else is saying.  There is a contingent of people out there right now that are enjoying the strife and just keep fanning the flames of anger that are consuming the nation.  It saddens me.

Some people have been hurt over some of these issues and have reason to feel upset and to speak up, and that is good, but there needs to be another step taken beyond speaking up, and it is not to speak louder.  Speaking has turned to shouting, and nothing is actually getting done past reactionary moves that are just causing more anger.

It is time to be silent.  We need a cease fire in the media.  Let’s stop taking shots at people, positions, and practices and instead focus on what is good that is happening around our nation.  Maybe we could rinse out our minds with some good news that makes people smile instead of wanting to tear something down or target someone:

  • An 84 year-old woman recently found her engagement ring she had lost several years earlier.  It had been lost in her garden and she pulled a carrot that had grown through the ring.
  • A school bus driver in Wisconsin crocheted toys for the 34 kids on her bus after a dare that she couldn’t make a crocheted figure inane shape they could think of for her. She did it!
  • A tourist in Alaska celebrating his birthday pulled a kayaker trapped in whitewater to safety.
  • The other day, someone in the cafeteria bought my breakfast for me.

See!  Good things are happening too!  We are just having  hard time seeing the good things because there is so much attention being focused on the bad things.  When you only look at the bad, then that is all you see.

Wow.  That was deeper than I had planned, but it draws to mind the old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full on His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

That message is very powerful.  When we focus on Jesus, His life, His message, and His teaching, we will begin to see the world differently.  We will not see sides we need to take in an argument.  Instead we will see people who are hurting themselves and others in bitterness and anger.  We will see lives in need of restoration.  We will see opportunities to speak with grace and mercy rather than anger and rhetoric.

I used to really like to argue.  It was a lot of fun to dig in and take a side and then argue the other to the ground.  I have distanced myself from speaking up on the issues at hand as much as I would like because I  don’t want to hurt people or drive wedges into relationships.  There are a lot of things I have thought that I could say, but I have realized that there are a lot of things I don’t need to say.

If I am going to be helpful to those around me, I need to listen more than I speak.  If my opinion is wanted, it will be asked for, and it is more likely to be heard if it is asked for!  So, I will be doing my best to stay silent, to not be pulled into the stream of argument, and to be available to those who are hurting and need a listening ear.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and while some of the things people are upset about are very real and worthy of it, others are simply the result of someone opposing something just because they feel that every opinion deserves a protest.  I’m not going to be in the protest business.

I want to be in the peacemaking business.