Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leaving Your Mark

Have you ever heard of Gustav Stickley? He is responsible for what we now call "Mission Oak" style furniture and he is also considered by many to be the father of the "American Craftsman" movement of the early 1900's. Mission Oak style furniture is practical and natural and is best known for its subtle imperfections, exposed joints, and all natural appearance as it is varnished but never painted.

Gustav Stickley took great pride in his work, so much so in fact, that every piece of furniture Stickley produced bore the image of a compass and the words "Als Ik Kan" which loosely translated means, "To the best of my abilities." Gustav guaranteed that each individual piece was his best work, and back then that meant something.

Early on, Stickley's work was not appreciated, but his emblem was. Today, he is remembered as more than a furniture maker. He is considered a true American craftsman. Stickley's family eventually lost the rights to his famous trademark saying, "Als Ik Kan", but there is no doubt that Stickley left an eternal mark on the furniture and craftsman industries altogether. His products are highly sought after, and the Stickley name is still synonymous with well-made furniture.

Now, think about your parents or your grandparents. They never rushed to sign any document did they? Every contract or agreement and every check that was written, was painstakingly examined, and then signed with an enormous amount of pride and each signature was beautifully written almost resembling caligraphy. One's signature at that time, was indicative of his character, thus it had to be flawless.

At the turn of the century, it was commonly accepted that when one could not sign his own name, he simply marked the paper with an "X" in the presence of a witness, and that was enough to seal the deal. And you could expect that the person who penned the mark, would prove to be a person of honor and integrity, and that whatever services were to be delivered, would be delivered with the greatest amount of skill and impeccable accomplishment.

Less than two years ago, I accompanied my 59 year old mother to a law office for one last meeting with her attorney. Mom, ailing from cancer and a brain tumor was quickly declining, though she was still lucid, and held onto her sense of humor. She had lost the use of the right side of her body, her speech was slurred greatly, and she had to use a walker. On this particular occasion however, she had refused any assistance. She made it clear that she wanted to walk into the law office on her own and that she planned to sign each document herself.

On that day, I sat with my mom in a large law library that doubled as a conference room, and in the presence of witnesses and her attorney, I watched her take great care in leaving her mark on her very own last will and testament. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. The secretaries and clerks sitting around the table as witnesses, fought back tears as they watched her take several moments to sign her mark onto each document. Slowly and carefully she left her mark on those papers to the very best of her ability. She was leaving a legacy even as she signed away her legacy. Als ik kan.

Colossians 3: 23 says "Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ You are serving."

Awhile back, I had the pleasure of talking with a young man who works for a local fast food burger joint. This young man shared with me that his fellow employees stayed frustrated with him most of the time. When I asked him what he could possibly be doing to irritate them, I was pleasantly surprised, impressed, and humbled.

He explained that his coworkers were put out with the fact that he takes too much time to carefully craft each sandwich. His philosophy is that he likes to serve his customers the food pictured in the restaurant's advertisements.

Furthermore, he is also committed to making sure each person receives a generous serving of fries in order to get the full value the restaurant is purporting. Very subtley he also added that he is a fellow believer. In other words, this teenager takes pride in his work and he doesn't want to cheat anybody, and moreover his motivation in his approach to his work, is his relationship with Christ. He leaves his mark on each and every burger he makes.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all working with the attitude of this young man, or of Gustav Stickler, or moreover living out Colossians 3:23 in our daily lives?

That's what it means to live a raw faith. No matter what our job, our position, or our circumstance might be, let us all strive toward excellence and leave our mark, His mark, on the world around us.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:6

Als Ik Kan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fencing with Sailboats, Dancing with Flashlights

When I say it, he thinks I'm joking, but I'm not. I absolutely, unequivocally want my son to stop growing. At least for now. I tell him that often these days in fact, and many times, he'll reply with a sly grin and raised eyebrows. "Hey dad," he'll chide, pointing to his muscles or his feet, "look, I'm groooowing again." As if to say, "What're you going to do about it?"

Usually that's the cue for some "wrestle" time. Only lately he seems to be taking me down. Just last night on the couch, I was minding my own business and watching a little t.v. when suddenly, I was jumped. Only this time, all 64 lbs were perched atop my head in a never ending series of punches, and wild kicks as his arms and legs took turns clamping to my neck. I was pummeled. He was wearing me out. Sixty-four pounds doesn't seem like much until it's completely wrapped around your neck or spinning around floggin' your noggin.

It was like an attack by a Tasmanian Devil, both the vicious, live, rabid one and the whirring, zooming, cartoon one. It seemed like it lasted forever, and he was laughing like a maniac the whole time. Shell-shocked, I was looking to my wife for help. No luck. She just sat there glued to the scene, wide-eyed, biting her lips, trying not to lose it. She was ignoring the parental unwritten rules: when it looks like its hurting, stop it, don't egg him on, and intervene if necessary.

It may have only lasted 3 or 4 minutes but man, it hurt. By the time I pulled him off, my ears were ringing and my whole head was vibrating. Sudden attacks like that used to be menacing and annoying, but as I realize how quickly he's growing, I don't mind. Nowadays, I may lose an ear and I may end up with bruises tomorrow, but I don't mind.

Lately, I find myself watching him when he doesn't know I'm there. And even when he knows I'm there I stare at him. "Dad, stop staring at me, you're making me nervous," he moans.

I can't help but stare. He inspires me. There I said it. My seven year old inspires me. There's no denying it. Let me just state for the record right now, that he's better at many things as a seven year old than I have ever been.

Example? I was never good at running. I was never fast. I tried. I really did, but over the years I gave up. All my friends have been warned, if they see me running, they better stop and help me out, because either someone's after me or I'm on fire. But my son, he's as fast as the locomotives he loves to watch and read about.

Another example? He's mechanical. He can take things apart and put them back together and most of the time, he has the patience for it. I never had that gift and I've never had patience. But he teaches me. I'll confess that I've actually had him put things back together for me too.

I've never known a kid who loves the outdoors more than Corban. He would stay outside digging holes, riding bikes, spraying the water hose, riding a scooter, swimming or learning a new sport every waking minute, if it weren't for homework, church, bathing and sleeping. (He eats on the go regularly).

To say the least, our home is alive with the activity of a seven year old who loves life.

While there are moments in our household that make me want to scream (and sometimes unfortunately I do), most of the time these days, I just want to capture each and every moment with him. I need time to stand still, and so I implore him to stop growing. "You heard me son, obey your dad, no growing tonight you hear?" He laughs. Like the wrestling I wrote about, this is one of our rituals. One of our "things."

Role playing and improvisation are two of our other things. Being goofy and making a fool of myself are definitely within the realm of my comfort zone, so I especially love those moments together with him. We play off each other really well and it could go on for hours. We've played dentist (I was the patient of course). And we've played veterinarian (I was the rabbit, the dog, or the monkey). We've played Nascar (I was the announcer or the judge). And the list goes on. My role playing and improv credentials have become quite extensive.

Recently, we purchased a CD that he's grown to love. He stands on his bed and puts on shows for us. My job? To turn the bedroom lights out and hold the "spot light" (a large utility flashlight), and when the timing is just right, I'm supposed to flash the light all over the walls, the ceiling, and of course the superstar, like we're at a rock concert. Sometimes he even sells tickets to his concerts with light shows. And of course, I'm his biggest fan so I find myself dancing with my flashlight.

Then there's last night. We were watching a sitcom on Nickelodeon, and some teenagers were fencing. As soon as the show ended, I was summoned to the master bedroom where earlier we'd been building objects with Connex. You know, similar to Legos only with discs and long sticks and joints that "connect" so you can build things that actually move.

Several weeks prior we built sailboats together out of Connex, and until now he'd been reluctant to take our special sailboats apart. The time had come however, and after a moment of disassembling, the sailboats fantastically transformed into swords and we began a fencing match throughout our home and around the kitchen table, where mom worked busily on paying the bills or schoolwork, or one of those other mommy things. Her hair barely escaped a good tangling from our swords more than once.

It's times like these I wouldn't trade for anything and I guess as sappy as it may seem, I'm sharing with you today that I'm struggling to come to terms with the idea, that someday it won't be cool to do those things with me anymore and I'll be replaced by new friends, girlfriends, hobbies or school sports. I think one of the scriptures that used to give me pause, now just terrifies me:

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." I Corinthians 13:11

Don't misunderstand me, I know the context of the scripture, but it still scares me and if you'll indulge me, I need to wallow for a moment in the fear of my seven year old losing the magic and wonder and child-like imagination that for a brief moment in time, God has allowed me to share with him.

And so whether it's calling each other silly names, spending hours sticking a glow-in-the-dark solar system to the ceiling, or fencing with sailboats and dancing with flashlights. I'm game.

Live raw...let them know you love them.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bouncing Back from Spiritual Assault

Have you ever been hurt by another Christian or by a group of fellow believers in Christ? Maybe your character was maligned, or maybe some small misunderstanding was somehow purposefully transformed by another individual into a more colossal misconception. Perhaps you've witnessed one disagreement cause great dissention or discord among brothers and sisters, and tragically those relationships never recovered.

While each of these situations is difficult and stressful, the effects of such injuries to the Christian soul are traumatic and life-changing. Yet without a close, firm, constant relationship with Jesus Christ, it is almost impossible to recover from the purposefully inflicted pains of such a spiritual assault. I know because I've been there. We all know that Satan roams the earth looking for whomever he may devour however; today, I'm talking about intentional assault inflicted on Christians by other Christians and yes it happens.

I have always been taught, that if serious problems occur in any relationship, that there is plenty of blame or fault to be laid at the feet of all the parties involved. This sounded reasonable and even logical. Simply put, if you want to stay out of trouble and protect your reputation, character, and relationships with others, just make wise decisions, be forthright and optimistic. Live for Jesus, and no harm will come to you.

I have come to understand that such a belief is naive and unfair to those of us who have been blind-sided and disillusioned by stealthily calculated assaults within the context of Christian life. Until you have fallen prey to such attacks (and I hope you never will), it may be difficult to understand the context from which I write today. Unfortunately though Christians sometimes hurt each other and it takes months, and in some cases years to recover.

I know you're thinking, "What do you mean? Obviously if they purposefully cause others serious problems, they cannot be true Christians?" But we must remember that flesh is weak, and that pride and ambition left unchecked can wreak havoc on the Christian life and on Christian relationships.

I always try my best to heed the warning of a close friend of mine who said, "We must never put a face on the enemy." In other words, our true enemy will wear many faces in our lives. As disheartening as it may seem, occasionally, the enemy will wear the mask of a friend, a co-worker, a loved one, and even our fellow church members.

A few years ago, the enemy was able to play out such a scenario in my own life and I suppose the fact that I am writing this today is evidence that I am still somewhat in recovery. Without airing the specifics of that horrific situation I wanted to, in a nutshell, share with you some insight, some encouragement, and some steps to recovery for your wounded soul.

And so, if you are reading this and you can relate to it. I'm so very sorry. I know how dismayed and hurt you have felt. I know how hopeless a situation may seem and I hope that your battle scars and the wounds and bruises to your spirit will not hinder your relationships with others and more importantly with our Savior.

I hope soon that you will be able to trust your friends again. I hope that the truth of your circumstances will be revealed to those who chose to believe less in you, or those who have fallen prey to the enemy's deceit. And I truly hope that someday you will be able to heal those important relationships that were merely collateral damage for the enemy and his troops at the time.

I believe such attack-scenarios by the enemy come in three forms:

1) Shock and Awe: an overt attack by enemy forces planned to get everyone's attention and to reveal signs of potential weakness in your life, your job or your relationships.

2) Infiltration-I'll use the military definition of this: when individual solidiers or small groups attempt to penetrate the opponent's lines by assembling at weak or guarded points, even secretly from the inside.

3) Abandonment: the forsaking of an individual, a withdrawing, or discontinuing of their relationships with others.

In my case, all three of these attack methods were deployed.

My shock and awe attack, came in the form of lies. At that time, most of the people in whom I had great trust disregarded them, and so I was comforted by that, and I resolved to let the situation go as best I could. This to me signaled early defeat of those who were trying to hurt me and so naively, I did nothing to fight back.

The second attack came in the form of purposefully well-mastered manipulations and infiltrations. Those who were involved in trying to hurt me, began to work on the people I felt were close to me and those who had confidence in my abilities. They began to chip away at those confidences and at my friendships, and even my reputation.

Ultimately, I chose to purposefully withdraw from a situation which was hurtful to me and to my family. In the end, I turned around and very few people were left standing with me. Because of that abandonment, I retreated. I avoided going into public places because I didn't want to be reminded of the relationships that had been severed.

In recent weeks, I was with my family in a public place and came across a group of "friends" whose lives had also been touched by this horrendous experience. There were several. It was exciting to see them all together in one place. Unfortunately, I approached them and only one person in the group spoke to me. The others turned away, and I mean they literally turned away. It's sad that after so much time has passed, incidents like this still happen.

From my own personal experience, I liken the Stages of Spiritual Assualt to a grieving process:

1. Shock or disbelief. You want to believe that Christians don't hurt each other on purpose or at least that when they do, they're sorry.

2. Denial. You think to yourself, "Ok, this didn't just happen to me. Surely good, solid believers I know and trust, did not fall for this." And you hope that it will just blow over.

3. Realization. You come around to the idea that another Christian purposefully attacked you and your family and you begin to assess your current friendships and your standing with those around you.

4. Disillusionment. After you've assessed the situation, you begin to see people for who they are and the results can be enlightening. A good friend once told me, "When people show you who they really are, believe them."

5. Anger and Resentment. Unless you're careful, this stage could last a long time. Being angry at this stage is normal. After all, you've been unfairly hurt and you did nothing to provoke it. Just don't let it linger.

6. Acceptance. Only when you've accepted the fact that a very ugly side of Christianity, (the human side), has been revealed to you, can you begin the process of recovery and healing.

I remember early on, during the scenario I just discussed, someone close to me saying, "This is not supposed to happen in the context of a Christian life." At the time I thought the same thing. I felt I might have been treated better in the everyday context of a typical, secular life and that at least in that domain, I would have been given more benefit of the doubt. Jesus warned us about these situations.

I know some of you are thinking, "But what did you do to bring this circumstance about?" Or you're reading this and you're saying, "You need to think hard about your situation, because there must be some fault on your part."

Yes, I have considered those thoughts myself over and over. Yet, from the beginning of the situation, I resolved to do what I thought was right and to be above the fray, and this assault still happened and lives and relationships were forever changed.

There have been situations in my life in which I've made mistake after mistake. Some I have owned up to and others I'll just keep to myself and try to learn from over time. I'm not perfect. And you are not perfect. But the fact remains, that these situations really do happen. And many are left wounded. Maybe you were one of them?

Dear friend, sometimes in this life we are temporarily defeated. I know I was supposed to write this today, and so I am speaking to those of you who have been hurt, maybe continually hurt by people you trusted. Consider the Lord for a moment. Peter denied Him three times after promising Him he'd never do such a thing. If Peter could deny the Lord himself, we certainly can be denied by others.

Remember that the Lord allowed Job to suffer at the hands of the enemy and remember Job's own friends, questioned his character and his beliefs.

I know your pain is real. And I'm going to ask you to do three things.

First, stop waiting in neverending vigil for the big apology. I know you've been hoping for all these people to come to you miraculously and tell you they are sorry. That may never happen, and in all reality, it probably won't. Such an apology would require recognition and understanding on their part that they were wrong, and/or that they were deceived. That would require the Lord working in their lives and we know from the circumstances that that relationship is strained (at best) by virtue of the offenses against you. Therefore, forget the apology and resolve to move on.

Second, it is easy to get caught up in our own pain and to become so self-asbsorbed that we think we're the only ones in need of pain relief and restoration. My next challenge is to look around you today. Who do you see that's hurting? Find someone you know is hurting and help them. But wait... let's take it further. Disregard whether or not this person is responsible for his or her own pain, and just love them for who they are. Forget about blame. Forget about scoreboards and circumstances. The Lord never keeps score. The Lord just loves.

Thirdly, work to make your church or your home a sanctuary. There's a whole world of bruised and battered Christians out there. In the physical realm, we send those who are battered, to shelters until they can get on their feet again. But spiritually speaking, I submit to you that the church should be a shelter for those who are injured. All too often though, it doesn't function as the refuge of restoration that it should be. Begin today to help the hurting you know get on the road to recovery. Damaged Christians need to be loved and nurtured by the church.

I've developed the following 7 Steps to Recovery from Spiritual Assault and I hope you'll use them on your pathway to healing. At times you may need to regroup and start at number one again, or maybe you'll need to start at number one daily. I know I do.

The Seven Steps to Bouncing Back from Spiritual Assault:
1. Relinquish Control. God is powerful and almighty.
2. Proclaim Truth. Dig into God's word and know that you are all He says you are.
3. Connect. Don't retreat from the church or from your brothers and sisters. You need them.
4. Resolve to Be Positive. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, ...think about such things."
5. Worship Him. When we worship Him, we realize our place in this crazy world.
6. Model Raw Faith. Don't be afraid to share your feelings and who you are.
7. Understand that people are human and so are you.

Dear friend, I know it's hard, but you have to move on. God wants you to be free from the bondage and the spell that Satan would have you stay under for the rest of your life. He wants to render you ineffective.

But our Father wants you to live life to the fullest. When you dwell in negative circumstances, or you are continually paranoid about what others are thinking, you are not living fully. Don't worry about the scars. They've made you stronger.

Finally, commit this scripture to memory and know that you are not the only one who has been hurt or disappointed by other Christians. Consider Job's promise:

"You will lift up your face without shame. You will firmly stand with no fear inside. You will surely forget your trouble (and pain), recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, darkness becomes like morning. You will be secure because there is hope and you will look about you and take rest in your safety. But the eyes of the wicked will fail." Job 11:15-18 and 20.

Hope is yours today. It is time to heal my friend. And until next time, glorify your Lord and live a faith that is raw.


Monday, April 21, 2008

A Lesson from the Mechanic: Hitchhikers

I miss my parents. They weren't perfect, but they worked hard and they encouraged us to do the same. My dad was a mechanic pretty much all of his life working for dealerships and garages. For a time we even owned our own full-service gas station and garage.

That was until my dad took a job as the Auto Mechanics Instructor for our local vocational school, (now they're called "Technology Centers"). I still remember wondering what kind of teacher he was in the classroom. If cleanliness was any indication I'm sure he was pretty good at it.

Dad's workspace was a state-of-the-art auto garage with an adjoining classroom for lectures (he was pretty good at lectures too). His room was spotless. Literally. Every tool and tool bin shined. An immaculate floor, and a host of machines gleamed. In fact, my Dad wore dress shirts and dress slacks to work most of the time.

He always believed that if a mechanic knew what he was doing, then he had no real excuse for getting his clothes dirty. Thus, his workspace was immaculate even once garnering statewide recognition for it. He took great pride in his work, and the host of visitors and friends at his funeral was a testament to that. To this day people in my home town, stop me in stores and restaurants just to tell me that.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until the past few years that I've realized what a good teacher Dad was.

I'll never forget the time he accompanied me to buy a car as a college student. His experience as a former car dealership mechanic gave him insight into the used car sales world, and it served him well. It also served to embarrass me tremendously at the time, but nevertheless, he won the fight and we went home with one nice used Ford Taurus.

I was driving my new Taurus on the way home when we passed a hitchhiker. My dad had shared stories before of serving as a soldier in the marines and picking up a hitchhiker or two and even once hitchhiking himself. This hitchhiker was standing on the shoulder of Interstate 75 by a streetlight, in the rain, at night, holding a sign that read something akin to "Kentucky."

As I drove by him, my dad shook his head incredulously and offered a piece of advice. "Son, don't ever pick up a hitch hiker if he's not walking." He said. I immediately dismissed the idea. I was a college student and knew it all. What did he mean by that anyway? Did he really think I'd pick up a hitchhiker nowadays? "What dya mean?" I asked.

My dad then explained to me that if a hitchhiker really wanted to get somewhere, he'd be helping himself by walking. And furthermore, if he wasn't moving on his own in the direction of his desired destination, then he was probably just waiting for the rest of the world to get him there. According to my dad this spoke to his character and his work ethic.

I'll never forget that conversation. Even today as a professional I come in contact with many people who, "need help" and I often think about the wisdom of the mechanic. Do they really want help or do they want someone to do everything for them, or a "free ride." Unfortunately sometimes, it's the latter.

And so I ask, where are you going in life? Where do you want to be? What does your sign say? And, if I may get a little more personal, are your soles worn from walking in the direction of your dream destination? Are you putting forth the effort and hard work it will take to get you there? Do you demand and expect the same excellence for yourself that you demand from others on the journey?

Remember, no path was ever walked that was more difficult or gruesome than Jesus' walk to his own death. If the Lord could keep walking toward his destination no matter how painful he knew it would be for a time, then we too can keep walking toward our own.

No matter how tired you get this week, keep walking. No matter how hard the road might be, keep walking. If you want it bad enough, you'll make it. Just keep walking. Whether it's a job, a dream, a position, or any goal your heart might be set on; keep walking. Don't get stuck holding a sign in the middle of the road. Tighten those laces or buckles! God has a plan for you and He desires to see you accomplish it for His glory, whatever it may be.

Thanks Dad.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Transparent Butterflies

We've all heard the analogy of the reborn Christian or the regenerated believer and the stages of the butterfly, but have you seen the recent article about the Transparent Butterflies?

Apparently these very rare beautiful creatures also known as Glasswings (or Greta Oto) are only found in remote places in Central America and Mexico. They have short life spans and intricate designs and more sightings have recently been catching the attention of people everywhere.

Why all the buzz? Well, let me say I think they're beautiful. I already have a special affinity for butterflies as my late mother was smitten with them. Most everything she wore had butterflies on it. Aside from that though, there's just something about them, but these transparent Glasswings, --these are special. It's not often that we can see through a living creature so clearly. It's unusual, interesting, eccentric, rare, and it draws the eye. It draws us closer to it.
I began wondering something as I gazed at the photos of the Glasswings. What if we were that transparent? What if others could see clearly through us and see us as we really are. I know on the outset, the idea is a scary one. No one wants anyone to see his flaws. We're so scared of what other people might think. We get caught up so easily in appearances and let's face it, sometimes we package Christianity and advertise it as something that it's not. True faith is transparent.

I wonder what it would be like if we accepted people for who they are with all their faults. I'm convinced more and more that followers of Christ need to become more open and honest sharing flaws, mistakes, troubles, and temptations more with each other. Don't get me wrong I don't believe we all need to be going and confessing our sins to one another en masse.

I just think if the world could see a little less pretense and a little more raw faith, a little more of our struggles; If they could see more of that, I believe they might more deeply understand the gift of grace, and that they may be drawn to us, our faith, and our creator like never before.

Sometimes we fashion our faith into something untouchable and unattainable. True transparency in the believer is a beautiful, fragile thing and so unusual and so rare that when we meet a transparent believer, we want to be around them because they're real.

I remember when I was in college. A group of us guys formed an accountability group. We'd spend late nights talking about all sorts of things, but our purpose was to hold each other accountable. We shared a raw transparency at those times, that honestly, has never been duplicated in my life since. We were drawn to each other because for a time, we were transparent and it was so awesome and encouraging to know that struggles, troubles, and temptations are normal in the life of a Christian. I pray that I can become more transparent. I pray that believers will not fear becoming a little more genuine and truthful to one another and more importantly to a world that needs us to be real for them.

Today I'm thanking God for the Glasswing Butterfly. Isn't it amazing how God teaches us through his creatures? Let's all be more transparent this week.

"But ask the animals and they will teach you. Or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you; or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" Job 12:7-8.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fervant Servant Introduction

Welcome to Fervent Servant, my attempt to encourage in the Blogosphere. I've actually given a lot of thought to the idea of keeping a blog and I finally decided to go for it. What sort of commitment is this? Well, I hope to write when I have something to say. My hope is that it might be cathartic and encouraging at the same time.

I chose the name "Fervent Servant" because that is what I want to be. I considered all sorts of other titles for my blog, but many seemed either wholly self-righteous, juvenile, or just plain silly. And so, I landed on "Fervent Servant." Why? Because I've tried for so long to be all sorts of things to all people, and over the last year God has shown me that I just need to be a servant. Period. And it just clicked. I don't need to be anything but a servant. Why did it take me so long to figure out that my attempts to be anything other than what God wills for me to be, always end utterly, unmistakably, in defeat?

You're going to think I'm crazy, but I believe there is nothing more liberating than resolving to be a servant. That's right. I said it. Serving sets us free. Free from worry. Free from stress and free from the need to be in control. A servant is never in charge and he does not aspire to be. Nor does a servant have to be perfect. He (or she) needs only commit to serving.

Ok, so I want to be a servant. But what kind of servant? Bear with me for one minute. Let's consider some famous servants from t.v. land. Truth be told, I watch a lot of tv. Note to self: "Watch less t.v. and spend more time serving."

Anyway, remember Lerch from the Addams Family? He was the freakishly frankenstein-like, Eeyore-esque, servant to Gomez and Morticia Addams and the rest of the "mysteriously kooky" Addams clan. If they needed him, they rang a bell, and he was there in a creepy, consistent, heartbeat with a bassy "You Rang?" It was obvious Lerch was ready to serve, but he wasn't real excited about it.

Now, remember Florence Johnston from the Jeffersons? I know I'm giving away my age. Anyway, remember Florence, the devout "church going maid"? She was perky at times but generally sassy and negative, and copiously lazy. Florence didn't understand her position. She was employed to serve, but her heart wasn't in it. She could keep herself busily engrossed in the affairs of others, but she never accomplished anything.

Then there was also Rosie the literal Robot from the space-age cartoon The Jetsons, articulate, snazzily-dressed Geoffrey from Fresh Prince, and lastly who could forget Alfred, Bruce Wayne's faithful butler (or Larry Boy's depending on your generation). All ok, but all flawed.

All of these TV legend servants had great qualities: consistent, perky, articulate, faithful. All of these are qualities a servant might possess. A good one anyway. I don't know about you, but I don't wanna be a "Lerch," I want to serve in an excited, passionate, downright ecstatic way. I hope I never brag about going to church the way Florence did while spreading negativity or worse accomplish zilch while I spread my negativity. I want to accomplish something while I serve. I want to be a "Fervent Servant."

All of these examples are Employer-Employee servant situations and I certainly don't mean to imply that those are the only examples of servant hood. There are many circumstances and ways to which we are all called to serve faithfully. But in each of these cases these characters were serving their employers and remember I mentioned that Florence didn't remember her place?

I want to be reminded daily of my place. The best way I can be reminded of my place, is to take myself out of the equation and serve others. My boss. My family. My friends. A stranger.

I want to be a "Fervent Servant" who knows his place. I want to serve at the feet of Jesus. I want to forget about me. I want to remember what He's done for me.

Remember what he's done for you? Don't you want to serve him fervently?

"For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many." Matt. 20:28.

If pouring himself out for us was good enough for the Savior. Shouldn't we pour ourselves out for Him? And by the way, shouldn't we excel as we serve? Shouldn't we all want to be fervent servants for Jesus?

Have you ever noticed how we greet each other? "Hello, how are you?" "I'm fine and yourself?" "Oh I'm fine." Pretty boring. Pretty easy. A few days ago I began to try something new. Each time a server in a restaurant or a cashier says "How are you?" I have resolved to take a minute, "I'm great. God's been good to me. Has he been good to you?" Try it sometime. The responses are amazing. For the most part, people are speechless for a moment. Inevitably, their minds wander off for a moment as they are immediately reminded of some blessing. And inevitably, they always come back and say, "Yes. Yes He has, and I'm good."

I'm going to bed now. Goodnight and thanks for reading.