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.