Tag Archives: Fred Smith

The Next Generation

Dear God, I was reading Fred Smith’s blog post from yesterday and many thoughts came to mind. I would commend it to anyone. In it, he was describing how the Baby Boomer generation has responded to life through the decades and what kind of legacy it is currently leaving. Of course, things like this are always brushed with a broad stroke, and Fred would be the first to say that. In fact, he took time to talk about the “Boomers” who do not fit the stereotype, but the stereotype is there nonetheless.

One of my first thoughts is that the “Greatest Generation” is all but gone. Those that are still around are certainly weakened and their influence diminished. In my mind, the thing that defined the Greatest Generation the most was their struggle to survive. They survived the Great Depression. They survived World War II. They were forged by fire They were tempered. I’m not saying they were perfect. I’m not saying I idealize or idolize them. But I do think they had a strength as a group that grew through trial.

I also wondered if the disaster of the Vietnam War and its execution combined with the civil unrest with racism in the 60s didn’t create a new culture of protesting that has stuck with them and filtered down to the other generations today. I don’t know how many protests there were before the 1960s. I mean, I know there were protests before that. But did those that are in their 60s and 70s now embrace them in a new way as they expressed their anger and outrage? Did they see this as their best way to affect change? Their only way? Has this pattern of displaying anger to get your way somehow become baked into our political and other disagreements even today?

Incidentally, and speaking of Vietnam and the war there, I learned something interesting yesterday. There was a remarkable three-month period in 1973 that is fascinating. Richard Nixon was inaugurated for his second term on January 20. Lyndon Johnson, his predecessor and a president who expanded the war in Vietnam died on January 22. The U.S. signed a treaty to withdraw from South Vietnam on January 27. The U.S. removed the last of its troops on March 27. Finally, after the withdrawal, the South Vietnam president visited the US in April to seek assurances of financial and military aid from Nixon and pay respects at the LBJ’s grave.

But back on topic. This spirit of deciding that yelling is the best way to get your voice heard seems to have now won the day in our society. The idea that if I tell you how angry you’ve made me will get you to change course has drowned out constructive dialogue, and it seems to have seeped into Generation X (my generation) as well. I’m not saying the protests were wrong. I’m not saying the anger at the time was wrong. But the hammer of yelling, protesting, etc. seems to be the preferred tool for those who are trying to influence society or even their own communities or families now. I’ll admit that I’ve done it and used it too often. I’m sorry for that.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, help me to see that most things are not a nail, and my hammer is rarely the tool I need to address the issue in front of me. Help me to see that most issues are actually born of brokenness and broken people, and the tool I need to use more frequently is compassion and love. I need to listen better and talk less. I need to listen to you first. I need to hear your Holy Spirit in real time so that I can be who you need me to be. I need to worship you and till the soil of my heart. I need to be at peace knowing that there is actually very little that bothers me that I can affect, but there are all kinds of things I can do every day to allow your presence to enter the world through me. So forgive me for my belligerence, and let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through my life.

I pray all of this as I worship you, the God of the universe,



Tags: , , , , , ,

“To Be Known” by Fred Smith

Dear God, I read Fred Smith’s blog post this morning called “To Be Known.” It is the story of a wealthy man, David Gundlach, who never seemed to find an identity during his life that brought him peace and joy.

Playing off of my prayer from yesterday, Fred described Mr. Gundlach as wanting to be known, but I think I see it as wanting to have meaning. Who am I? Why am I here? The answer can take any number of forms, but the “pursuit of happiness” baked into our U.S. Constitution might actually be part of the problem. It’s in our American DNA to think that “happiness” is something to be pursued, but I can’t think of any Bible stories that affirm that perspective. Jesus doesn’t call us to pursue happiness. Peter didn’t. Paul didn’t. John didn’t. The prophets in the Old Testament didn’t. You get my point. No, my life is all about loving you with everything I’ve got and then loving my neighbor as myself. When I do those two things then the the fruits of your Spirit start to grow in and out of me: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, self control, etc. If Mr. Gundlach had followed those two great commandments instead of pursuing happiness, then his life would have been completely different. Maybe he wouldn’t have made all of that money after all, but he might have found the joy he was seeking.

Father, whether it’s “meaning” or “happiness,” it’s always important for me to remember that neither can be found without you. In fact, I’m reminded of what Gary Thomas said at the Sacred Marriage seminar I attended in January (paraphrasing): “People pursue happiness through any number of efforts to make themselves feel good in the moment, but the only way to real happiness is to pursue holiness.” My your holiness be my goal today.

I pray this in the name of my Triune God,



Tags: , , , ,

The God Hole

[In the story “The Rocking-Horse Winner,”] author D.H. Lawrence describes a home where the young family is haunted by the unspoken phrase, “There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud.” The balance of the story is the sad account of how the young son, by rocking madly on his toy horse, discovers a way to predict the winners of horse races. Tragically, he eventually rocks himself to death because the voices never stop. There is never enough money.

Fred Smith, “The Overexamined Life”

Dear God, I read this piece from Fred Smith’s weekly blog this morning and pulled this paragraph from it. It made me think of a few things, so I thought I would pray about it.

The overall point of Smith’s blog post was about how he has noticed some people replacing the pursuit of money with a life of service, but even that seems like it’s never enough. People end up on the same treadmill the rocking-horse winner was on. Always trying to fill a hole in their lives. Always trying to fill what was described to me as a child as the “God hole.”

The God hole, as I understand it, is that shape in our heart that only you can fill. Anything else we try to put there will fall right through and never land. And I don’t fill that hole with you by simply believing in your, praying a prayer of repentance, and then moving on my way. No, I fill that hole with you by applying two of Jesus’s parables at the same time:

15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-5

If I do not attaching the branch of my life to you and then give you the opportunity to prune me then I won’t produce fruit. It’s that simple. I attach my branch to your vine through prayer, scripture study and contemplation, worship, and Christian community–not necessarily in that order.

The next parable is as important:

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Matthew 13:18-23

My biggest threat is verse 22: the seed that ell among the thorns. What am I doing to weed the soil of my life? What I am doing to give good soil to the Holy Spirit to work on my branch? Am I removing the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth?

I guess there’s one final thing that I think is the cherry on top of all of this. It’s what Paul says in Acts 20:24 when he is on his way to Jerusalem where he has a pretty good idea he will be arrested. People are warning him to not go and he replies, “I consider my life worth nothing to me. If only I finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. The task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. At the end of the day, if I died today and you had only used my 52 years to touch one person then that’s all that matters. I can let go of my own ambitions for my life. Peace is found through just submitting to you today, being obedient when I hear you speak and then praying your blessing on the work you have called me to do.

Father, I give you all of this today. I don’t want anything for myself. I just want to rest in you and work by your direction, with your blessing, and for your glory so that your kingdom might come and your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , ,

“Bad Advice” by Fred Smith

Dear God, sometimes we all give and get bad advice. I’ve received bad advice before. I’ve certainly given my share as well. I’m saying this because I read a really good blog post by Fred Smith a couple of days ago called “Bad Advice.” In it, Smith uses the story to Moses’s last words of instruction to Joshua as an example of someone who let his own perceptions and experience paint an incorrect picture. His predictions for Joshua and what Joshua could expect from the Israelites didn’t end up panning out. His final instructions didn’t end up doing Joshua much good–at least not that we can tell.

There are several examples of people in the Bible making the wrong decision. Sometimes we are told it’s the wrong decision and sometimes we aren’t. Paul and Barnabas splitting up over John Mark. Was one of them right and one wrong? How Abraham handled Sarah and Hagar (and Ishmael). Peter and going to the gentiles. My favorite that I’ve mentioned to you before is what I perceive as the mistake of appointing Mathias as the apostle to replace Judas instead of waiting for you to groom Paul. Just people working with limited information and going in the wrong direction.

The good news is that, most of the time, these mistakes don’t get in the way of your plan. You used Abraham’s mistreatment of Hagar to free her from slavery. You accomplished greater spreading of your message by splitting up Paul and Barnabas, and maybe even helped to convict John Mark and encouraged him to grow up in the process. And Joshua still led the Israelites into the Promised Land, experiencing mostly victories and your blessing.

I came up with the phrase a long time ago that you keep me on a need-to-know basis and I very rarely need to know. There are certainly things happening in my life right now that I don’t like and I would change in a heartbeat if I could, but I don’t know what you are doing through this path that I cannot see. And perhaps I will never see it on this side of heaven. I put a local pastor in an awkward position this week by requesting some pastoral counseling about some of my current trials. I chose him carefully as someone whom I deeply trust and respect, and also someone who doesn’t come in with any preconceived biases towards the players in the story. To his credit, he did not try to pontificate and give me an great wisdom. He took notes. He pointed out one connection he wanted to make sure I made, and then we agreed to meet again. He said he would commit the situation to prayer. It was a good lesson for me on listening and waiting. People come to me for advice and I am often too quick to feel like I need to be smart and wise. I need to espouse my “wisdom” so that they will be grateful they sought me out. Instead, I need to be much more willing to just listen, hear them, and wait, if that is what you are calling me to do.

Father, I have friends who are having marital problems. I see suffering through my work on a daily basis. And I certainly have my own personal life situations that vex me and bring me tremendous sorrow. Please help me. Help me to be at peace. Help me to trust you. Help me to not get out ahead of you. Help me to not short-circuit your plan. Make your plans beyond my own corruption. I give you praise. I give you glory. I thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , ,

“Do the Next Thing” by Fred Smith

Dear God, I read this blog post from Fred Smith yesterday, and I thought it was great. I even shared it with a couple of friends. Here are some of the highlights for me:

  • “Now and then I host what Quakers call a Clearness Committee for an individual working their way through an issue about direction or a decision. This committee is a group of friends who know a person well and the group’s only role is to ask questions. They cannot make statements or prescribe what a person should do. They cannot offer advice based on what they think they would do.”
  • “So many of the men and women we consider spiritual giants have suffered from [losing confidence]. Abraham loses confidence in God’s promise of a son. Moses loses confidence immediately and tries to get out of what God has called him to do. Gideon discounts his abilities to fight the Midianites. Elijah hides in a cave. The Samaritan woman slights her worth. Peter denies Christ and despairs. David is discouraged almost as much as he is sure. Solomon despairs of everything, and Job is a whole book about dealing with confidence in God and inexplicable loss.”
  • From Oswald Chambers: “In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once the realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, ‘Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.’ If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenver we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, “Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing…'”
  • “So far, I have found nothing better for those times when I feel I have done something irreversible or lost my confidence. “Get up, and do the next thing.”

First, I love the idea of a “Clearness Committee.” No answers offered. Just questions. As I pondered this yesterday, I wondered how pointed those questions can me. I suppose the spirit of it is that they not be too pointed. Like saying, “Don’t you think you should [fill in the blank]?” That would not be in the spirit. But to ask a friend more general questions that will help her or him see through the “fog of war” could be very powerful. I’m going to try to remember this for future use.

Second, I never thought of some of those biblical characters’ live experiences as being crises of confidence. It makes sense. I’ve just never put that label on it. The Elijah example is the one that’s always struck me as I read it. After such amazing success (calling down fire on the altar and killing Baal’s prophets), he went to such depths of fear. How did this happen? Maybe the question isn’t how can I keep this from happening to me. The better question might be, “When this happens, how do I find my way out?”

Third, the idea of accepting the loss of a missed opportunity. Oh, how many missed opportunities are in my past? How many did I miss today alone (and it’s not even noon). Opportunities to share your presence with a friend. Opportunities to do the right thing with my wife or children. Even big things like job opportunities. Or opportunities to bless someone instead of cursing them. Satan can try to take all of these things and lock me up with them. Destroy me with them. Shame me with them. That’s what he did with Peter after Peter’s denial of Jesus. But Jesus later came along and told Peter to do what’s next (“Feed my sheep”).

Finally, do what’s next. That’s living in the moment. One of the most influential things in my life was when I read C.S. Lewis’s words in the 15th letter of The Screwtape Letters when the one demon tells the other demon to do what it takes to distract his human from the present time, because the present is the one point in time that interfaces with you. The past is full of distraction. The future is full of distraction. But the present is what’s next.

Father, even now, as I sit here at 11:17 on a Sunday morning, show me what’s next. Not what do I need to do this afternoon. What do I need to do at 11:18. That’s what I need from you in this moment and every moment. What’s next? Thank you for the forgiveness you give me to accept the things I cannot change (the past), the courage to change the things I can (the present), and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


Leave a comment

Posted by on May 2, 2021 in Miscellaneous


Tags: ,

“A Lion’s Heart” by Fred Smith


Dear God, I read Fred Smith’s wonderful blog post this morning and I thought I’d spend some time with you about it. With all due respect to Fred and his copyright on this material, I’d like to copy and paste parts of his blog that struck me and then talk with you about them. 

It wasn’t a simple disagreement but a showdown that resulted in both men, once fast friends, turning away from each other for the balance of their lives.

The opening sentence had me. Assuming this would be a Bible story, I knew the reference immediately. How sad to have a relationship defined this way 2,000 years later. And I’m certain Paul must have regretted this break between them after Barnabas was dead. How horrible. I’m sure both of them would look back and think that they took this moment much too seriously. And maybe Paul was right and Mark needed tough love. And maybe Barnabas was right and he needed mercy and instruction. Maybe they were both right and maybe they were both wrong. But Satan loves to divide us from each other. Hopefully, you were able to take this break and spread your gospel wider because of it. 

Speaking of Satan dividing us, while I was making my breakfast this morning, I felt different feelings of residual anger towards different people in my life. After a couple of minutes it was almost as if the Holy Spirit would whisper to me that Satan was attacking me and trying to cause divisions, so I would give mercy and move on. Then it would happen again with someone else. I would just be standing alone in the kitchen and start to feel anger towards someone for things done to me years ago. Pitiful. But it’s a good plan of attack on Satan’s part. bitterness feeds those selfish parts of our hearts and tears us apart from each other and you. Thank you for helping me to be aware of what was happening to me. I am sorry to you that I still apparently carry so much bitterness around with me. 

As a young man John Mark was surrounded by the apostles and leaders of the movement coming to his home. His mother, Mary, was wealthy and influential. With access to relationships and rare advantages a young man could not have had more exposure to courage, miracles, heroic figures and the first days of the greatest events in the history of the world.

Still, Mark was weak and afraid. He ran naked from Gethsemane. He quit Paul and Barnabas when conditions were difficult. He disappointed the ones who took a risk on him.

Did Mark have too many advantages? Was he not tough enough because he had been raised in privilege? I was watching one of the episodes in the 10-part series about the Chicago Bulls called The Last Dance. There was a story about two Bulls players on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team who decided they had a score to settle with a player on the Croatia team because their general manager was negotiating to give him more money than one of their current key players. This player hadn’t done anything to them personally, but they decided to teach their GM a lesson by humiliating this kid. And in the first game they did, but one of the people they interviewed made a comment about the Croatian kid’s resilience. He said that the NBA players didn’t understand what a kid from Croatia had overcome in the 80s and early 90s. He was tougher than that and he came back in the second game, played well, and earned their respect. 

John Mark was going to have to suffer some setbacks if he was going to be ready to really serve with the new church. I’m sure this rift between Paul and Barnabas was used by you to help prepare him for future work.

It would be logical to predict he would fade away and self-destruct as a child of privilege who failed to launch.

But we would be wrong for after the decade had passed Paul says to Timothy, “Be sure to bring Mark with you because he will be so helpful to my ministry. Everyone else has deserted me.”

Mark spent over 10 years developing into someone who would be useful to those around him. He recorded Peter’s memories of Jesus and gave us a powerful gospel that we still read today. And he ministered to Paul at the end of his life. 

Ten years. It’s important for us to not be so impatient. It’s important for me to not be so impatient. I’ve said it many times before, but we tend to measure time in days, weeks, and months, and you measure it in years, decades and centuries. As a parent, as a son, as a husband, and a parishioner, and as a friend, it is important for me to give you (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) the time you need to do your work in all of us, including me.

What happened? In those silent 10 years, Mark had attached himself to the sole person in his life – Simon Peter – who could relate completely to one who had deserted and failed his friends while betraying others. In Peter, he finds a father, a fellow sinner and a friend.

Peter doesn’t lead Mark and the rest of us through how powerful he is. Instead, he leads us and teaches us through his flaws and failures. In the same way, I can’t teach people through the stuff I do well. Oh sure, I can pass on some advice, but my real impact comes when I share my weaknesses and failings. In this case, I don’t think Mark would have benefitted as much from sitting at John’s feet for 10 years–or even Paul’s. No, I’m sure he learned resilience, repentance, and rebounding from regret through your grace from Peter.

What did Mark discover as he wrote the Gospel? He discovered himself and a Jesus that changed his life. Peter’s flaws were the same as his and Peter’s Christ became his. In “The Jesus I Never Knew,” Philip Yancey writes, “Jesus, I found, bore little resemblance to the Mr. Rogers figure I had met in Sunday School. He was the undomesticated Lion of Judah.”

I think Mark also learned some humility from Peter. I’ve always noticed that the stories we get where Peter is the most humiliated in front of Jesus are told to us in Mark. Peter doesn’t pull any punches when telling Mark his own story, and, in return, Mark communicates to us a unique version of Jesus. Lest I sound judgmental about the other gospels, I’ll say that we get the worst stories about John from his gospel as well. But in this case, it’s the example that Peter is setting for Mark that I think is important. 

Sent by Peter to Egypt as the first bishop of the Coptic church, Mark – the former coward, deserter and weakling – is horribly martyred by being dragged for two days behind a horse until his skin is torn off his body.

So that’s how it ends? A horrible death for someone who left us so much in Mark’s Gospel? A comfort to Paul in prison? Well, not exactly. There is also the legacy of transformation and courage. So much so that we get this:

Many years later it is said that the founders of the city of Venice in Italy, wanted a saint’s relics, so they stole his head and took it back to Venice. There it becomes the precious relic of one of the most famous cathedrals in the world – St. Mark’s. The deserter becomes the patron saint of Venice.

But here is what I love. Something he would have never believed and we could have not predicted when we first met him. The early church gave him the symbol of the winged lion, and it is the flag of Venice still today. It is a symbol of power, authority and strength. The Lion holds the scroll because he is the author of the earliest gospel and the inscription reads, “Peace to thee, Mark, my evangelist.” Peace and courage – not fear and running away. It is the same boy who fled and then became a lion – just like the Lion of Judah in his gospel.

Father, help me to see people for more than their failings. Help me to see them with your eyes. And help me to see myself for more than just my own failings. Help me to be patient and faithful as I strive to simply worship and serve you. 

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , ,

“Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” by Fred Smith

Dear God, I was reading Fred Smith’s weekly blog this morning and I thought I’d spend some time with it. He titled it, “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.

It’s interesting to me that my perspective changes so much as I age. I knew so much when I was 16. When I was 25, I saw how much I didn’t know when I was 16. I was older and wiser by then. Then at 35 I got my first job as the top leader of an organization. I felt very ready for that moment. I was married with two children (who were 9 and 6 at the time). Life was good and I was doing it right. Yes, I was much smarter. Now, being 50 and looking back I can see how naive I was. I had a lot to learn. I was arrogant about what I thought I could control and what I couldn’t control. I can’t believe I was 35 when they hired me to do the job I am doing now. One day, when I’m 60, I’ll look back at 50 and see it as being young. The same of 75…85. You get the point.

Fred mentioned in his piece that he spent a lot of his time trying to influence people how to live their lives: “I even started a few projects inside. File I kept in my office labeled “Get Out Of Town” where I encouraged kids to leave and start life elsewhere. Experience a wider world! Escape the pull of gravity and tradition!” That concept kind of hits something I’ve been learning more and more lately. I don’t even know what I should be doing from one day to the next. I certainly don’t know what my children should be doing—much less people who aren’t even my children.

I suppose my big lesson in all of this is to simply be a conduit of pointing people to you and then letting you direct their path. I wouldn’t have know what was best for Ruth and Naomi. I wouldn’t have known what was best for Mary and Joseph. Like I said, I can’t even really tell you what is best for my wife and me. But I have faith that, even if I screw something up and get outside of your will, my pursuit of you will enable you to redeem whatever mistakes I make and still accomplish your plans either through or in spite of me.

Father, if life is like a mountain that must be climbed, I have a better perspective on it from this elevation that I did 10 years ago. I expect I’ll have a better view of it in 10 years than I do now. It’s not about me being right. It’s not about me being wrong. It’s just about me being yours today. Help me to be yours today and work around my foolishness.

In Jesus’s name I pray,




1 King’s 12:26

Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David.
1 Kings 12:26

Dear God, I should have gone just half of a chapter further when I did my study of Solomon a few months ago. I read Fred Smith’s weekly blog this morning and it was about Jeroboam’s reign as king and how it not only went south, but influenced Israelite Kong’s for generations. It lead me to go back and look at his life to see what I can learn. When I went back to 1 Kings, I found this verse. There’s a concept that seems like the original sin that set up all of the others. He decided that hanging onto the tribe for himself was the most important priority.

Contrast that with David. David, a flawed and sinful man whom power corrupted with the indulgences of lust and self gratification still had one thing right when it came to his life. He knew that everything was from you and for your will to be done it would have to remain your right to give and take the throne any time you wanted. He wouldn’t take it from Saul (1 Samuel 24:6-7) and he wouldn’t keep it from Absolom (2 Samuel 15:25-26). He allowed himself to indulge his vices (which caused him countless problems), but he had his overall philosophy and theology correct. He didn’t try to force his will upon you.

Father, I know I have a will that wants to dictate what I allow you to do. I have a will about being safe within my job and my income. I have a will when it comes to what I want my marriage to look like. I have a will about what I how I want my children’s lives to go. But that’s not the prayer Jesus taught us. Let your kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. That is my prayer today. Make me sensitive to your will, and help me to be willing to put it all on the table for your will and your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 7, 2019 in 1 Kings


Tags: , , , , , ,

The Four-Way Test

The Rotary Four-Way Test

Of the things we think, say, and do:

  • First, is it the truth?
  • Second, is it fair to all concerned?
  • Third, will it bring good will and better friendships?
  • Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Dear God, I joined Rotary over 12 years ago and I’m so glad I did. I’ve learned a lot, and it has been a good way for me to engage in community service outside of the work I do through the social service nonprofit where I work. One of the problems with working in a nonprofit focused on a single issue like healthcare, children or animals is that you can become myopic about your cause and you lose sight of other areas of need in the community. I would imagine that working in a church would present a similar problem.

Being in Rotary, however, exposes me to a variety of service projects. And even the speakers we have will sometimes talk about their social service activities or teach us something new. Frankly, it has also helped expose the nonprofit where I work to the members with whom I serve.

At the end of each meeting, we recite the four-way test I listed above. I’ve actually used this test several times. Years ago, I was in the middle of a crisis with our facility that ultimately resulted in our organization suing the builder. I didn’t want to do it, but their insurance company told us they wouldn’t engage with us until we brought a lawsuit. Through the whole process, however, whenever I had a decision to make or needed to give my advice to our board of directors, I would actively try to run it through this four-way test.

My problem with some Rotary clubs when I visit them is that they add a fifth test–Is it fun? Really? That’s a way to measure whether I should do something or not? I should base my decision making and choices on whether or not something is fun? No. I reject that. I prayed with my wife this morning and told her that a hard thing I had to do yesterday passed the four-way test, but it was not fun. As Fred Smith reminded us in his blog this morning, there is also duty, and oftentimes duty is not fun.

Father, help me to remember that you pretty much gave us a two-way test:

  • Am I loving you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
  • Am I loving my neighbor as myself?

Paul said that a fruit of the Spirit is joy, but nowhere are we told in scripture that joy, fun or happiness should be our pursuit. That is just something Thomas Jefferson threw into the Declaration of Independence. Happiness is fleeting, but joy comes to us from the peace of doing our duty. Help me to do my duty today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , ,

“Unreasonable People” by Fred Smith

This prayer was inspired by Fred Smith’s blog post, “Unreasonable People.”

Dear God, Tuesday night I spoke to a group of donors about our nonprofit, and I mentioned the vision you gave our founding director to get involved in her local community and the health of those who couldn’t afford traditional healthcare. You showed her what to do each step of the way, and you answered the faith that she and others that came around her put in you. Now, 27 years later, it is a full-service medical, dental, and counseling clinic with over a $1 million budget that helps thousands of people. It started with one seed and no apparent resources.

Then, yesterday, I introduced some local people to the first nonprofit where I worked back in Waco. Again, your inspiration led four women to change the life trajectories of those living in deep, urban, multigenerational poverty by starting a therapeutic nursery that helps children starting at birth. Once again, they started with nothing but a vision and an inkling of what their next step was.

Then, this morning, I read Fred’s piece about to different pairs of people who had a vision to impact a problem. One was to clean up trash in the ocean (especially plastic) and the other was to do something about the medical debt that crushes people. They didn’t start with money, but just a vision and an idea of what to do next. I don’t know what role faith played in either of their stories, but I’ve noticed some themes.

  • No one did it alone. Even the woman who started our clinic had key people share her vision and partner with her to make it happen. The four women in South Waco had each other. Each of Fred’s stories has pairs of people, not a Lone Ranger (who had Tanto).
  • They started with no resources or apparent way to pay for it. The just did what was next.
  • They were faithful over a long period of time. These weren’t short-term solutions where people just swooped in, fixed it, and left. They committed for the long term.
  • Through their work, you didn’t eliminate the lack of access to healthcare on a grand scale, multigenerational poverty, trash in the ocean, or medical debt. It’s still out there. But you did move the needle through these people.

Part of the talks I give sometimes are about Nehemiah moments. You inspired Nehemiah to do something about Jerusalem in a way that you didn’t inspire anyone else. Then he took that inspiration, got people to come around him, including the king, and support his work. The money came. The resources came. But Nehemiah didn’t start with money and say, “What should I fix?” He started with a vision and then inspired others to join him.

Father, obviously, there is a role for those who have resources to try to figure out how to solve problems. But maybe one of the problems with that paradigm is that it is too easy to go it alone–without partners. It is too easy to try to take control of the process instead of depending on others to help you make it better. In our weakness, you are strong. You make us better through each other. You make us better through the iron of others sharpening us and our iron sharpening them in return. So please help me to have the humility I need to accept the help of others and embrace the process of them making our organization (and, in the process, me) better. Thank you that you don’t just fix things, but that you enter the world through your people. As Chuck Colson said, “Our hope isn’t in who governs us, or what laws we pass, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. That’s where our hope is in this country. That’s where our hope is in life.”

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,