Well Done

I'm not writing about various ways to order your filet mignon.  If I were, I would highly recommend requesting plenty of pink in the middle.  But, as I said, no dinner suggestions today.

"Well" and "done" are the first two words of the "man going on a long trip."  Jesus told the story.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money."
Matthew 25:14-19 (NLT)

As he continues the story, He tells of the accounting.  In short, two pass; and one fails, miserably so.

As I continue, and invite you to join me, on the journey of living the Ordinary Life, I keep this parable (often known as the Parable of the Talents) close at hand - or, better stated, hidden in my heart. 


Here's why . . .
1.    Jesus' story reminds me that He is generous.
Just as did the man to his servants, Jesus provides all that I need.  No more and no less.  I often pray the words of Agur.  Agur?  Who's that?  You know, the son of Jakeh.  Who?  Oh.  Never mind.  I don't know either.  Whoever he was, he was clearly wise.

O God, I beg two favors from you;
    let me have them before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
    Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.
Proverbs 30:7-9 (NLT)

2.    Jesus' story reminds me that He expects my best.

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'"
Matthew 25:21 (NLT)

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’"
Matthew 25:23 (NLT)

Why twice?  Because the master said it twice.  Check it out!  He said the same thing (exactly the same thing) to two servants with different amounts.  The "five bag" guy did not receive more praise; the "two bag" guy did not receive less praise. 

I don't have to do your best.  God expects my best.  God's like a kindergarten teacher who loves teaching and the kids in class and expects each girl and boy to draw a picture of a house.

One looks like . . .

Another looks like . . .

Another looks like . . .

OK, that last one's a stretch.

In that teacher's class, only the student whose house looks like this fails . . .

3.    Jesus' story reminds me that when I am "Five Bags Guy," I am not to look poorly upon "Two Bags" and to leave the accounting of "One Bag" to the Giver of the bags.  Remember - "Five Bags" and "Two Bags" both heard "Well done!"

4.    Jesus' story reminds me that when I am "Two Bags," I am to be content - as in not jealous of "Five Bags."  Someone is always smarter, more beautiful, richer, more spiritually mature, a better pray-er, faster, more well-spoken, more popular, thinner, has a better six-pack, longer legs, fuller hair, knows more people, has read more books, builds better than you . . . you get the point.  Yet, as long as I do my best, I hear the same "Well done!"  The same holds true for you.

Live the Ordinary!

Let's celebrate together!

What If?

In just over a month Christians worldwide will remember and worship in various ways as we approach Easter - first by reflecting on the Friday called Good. 

Several decisions and actions on behalf of groups and individuals paved the way to the cross.  Judas, one of the Twelve, is one such individual.  Matthew, another of the Twelve, penned Judas’ decision and action.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:1-5 (NIV)

Rather than call upon the God of all grace, Judas hanged himself. 

- God covered Adam and Eve with animal skins to hide their shame. 
- God cleansed David's heart as the king confessed with his
   broken one. 

- God never forgot Israel even through all their rejection of

- Jesus bore the sin of the world. 
- Jesus reinstated Peter after the once-proud disciple denied
   his connection to the Savior three times.

Clearly, Jesus desired to reach out with grace to Judas.

I see some powerful lessons in the life of Judas.  We do well to study the lives of those men and women in Scripture who failed and succeeded.  While we walk our journey, their path choices shed light on ours. 

As I reflect on Judas' path, I hear a clear warning to watch my strengths.  Often our strengths serve as fertile ground for failure. 
- Judas handled money well - too well.  Does your business
  acumen cause you to trust your instinct too much? 
- Does your strong personality lead to hurting bystanders in
  your wake? 
- Is your artistic or athletic ability giving pride an entry point?
Watch your strengths.

Even as we watch our strengths, we will fail.  You will not betray our Lord with a kiss, but we will sin. 
     You will cut corners on your faithfulness. 
     You will give into weakness rather than stand in God's strength. 
     We all will fail.  

When we do, let us not do as Judas did.  Let us, rather, draw close to the God of grace with a spoken apology, a humble acceptance, and the determination to stand back up in His forgiveness ready to serve Him for one more day -- day-by-day. 

Our journey will be marked with evidence of our stupid decisions.  It will also be marked with reminders of the cross, reminders that proclaim that Jesus never gives up on us, so we should not give up on ourselves.  It really is too bad that Judas gave up so soon.

While his story is forever marred, you and I can gain some wisdom from Judas, the one who shared in the ministry of Jesus and His other disciples.  His infamous life can continue to remind us to watch our strengths, trust Jesus - that He knows best and can always be trusted, and to pray to our Father just as His Son taught.

          "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"

He answers that prayer and He forgives those who waited too long and fell into temptation. 

What if Judas would have just waited until Sunday? 

What if Judas put his life in Jesus' hands rather than take his own life by his own hands? 

What if?  What if?

A Lesson From a Tea Bag

I drink tea.

Within reaching distance of my desk sits a Hamilton Beach water pot.  Push the lever and after a few minutes ending with the roar of boiling water, the non-tea ingredient is ready for pouring.  Add said water to the leaves of your choice and enjoy!

Just a moment ago, I poured hot H2O over Good Earth's Sweet & Spicy.  While I have enjoyed that blend for quite some time, until today I had not noticed the print expressing the nature of the blend.
"Natural Sweet Flavors and Spice Notes
Play Mysteriously Together"

Not one to base my life on Fortune Cookie proclamations or reading of leaves, I, nevertheless, find great wisdom in Good Earth's claim . . .
Sweet and Spicy
Salt and Pepper
Chocolate and Bacon (Give it a try!)

Mysteriously, tastes of the palate play together and delight our 10,000-plus buds on our tongues.  In the words of the 18th century poet, William Cowper -

"Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor."

Let me in on that.  The "spice of life" attracts my attention.  Yet before I put down my pencil

Yes, I wrote this in pencil first.  :-)  See my earlier blog.
and seek out some extremely spicy taste or experience, I realize that perhaps the spice is closer than I first thought.

If you have followed my blog, you know that I am a great fan of Ordinary.  So it stands to reason that I and you (if you so choose) will find variety and spice closer than we might first think.  Here's what I found:

  • Sweet and Spicy Tea
  • A new song playing on Pandora
  • A different-colored sky than yesterday
  • Pictures of my children from when they were much younger
  • Pictures by my children from when they were much younger
  • A supportive text from my wife on my cell phone
  • and
  • Stash's licorice spice tea 
I agree with Cowper and I drink tea.  And that one connection and one tasty habit play mysteriously together.

Listen for the beautiful song of the notes of Ordinary.

Good News From the Zoo

Last week I joined my youngest son for his Cub Scout Pack's "Zoo Snooze" adventure.  "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"  Except - really - no lions.  We'll replace that category with wolves.  Wolves and tigers and bears (of the two-legged varieties) and Webelos trekked through the Alaska Zoo to view animals and make wolves' food.  Frozen dog food balls, anyone?

We dads and moms enjoyed their joy.  Truly, I had as much fun as my son did.

Something special occurs when we see "wild" animals.  Those mighty beasts grab our attention (and fingers, if we get too close).  I believe the animals captivate our minds because the same Creator who crafted you and me also formed them in all their splendor - stripes, spots, paws the size of my head, howls, growls, marble-colored eyes - beauty.

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.   
Genesis 1:24-25 (NIV)
"And God saw that it was good."  In later verses, we read about how God created men and women and they, too, He called good.  However, the story continues and the "good" men and women transition (transgress, perhaps?) to not-so-good; indeed, broken - even while still living, dead. 
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. 
Colossians 2:13a (NLT)

The Genesis 3 World in which you and I live is broken.  Yet this is one place where the lions, wolves, tigers, and the like come back into the story.  We see those creatures pacing, playing, eating, and rolling in scent; hear them growl, howl, and purr; and we are reminded that parts of this world are still good.  Even spiders and snakes display His glory.  (OK - maybe snakes are a stretch.  We Alaskans greatly enjoy the fact that the "slitherers" live south of here.) 

So we look into the face of a tiger and hear the howl of a wolf and know that at least some of His creatures still listen and obey Him and the nature with which He endowed them.

We, however, tend to bark out anger and claw in bitterness.  Even still, God sent us the Good One so that we can be good again.  Read the rest of Colossians 2:13 -

Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

Is it any wonder that we call that the Good News?

I'm so glad I slept in the zoo.  I saw that He is good.