Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fishing for Votes


Dad was a fisherman. My brothers and I have some happy memories from fishing with him on a lake.

Row boats are fun for fishing
“Careful there!” Dad would urge caution when I moved to toss my line off the other side of the boat. I wasn’t a great fisherman, but I could bait my own hook and remove my own fish. I even ate the bony things, but I always refused to clean them.

I once wrote a story about fishing for votes, but I never shared it. Since another national deadline is nearly here, the story seems suitable. Here it is:

Political fishermen move about casting lines for a prize-winning catch by season’s end. Some troll the waters with negative ads and generalities abound. But once in a while there’s a feeding frenzy as voting fish grab a line and swim with it. “Time for a change,” they say, and go for the bait, oblivious of danger.

Change may be needed, but so is caution. Our political boat with its freedom of choice has left the shore, fished for votes and returned with its catch for over two hundred years.

Plenty of people have rocked the boat, but time after time cautious voices urged balance. “Careful there. Don’t jump up and change without warning. What’s your plan?”

But while caution was urged in the boat, a similar scene played under water.

Fish are aware of the bait
Fish are wily creatures. Bait can dangle off a hook in many appealing ways, but rarely does a fisherman cast his line and get an immediate response.

Unseen fish warily circle around. Prize fish are not easily hooked. They can live with the intrusion of bait in their waters, biting only when they are ready.

Their choice is the fisherman’s unknown. All he can do is bait and wait while the fish circle around to determine the real from the fake.

Can a fish rock the boat? He can if he strikes the line of a comfortable fisherman who sees only calm waters. He may be staring toward shore through colored glasses, dreaming of his big catch.

Under water, however, the fish may be comparing notes and bragging about the bait they have learned to ignore.

Uncle Sam and Citizen Sam admire their catch
In political fishing season some say they feel like a little fish in a big pond, but to the people fishing for votes each fish has value.

Count yourself as important, too. Instead of avoiding political waters, become a registered voter and freely circle the bait with a wary eye.

When it’s time, grab a line. You are an essential part of someone's catch.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ashes of Burnout


You’ve heard where there’s smoke there’s fire, but nobody talks much about ashes. Fires bring a lot of action, from fire trucks racing down the street to curious onlookers watching firemen handle heavy equipment while dousing the flames.

Investigators will come and sift through the remains, but why bother when it’s too late to save anything? Ashes have proven to have answers and inquiring minds want to know how did this start? Could it have been prevented?

I was on fire for ministry in a large church for many years. I enjoyed my challenges as a leader and organizer of several departments. Like an enjoyable fireplace, my personal flames felt cozy and comforting to me.

They lowered from time to time but never actually went out, until one night at a women’s event.

While sitting by myself at a small table, feeling disconnected and isolated, I had a sudden thought. I’m going to the women’s restroom. I’ll see if anyone misses me.

Looking back on it now I can smile. But that night, when I was gone for nearly twenty minutes and no one came, it was not so funny. I went back to the event thinking so much for that idea. No one cares. But my feelings bothered me and I tried to analyze what was wrong.

Later I learned that resentment is a sign of burnout. It’s easy to get to that stage in our society. Sometimes it seems that people are valued more for what they do than who they are.

About a year later, my husband and I took a sabbatical. We were not involved in any kind of ministry or work. It was a very restorative time and not at all wasted. In fact, it created many happy memories with family and friends.

I sifted through my ashes and discovered what I considered important to help prevent burnout: REST.

You can’t have restoration without rest. Things being restored are generally out of service for a time. For people that could mean a fifteen-minute break or a power nap, a day off or a vacation---something to break the routine and bring about rejuvenation.

While dealing with the demands of life, even responsibilities we enjoy, it’s easy to forget that God has always considered rest important. He modeled it in Genesis 2:2 and commanded it in Exodus 20:8-11.

Forest fires are fought with fire breaks. We can get lost in our modern forest of busy-ness, but let’s be honest. When someone asks, “What are you doing,” isn’t “nothing” the last choice on your answer list?

Controlled fires do a lot of good. So how will you create your restorative break? Only YOU can prevent ashes of burnout.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Lost in the Lettuce


What!! I couldn’t believe it. My wedding ring had slipped off my finger into a full bin of iceberg lettuce.

I did a quick mental quiz. Have I lost weight unknowingly? Did I not eat any salt today? Is cooler weather keeping my fingers from swelling? My answer to all three was I don’t know, but I’ve got to DO something!

Feeling like a crazy woman, I started piling up the lettuce to the back of the bin. I could see my ring between the iron grates. Even more worrisome was the slot in the front, not far from my ring. I didn’t want it lost down there!

I struggled to pick the ring up between two fingers. When that didn’t work, I walked through the swinging doors to the back of the produce department. “Hello!” I shouted. “Hello!” There was no response and I didn’t see anyone.

I’m on my own, I thought. Maybe I can pull it out with a couple of pens. I hurriedly dug through my purse. With a ballpoint pen in each hand I tried using one pen to push my ring onto the clip of the other. The ring would go on but then slip off when I lifted it up.

It was a relief to see I was still alone. I thought I’m going to have to push my fingers through that grate to get my ring. It hurt, but I struggled again to hold onto the ring while I pulled it free.

When I finally got it back on my finger I felt like shouting, “I got it!” It was then a story came to mind about the search for a valuable pearl.

It’s an extremely short story, only about twenty-eight words. Jesus’ stories, or parables, used common things to illustrate spiritual truths.

The story that came to mind was this: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it! (Matthew 13:45-46 NLT).

My wedding ring, like that pearl, was valuable to me. I wasn’t about to leave it laying in the lettuce bin!

Parables can illustrate more than one truth. Feeling the ring on my finger, still loose, I thought about the effort the man put forth to own the choice pearl. He sold everything he had to make it his own.

The Kingdom of Heaven, like the pearl, is very desirable. The question is, how much value do we place on it? Our answer is shown by the effort we make to pursue it.

To seek the Kingdom of God means to give God first priority in our life. We apply His guidelines to personal decisions and are not swayed by others' goals or opinions.

Lettuce is quite perishable. In a world filled with lettuce-like values, we need to pursue the pearl and not get lost in the lettuce.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Be Alert for ATMs


Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are everywhere these days. Banks began this customer service. Then it became so popular that people looked for it in other places.

Be Alert for Teachable Moments
Such convenience! Who would give it up now?

Since the beginning of time, all cultures have had access to ATMs. I’m talking about Alert Teachable Moments.

You may notice an ATM when a child’s interest is high. Perhaps they’ve asked a big why. Or maybe they know they made a mistake and don’t want to repeat it.

Family settings are filled with ATMs since they have first access to their children. But alert friends and teachers notice ATMs, too.

Family Life Can Be Hectic
Let’s face it. Family life can be quite hectic. Care givers are pressured to meet a variety of needs and schedules. They may do more than pass up an ATM. Without meaning to, they may also push the off button on a child’s inquisitive engine.

ATMs were considered valuable even in ancient times. Moses wrote these instructions in Deuteronomy 11:19: Teach (these words of mine---God’s) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

That pretty much sums up a day. Access to ATMs abound.

I have happy memories of a curious preschooler. The short walks we took in her neighborhood were filled with ATMs. I learned to be alert. Teachable moments were very fleeting.

Sometimes you may recognize an ATM and think you have deposited into it quite wisely. But when you ask for a receipt, or feedback, you are surprised at the misconception. So, you try again.

ATMs Have No Age Limit
I’m convinced that ATMs are not limited to children. I’ve seen teens and adults of all ages benefit from them, too. The reason? ATMs come in the form of relationships.

Alert Teachable Moments, though brief, are powerful. Be alert. Use them wherever and whenever you can.