A STORY TO BE TOLD...
It seems rare these days that I find men whose hands tell a story. I know I grew up in a different time and in a different culture than most in the church but I remember so many men who worked labor jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families. Some were farmers others were mechanics or mill workers or carpenters... There were so many types of jobs that to work one would build calluses and grime on the hands. These jobs also brought a noticeable character trait that I admired. These were men who knew how to get the job done. They were not slackers. They were determined and well thought of in the church. They had a down-home likeability about them. They were men you could count on.
One of the specific things I loved to do with these men was to shake their hand. Just the feeling of their hands in mine as a child, I noticed the courseness and firm but gentle way they treated my hand. I noticed the dirt and grime under their fingernails from hours upon hours of long work. This never offended me or caused me to withdraw. I considered it an honor to not only know these men but to make physical contact with them.. as they inspired me to not be afraid of hard work. My grandad was one of these men. A carpenter... furniture restorer. Grandad could take a piece of broken and discarded furniture and make it like new again. The work he did often outlasted the lifetime of the original piece. I know this because I have some of that restored furniture in my apartment. Things he restored 40-50 years ago. As strong and usable as ever.
Times have changed. Automation has moved in and reduced the number of people who do this type of work for a living. Big business has, in many cases, pushed the little businesses out of the marketplace. Even my hands which at a time in my life had built up callouses from working jobs of manual labor are not gone. I do miss this. I miss working with my hands and getting them dirty with the project I am building or field I am farming. So, if I extend my hand in greeting and your hand is dirty, please do not withdraw. I will not be offended.
Speaking of callouses, let me add that whether or not we labor and gain calloused hands, there was a man in scripture that tradition tells us he was known for his callouses due to diligent activity. The man was James. Given his nickname, we can assess that He is a man who we can learn from and seek to follow his example.
Jeffrey E. Miller states... "James’ role model for prayer was Elijah the prophet. James was so impressed with the effectiveness of Elijah’s prayer life that he sought to follow his example. Tradition tells us that James was nicknamed “camel knees” because his fervent dedication to prayer caused calluses to develop on his knees."
Scripture does not teach us that long prayers are necessary to be praying correctly but that fervent and effective prayers are what is needed. There is nothing wrong with long prayers... pray as God leads. But concern yourself with its fervency and effectiveness first. The Lord's Prayer, when done correctly is filled with lessons in fervency effectiveness. Take time to study that prayer and seek God to show you the disciples He is seeking from you in your prayer life.
Begin your spiritual callous story today.
WE ARE FAMILY...
In a world where technology and cultural pressure (fitting in) have worked hard to get people to move from being as disciplined in the past but work to seek that which is most convenient.
Some examples would/could be...
1] Our dining habits - Where once, the family unit required the family to sit around a table and eat at least one meal (the same meal) together each day, the norm for many families is to eat out... order online... get what you want. We do this because it is convenient to our lives which may be overscheduled no longer make time for such an archaic discipline. Such a thing is no longer convenient. Even if we do dine at the same table, how many of us have our smartphone at hand and take that important call right in the middle of the family time dinner.
2] Our family time habits - These are times we schedule things to do as a family. These are things we look forward to as a family. These are times where family bonding occurs and appreciation for the family time is built. When I see families taking advantage of these times, it thrills my heart. When I see parents not finding time for such things, it burdens my soul. I grew up in a busy house. Often times the church took my dad away from us to attend meetings and other church stuff. Yet, my dad often took afternoons off to come to my games in high school. My dad came home early and played basketball with us in the driveway for a few hours. My dad made time for us. This lived out, time given, by my dad will never leave me with anything but gratitude.
3] Our church involvement habits - My life and church involvement was different than most in the church, then and today. I was the preacher's kid... I had to go to church. Don't misunderstand this... I loved going to church. I loved it so much, I wanted to be there early and interact with the others in my church family as they arrived. One thing I learned early in life is that I never made church about me and what I got out of it. Again, don't misunderstand what I am saying. I always got a lot out of the church because I approached church as my family and the place I am to invest my life... even if I never get anything in return. I learned as I got older, that the church was not there for me to be fed first but to grow in Christ so I can be used of God to help feed others. The church never was a convenience... It was always a family that I built relationships in and a place I would become a part of. I made a choice early in life to not make church about me... that is too convenient and leads to lack of involvement and dissatisfaction.
EBCI is at a crossroads where, for some, convenience may be dictating the decision as to whether or not a commitment to remain in their church family is going to be the choice. I understand the cultural and convenience struggles that one is facing. Maybe the current location is too far. Maybe the new day (Saturday) is not right for you and your work schedule (and work schedules may not be able to be changed... but some are). Maybe school demands conflict with church ministries. Maybe your excitement has wained and your "feelings" have taken over your decision making. Making a serious family choice because of convenience is simply wrong.
I do not share any of the above to be hurtful in any way but to cause all of us to think about being our part of the EBCI family. What is our responsibility to the family? Is EBCI my family? If so, let us gladly embrace our place and role in the family God has given us. Let us not make convenience that which drives us but the power of God's Spirit who offers to hold the EBCI family together as we submit to his leadership in our lives. It must be stated... this may not be a convenient decision to make but neither was carrying a cross up skull mountain. Yet, I remain forever grateful Christ did that for His family.