Adult Team Blog

Better than Nothing

Sometimes in college it’s easy to have the “better than nothing” attitude. It’s a familiar story: You have weeks and weeks to work on a paper but somehow it only gets started 10 hours before the actual due date. Is it the best paper? Nope. But hey, it’s better than nothing.

If I’m being honest, this “better than nothing” attitude has bled over into my relationship with Christ. It’s affected my time with Him and trying to live on mission.

A quick devotion on my phone right before I doze off to sleep at night has become routine because it’s better than not doing a quiet time. Smiling at those people the Spirit tugs on my heart for has become a replacement for actually talking to them because it’s better than just ignoring them. Promising to pray for people that don’t know Jesus has taken the place of actually sharing the gospel because it’s better than nothing.

When did I become so OK with choosing between better and nothing? And when did I begin to believe that those were my only two options?

Your Friend, the Chaplain

“When you’ve seen one chaplain . . . you’ve seen one chaplain.” Many people lump chaplains into one big group and, quite honestly, don’t have a clue as to what they do or who they are. In many environments, such as the military, chaplains gain a great deal of respect. Even respect, however, can become burdensome.

The word chaplain originates from the root word, cappella, indicating a piece of music unsupported with instrumental accompaniment. In a very real sense, that definition could be applied to most professional chaplains. By the very nature of their calling and ministry, they are often left standing alone, carrying the burdens of those to whom they minister.

A chaplain friend told me that one of the loneliest times of his life was his deployment in Iraq. “I listened to their struggles and secrets during the day. Then, in the evenings when they got together just to let their hair down, I was never invited. They couldn’t imagine just having fun or relaxing with me.”

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Don’t Follow Your Heart

“So, where are you going to college?”

“What’s your major?”

“What kind of job are you looking for?”

“Graduate school on your mind?”

“Are you going to marry him?”

“Where will you live?”

“So, do you have a five-year plan yet?”

I’ve been asked all of these questions—some more than a few times—over the course of the last eight years. Maybe they sound eerily familiar to you. Maybe you remember the panicky feeling clouding those questions more than the people who asked them. Maybe you’re desperate to answer a few of them right now.

I teach high school students who are just on the cusp of the top of that question list. They tend to answer questions with feelings, a follow-your-heart approach.

“I just felt at home on that college tour.”

“We have been going out for a year. I just feel like he’s the one.”

“I don’t feel important. I feel like I should be doing something different.”

The Ox in the Ditch

My pastor tells the story of discovering the best over the better in a former church. Fairly new in the farming community, he arrived at 6:00 for evening services. He arrived, but no one else did. The building was empty at 5:45, 6:00 and even at 6:15. Discouraged, disgruntled and puzzled, he slowly started to his car. That’s when he saw the lights. Even a mile away on the flat country plains he could tell there were car lights, many car lights. Curious, he drove toward them.

What he found amazed him and then inspired him. Mr. Heiland’s fence was torn and his cows had gotten out. Some were on the road and others were grazing on the grass along the road. My pastor looked from one car to another and there he found his church. Every person he had expected to be at church was trying to help Mr. Heiland lead his cows back into their pasture.

The Art of Suffering

Suffering—is it a topic any of us are really comfortable with? I personally don’t like to think about it.

Jesus talked a lot about suffering and in Philippians 3:10, I am reminded “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings” (ESV). Really? Participate in suffering? Yet in this verse, suffering speaks to me as an avenue to know Christ better and refine me to be more like Him.

We all experience suffering in varying degrees at one time or another. David Crosby reminds us in his book Your Pain Is Changing You that we can choose how we respond to it. 

On a personal level, my most challenging experience with pain and suffering was my diagnosis and battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It took 6 months to diagnose and a lot of physical pain was experienced. Through God’s grace, I am now in remission.  However, the spiritual battle to stay focused on Christ and relinquish my will to His during the adversity was equally challenging.

Seek Out the Best

It’s January! Have you kept up your New Year’s resolution so far? A lot of people see the new year as the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, give up an old habit, or start a new one. According to my Internet searching, 25 percent of resolutions don’t make it the first week! Anybody been there? *Raises hand while drinking that caffeinated beverage* Some of the most popular resolutions last year were to lose weight, to quit smoking, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to get organized. I love that third one—enjoy life to the fullest!

But how exactly do you know if you’re enjoying life to the absolute fullness of its vast potential? What does that look like for each of us? For a lot of Christians, we may choose things that are better than other things, but we don’t necessarily choose what’s best for ourselves or for our relationship with Christ.

Best Challenges Better

Which door should I go through? The popular television show Let’s Make a Deal serves as a reminder that none of us know for sure what is behind the curtain or beyond the door. Often in living our lives for God, we find safety in just staying where we are. That may be in church, in a position of leadership, or simply showing up and doing what we’re asked. After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with where we are. It’s better than doing nothing.

But living in the realm of better can blind us to the best. So what can we do?

1) Open our eyes to the range of possibilities available.

2) Prayerfully and honestly assess the better option and the best choice.

3) Do not be afraid to step out of our comfort zones. The best will always carry a little more risk. It may demand more from us than we are currently giving.

4) Trust God to support us in carrying out the best when better seems good enough.

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

Networking Works

“My nephew has threatened suicide several times since returning from Afghanistan,” she said. “He seems so close to doing it. We’re constantly worried about him.” A total stranger from another town was telling me this when we were both getting our nails done. “I just wish I knew how to get him some help.”

Thanks to a group of churches (pastors and members), along with other interested community organizations in her town, I could direct her to a local pastor who was passionate about helping soldiers coming home with PTSD and suicide ideation. All over Arkansas communities and churches are coming together to be ready when the need arises.

In our state the local VA assists in forming these groups, but realistically, they can form without VA assistance. Representatives from churches, directors of non-profits, members of law enforcement, local business owners, and other interested parties meet monthly and discuss issues affecting returning veterans. They gather resources and put together guides to those resources.

Experiencing the Ripple Effect

Have you noticed that when God is at work, there is a ripple effect? Not only does He change the life of an individual, but often He also affects the individual’s friends and acquaintances.

I love seeing this happen in Luke 5:17–26. A man is lowered by his friends to Jesus. He is healed. Not only is the man healed but his friends’ faith is also strengthened and the crowd is amazed. I saw the same ripple effect course through the Familyfest held in our city of Indianapolis in 2015. 

Here’s a glimpse into what took place to plan our Crossroads Baptist Association Familyfest:

• We began by getting our associational churches excited about receiving help with their community outreach events. We let them know that missions teams from all over the country would join local church volunteers to impact their communities through a sports camp, painting a community center, Backyard Bible Clubs, and follow-up from a Vacation Bible School.

• Promotion and personal contact were key in getting churches involved.

Good . . . Better . . . Best . . .

We all need new starts from time to time. For me though, I’m trusting for God’s good, God’s better, God’s best.

In other words, I’m done planning my own life.

My plans are always less than His plans. His plans are beyond my imagination.

My plans are based on what I know now. God knows the future.

My plans are really my own desires. God’s desires are pure and all encompassing.

My plans might be for my good. God’s plans are for the good of all people.

My plans are just for now. God’s plans are eternal.

I’m limited. God is limitless. His good, His better, His best.

So how will I know?

God will always show up in my time with Him in the Word. He will lead me through prayer. And He will speak to me through the counsel of godly family and friends. He will orchestrate events, open doors and close them, and allow sickness and health. He will continue to change me into His likeness. As I continue to turn to Him in every area of my life, I can trust that He is in control, do the next thing, and just live free.

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