Messy Workshops

PR31 does an amazing job of keeping our home clean. The truth is, though, we live in it. It’s not a showroom… It’s a test track for life. It’s not a display… It’s a research and development lab where we are being mixed and tested.

Were you to walk into our kitchen… where my sweet wife basically makes every meal from scratch… you’d discover that we always have dishes to wash. Before the dishwasher gets finished washing, more are waiting to go in. Sometimes, you might find spices or olive oil sitting on the counter with the coffee maker and bread machine. The kitchen table often holds the boys’ craft projects and our Etsy store products in various stages, along with a beautiful centerpiece. Life happens there. We get stuff done there. So it’s not always spotless.

Now, lest you think I’m throwing PR31 under the bus, all you have to do is walk out the kitchen door into the garage, which holds more bicycles than it does cars, and which I have almost successfully converted into a woodworking shop. (It is not uncommon to see our minivan sitting outside the garage so that we have room to work.) No matter how frequently I sweep the floors (and walls) and pick up all the scrap pieces, there is sawdust everywhere. Even though we try to keep it neat with a crate for reclaimed wood, a small stack of lumber under an 8-foot table, more stacks of smaller, usable scrap pieces placed on the two lower levels of the workbench along with hand tools, and paint drop cloths folded in a stack, it never seems fully clean and neat. I don’t always wrap the cords up neatly at the end of every day because I know I’ll be right back out there tomorrow, working with those same tools again.

But it is a workshop. It’s not designed to show off tools. There are stores and websites for that. Instead, this is where the beauty that was once an idea becomes reality. Beautiful results can come out of messy workshops. In fact, they often do. Painters’ studios have splatters. Flower shops have clippings. Automakers’ production facilities have metal shavings and grease.

We all see the finished works… the gorgeous arrangement… the piece of art… the furniture in the showroom… the delicious-looking meal set on the table in the restaurant… the flipped house on the TV show… the sleek vehicle on the commercial… and we fail to notice the messiness it took to produce that thing of beauty.

And sometimes we do the same with our lives… or the lives of those we know. We want to see a finished product. We want to see a piece of art. We want to see it all dusted off, trimmed, adjusted, placed in perfect lighting and accented to highlight its magnificence, but we fail to notice that life was produced in messy workshop.

We can each produce beautiful results from the messy workshops of our lives. We can impact others positively. We can bring things out that others could not see. We can bring flavor and excellence to the table. But it might be a messy process. Before the beauty, there may be some bumps. We might make a little mess getting to the finish line.

That’s okay. Solomon said in Proverbs 14:4, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” In other words, you can have a neat, clean, pretty little life that everyone oohs and ahhs at, but in order to truly get anything accomplished which benefits others and you, there’s probably going to be a mess to be cleaned up from time to time.

I say all this to tell you not to get discouraged today if the workshop of your life looks like a mess right now. Something beautiful and wonderful is being crafted in you. It won’t be long and you will be generating more amazing results than ever. People will look at what you produce and stand in awe. There may be pots and pans, or sawdust and scraps all over the place right now, but don’t let that get you down. That just means there is some serious work going on, and something beautiful is being made.

For the record, we ought to remember this when it comes to the lives of those around us as well. Their lives may look messy at the moment, but let’s give them a chance to see what kind of beauty they can bring out of that mess. We can help sweep up layer. Let’s cheer them on now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some woodworking to get to out in the workshop… I mean, garage… today. And maybe PR31 will still feed me something after this post. đŸ˜‰


Don’t Forfeit

As we were working on a project this week, I came across some hymns in an old hymnbook I have.  Man, I had forgotten how much those songs shaped my early life and theology.  As I read the titles, the tunes would instantly come back to mind, and I would begin to sing them as if I had never forgotten them.  I can neither confirm nor deny if tears flowed at some point… though, if you read the blog regularly, you already know the truth.

PR31 and I were talking about the line in the song, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, that says…

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit…”

Hold that thought…

As a little league baseball team, we were not very good.  In fact, it was usually a surprise if we won.  So, we were particularly glad when another team didn’t show, or couldn’t field enough players to compete, and had to forfeit the game.  That is, they gave up on the possibility of winning without even trying.

Forfeiting doesn’t amount to much when it comes to little league, but it matters plenty in real life.  And too often, we forfeit.  We give up without a fight.  We forfeit winning marriages… or winning at our dreams… or winning at school… or winning in our health.

Sadly, we often forfeit our peace.  We all face challenging circumstances in life, and Jesus said that, not only would He stay with us, but as the Prince of Peace, He would give us peace.  Yet, when the doctor gives us a timeline… or the boss gives us a pink slip… or our critics give us a hard time… or a spouse gives us divorce papers… we forget that we have also been given God’s peace to help us navigate those challenges.  We forfeit our peace.  It’s ours because He gave it to us, but we give up the fight without taking one swing.

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit… Oh, what needless pain we bear… all because we do not carry… everything to God in prayer.”

Don’t give up without trying!  Get in the game.  Keep the peace you’ve been given, and believe you will win despite the odds.  The doctors don’t get to stamp your expiration date on you.  The boss doesn’t determine your value.  No one can take your peace.  The only way to lose it is to forfeit it.

The challenge is not too great.  The victory is possible.  The celebration will be boisterous.  Just keep your peace!

Wrong Place, Right Time

As I walked across the parking lot and started to get into my vehicle after having preached in the Sunday morning service at a church in Texas recently, I noticed these little flowers growing in the midst of nothing but rocks.  No grass.  No other plants.  They looked so out of place.  But there they were… just growing and beaming brightly.  They brightened my day because they reminded me that God can cause us to flourish regardless of our situation.

I’m reminded of Isaiah 35 as I think of them today.  It is a chapter of hope.  It speaks of how God can bless when and where He chooses, regardless of how bleak the situation appears.

Today, you may be going through a difficult time.  Perhaps your health is under attack, like a couple friends of ours are right now.  Or maybe you’re facing some financial challenges that have your back against a wall like another person I know.  Or maybe you’re going through a drought in the area of friendships.

Know this… God doesn’t need your situation to be perfect… or optimal… or favorable… or even okay… to cause your life to blossom right now!  He can cause life to spring out of death.  He can cause health to spring out of sickness.  He can cause abundance to spring out of lack.  He can cause companionship to spring out of loneliness.

What looks impossible to you is possible with Him.  You may think you’re in the wrong place, but don’t worry because at the right time God can cause your life to push up through those desert rocks and bud… and bloom… and blossom into fullness!

Why not take some time to look up the 35th chapter of Isaiah today, and find encouragement there?  Even if you are not a believer in Christ yet, that chapter is full of the kind of hope I’ve found in knowing Christ personally and following Him.  I believe that if you’ll open your heart to Him, you’ll find that same hope.

After This…

Ever noticed how when a child… or maybe even a teenager… has one little thing go wrong, it feels like nothing will ever go right again?  Yet mature adults can look at the situation and say with confidence that everything is going to be okay in the long run.  We burst off-key into song with, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there will be sunshine.”  But the child doesn’t see it that way.

We don’t change much between childhood and adulthood when it comes to this, do we?  Oh, it takes a lot more than a skinned knee or our crush dumping us to make us feel like the world is caving in on us, but we have our moments…

Maybe it’s one health issue after another.  Or maybe you don’t get treated fairly at work, and then you lose your job.  Or perhaps your spouse leaves you, and then your kids get mad at you for the split.  It could even be as simple as every major appliance in your home seeming to break down within the same month. Whatever the case, we all hit some rough patches in life when we don’t see a ray of sunlight ahead… only dark times.

Job, of ancient Scripture, knew these kinds of times better than any of us.  He literally had the devil working against him.  He lost his wealth and all his kids within days. Then he got painfully ill.  His friends told him he must have sinned and made God mad… that he needed to repent for being such a spiritual loser.  His wife told him he ought to cuss God out, give up and die.

The crazy thing is, God knew Job wouldn’t cave.  He was actually showing Job off to the devil and everyone watching.  And He intended to bless Job doubly for all the trouble he went through.   But that ray of sunshine was hard for Job to see in the midst of the dark times.

Just like us.  When you get another downer of a report from the doctor… or when finances aren’t rolling in like they had been… or when it seems like everyone is against you… it’s kind of tough to see yourself as a trophy example God is showing off to the watching world.  It just all looks hopeless… and dark… and senseless.

This is why I am so glad for the 16th verse in Job chapter 42.  It reads, “After this, Job lived 140 years.”  After this.  I love that!  It’s like a parent telling their child the skinned knee will stop hurting and will heal up sooner than they think. It’s a reminder to me that… in those times when there seem to be no reasons, and no answers, and no improvement in the situation… there are better days ahead.  I have an “after this” ahead of me.  So do you!

I know it looks bad right now.  I know things are piling up on top of you.  I know there doesn’t seem to be an end to this rough patch.  I know it seems like your friends and family have turned on you.  I know you don’t think you can take any more.

But when God’s involved, you have an “after this” coming.  It may not look like it right now, but you do.  Job lived another 140 years after what he faced, and God blessed him even more than He had before.  And God will be there for you through your time of difficulty.  One day soon, you’ll come out of this rough patch, and your story will record that “after this, you lived and God blessed you!”

Always Valuable

If you are borrowing money, you know that the interest rate goes up and down multiple times even in one day.  If you are blessed enough to have money invested in the stock market, you know that the market goes up and down all the time and affects the value of your portfolio.  Real estate usually goes up in value, but can decrease in value.  Stores raise and lower prices. Amazon and eBay items can shift in value based on supply and demand.

The problem with living in a culture in which value increases and decreases all the time is that we believe our value does the same.  We think that if we work hard enough or hit our goals, then our value goes up.  And conversely, we tend to believe that if we fail or falter our value goes down.  Yet this is completely false.

Our value never changes… at least not with God. Regardless of whether others give us raises or divorce us, our value never decreases with God.  When we get it right, He doesn’t love us and value us more.  He couldn’t possibly love us any more than He already does.  And when we totally blow it, He doesn’t love us or value us any less.  His nature and eternal choice to value us immensely cannot be decreased by any market force around us or careless decision on our part.

The price of gold may rise and fall.  The stock market may soar or crash.  Oil may hit an all-time high or bottom out.  But your value remains constant… stable… enduring.  God has set your value, and He refuses to change it.  You are always the apple of His eye.  You are always worth Him sending His Son to be executed for your crimes against Him.  You are always worth Him preparing a place where He could spend eternity with you.

So whatever name that person called you… whatever promotion you got or didn’t get… whatever type of home you live in or vehicle you drive… whatever level of education you have achieved… whatever titles you have or don’t have… you are forever unchangingly & incredibly valuable!  Never let anyone tell you anything different!!!

For The Discouraged

Are you discouraged today?

Have things not worked out the way you had hoped? Does some problem linger unsolved? Is your relationship with that person you love keep falling apart instead being healed? Are you battling a sickness that seems to keep hanging on despite all the treatments?  Do you feel like you are going nowhere in your career? Does it seem like you are overlooked and not appreciated?

Maybe I didn’t mention the reason for your discouragement specifically, but you find yourself discouraged today nonetheless.  And you’re searching for anything at this moment which would give you hope.

Take heart. I prayed for you this morning around 8:15-8:20.  I didn’t know your name or your exact situation. But I felt prompted in my heart and mind to bring you to God’s attention.

And then He prompted me to let you know that He knows your name… your situation… your hurt… your weariness.  And He wants you to have courage.  Have courage in the fact that He is at work even if it doesn’t look like it right now. He has all power… all ability to fix what is broken… all knowledge of what others have done to you.

You may not think you have what it takes. That’s okay. You don’t have to. He’s got you covered.

You might say, “But Allen, I’m not a Jesus-follower. Surely God is not interested in helping me.  Why would He have you write this for me when I don’t even love Him or obey Him?” Simple… He loves you regardless. Let that give you even more courage today.

I’ll leave you with the verse from the graphic attached to this post.  It comes from the book of Joshua in the Bible, chapter 1 and verse 9.  Joshua was about to face one of the greatest challenges of his life, and the Lord spoke these words to him.  I believe He’s speaking them to your heart right now, too, as you read them…

This is My command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 | NLT)

%d bloggers like this: