February 2009


A few days ago I was in the basement working out.  My three year old daughter was down there with me because she likes to “exercise” with daddy.  Right in the middle of my last set of incline dumbbell presses my daughter informed me, “Girls like boys… girls kiss boys.”

 

Did I mention she is three years old?!?

 

Obviously such a statement required immediate action on my part.  The first thing I did was remove one of the dumbbells from my chest and the other from my face.  Then I did the sincere fatherly speech thing where I squatted down to her three year old level, looked her square in the eyes, and said, “No sweetie, girls don’t kiss boys.  In fact good little girls punch the mean, nasty boys right in the mouth if they pucker up near them.”

 

I didn’t actually say that, but I would if I had thought of it at the time. 

 

So it begins; my lifelong struggle to attempt to intimidate every boy who gets anywhere near my daughters.  I do own a lot of guns… that helps, but I know it will be difficult.  Both of my girls are blond haired and blue eyed, they have great smiles, and my three old already loves to watch football with me.  About the only thing I have going for me is the fact that she inherited my profuse sweating gene.  Suddenly global warming doesn’t look so bad.

My recent trip abroad got me thinking about what it means to “minister” to others.  If you’re like me, when you hear the word “minister” you usually think about a church pastor, religious leader, or the head of a governmental administrative office.  While these may fit a few of the definitions of the word, it is a mistake to believe that ministry work should be left only to those whose full-time job is in “the ministry”.  There are actually several definitions for the word minister.  Those listed below came from Dictionary.com.

min⋅is⋅ter

–noun

1.

a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor.

 

2.

a person authorized to administer sacraments, as at Mass.

 

3.

a person appointed by or under the authority of a sovereign or head of a government to some high office of state, esp. to that of head of an administrative department: the minister of finance.

 

4.

a diplomatic representative accredited by one government to another and ranking next below an ambassador.

 

5.

a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.

–verb (used with object)

6.

to administer or apply: to minister the last rites.

 

7.

Archaic. to furnish; supply.

–verb (used without object)

8.

to perform the functions of a religious minister.

 

9.

to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.: to minister to the needs of the hungry.

 

10.

to contribute, as to comfort or happiness.

 

The first eight definitions go along with our stereotypical view of the word, but look at nine and ten.  This is something that all of us are called to do.  When we “give service, care, or aid” and when we “contribute… to (the) comfort or happiness” of others, we are providing ministry.

 

During my recent trip to Belarus, our team ministered to the needs of our students.  We gave them a service by providing them with an English course, but we also contributed to their comfort and happiness by providing an atmosphere where they could have fun and take a break from the hurts and disappointments that they experience outside the class.

 

Do you have to go halfway around the world to minister to the needs of others?  Of course not!  There are ministry opportunities in your community, at work, even under your own roof.  Recognizing and acting on those opportunities will help us find significance regardless of our job description.

 

I think this is where many of us lose our direction.  For example, you may be in a predicament where you feel that you should be doing more to minister to others.  You have a heartfelt desire to put your own selfish ambition on hold while enhancing the lives of others, but you are not quite ready to quit your job and enroll in a seminary or join the Peace Corps.  We have this “all or nothing” mentality that erroneously believes that if we cannot dedicate all of our time and resources ministering to the needs of others, then we will leave that work to those who can.

 

Think about it.  If all ministry work were left to church pastors and clergy members, who would help meet the needs of those individuals who have never been to a church or those who are too uncomfortable or embarrassed to express their brokenness to someone that they hardly know?  I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, but when we take the time to really pay attention to those people who are in our lives and how we can use our resources to meet their needs, we begin to discover fulfillment and purpose in our lives while simultaneously bringing happiness into theirs.

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I am safely home from my visit to Eastern Europe where I taught conversational English with a great group of people.  We had a very good turnout for the school despite some difficulties with advertising.  As you can tell by the picture, the weather was not exactly what we’re used to here in Georgia.  This frozen waterfall was located in a park near the church where we taught our classes.  It snowed for the first three days and, being from the South, all of the teachers felt compelled to have a big snowball fight between classes.  Of course, this brought stern and suspicious looks from the locals, but they tolerated our childish playfulness.  That is one of the things Americans are known for.

 

This trip was an affirmation of the fact that significance is far more rewarding than success.  The students are given evaluation cards at the end of the classes where they have the opportunity to provide feedback on the school and their teachers.  Countless students wrote that the school was one of the best experiences that they have had in their lives.  Those that were returning from previous sessions talked about how much they look forward to the courses each time we visit.  The classes provide an atmosphere that is a welcome respite from the environment to which they are accustomed.

 

In this particular country, people have not yet taken for granted the freedoms that we enjoy every day.  They were tremendously thankful for the school and the teachers and continually made their hospitality apparent with gifts and gratitude.  One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was simply seeing all of the smiling faces during our classes.  In their culture, smiles are hard to come by – particularly in an academic setting.  Just being part of an activity that brought so much happiness to these wonderful people was far more rewarding than the “successes” I achieved during my self-centered corporate life. 

 

I encourage you to do something like this and truly experience significance.  Stop thinking about your desires and how you can get ahead and spend some time fully invested in someone else’s interests.  Given the right motivation, you may find that success isn’t that hard to give up.

 

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There is no posting this week because I am out of the country.  I’ll update you on my trip when I return next week… unless I’m still sleeping off the jet lag.