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Monday December 11th 2017

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In Defense of Feel-Good Movies, Cheesy Melodramas, and Happy Endings

I recently completed another viewing of the television show, Downton Abbey. Lasting six seasons, it’s a melodrama about British high-society and servant life set in the early 1900s. I’ve watched it a few times and am always pleasantly flummoxed by how the show ends. It’s not just a happy ending, but one of the happiest of endings. Every couple in the story is either married off or at least forecast to be married. Virtually every loose end is tied and every conflict resolved. What surprises me isn’t that the show ends this way, but how truly satisfied I feel because of it.

The enlightened artists of our day have moved away from the black-and-white, Golden age era of happy endings. For a movie, TV show, or book to be considered a critical success, it must pry open the ribs of our sentimental veneer to reveal the messy blood-and-guts of true humanity. Life isn’t that simple, they say. We’re all a horrible mess capable of the vilest evil, and we might as well admit it and get on with our lives. And certainly, it’s no more than a naïve joke to assume that any loose end will be tied or that we’ll ever live happily ever after.

Like with many cultural protests, there is some truth in these observations. Humanity has indeed invited a great deal of trouble in trying to maintain masks of perfection, pretending like we have it all together. It is true that we’re all weak, we all have the potential for evil, and that most events throughout our lives aren’t tied up with a tidy bow. So, is it just lazy, wishful thinking for me to resonate so deeply when I watch a show that ends well?

Perhaps. I certainly agree that there is plenty of simplistic art out there that doesn’t reflect true life and the trials of true humanity. But, perhaps one reason I rejoiced at the end of Downton Abbey is that, prior to its miraculous ending, the show was full of trials and tribulations that I did find believable. Downton wasn’t a feel-good show because it was all flowers and daffodils. It felt good to me because I identified both with its trials and with its resolution.

Maybe it is only the naïve masses who cheer for the feel-good movie and the happy ending. But, I think that within all of us, despite how much we may recognize our potential for evil and that complex nuance only appropriate for mature audiences, we also cling to the hope that that isn’t all there is. Perhaps within our love of sentimentality and cheesy melodramas there lies a more authentic instinct—that one day, the fairy tale will end as it should.

God’s story mirrors this odd cohabitation of hopelessness and hope. Simply glance at Old Testament history and the existential angst of the prophets and you’ll find loads of human depravity and open-ended darkness. But, then this Jesus drops into the picture as a bridge between all our suffering and the hope for resolution. He’s real about our weaknesses while inviting us to join him in the far-fetched optimism that all will be made well. Jesus took on the full force of our blood-and-guts depravity so we might be present at the story’s end—an eternal marriage between God and man where everything is tied with a bow that unfathomably rings true.

So, perhaps I’ve just outed myself as one of the lazy, unenlightened gluttons of feel-good entertainment. But, my instincts tell me otherwise. Such endings may seem sentimental and simple, to be sure. But they also fill the plot holes in our own stories that hopelessness can’t supply.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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This Is My Father’s World

It seemed to me at the time that I had stumbled upon the Last Homely House. And once I’d arrived there, I never wanted to leave.

That is…until I got a look inside.

As much as the natural world outside the house seemed like Elrond’s Rivendell, the inside felt more like Gollum’s hellish cave.

The current resident kept it very dark. Blankets over windows, few lights, low ceilings. The house reeked with the smell of cigarettes and dog urine. The walls were murky, the tile and carpet were decades old with some rooms only floored with a concrete slab. The original aluminum window frames were filthy and porous. The ceilings were stained with nicotine and other contaminants. The bathroom floor was about to fall into the crawl space. It was oppressive just to step inside.

But, the opportunity to live amid this astounding mountainous beauty was something we just couldn’t pass up. So, with the help of several subcontractors and friends, we decided to make the leap to restore the house to livable condition. And since moving in, my wife continues to work her magic to make it even more livable. Despite the darkness of those first impressions, the beauty of creation outside compelled us to make the inside more beautiful, too.

This brings to mind the final stanzas of that glorious hymn:

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.*

While many recognize the dangers of wasting our lives preoccupied by pleasure or superficiality, we can miss the danger of paying too much attention to the world’s darkness. Of course, I recognize that there’s a lot wrong with the world and that wrongs need to be addressed. But my best motivation to address what’s wrong is by first immersing my life in what’s good and beautiful.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Will I watch the news and despair because all “the wrong seems oft so strong”? No. I will step outside and celebrate the beauty in these mountains, the encouragements in neighborly kindness, the hope found in houses of worship and charity.

This world is filled with ugliness, but this is my Father’s world. And it is the beauty of his world that compels me to join him in addressing the parts that need restoration.

Despite the work we’ve already done on this 50-year-old house, it’s hardly perfect. Even after the remodeling, few of the floors are level. It can be damp and drafty. Doors still need replacing. The need for paint seems never-ending. The electricity and plumbing still seem to have a mind of their own.

But I can live with these imperfections. Of course, because of the beauty that lies just outside. But, mostly because I live in hope: that this homely house—and my homely heart, and all the world’s wrongs—can with each passing day bear more and more resemblance to the beauty of heaven.

And there’s even the promise that, one day, I won’t even be able to tell the difference.

This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.*

* Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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The Last Homely House

It seemed to me at the time that I had stumbled upon the Last Homely House.

That rainy, misty day, I wandered in my car like Tolkien’s Bilbo on his way to Rivendell. Upward through the North Carolina mountains, around one bend and still another, finally making a slow decent, I found this small stone-wood-built, 50-year-old house above 4,000 feet.

The property that day was deep within a rain cloud. Surrounded by close-knit Smoky Mountain peaks, it seemed to float upon a lofty, mystic sea. Like Bilbo, once I’d arrived there, I never wanted to leave. We purchased the home shortly after.

Today, I write you from a back porch where I can see and hear so many things.

I see tiny mountain homes embedded into the landscape across airy divides. I see the bulbous, green contour of hills rolling before me with some other-worldly symmetry. I see the hills change—under traveling light and shadow, beneath rolling mists and the horizontal passage of rain clouds. I’m actually immersed in the weather here compared to the distant sea-level spectator. The sky is more focused up here as well—the richer colors, the effect of light, the personality of each visiting cloud. It’s no exaggeration to say the heavens here are closer.

The wildlife is abundant as you might expect. I’ve seen a few black bears up just a bit higher. Around the house, there are several large, white-tailed rabbits that make me want to pick up the book, Watership Down to discover where they’re headed. I’ve counted at least ten species of birds who are not shy around humans when gorging on our feeders. There are chipmunks and butterflies and black snakes, honey bees, bumble bees, and benign wasps. I hear the rumor of rodents too, but they must keep to themselves.

The sounds are constant, but are in no way annoying like in the city. The wind sighs and saunters here and there, roosters crow well beyond the waking hours, hound dogs bellow, humming birds buzz, the other birds chirp and caw and chatter. There are the sounds of men, but they’re usually distant and often hard to place, whether above or below or from any certain direction: disembodied voices, lawn mowers, weed eaters, the slow roll of cars over gravel. It all seems a part rather than an invasive clamor.

As I’ve written previously, I moved to the mountains to pursue Thoreau’s deliberate, essential living, to discover what more direct contact with God’s creation had to teach me. Whether into the mountains or into God’s presence, I’m always longing to go higher and deeper. And now God has granted me a higher place to dwell, to stop and rest, to listen and know—about as high and deep a place as I’ve ever been able to call home.

Each step brings me closer—from the city to small town Main Street, from Main Street to this little piece of Rivendell up in the Smokies. Like Abraham, I have some sense of where I should journey next, but am never sure of the more distant destinations.

Discovering such a sense of place isn’t the end, of course. We also need a people and a purpose. Now that I’m here, I wonder what new people and purpose await me. Mostly though, I wonder whether this homely, heavenly place will have any lasting effect on my homely, wandering heart.

I’m patient to await such answers. For now, I’ll sit on this porch and rest in the certainty of gratitude—that I’d be so privileged to bear witness to this unfiltered glory.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.*

* Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Kindness Is Leadership

It occurred to me this morning: many of us don’t feel like we’re called to be leaders and feel a bit insecure when being asked to step up as a leader.

However, one area where we’re all called to leadership is kindness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think kindness can be performed without leadership.

You can’t be passive and be kind. You can’t just react to things. You can’t just wait for things to happen to you. You certainly can’t be kind if you’re waiting around for others to be kind to you.

Kindness requires leadership. You need to step out and be pro-active in order to show others genuine kindness. It requires focus, attention, often mental and emotional preparation and forethought. It requires standing out in the crowd when the world stays passive in their indifference and reactionary criticism.

Kindness involves guiding people with grace when they’re stuck and need to be pulled out of whatever mess the world has them in. It requires leadership to notice strangers. To speak warm words of greeting to people you’d normally ignore.

It certainly requires leadership to love your enemy or those you’re at odds with. It requires leadership to forgive, to humble yourself and make the first move toward reconciliation.

Now, being a leader usually means you have followers. But, leadership begins with invitation. And what has more potential to invite others to be kind than kindness?

So if you’re like me and feel out of your depth at times when asked to step up as a leader, remember that every time you exercise kindness toward others, you’re leading others into the light of God’s grace.

Finally, the best leaders are also followers, which gives me hope in this area, since I so often fail at being kind. I actually have a chance at living a life of kindness when I follow heaven’s supreme leader of love and sacrifice.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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My Head Is Bowed

My head is bowed.

Not because I’m praying, but because I don’t want to trip over an unseen rock or protruding root. However, I don’t want to miss the larger view either. I want to look up as much as down. Which, is a good thing.

I like this trail. It has natural variation in its straight paths and uphill grades. It moves from the deep embrace of forest to expansive views of the lake. It has a variety of flowers, plants, and trees. It’s long enough to challenge me and short enough to finish in a few hours.

The trail allows me to breathe. Or at least remember that I’m breathing. To breathe deeper. Slower. Faster. It feels like I’m the car and someone is filling my tank with the breath of life.

The trail reminds me of my body and the way I move. My left foot throbs with a soft pain, alerting me that I must favor one foot over the other. I feel my extra pounds more succinctly, because I’m actually carrying them somewhere. But, I don’t feel as condemned about my weight as when I’m still. Some people can’t walk this trail at all. Lord, thank you for my ability to walk.

The trail does challenge me. Especially when I start out. I regret the walk in the beginning. My initial aches and shortness of breath overcome the beauty that’s around me. But, I’m going somewhere. I’m doing something. My convictions mute my complaints. Eventually, my physical limitations are diminished by joy.

I feel God. He is not the rock. The tree. The blade of grass or the bird. But he is here. Oh, he is here! His touch is everywhere and infuses me with his peace, his love, and his tender care in a way I could never find in a church building. My eyes well up in gratitude.

I worship God by the very act of walking.

My head is bowed.

For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. – Psalm 116:8-9   

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Engage

mainst_2

It’s 28 degrees, but I’m not feeling it.

Ok, I’m bundled up with my winter coat and knit cap, but I’m sitting when I should be moving and am still unaffected by the cold.

My dog is at my feet, content to watch meandering cars go by. We’re stationary this morning on a sidewalk of brick, surrounded by quilting and chocolate shops, stores selling crafts and scrumptious food and drink. The light poles are wrapped with Christmas pine, ribbons, lights, and ornaments. Just beyond the man-made structures lie the fading autumn colors of the Smoky Mountains. The town breathes the pace of contentment and freedom.

My wife and I just made a big life-change in a series of similar changes. We moved to a small, mountain town on the border of uncounted natural wonders. We’re renting a reasonably-priced, rustic apartment above historic Main Street—one that’s about half the square footage of our previous home.

We’ve come here to engage. To further simplify, declutter, to train our focus more on what’s real and meaningful. We’ve come to, both figuratively and literally, get a bit closer to God, to experience his presence on his high-altitude trails, his mountain streams, amidst his wildlife and plant life.

We’re now in a location where we can walk or bike most anywhere. We’ve left the safe confines of our suburban isolation and moved to a place where we can more easily look people in the eye, learn first names, better serve, minister, and leave the mark of love with those we encounter.

We’re here to frequent farmer’s markets, join card games, and learn how to clog. To support local businesses and get to know our neighbor. To build better relationships with the homeless and those who live on the margins. To relate to other human beings without the filters of technology, long-commutes, and busyness that distract so many of us from what matters.

Sure, we’ve enjoyed some privileges that allow us to do such a thing. We both work from home and could take our jobs with us. We sold our house at a profit and plan to use the surplus, not to get a bigger home, but to eventually buy a simpler home with a tiny mortgage. We don’t have kids, so we’re freer to go where we like.

But having said this, I think most anyone can accomplish what we’ve set out to do. You also don’t have to move to the mountains. You can accomplish much of what we’re attempting from wherever you are. This has just been the choice we’ve made.

I’ve taken other steps that aren’t dependent on location. I’ve given up our two televisions. I still watch some content online, but am weaning myself off, at least from within our home itself. I suspended my Facebook account for a while or perhaps forever. I’ve “upgraded” from a smart phone to a flip phone. More radical changes will likely follow.

I don’t pretend that I know what I’m doing. I’m a self-focused, technology-dependent, introverted, slothful glutton. I can be as news or social media-focused, as obsessed with technology, entertainment, and consumerism as the next person. Changing where I live or what I own won’t necessarily change my heart. But, it can ease the path and open the door of my heart to focus more and more on what matters.

So, I invite you, if you wish, to join me on this journey. My plan is to write regular updates on my insights, epiphanies, successes, and failures in living this next chapter. Take my words as you will in your own journey. Read or don’t. Comment or don’t. Take your own steps and, if you like, share them with me and others. Or just read and consider—wherever you are—the ways God may be calling you to declutter and un-filter, to simplify, to engage.

In less…there is more. And I have the feeling, starting anew, that there’s so much more than I ever imagined.

“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” – Isaiah 55:1-2

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Stop in the Name of Love!

15. Motown Stop

We so often look for God’s will on where we should go with our lives. But what about the times we need to stop? My sermon examines Acts 16:6-12 when God told Paul to stop. It reflects on how this account might apply to our own approach to sharing the Gospel with others and to our lives in general.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

Share

The Ring Of Truth

Caged_Lion

In slumber, I sleep
In a stupor, I stoop
In the sacred, I soar

I recently applied for a part-time administrative job at the local zoo. I love animals. Some tell me I love animals more than people. That probably depends on the animal. Or the person.

Because I love animals, I debated whether working at a zoo wouldn’t trouble my conscience. The jury’s still out on this for me, but the argument that these creatures are being raised outside their natural habitat does trouble me.

Our most common vision is of the large cat, be it lion or leopard, who paces back and forth within his confines. Many zoos have larger, more organic environments than just cages, of course. But you’re still left to wonder—is this where they are meant to be?

I too often find myself pacing like the lion. I push forward against the boundaries of my life. Wishing I were somewhere else. Learning to adapt inside my cage. I satiate myself with processed food or binging on a favorite television show. I try to discipline myself to do the right thing. I sometimes act when I shouldn’t or don’t act when I should. I too often sigh with resignation more than I roar with life.

But then in my stupor, I have the vaguest recollection that cages are often of our own making. And then I do something small, seemingly insignificant, and it all comes back to me.

Months ago, I woke up deep within my cage. I rose to go to work, buried underneath a landfill of wasteful anxiety—how was I going to solve the innumerable tasks the day held for me? I began to strategize, to push back against the fear, to breathe in and out and take one step forward.

It was early in the morning. Next thing on my long to-do list was to wipe the condensation from my car…when I looked up into the pre-dawn sky. There, against a canvas of the darkest blue were just the fewest stars and the sliver of a moon. And my heart said, “Oh…”

Are we like the caged animal? Are the bars of our own making? Do we, like John Donne once said, “neglect God and his angels for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door”? Where is our natural habitat? Is this where we’re meant to be?

Maybe, by a simple change of focus, or by a shift in location or activity, we’ll move ourselves beyond the cage of our slumber or stupor into the realm of the sacred. The truth will finally ring true in our ears, and our heart will say, “Oh…”

Unlike the poor lion, most of our cage doors are already open. It’s a daily choice whether we’ll step outside.

“One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God’s children are meant to be.” —Madeleine L’Engle

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Embrace What Matters – The Book Is Here!

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About The Book

It’s said that as human beings, we spend about a third of our lives asleep. But, too many of us spend the rest of our lives in a type of waking sleep, held captive by the bonds of distraction. The shiny trinkets of entertainment and materialism, the prisons of anxiety and brokenness: these hypnotize our souls into a resigned stupor, where we assume we’re living day-to-day, but are never truly alive.

The book 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is less a Bible study than it is a conversation you might have with a friend over coffee. It speaks to you and invites you to devote a few moments each day to learning, or remembering, how to live your life to the full.

In easy-to-understand, practical terms, it speaks to both the earnest spiritual pilgrim who needs a return to base camp, and to the person who has never given much thought to spiritual matters, but would like to explore that journey.

It’s never too late to live the wide-awake, passionate life you once envisioned. Embrace what matters most, and start living a life rich with purpose, delight, and eternal meaning.

Reader Reviews

“A book to embrace! Life is about relationships, and John Michalak brings that home to your heart…I read from this book every day and will purchase more to give to people I care about.”

“I think the book can speak to those who don’t necessarily know God. It can be a platform for those who wonder and are curious about what else there is in this life and how to look eternally.”

“This is a wonderful read…The author writes in a manner that allows the reader a sense of hope while pursuing a deeper understanding of why they are here and what their purpose is. If you have a shelf, this book should be on it!”

Where To Get It

It’s being sold in bookstores nationwide including Lifeway, and Barnes & Noble. It’s also being sold everywhere online, including Amazon.

MAIN SECTIONS & WEEKLY THEMES

PART 1: Who You Are, Why You’re Here, and What You Should Do About It

Your Identity Matters
Your Purpose Matters
Your Growth Matters
Your Learning Matters
Your Wisdom Matters
Your Productivity Matters
Your Adventures Matter

PART 2: How You See the World

Your Perspective Matters
Your Focus Matters
Your Sense Of Reality Matters
Your Sense Of Wonder Matters
Your Awareness Of Creation Matters
Your Awareness Of Art Matters
Your Awareness Of Industry Matters
Your Awareness Of Time Matters

PART 3: How to Free Yourself from the Rat Race

Rest Matters
Peace Matters
Simplicity Matters
Provision Matters
Stability Matters
Personal Matters
Uncool Matters
Joy Matters
Living Matters

PART 4: The Importance of Your Relationships

Relationship Matters
Love Matters
Romance Matters
Family Matters
Parenting Matters
Friends Matter
Community Matters
Strangers Matter
God Matters

PART 5: What’s Wrong and How to Make It Right

What’s Wrong Matters
Weakness Matters
Healing Matters
Forgiveness Matters
Openness Matters
Communication Matters
Presence Matters
Hope Matters

PART 6: How to Become a Better Human Being

Your Character Matters
Your Choices Matter
Your Discipline Matters
Your Consumption Matters
Your Movement Matters
Your Attitude Matters
Your Humility Matters
Your Manners Matter
Your Giving Matters
Your Faithfulness Matters

Conclusion

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Click HERE to get inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Between Keith And The Nuns

There is a mystery to belonging.

I’m usually reminded of this early on Sunday mornings. I bought one of those clock alarms with a CD player so you can wake up to the music of your choice rather than some annoying radio station or a loud buzzer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Recreational Vehicles

Previously, I wrote about our pursuit of the American Dream, its pros and cons, and how most view it as improving yourself economically, owning your own home, building a retirement nest-egg, etc. But, perhaps the most compelling symbol for those who’ve achieved the American Dream is embodied in just two letters: RV. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Your Working Relationship?

The precious possession of a man is diligence. — Proverbs 12:27

Do you like what you do? According to recent surveys, most Americans don’t. Most of us are unhappy and wishing we were somewhere else. Some of us are lazy. Others are unchallenged. Some can’t get along with our co-workers. Others have a mean boss or feel under-appreciated for all they do.

In truth, understanding our relationship to work is a fundamental life-question, and if we’re not happy with what we do, this might be a red-flag for some self-examination. Why? Because work, or what we do, encapsulates much more than what we do for a paycheck and therefore speaks more about who we are as human beings than just who we are as employees.

Sure, most of us go to work to earn a living. But, It’s also work to get out of bed, it’s work to exercise, to eat right and keep ourselves fit. It’s work to keep a house clean, to care for infants and teenagers, to love our husband or wife, it’s work to come up with fresh ideas, to keep up with our studies, to go to church, to pray, to volunteer in our community, and so on.

Understanding our relationship to work runs as deep as understanding our relationship to God, to our spouse, our children, or others who matter to us. Because, just like marriage, childbirth, etc., work is seated deep within our psyche and our history. The concept of work is sewn within the fabric of life’s purpose and meaning.

In the Bible, the first thing we read about God doing is work. When he speaks, he does so with a view towards productivity. Through his creative energy, he produces for us light, the earth, the sea, plants, animals, humans–all with a similar reproductive or utilitarian end. They’re meant to work for something. The first commission he gives to man is to work, to cultivate and maintain Eden, his home. Everything has its purpose, and our purpose is typically exercised through work.

The Bible has a lot to say about our relationship to work:

Are you one of those who feels unappreciated at your job (outside or inside the home), like no one understands your value or properly rewards you for what you do? There are lots of passages where God defends equal work for equal pay. And, God does care about justice in the workplace. But, he also cares about your attitude and your sense of duty. God says that it’s better to be a nobody with a job than to be unemployed with no one around to challenge your superiority (1). And, he says that, ultimately, he’s the one you should be working for; he’s the one you should seek your rewards and recognition from (2).

Work produces. Idleness, believe it or not, destroys (3). Idleness is rampant in our culture of electronic self-worship and passivity. When we have nothing to do for an extended period, our love turns inward and our judgment turns outward (4). When we aren’t producing anything, we’re more apt to tear down and, worse-case scenario, to even lose the life and gifts God meant for us to put to good use in the first place (5).

You’ve heard all the stories of people who win the lottery only to end up in bankruptcy, broken relationships, and even death? God says that “the precious possession of a man is his diligence” (6). There needs to be an appreciation between what we have and how much work was done to produce it. Otherwise, we disintegrate into selfishness, and what we do have has no meaning; we incessantly crave and desire and are left with nothing (7).

Now some of you Bible scholars are shouting at your screen, trying to remind me that God gives us our most precious possession, our eternal relationship with Him, through his grace and not our own work. This is indeed true. But, God’s grace, while given freely, is the result of the finished work of his son, and we’ll have no true job satisfaction in life without–in appreciation of the cost that was paid for this free gift–following the same work-ethic Jesus did while on earth.

Essentially, when we accept the rewards of Christ’s work, we do so by signing a new job application. God becomes our new boss. He has already paid us the highest of salaries, and promises to energize us to do so many things we could never do on our own (8). But, ultimately, he expects us, through his power and guidance, to be productive–to help him reproduce in others what he has produced in us.

If you’re feeling disgruntled with your job, with the effort you produce, with your place in life, ask yourself this question: What are you working for? Is it to produce a living, a regular paycheck, food on the table, shoes for the kids? This is right to do. But, you shouldn’t work just to produce a living, but to produce a life–not just for yourself or your own sense of purpose, but for the lives of those around you. That’s really what you were created for.

God says that by working hard, we should remember those in need, whether, physical, or spiritual (9). He says that a person should “labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (10).

Our relationship to work, then, has everything to do with how we work on our relationships. What if we applied the following as a work ethic, both on the job, and in life itself?

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody” (11).

Tell me that the work described above wouldn’t produce a reward that is miles beyond your measly expectations of a fair paycheck and proper recognition in your career or vocation. It would both exhaust you and help you sleep more soundly at night. It would produce in you and others a life of purpose and meaning.

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, God’s sign has been placed in the window of your life all this time:

“Help Wanted.”

What are you ready to do for him?

(1).   Proverbs 12:9
(2).   Ephesians 6:5-8; Hebrews 6:10-12
(3).   Proverbs 18:9
(4).   I Timothy 5:13-18; Proverbs 26:16
(5).   Luke 19:20-26
(6).   Proverbs 12:27
(7).   Proverbs 13:4; 21:25-26
(8).   Philippians 2:12-13
(9).   Acts 20:35
(10). Ephesians 4:28
(11). Romans 12:9-18

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Growing Up Again

When I was very young and bursting with faith.

“There exists in most men a poet who died young, while the man survived.”
— Sainte-Beuve

It is one of the gifts of life to me that, no matter how old we are, we’re never far from the glory and imagery of childhood.

We, of course, spend perhaps a quarter of our life as children. Then, sometime soon after becoming adults (and sometimes before) many of us have children of our own and raise them into our middle years (and sometimes beyond). Our children then have children, and if we’re granted years beyond the average span, our greatness is measured by how many of their children surround us.

For people like me and my wife, we have the gift of nieces and nephews, the children of friends and extended family. So, unless we’re monks or highly reclusive, children and childhood are always around us.

Many of the reasons for this gift are obvious. Some are beyond our comprehension. Children infuse our decaying psyches with the pulse of renewal, of innocence and purity. Children give us hope. They shock us out of the mundane drone of anxious reality into living in the rapturous present–the unrestrained belly laugh; the melodious giggle; the faraway gaze; the bursting enthusiasm; the playful absorption. They remind us of guileless friendship and interdimensional joy. Their life’s purpose is seated in love and connection. Imagination isn’t a word they use. It’s the lens through which they see everything.

Scripture speaks often of the lessons of childhood. It speaks of what it means to be a child and what it means to grow up. But, I think, when we become adults, we often misinterpret these lessons. We exempt ourselves from the lessons of childhood because, as adults, we think we don’t need them any more. But, as spiritual children, no matter our age, we’re really never beyond needing them.

Certainly, most reading this have reached adulthood—we have jobs, we pay our taxes, we take out the trash. In the context of the physical world, we have reached maturity. We have left our father and mother and have a sense of sovereignty and autonomy over the physical universe.

But, what about the spiritual world? Are we likewise spiritual “grown-ups,” not needing a transcendent Father to protect us and help us make sense of things? Spiritually, no matter the assessment of our own maturity, shouldn’t we always remain the little child who can look with an unknowing awe and unrestrained dependence toward their daddy?

Perhaps we have grown spiritually in some areas, but unknowingly, are still children in others. Or, having grown some, perhaps we learned an important lesson as spiritual children, but in our seasoned maturity, we have forgotten what it was. God often calls us backward in order to move us forward.

As adults of this world, we live lives of responsibility and restraint. But, spiritually, we could stand to remember the uninhibited passion of childhood. And not just the passion to enjoy what’s good in life, but a passionate transparency to cry out to anyone who would listen when things are not so good.

Scripture does say that we shouldn’t remain children. That we should grow spiritually. But again, most of us never really have the chance to grow up because we won’t first regress into spiritual infancy. We think our goal in life should be to seek greatness. Control. Accomplishment. But, Christ said we should instead humble ourselves and seek him with all the dependence and frailty of a little child.

Growing up can be hard and there are some memories of youth we wouldn’t want to repeat. But we serve a God who makes all things new, and the Kingdom of Heaven is found, not in the security of adulthood, but in the precarious wonder of starting over with a remembered innocence.

So, whatever our age, any hope we might have for our future lies not just in being born again, but in growing up again. And, as we grow up again in him, we are called the “children of promise.”

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. And we are!…And, it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is…everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” — 1 John 3:1-3

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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I’ve always loved the old Spaghetti Westerns. Clint Eastwood rides into some frontier town covered with dust, mystery, and rawhide testosterone.

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No need to tell you where I was, but it was wonderful.

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Life Is Relationship

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Character and Wonder

I love movies. For good or ill, they have had a major impact on my life. I’m a fan of most genres—comedy, romance, drama, action.

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