Intentional Living

"SWEET POTATO"

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and one thing that is on my mind is sweet potatoes. I have always loved sweet potatoes. Sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato French fries, even sweet potato ravioli.

Last week, I wandered into the kitchen and noticed that there were some sweet potatoes on the counter about to find their way into a wonderful casserole dish.  I opened up a drawer…..withdrew a fork….inched myself over to the bowl of sweet potatoes that were awaiting their smashing, mixing and delicious additions and I inserted my fork into the bowl. There was steam rising from the bare potatoes…but I was willing to take a chance.  I pulled out a tiny bite.  It was quite hot…but I ate it any way and found myself making the “hot hot hot” noise as I let the potatoes dance around my mouth attempting to cool them off.  I went for another taste.  This time I blew on the potatoes long enough to get them to at least a bearable temperature for tasting.  I began to chew and taste….and to be quite honest…

I was a little bit underwhelmed.  I took another taste and it wasn’t much better.  They were bland and simply…..so so.

I had tasted plain sweet potatoes before, and never really given it much thought…but on this day….I kept tasting and kept thinking to myself….I am just not that  in love with sweet potatoes.   It wasn’t that they tasted bad….it was just that BY THEMSELVES they didn’t have much taste to me….at all.   I reflected on the dishes I liked that had sweet potatoes in them…..the pie, the casserole, the ravioli and such.  What I came to realize is that my addiction wasn’t to the sweet potatoes…rather it was to all of the amazing things that surrounded them. The nuts, the marshmallows, the brown sugar, the heavy cream, the butter……those were the things that I truly craved.  Those were the things that got my taste buds dancing..and the main thing….the sweet potato……it was simply along for the ride.

 

I fear we often make the same mistake in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We claim that we have always loved Him but we live in such a way that seems that He might be simply along for the ride. We can easily spout off five, six, or even seven weekly or monthly routines that either center around Him or are somehow attached to His name……but when all is stripped away and it is purely us and Him….have we become a little underwhelmed…..a little bored with simply…..Christ alone?  Have we gotten distracted by all the brown sugar, marshmallows, butter, and crème and have we simply lost focus of the pure love and relationship that is supposed to be the center of our life….the center of our world?  Is He enough or might we at times find ourselves a little underwhelmed?

 

May we truly examine our hearts and truly question our pure love and addiction for Christ alone.  May we ask God to stir our spirit and feed us with the truth in such a way that we will be overwhelmed with His love and with His presence. May we realize that there are some actual good things that are distracters….not just sin.  May we evaluate and may we make needed changes in our life that elevate who He is and that eliminate or at least de-value things that have gotten wedged between the purity of our walk with Him.  May we study Him, may we know Him, may we seek Him and may we find that we re-discover our love for Him as the true center of our life….the center of our world.  May we cherish that truth and may we spend the rest of our life searching and growing to the place that the answer is “yes, yes, yes”…..to the question ……Is Christ alone enough?  May we taste and see that the Lord is good.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell

"CLOSET"

I have a really nice closet.  Actually, it is more than a closet…it is an entire room. You see, we have a room in our house that is a combination scrapbooking haven, office, and home for my clothes.  While I actually am supposed to use the closet in the room, I have found that the room itself..i.e….the chair, shelves, ironing board, and desk all make perfect homes for such things as t-shirts, shorts, or other clothes that I don’t “have time” to hang up properly.  Basically the scrapbooking/home office has become Pastor Mark’s World’s Largest Closet.  And I am good with that.

But a few months ago something changed.  My daughter entered college and she invited me on a tour of her cramped little closet in the back corner of the den that she had been using to house her clothes.  As I looked into the tiny abyss that was her closet…I quickly knew why this viewing had been requested.  On this day, she wasn’t after my money, she wasn’t after my time my time…..”gasp” …she was after my closet!!! 

I stood in the midst of a huge decision….closet vs. daughter….and as in most cases where dads and their little girls are concerned….daughter won over closet….in a landslide.   As I began moving from mansion closet to shack closet….I had several realizations.  1. I had allowed my closet to get rather messy.  2. I found clothes that I hadn’t seen in years.  3. I found clothes that I loved, but were hidden. I used the downgrade as an opportunity to assess, purge, and re-organize.

 

It has been two months since I have moved into my tiny little closet, and I want to tell you something….”Life is so much better.” I don’t have any room to make a mess.  I only have the clothes hanging up that I can actually wear.  Since I have limited space, I have to organize, pay attention to where things are, and make a conscious effort to put things where they actually belong.  I hate to say it…..but what looked like a downgrade…..was actually an upgrade.  The tiny corner closet is the perfect home for my clothes and my college girl is enjoying life in the mansion.

 

Friends…we have been tricked into believing that bigger is better and that more is more.  As Christians we have spread ourselves out so thin and piled on so much stuff that sometimes we find it hard to remember what is even important….or we have misplaced the important underneath piles and piles of unnecessary.  We think the abundant life is about abundance when indeed in retrospect we find truly that it might just be about…..simplicity.  When we work through this realization….we might find that we do have less…but realize that is where abundance can be found.

 

May you focus this week on accessing your choices. May you purge…get rid of the unnecessary things that are clogging up the paths of abundance that God is trying to bless you with.  May you re-organize around His purpose and His plan.  May you figure out what makes you special…what you are called to do…and may you find the clothes that actually fit.  May you upgrade your life.  May you work through the fear of letting go and may you simply choose the smaller closet.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell

"WASH YOUR HANDS"

So, there I stood at the sink in the Waffle House bathroom. As I reached up to get the soap, I noticed an instruction guide on how to wash your hands posted on the wall in front of me.  The guide even had clip-art illustrations in case simple words didn’t do justice to the quality of information that was being presented. While part of me thought it was pretty funny….part of me thought it was pretty sad.  “Did they really need to tell us step by step how to wash our hands?” Apparently, they thought so…and apparently I felt obliged to not only read through the steps…not only to walk through the steps as I washed my hands…. but to share the steps with you as well. 

 

Step One was turning on the water.  Step two was placing your hands under the running water.  Step three was the soap application phase.  Step four was the final rinse…..and step five was drying off of the hands with disposable paper towels.  There was no step six that reminded us to throw the paper towel away…so I will insert that here if it is okay with you.

 

I walked out of the bathroom and laughingly told my wife about the how to guide in the bathroom.  We spent several minutes thinking, laughing, and talking about the justification of such a sign.  “What steps were people forgetting?”, I thought.   Were they forgetting to turn on the water?  Were they using the disposable paper towel in step two instead of step five?  Were they skipping the pre-rinse phase and going straight into a gooey soap distribution onto their dirty….but dry…hands phase?  What part were people missing that caused some big executive in the cooperate office of Waffle House to decide  that they needed to put a how to wash hands guide in all of their restaurants?

 

Not only did I ask the question….but I also thought of the answer.  The reason they were putting these guides in restaurants were not because people were forgetting ONE of the steps……it was because people were forgetting ALL OF THEM.  People were simply not washing their hands…and Waffle House decided to do something about it.  Now, I am not quite sure how a company researches  something like this…..if they have a soap distribution to door opening and closing distribution ratio excel spreadsheet somewhere in those exec offices..…..but somehow they thought…if we could simply draw attention to washing hands…..maybe things would change.

 

I am pretty sure it worked.  I am pretty sure that I wasn’t the first Joe Schmo who walked in and thought the guide was funny.  I am pretty sure that I am not the first person who followed the guide word for word…..simply out of jest. I am pretty sure that I am not the first guy to walk out of the bathroom and laughingly tell his wife that …..”you won’t believe what they put up in the bathroom.”  By telling us to do something we already knew how to do…..Waffle House was reminding us…..simply to do it.

 

May you come clean. May you recognize the truths in your life that have no application and may you  let God take you back to the basics.  May you slow down and take the time to “do the basics” that lead to faith, trust, and joy in your relationship with your Father. May you find order.  May you examine daily, may you scrub even harder than ever before, and may you honestly and anxiously allow God to work in you and through you daily so that you may literally come clean with where you are, with where you have been, and with where you are going.   May you go back to the how to guide and may you be reminded that His Word is fresh and new every day.  And for goodness sakes…may you wash your hands….especially while eating at Waffle House. 

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell