Tag Archives: Thankful

The Simple Honor of Labor

We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:7b-9 (NIV)

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, my local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been digging deep into the book of Acts and the history of the Jesus Movement’s early years. As part of that, I have been reading and studying the life of Paul, the brilliant maverick who was transformed from the Jesus Movement’s staunchest enemy into its most powerful and productive advocate and member.

In my study of Paul’s life I’ve come to an appreciation of how Paul lived and labored. My whole life l’ve always pictured Paul as spending most of his time, day-after-day, teaching, preaching, writing letters, and preaching the gospel. I’ve come to learn that nothing could be further from the truth. Most of Paul’s time, day-after-day, was spent making tents.

As most people of his day, Paul was apprenticed into the family business which was the making and repairing of tents (and presumably awnings and other textiles used to block the sun). It was a trade that could be plied anywhere, and Paul carried his tools to ply his trade wherever his missions took him. In today’s chapter, Paul reminds the believers in Thessalonica that he and his companions labored “night and day” to provide for themselves.

Paul reminds the believers of his example because the followers of Jesus were proponents of generosity and giving to those in need, especially the poor and widows. Now, there were individuals who were happy to keep taking from the believers’ fledgling system of charity with no intention of contributing.

I was raised in a family with a strong work ethic. I also come from Dutch heritage, a culture historically known for its work ethic. I’ll spare you the litany of my labor history, which date back to my pre-teenage years. Suffice it to say that I appreciate Paul’s attitude. Other leaders of the Jesus movement had begun to work solely on the contributions of other believers. Paul accepted that this was an appropriate practice. He even helped collect money and deliver it to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he steadfastly chose to work to pay his own way. Today, he states clearly his intent. He wanted to live as an example to others. His message to the Thessalonian believers was consistent through both of his letters: Work hard. Be productive. Contribute to good of the whole. Be content.

In the quiet this morning I’m thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday that we Americans will celebrate on Thursday. I recognize the blessing of living and laboring in the richest part of the world. I’m grateful. I’m also mindful and thankful for my father whom I watched struggle through multiple vocational setbacks, yet he always worked hard at whatever job he may have needed until he could get to a job that was more of what he wanted. I think of my great-grandfather risking everything to come to America, by himself, to eek out a living for he and his family as an immigrant. I think of one grandparent striving to make his way through college, the first member of his family to do so, and then working into his 90s. “The day I stop working,” he was fond of repeating to anyone who would listen, “will be the day I die!” I’m also remembering another grandparent (that’s him, first from the right in the featured photo of this post) taking the only work he could find in the Great Depression and laboring at that job for 40 years. Daily, he went about the simple task life selling and servicing tires. Not once did I hear him complain.

We live in a rapidly changing, complex world. Yet, along the journey I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of some things that never change: Work hard. Be productive. Contribute to the good of the whole. Be content.

Oh yeah. And: Give thanks.

Have a great week, my friend.

Top Five Things I Appreciate About My Dad

Chip off the ol' block.
Chip off the ol’ block.

It’s Top Five Friday! From the home office in Pella, Iowa. Here are the top five things I appreciate about my father.

  1. He said “I love you”…every day. He has also said “I’m proud of you.” I have met a startling number of men on my life journey who have significant soul wounds from fathers who never said those words. It wasn’t until I set out on a journey of my own to discover about what it means to be a man that I discovered how this simple act, one that I’d always took for granted, was a true act of manliness that many males just don’t get.
  2. He taught me how to be affectionate. I’m a hugger. I loved cuddling with my daughters when they were young. I love cuddling with my wife, hugging her, holding her, touching her. I know that the women in my life value my ability to show appropriate, manly, loving affection.  I learned that from my dad who was always affectionate with my mother, and with me and my siblings. Interestingly, my earliest memory is of my dad holding me. We were sitting in a black leather chair. He was wearing a white t-shirt. I couldn’t have been older than two or three.
  3. He taught me to shoot, to fish, and to hunt. While I never developed a passion for fishing and hunting like my dad had, I certainly value the knowledge and the many memories I have of days spent fishing the boundary waters and walking the autumn fields of Iowa with my dad. As an adult, I was once asked if I wanted to go hunting with a bunch of men from church. They assumed that I was unlearned in the field, but I agreed to go and brought my brother’s 20 gauge Remington shotgun to the hunt. The boys gave me a hefty dose of ribbing about my “small gun” and asked why I didn’t use a 12 gauge shotgun which was more powerful and had better range. A short time later when I was the only member of the party with a pheasant in the bag I smiled at my surprised companions and quietly said, “If you know how to shoot, you don’t need a 12 gauge.” Thanks, Dad.
  4. He taught me the value of hard work. It wasn’t something he said, but something he did. It was growing up watching him do what needed to be done every day. It wasn’t just the getting up and going to work early every morning or sitting and working at the kitchen table on weekends during tax season, but also they way he spent evenings and weekends doing what needed to be done around the house, fixing things up, making things better. It was the expectation of being productive, giving it your best, and doing a good job no matter the task. I watched. I learned. I’m grateful.
  5. He let me become who I was meant to be. I never felt pressure to be what he wanted me to be or hoped I would be. He didn’t tell me what college to go to and I didn’t get a stern lecture when I chose to be a theatre major. I was never told what extra-curricular activities I would be involved in, but got to choose and explore those things which I enjoyed and the things in which I was interested. I was quietly allowed to make mistakes, even tragic ones, that led to failures which I needed to experience in order to grow and mature. There was never an “I told you so,” “If you’d only listened to me,” “I could have told you,” or “What in the hell were you thinking?!” There was, however, if I may reference the top of this list, always an “I love you” and always a hug.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks. And, I love you, too.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 16

Jail Cell
Image by abardwell via Flickr

Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. Romans 16:7a (MSG)

Just last week I was on a business trip that sent me and my coworker driving down I35 from San Antonio, Texas to Laredo and back. While we driving, I suddenly had a flood of memories. I was on that same stretch of interstate when I was 16. Around 40 kids from my church youth group drove from Des Moines, Iowa to Acapulco, Mexico and back in four vans of questionable road worthiness (talk about road trip). Even though it was 30 years ago, there are experiences from that trip that are permanently, vividly etched in my memory:

  • Breaking down. Frequently. (especially fun in the desert)
  • Sleeping on concrete. A lot.
  • Learning the true meaning of Montezuma’s Revenge, then thinking my sister really loved me enough to give up her “free day” in Acapulco to nurse me back to health. Later I found out she really just wanted an excuse, while I was unconscious in bed, to steal a pair of underwear from each of the boys so the girls could tie dye them all purple.
  • Singing, laughing, fighting, and sharing Jesus with others.

Shared experience connects us with others. You know that behind Paul’s greeting to Adronicus and Junias, there is a story. You don’t share a jail cell without there being a story or two.

Today, I’m grateful for those with whom I’ve shared some really incredible experiences along the journey.

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