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Routine Returns

The Red Wings are without a loss, but have played only one game. The Lions appear to be on the edge of disaster, but who knows? The Spartans and Wolverines have aspirations of glory, even with one disappointing loss for each. The routine returns.

It returns during my week as well. Sunday's preaching is followed by some great and productive conversations, CrossTraining visitations, and another service. The week includes two FHL groups reuniting, my regular Wednesday meetings with men over coffee, and commitments for three out of four nights.

And people start coming out of the woodwork. On one day three different families contact me about baptisms. One day a great new opportunity comes to STL, and the next day another fast-growing ministry is faced with a sudden and disappointing challenge. New and old contacts emerge in a variety of ways. The returns, it seems, from seeds that have been planted, are anything but routine.

The parable of the sower in many ways is a follow-up to Isaiah 55. "For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace." (Isaiah 55.10-12) After telling the parable of the sower, Jesus asks the question, "Do you not understand this parable?" He then explains, "The sower sows the word." (Mark 4.13-14) And, as he goes on to say, the returns vary.

I love the summer - and this year was a great one ... the heat ... the sun ... the flexibility ... the change of routine ... the length of the days ... the freedom. The list goes on and on.

Fall, I am told, arrives on Saturday, September 22 at 9:54 p.m. And I must say, as much as I love the summer, I also very much enjoy autumn. The cooler evenings ... the changing colors ... the drop in humidity ... and the return of routine. A break from routine is generally healthy and welcomed, but total dissolution can be disastrous!

It is because, you see, routines have returns! Study after study indicates that a consistent bed time is healthy, not just for children, but for adults as well. And we all know what the routines of eating right and exercising do for one's health. To these temporal fixes we add the routine that produces temporal and eternal results: seed planing.

We are urged to "plant the seed of God's Word, in season and out of season." (2 Timothy 4.2). It starts with routinely reading the Word, listening to it, discussing it with others. And it continues as your routine expands to sharing God's Word of hope with others. The returns, according to God's promise in Christ Jesus, are anything but routine from a worldly perspective! Rather, as he clearly promises, "you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." (Isaiah 55.12)

Now that's a return that I will welcome routinely!

Lunch?

When was the last time you took someone born in the 1980's or 1990's out to lunch? Or, if you were born in those years, spent an hour or more in a one-on-one conversation with someone born in 1960 or before? Of course, it does not have to be for lunch. Breakfast works - so does a burger and a beer. It's the time together that counts.

The location does not matter, either. Panera Bread works great (I was there this week). So does a deli or a coney island. B-Dubs, Milestone Grill or some hole-in-the-wall often work just as well. Like I said, it's the time together that counts.

Generally, I am not much of a talker. I would rather listen. And, I must say, I am excited about what I am hearing from this emerging generation. They are bright and gifted, full of life and ideas. Now, I'll be the first to admit that they often come at things from a totally different direction than I do, but, who cares? The word of God is clear - "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5.1)

The truth is, we all have much to learn. About five years ago I resigned from a District Commission of which I was the chair. My reasoning was plain and simple: I felt I needed to reach out and get to know this emerging generation, and, in order to do this, some other time commitment had to give. As I walked out of Panera this week, I realized that I have been doing this 'one-on-one thing' at least twice a month over the past few years.

And, though I have already learned a lot, there is still much more I need to learn. Of course, I hope and pray that they might be receiving a thing or two from me, as well. The truth is, we all can - and need to - learn from each other.

And, perhaps the most important thing to learn is the value of human life and relationships. In fact, the one thing I hope each individual learns from me is that they are extremely valuable - to me and to their Savior, Jesus. You, me, emerging generations and exiting ones - God has given to each of us great and unique value. After all, as you know so well, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3.16-17) And, as Jesus goes on to say, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15.12)

Now, you know, I am not talking about laying down your life ... just 10-20 bucks every once in a while (sometimes the other generation even offers to pay). The greater gift is time ... a caring heart and a listening ear. When you think about it, these are pretty tiny investments (mustard seeds, if you will) that "grow up and become larger than all the garden plants. They put out large branches, so that the birds of the air can even make nests in its shade." (Mark 4.30-32) Such is the kingdom of God!

So, what do you think - shall we do lunch some time? Or a burger and a beer? It does not have to be with me ... find someone from a different generation ... offer them an hour or so of your time ... and be open to what Jesus has in mind. A long time ago a small group of disciples discovered some great things after Jesus said to them, "Let's cross over to the other side." (Mark 4.35) I think the same awaits us as we cross over the generation lines ... and listen.

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