Monday, September 5, 2011

Doing What You Do

I just had a thought ... shocking, I know.

I realized I have not yet shared a significant epiphany that took place in my world this year. (Note: I am not referring to the holiday in January but the rare and precious occurrence of the proverbial dangling light bulb above my head suddenly turning on. It doesn't happen often, so I like to commemorate it when it does.)

And unless you and I grab coffee or dinner or share more words than a tweet allows, then my blog is typically the place I share such moments with others. It is also the place I document them for posterity since my own feeble memory is no longer a viable filing system.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Epiphany.

So earlier this year I was contemplating the prospect of a career shift once I graduate from seminary - an event about seven years in the making but on track for December. You see for the better part of the last four years, I have been using my dust-covered yet very expensive math degree by working in the accounting department of a large travel agency. This was planned to be a temporary arrangement until school was out of the way and I could return to what I had deemed "real ministry." The aforementioned "real ministry" had been my vocation for the better part of two decades leading up to seminary, and I was convinced it was my inevitable destination afterward.

Enter God.

Those two words should light up your dashboard as a spoiler alert for what is to follow: this doesn't play out the way I thought it would.

I couldn't get over this sense that God might want me to stick around said accounting department, even beyond graduation.

"Weird. Why would He want that? I'm just crunching numbers. There is important ministry work for me to get back to." (I'd like to introduce you to my very active Messiah Complex.)

Yet the sense did not go away. In fact it got stronger.

Then I read John Ortberg's book "The Me I Want to Be." Little did I know God had handpicked this book for such a time as this.

As someone convinced my efforts wouldn't be worthwhile until I returned to "real ministry," imagine my shock and chagrin when I read these God-inspired words:

"God Himself can only bless me in my circumstances today. If I cannot experience the Spirit in the work I am doing today, then I can't experience the Spirit today at all" (p.225).

Oh, but this one was the real kicker: "We are the ones who make our work significant - not the other way around" (p. 227).

Stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200 ... until you read those words at least one more time.

We are the ones who make our work significant - not the other way around.

Maybe that doesn't hit you like a bazooka to the chest like it did me. In the world of me, my identity was almost entirely wrapped up in this "higher calling." In my mind, though I would have never verbalized it this way to anyone, I was one of the "chosen" ones called to something better than most ... I was "called to ministry." Oh, sure ... I know ... we're all called to be ministers. We serve wherever we are, so bloom where you're planted. Yada yada yada.

But secretly I never really believed that applied to me.


Because I was called to ministry.

But now, if God is grabbing that rug out from underneath me and saying, "Meredith, everyone is called to ministry. Everyone" ... then where does that leave me? Who am I really? What makes me special?

And God said, "I'm so glad you asked."

You see, as God drew me into this dialogue, He redefined my understanding of worth and most importantly the source of it. I am not special because of a unique calling or a special title. I'm not significant because of where I work or what kind of work I do. I'm significant because of who I do the work for.

YOU are significant because of that too.

And while at the time it was a difficult, mind-blowing, world-rocking, reality-shifting epiphany, it was also the sweetest relief I'd known in awhile. My work, my performance is not why God loves me. He just does. The work I do is both an expression of His love for me (to invite me to join Him) and an expression of my love back to Him.

So whether I am a pastor or a pizza maker, a chaplain or a chicken farmer, a minister or a mathematician, what matters is that I do it all to the glory of God.

* Special thanks to Steven Curtis Chapman for composing a soundtrack to my epiphany. Click here if you can't see the above video.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

iPods Don't Make Musicians

[Inspired by Romans 2:13]
We are not musicians just because we listen to music on our iPods. It would be a ridiculous notion to think otherwise. Imagine someone auditioning for an opening in a band or orchestra of some sort:

"So ... tell us about yourself."

"Well, I'm a musician. I've been playing for years. I love music more than anything and I really want to be a part of this."

"That's great. So what is it that you play exactly?"

"The iPod."

[insert cricket sound here]

As asinine as that scenario is, there is an equally absurd one that plays itself out every weekend. All over this country every Sunday people spruce up their wardrobe, their behavior, and their language for about 2 hours and head to church. They hear music and maybe even sing; they hear preaching and maybe even take notes. Then they head home to enjoy the pot roast that has been slow cooking in a crock pot since dawn. This, especially in the south, motivates people to answer in the affirmative to the question, "Are you a Christian?" Yet their actions the other 166 hours of the week offer no evidence to support such a declaration.

In Romans 2:13 the Apostle Paul makes it clear ...

Just as you are not a musician because you listen to an iPod ...
neither are you a Christian because you have heard the law.

That's not what makes us right with God. Remember that the next time you go to church just to check that box off your to do list. And this isn't a new problem. It was addressed in the Old Testament too when the prophet Samuel wrote, "obedience is better than sacrifice" (I Samuel 15:22). It's not about going through some obligatory motions and tipping your hat at God. That was never His intent. There is an expectation of action, of change, of becoming more like Christ.

So, are you living the sermons you hear being preached? Are you becoming more like the person God created you to be?

Am I?

Paul also wrote, "Faith without works is dead." I believe I heard that in a sermon once too.

{Image from}

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Singing in the Rain

[Inspired by Acts 16:22-39]

What would you do if someone trumped up charges about you and had you thrown in jail and shackled? Get mad? Cry? Panic? Fight to get out? Maybe all of the above.

Or would you sing?

That's what Paul and Silas did. In verse 25 of this passage we read, "Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening." They were in a dungeon with their feet in stocks and decided the appropriate thing to do was have a good old fashioned SANGIN' (as we call them in the south). I can just hear them now thinking of their favorites. "Oooh, Paul, remember this one ...?" and "Oh I love that one! How about this one, Silas ...?"

Sound crazy? Maybe. But Psalm 22:3 tells us that God "inhabits the praises of His people." If ever I want God close by it is when I've been thrown in prison.

But God doesn't just give Paul & Silas warm fuzzies because they sing. He uses them to bring others to Christ (the jailer and his entire family were saved & baptized as a result). And you know the fellow prisoners listening and watching it all were encouraged. Then God frees Paul & Silas from prison and restores their names with apologies from the authorities. Everyone benefited!

Never underestimate what God can do. When we find ourselves in difficulties and trials, our role is not to question, certainly not to worry, and not to try to figure it out. Our role is to praise God. Period. Despite what we're going through. Then watch God work in the midst of what we're going through!

Who wouldn't love to go through life singing ... even in the rain?

Note: For some extra inspiration, watch the movie Singing in the Rain or Glee's performance of the song. Due to copyright, I can't post them. Sorry.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Blog About Blogglessness

So far this blog has served various purposes:
  • to update people on events in my life
  • to get my thoughts ... out there ... even if only for my own benefit
  • to log significant events such as military training or a running streak
  • to share insights the Lord has given me in the midst of living life
I'm not sure which of these cause you to read my posts more than others, but it is probably the last one that causes me to write them most. I promised myself I wouldn't blog unless I felt like I had something worth saying. On average, that has only been about once a month. You can thank me later for not boring you with posts the other 29 days of the month. (No offense to the daily bloggers out there.)

You may or may not have noticed that it has been almost 3 months since my last blog. (Why did that last statement make me feel more Catholic than Protestant?) The infrequency has been less because of lack of inspiration and more because of lack of time. Between mid April and mid June I was literally home for 12 days, and during those 12 days I had obscene amounts of work (job & school) to complete. Blogging was the furthest thing from my mind.

That being said, I'm home now and enjoying re-entering my routine and normal level of busyness - the kind of busyness that at least allows me to sleep in my own bed, though I'm never in it as long as I'd like. I'm back at the gym and trying to eat healthier. But I'm also making intentional efforts to give God more than a morning drive-by. And as He is so faithful to do when we take the time to listen, He has been speaking to me on a host of topics. Nothing earth shattering, just little nuggets. So if you'll permit me to do so, I'd like to spend some time over the coming days and weeks sharing them with you.

But for those of you who read this blog for the Schadenfreude my life so often provides, hopefully this will get you through. This was my tweet from Saturday:

I'll let your imagination fill in the details of the story but suffice it to say three things:
  1. Any battle between a rock and a swimsuit will always be won by the rock.
  2. The remnants of what used to be my swimsuit are now in my garbage.
  3. The fish in that section of the river got quite a show.
Look forward to talking more in the days to come ...

{images: galadarling, my Twitter}

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is that S as in Frank?

There are a number of things I've learned from the Army at this point. Here are just a few:

  • How to eat a meal, change clothes, and get to the other side of the world in 5 minutes

  • How to speak the military language of acronym

  • The importance of the phonetic alphabet (the necessary alphabet if one expects to be fluent in the language of acronym)
For those of you unfamiliar with that last one, that is the list of standardized words used to clearly identify letters, especially ones that can easily be confused on the phone or radio (e.g. - V and B). Here is a diagram of that alphabet.

So far, I have actually used this more in my civilian life than my military one. I work in the accounting department of a travel agency and all day long we take customer calls. The quickest way to identify the specific travel in question is to give us what we call the "record locator" which is a combination of six numbers and/or letters. One day a client called in and gave me her locator but I was unclear whether she had said F or S. The two options of the clarifying question merged in my mind and what came out was "Is that 's' as in 'Frank'?" Of course over the phone, the error was completely lost on her but I had a full comedic meltdown the second I hung up with her ... as did my co-workers who heard me say it.

Today was another similar scenario. A lady called in for invoice help so I asked for the name of the traveler. She said she had the locator as well and I said ok. Not sure which she was about to give me, I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard in anticipation of the necessary info. The first word out of her mouth was "Peter" so I assumed she was about to give me his name. Of course in the system we enter last name/first name, so I continued to restrain my anxious fingers until I heard her say his last name ... information, by the way, that never seemed to come. It went something like this:

"Ok, go ahead. I'm ready."

"Peter Sam Thomas Joseph ..." (What the heck? How many first names does he have??) "... India Frank" (Thank God for the "India" in there which was the only tip off that she was not giving me his name.)

[ light bulb! ]

(beginning to snicker) "Oh! I'm sorry ma'am. I thought that was his name! Let's try this again."

"His name is ___________." [insert extremely ethnic name no one can spell except the man himself]


"Um, can you give me that locator again?"

You see kids, all this confusion (and hysterically uncontrollable fits of laughter) could have been prevented had she just learned the Phonetic Alphabet. Protect your family today. Don't let this happen to you!

Author's note: I could have deduced some profound life lesson out of this or waxed poetic about how we as Christians often speak in a language the world doesn't understand, but instead I opted just to share this embarrassing moment that you might have a good laugh at (I mean with) me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Arby's Angel

Hebrews 13:2 says, "Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!"

Anytime I have thought about this verse, I have interpreted it as the importance of hospitality. Be kind to people. That sort of thing. But today it took on new meaning.
My friend Ronda and I had gone to to grab a bite and catch up a bit. We shared what was going on in each of our lives, and how we felt about it ... our struggles, our hopes, our fears, and our prayers. It was an enjoyable conversation with a dear friend, but not unlike countless other conversations we'd had ... until ...

A woman sitting in the booth behind us stood up, walked over to our table, set napkins down in front of Ronda and I, then walked away. She never said a word. I think Ronda said thank you, but for the most part we didn't really get what was going on at first.

Was she just giving us her extra napkins?
Did we look especially messy?

Then after she walked away we both looked down and realized she had written something on the napkins. Now, I have to be honest ... at first I thought she was selling something. But in the instant that thought crossed my mind, I realized she was nowhere to be found. Not much follow through if she was selling something. She set the napkins down, and disappeared.

Hmm, weird.

Then I looked back down and read what she had written on the napkin she gave me. They were scripture verses. The first was Jeremiah 29:11 - one of my all time favorite verses. Below that was Hebrews 10:36 - a verse I was less familiar with, yet was right on point to where I am in this moment in my life.

I asked Ronda if hers said the same verses. She said I don't think so, then showed me the napkin she'd given her. The verses written on Ronda's napkin seemed to speak right to where she is right now. Then the flood of questions started. I never remember anyone sitting down in the booth behind us.

Was she there all along and we just didn't notice her?
And was she listening to our conversation? We weren't talking that loud.
How could she have heard enough to know exactly what we each needed?
How was she so sure of which napkin to give whom?
And where did she go after she handed us the napkins? Seconds after she was at our table, she was nowhere to be seen ... not refilling her drink (if she even had one), not walking out to her car. She was just ... gone.

I looked at Ronda and said, "I think we just had lunch with an angel."

And the rest of our lunch break was spent discussing (in amazement) why the verses on each of our napkins were the perfect encouragers to each of us.

I don't know for sure who that woman was, but I am extremely thankful for her. Literal angel or not, she will forever be remembered in our minds as the Arby's angel because she was no doubt sent from God.

As soon as I got back to work I placed the napkin in an empty frame I had on my desk as a reminder not only of the words written on it, but of the intimate love that God has for me that He would hand deliver a word of encouragement to me ... one written on an Arby's napkin.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


One of my favorite genres of movies (if I can call it a genre) is the kind based on a true story. I realize no one quite knows just how "true" they really are and how much is Hollywood taking artistic license. Nonetheless, they are often amazing stories of heroism or miraculous achievement. Today I saw one such movie.

(Click here to watch the official movie trailer)

Unstoppable was a fast-paced movie that had me tensed up the better part of the 98 minutes it took to watch it, but also included comedic moments, and just enough heart to keep the women interested. Aside from a little bit of harsh language (of which I am never a fan), I thought it was a great film and I would certainly deem it worth watching.

But this post is not a movie review. That's not why I'm writing.

According to Wiki ... "Unstoppable is inspired by the real life CSX 8888 incident (also called the "Crazy Eights" unmanned train incident) in 2001. The train, led by CSX Transportation #8888, left its Walbridge, Ohio, rail yard and began a 66-mile journey through northwest Ohio with no one at the controls, after the engineer got out of the originally slow-moving train to correctly line a switch, mistakenly believing he had properly set the train's dynamic braking system...."

I couldn't help but feel this was analogous to many people's lives. You set the controls for an uneventful ride, turn your back for just a moment and soon find yourself with an out of control runaway train.

"How did this happen?"
"How did it get so bad so fast?"
"What can I do to stop it?"

Maybe you're asking these kinds of questions. Maybe you feel like there's no way to fix what you messed up. It's a runaway train now.

But the key in life is not that different than the one in the movie - get someone at the controls that can help. In this story, the event that led to the problem was a naive guy who believed the train could just "coast" with no one at the controls. Even for a short amount of time, this is a bad idea ... both in life and in trains. Everyone needs someone in control.

"If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you'd rather serve—and do it today... As for me and my family, we'll worship God."
(Joshua 24:15 MSG)

All of life is a choice about who is at the controls of your life, but serving no one is not an option. An unmanned train is a runaway train. Instead, we each need to recognize that God is more than just our Creator ... He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith ... the One that gets us where we need to go ... and only He is the Savior that can stop the runaway train.

If your life is feeling out of control ... on a path you never intended ... it's not too late. But you can't do it yourself. Give God control ... the controls ... and let Him steer you on an unbelievable journey that ends with a safe arrival.