Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why I Shop at Alger Hardware

We live in the best neighborhood in Grand Rapids...Alger Heights.  I love it so much that I wrote a song about it.  Since we own an old home, we have lots of repairs that are constantly needing to be done.  We have an amazing hardware store just four blocks from my house.  I like to shop here as opposed to stores like Lowe's, Home Depot, and Menards.  The prices tend to be a little bit higher (but not much...and the fact that it's so close to home cuts down on gas for the car, so it probably evens out).  

But, here are the reason I like to shop there:
1.  The staff knows what they're talking about...I have received free "lessons" on yard techniques, plumbing problems, electrical repairs, and the list goes on.  This cannot be said of big box stores.

2.  They always have what I need and it doesn't take me an hour to get there and back.  I can never find what I need at the big box stores...I'm sure it's there somewhere, but it seems that if I can't find the product I'm looking for, finding a worker to show me is just as difficult.

3.  They keep our paint colors for different rooms of the house in their computer system, so if I need to buy more paint for any particular room, I just need to say, "Blakeney kitchen" and up comes the color code.

4.  I love small businesses, and though I don't spend a ton of money there, I can tell they appreciate my business.

5.  Finally, I was in there this morning to return some things I didn't need and pick up some things I did need.  My total was 75 cents.  I didn't have any change, and rather than run my debit card, the owner said, "don't worry about can pay me next time you're in."  I know it's only 75 cents, but this would not happen at any of the big box stores.

I guess the reason I feel compelled to write this tonight is...well, I'm not really sure.  No real spiritual lessons here.  No deep hidden truths.  I think it's just nice to know that there are places out there that care about people and provide a great service to their community.  Alger Hardware seems like a throwback to a simpler time...and we all could use some simpler times once in awhile.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Three Years in the Psalms

17 weeks ago I started a journey through the book of Psalms.  I’m taking one Psalm each week and reading it, meditating on it, and memorizing (at least parts) of it.  It is a slow, sometimes painful process, but it has given me a new heart and passion to worship God in spirit and in truth.  There were a few things that made me decide to do this.  The first was that I have been leading worship for about 15 years, and I have spent very little time reading the Psalms.  In recent years, I’ve been writing music to be used in worship settings, and what better influence is there than the Psalmists?  So, why one Psalm a week?  The answer is simple.  I’m trying to run a marathon here, not a sprint.  My whole life has consisted of sprints up to this point. I will go weeks or months without reading scripture or spending any significant time in prayer, and then I will feel empty and tired and drained and pick up the Bible and read through as much as I can for short period of time…enough to get filled up and give me a boost.  And then, it’s back to running on fumes for awhile.  I need to study and pray and seek God for the 26.2 of life, not the 100-yeard dash of fifth grade field day.  One more thing has driven me to do this, and that is that we started attending a new church about a year and a half ago.  When we started going there, they were in a preaching series going through the book of Mark.  When we started they were somewhere around Mark 6 (give or take a chapter or two).  I remember thinking, “oh cool…this should be a good four or five-week series.”  And then about a year later I realized we were still in the book of Mark.  It was really good for me to see a church and a pastor who weren’t afraid to hang in one section of scripture for a very long time.  As we took an expository journey through the book of Mark, I felt like the story of Christ became fresh for me again in a time when ministry had burned me out.

Speaking of ministry, this past week has been really good for me.  Just two years ago I was co-pastoring a church plant.  I was pouring myself into people, leading worship, preaching.  I felt that I was doing exactly what God had formed me for, and I loved every bit of it.  I loved challenging those who were leading with me…I loved challenging those I was serving.  I loved having all the time in the world to sit down and disciple people.  As God let me out of that for what has seemed like a very long, dry season, I’ve really wrestled with it.  It has been a very difficult transition, and one that I don’t ever want to have to experience again.  The most difficult part has not been going from a job in ministry (high flexibility, low supervision) to a job in the business world (low flexibility, high supervision) because honestly, it’s nice to be able to leave work at work sometimes.  When ministry is your job, it takes a lot of discipline to stop working.  When I punch out from work now, I’m done with work…it is a very nice thing.  The most difficult part, however, has been that it often seems that I don’t have as much time and energy to pour into others…something that I want to do whether I have a job in ministry or not.  This past week, however, I have had a few great conversations with friends and family that have thrown me right back in the process of discipleship.  And it has been good.  I was starting to get the feeling that I had lost my voice…that the people who looked at me before as someone who could preach and teach and challenge were forgetting about me…like I was slipping into oblivion…like ministry in my life was dead.  And then last week, in my 16th week of journeying through the Psalms, I read this: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” 

So now, I feel like I am in the best place I’ve been on a spiritual and emotional level in a very long time…actually, I think I’m in the best place I’ve been my whole life.