Ordering Delivery

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to join the gig economy and deliver for one of the popular food delivery services. I can assure you that the decision was not made so I could take in the big bucks. Quite the contrary! Because I pastor a church and have kids who live out of state I pick up every other weekend, I need flexibility. The financial piece has been a huge struggle, but I have cherished more intentional time focusing on the church and my family. Being a delivery driver has taught me a lot, so I figured I would share a few of those things with you.

Never judge a book by its cover! We have heard this one a million times. People assume that those who live in nicer houses will tip better than those who don’t. That is definitely an assumption! I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled up to a home that looks like it is about to cave in, only to discover that the residents of that home tipped well. I have pulled up to lakefront homes where the tip was minimal. Some people don’t tip at all, assuming that the delivery fee and tip are the same. The bottom line is that generosity is a condition of the heart, and the tip is dependent upon if the customer has a genuine appreciation for what you do.

Never give people too much credit! I’m goofy enough to assume sometimes that people will put their full information into the app so you deliver to the right place. They don’t. Because I deliver in a college town, some people only put the name of the university. This is a large school that covers miles of this little town. Some people live in apartments and don’t include the apartment number. A few days ago, someone put in an address that doesn’t exist. I had to call and ask for the address, only to find out it was 4 miles away from the address they included in the app.

Never assume people who do these gigs as the scum of the earth. You would be amazed at the real lives these people live. Some would assume they are uneducated people who have no skills to do anything else. I have heard all kinds of derogatory remarks about those who deliver food for these services or those who transport people using one of the driving services. Many are people like me who have college degrees or who need some flexibility because of life circumstances. You would be surprised that some people who do these jobs actually earn really good money. If I lived in a more metropolitan area, I could probably be reeling in some good cash right now. I think this principle also applies to the first point of not judging the book/driver by the cover. As someone who wore suits for several years, I might look like a bum with my t-shirt and jeans, but don’t let that fool you.

As a “gig economist” (I guess that’s what you call me), I’m not knocking this line of work. I think it is a great opportunity for people to still be able to work and tend to family obligations like a sick spouse, child, or parent, etc. I’m thankful for all the people out there who are giving it their all, sometimes chasing pennies in order to put food on the table. Next time you find yourself using one of these services, be a blessing to that person. You might be the bright spot in their day.

Duty or Delight

I have always been a “check off the boxes” kind of guy. Manly men do not pass go and collect $200. They do what has to be done with no small talk or pleasantries along the way, right? I’m not calling myself the epitome of a manly man here, but I am saying that there are certain expectations that come with being a man…or an adult, for that matter. While God doesn’t want us neglecting responsibility, God doesn’t want us hating life either.

On my drive to church yesterday, I was reflecting on Mary and Martha’s encounter with Jesus as recorded in Luke 10. Martha was busy in the kitchen. Mary was hanging out at the feet of Jesus. Martha was focused on the responsibility while Mary was focused on the relationship. Relationship and responsibility have to meet. Duty and delight have to meet.

As you start out this week and try to check off the boxes, it’s okay to enjoy the journey. In fact, the Bible tells us to serve the Lord with gladness. It’s okay to be happy while you’re getting things done. Take a minute to change your thinking. You’ll be glad you did.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This!

It’s crazy how a blog post begins with a simple thought that gets creative fast! The title was not the original intent, but it seems rather fitting for Mother’s Day weekend. Days like this…crazy, broken, insane, hostile days when objective truth is hated and we embrace whatever we make up from minute to minute. Days when we hate those who don’t think just like us. Days when the only person who is loved is self, and the self-love that is flaunted still leaves people empty. My Mom did tell me there would be days like this.

My Mom told me about these days because her mother told her that days like this would come. Why would my grandmother say such things? Because my grandmother studied the Bible, and God clearly told her through Scripture that there would be days like this.

What does the Bible say about these days? Second Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” While some would talk about how antiquated this book is or say that it is a bunch of hogwash, it sure is accurate. Although people were like that to some extent almost 2,000 years ago when this was written by Paul, they are doing a much better job of it in 2022. I’m glad my mother and her mother both warned me about days like this.

Did you have parents who warned you about these days? Maybe you didn’t. Please don’t hold it against them. You can be the kind of parent, grandparent, or even friend who warns people. You can be the one who tells others what they need in times like these. I believe the hymn writer said it best:

“In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

“In times like these you need the Bible
In times like these, O be not idle
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

“In times like these I have a Savior
In times like these I have an anchor
I’m very sure, I’m very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One
This Rock is Jesus, the only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”

You don’t have to dread nor hate the days in which we live when Christ is your Savior. You have all you need to face these crazy times. He said His grace is enough. Lean on Him today!

National Day of Prayer

The first Thursday of May always sticks out in my mind. This day has been set aside as the National Day of Prayer since at least the 1990s. I remember a small ensemble from our high school choir singing at City Hall in Portsmouth, Virginia where I grew up. Ever since then, this day has been engrained in me.

While many use this as a day for corporate prayer, let me challenge you to use this day as a time of intense private prayer. Many of us have more public prayer time than we do private. We can check off the prayers at meals and with other people. For me personally, I knew I needed some time this morning to pray alone.

If you are like me, you need to talk to God about things within that need to change. You need to face some facts about yourself and lay them at the feet of Jesus. In order to lead well in your home, community, church, or wherever, the same old coasting just won’t do. As you examine your own life, you see areas in which you’ve been negligent, and you can’t go on that way.

On this National Day of Prayer for 2022, I want to challenge you to face the issues within. We cannot neglect personal responsibility. It would be easy to turn today’s prayer meetings into a public performance. Let’s start with the man in the mirror so we can authentically lead by example. Leadership is more than a title; it is a lifestyle.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries can be a good or bad thing. For a few years, there were some anniversaries I dreaded. When I realized the date, some painful memories came along. This is not the case with May 4.

Twenty-five years ago today, I surrendered to the call to preach. It continues to be one of the happiest days of my life. I realize more and more that His call had nothing to do with me and everything to do with what He could do in and through an unlikely candidate. I’m more humbled than I was then.

I also celebrated another anniversary this week – the 1-year anniversary of serving as pastor at the church I currently serve. I never thought I would pastor a church again, and God sent this wonderful group of people into my life. Interestingly enough, we relaunched the church one day shy of my 1-year anniversary. I celebrate the goodness of God as I reflect on these anniversaries. It’s all Him!

What dates are milestones in your Christian growth? Please share those with me. I would love to rejoice with you.

Social Media Etiquette

Picture it. Hazlehurst, Georgia. 2006. A man sitting at a computer, attempting to use a new social media account called “MySpace.” Okay. Enough of the Golden Girls attempt at storytelling! We quickly dumped MySpace for Facebook, and one thing was apparent – people had no restraint. Facebook posts rapidly went from innocent posts and pictures about what they ate to men and women ranting about their relationship problems and venting about any other issue that was bothering them. Before you knew it, those who were meek as a lamb offscreen became ravenous lions onscreen. One of my cemented childhood memories is of my paternal grandmother giving us grandchildren talks about meal etiquette. She was raised in a home for girls, and this stuff was enforced. As my grandma had dinner etiquette drilled into her, it would not hurt for us to take a little refresher course on social media etiquette.

So, class! Let’s begin!

If you are a Christian, I would say rule number one is pray before you post. Some of you might be saying, “Matthew, if I prayed before I post, I wouldn’t post much of anything.” That’s okay! Not everything that is on your mind needs to be said. The book of Proverbs says that a fool utters all of his thoughts, so don’t be so quick to brag if you are always giving someone a piece of your mind. Ask God if you need to post it. I promise He will show you. I have been guilty of posting junk that clearly revealed a lack of wisdom on my part. This will prevent you from posting simply for the purpose of posting or to get the shallow attention we frequently seek from social media.

Edit before you post. I’m not just talking about misspellings and punctuation. Sentence structure is also key, but analyze how it might be interpreted before you post. Nine out of ten people (maybe even 10 of 10) are quicker to assume what you didn’t say in a post than what you did say, and they will attack you, especially if it strikes a nerve. I would love to say Christians show much more grace on social media than unbelievers, but some believers are quick to attack under the guise of “contending for the faith.” Analyze it to death before you post.

Choose to respond if necessary and be quiet a lot! This is HUGE! Not everything needs a response. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to cool off after I receive a comment from someone. We often feel like we have to defend ourselves. Let God defend you! He does a much better job. Show grace! Be kind! Know that there are a ton of trolls on social media who are looking for a fight. Don’t engage them! It is a waste of your time and a poor use of God’s time He has gifted to us as a resource for His glory.

Social media can be a powerful place of ministry and encouragement. Don’t blow it! People are watching you like a hawk. In a sea full of people who don’t use proper social media etiquette, set a good example. You never know who you may properly influence.

Monday, Monday

This blog is called “honest thoughts from a pastor”, and it’s probably easier to give you some pretty honest thoughts on a Monday morning. Our church had its relaunch service yesterday, then I spent roughly 4 hours on the road and got back in time for a high school choral concert. Needless to say, I’m tired. I did sleep in for a bit, so that helped. I might be feeling a little bit of the adrenaline crash like Elijah felt on Mount Carmel.

This is a plight not only for pastors. Many of you probably dreaded starting a new work week. You probably got to rest this weekend and unplug from your daily routine. Today, you had to get back up and face the usual. Karen Carpenter sang that rainy days and Mondays always got her down. That song does come to mind some Mondays. I typically remember these lyrics from a song by the Mamas and the Papas:

Every other day, every other day
Every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
But whenever Monday comes, you can find me cryin’ all of the time

It’s funny how we are quick to pronounce doom upon our own week before it even starts! We should be singing something like “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before” or “the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.” Why do we let the world’s mindset about Mondays determine the believer’s mindset?!? It’s time to change our perspective about Mondays.

As you go through this Monday, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father praying for you. He wants you to thrive today, even amidst the junk that comes your way. Surrender your Monday mindset to God. You’ll be glad you did.

Blogging from the Middle of the Highway

Here I am, sitting in the middle of a popular 2-lane highway in South Carolina. I took this road to avoid the hectic traffic of the interstate, and here I am sitting still. I am in the middle of nowhere, so my GPS almost had a hernia as it attempted to reroute. I find it interesting that this happens in the middle of a conversation I am having with God about some selfish tendencies I fight. Then He tests me by making me wait. The funny part was that the fire truck that is blocking both lanes moved and got my hopes up, then it parked back in place. It made the waiting even more testy.

Here is the thing about such matters. We can be so quick to think about how much it inconveniences us, and we are slow to think of the potential emergency up ahead. At this moment, I have no clue what is going on. I pray that whoever is involved is okay. If not, may God give grace to those affected and provide His touch to the situation.

The next time you are stuck in the middle of the road, whether literally or figuratively, remember God has a purpose and something He can teach you if you will be His student. He may be telling you to slow down. He may be telling you to be still and meditate on His goodness. Whatever it is, resist the urge to pout. It’s not worth it!

Things That Break a Pastor’s Heart

As I was reading statements from pastors about how they responded to the Coronavirus onset in 2020, I could really sense the emotions at hand. Pastors did not want to have to cancel services. They agonized over the decision for various reasons. Then I began to think about the various things that break a pastor’s heart.

Wayward people break a pastor’s heart. While some may think pastors are heaping up some big judgment, it really does grieve us when we see people making poor choices.

Criticism breaks a pastor’s heart. I can tell you that constructive criticism did hurt, but that was for my benefit. But when people began to gossip and assume my intentions about things, that hurt.

The list is really much longer. One of the hardest things is possessing the gift of discernment. This gift often feels like a curse as you see the train wreck happening long before it happens. I can foresee the deacon who appears supportive creating division, the negative comment coming, the family splitting up, etc. I can discern things happening within the people sitting under the sound of my preaching. It’s a heavy weight.

Here is one thing I know above all others – God is near to the broken-hearted. The Bible says so! Are you grieving today? God is near! Is your life a wreck? God is near! Don’t lose heart! You are not alone! God cares!

Leading Yourself Well

I love connecting with my Twitter connections offline. Occasionally, I will contact different ones and set up a conversation, especially if I want to learn more about their line of work. One of those people is a lady named Jan McDonald. She is a certified coach through the John Maxwell program. She is a dynamic lady with a powerful story.

In my conversation with her, she said something that has stuck to this day. I find myself thinking about this statement daily – “Most people don’t know how to lead themselves well.” They want to lead others, but they can’t lead themselves. It hit hard because I knew there were areas of my life where I was not leading myself well, and other areas of my life were paying for it.

How are you doing at leading yourself? If your answer is “poorly”, do you have a plan to change it? God didn’t design us to try to be a lone ranger, so you might need some help. Find someone who can help you on the journey – someone who will hold you accountable. This is too important to go left unattended. Your life, your family, your finances, and so many other things hang in the balance. God wants you to be your best. He will help you, but are you willing to take the first step?