I ran across a familiar verse a couple of weeks ago during my morning quiet time that has lodged itself in my heart and mind. Psalm 100:2 opens with the command to: "Serve the Lord with gladness." I'll be painfully honest here and admit that I don't always serve Him with gladness. Sometimes I do it out of obligation, or guilt, or because I have no choice. That almost always leads to serving with a bad attitude. Apparently it's one of those refining character traits I need some extra work on because the Lord keeps giving me repeatedly opportunities. Following are a few supplemental practice lessons I've been recently assigned:
Celiac's Disease If you don't know what Celiac's is, I'll give you the short version: it's an autoimmune response to gluten (found in wheat, barely, and rye) which damages your small intestines. The solution sounds deceptively simple: eliminate gluten in your diet. And since one crumb is enough to make you sick, you must avoid all cross contamination, too. I'll spare you the drama, but it's been a tough adjustment for our whole family. Normally I love to feed my family well and I have perfected baking homemade bread. But now I find that I have to cook it all and then clean it all - without the reward of enjoying the meal with my family between the two chores. Yes, I can cook gluten free, but for now I'm pursuing healing through major dietary changes, so it's easier to cook for just them. I've stood at the sink too many times grumbling under my breath as I washed the dinner dishes, having all sorts of attitudes other than "glad".
VBS What a great opportunity to reach children and families for Jesus, right? Nothing shines the light of Jesus like a furrowed brow and a deep sigh of frustration! If you've ever coordinated, taught, or served in vacation bible school, you are intimately familiar with the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to make it all happen. It's a tiring week for any family. In addition to my own four children, I decided to keep my niece, nephew, and another friend's child for the week, for a total of seven kiddos who wanted to continually eat and go to the pool. Every. Day. Plus, there is a local family that needed transportation, and since they live near us and we happened to have the church van all week, I ended up the designated driver. Due to a number of responsibilities, we were the first to arrive and the last to leave. The first night or two I found myself thrilled with all the opportunities to serve, but by the end of the week I was a little less than enthusiastic. In my selfish, pouting heart I was complementing myself and complaining about others. Not a lot of gladness happening there either.
Homeschool Even though we are on summer break, the conviction of serving with gladness in our homeschool is especially convicting. I know that the Lord has specifically called me to homeschool my children, and for the past eleven years He hasn't changed His mind! By teaching my children, I'm serving Him because I'm doing what He called me to do. We tend to think that serving the Lord only means participating in church or ministry activities, or serving in a full time Christian vocation. But any time we do any task the Lord has called us to, no matter how great or small, we are serving Him! That includes this crazy life called homeschooling. It's easy to loose sight of "gladness" when we get caught up in the chaos of the daily grind of lessons, chores, meals, activities, and a hundred other things demanding our time and attention.
One definition of gladness means, " characterized by or showing cheerfulness, joy, pleasure." Webster's definition alone reveals how often I miss the mark. I've noticed that when I am lacking cheerfulness or joy, and I am not finding pleasure in my work, it's because I'm focusing on myself, serving with selfish ambition or in my own strength. My heart shouts: "look at me - look at ALL I'm doing!" That steals the cheerful gladness and corrupts the spirit. But when my heart humbly whispers: "look at Him", joy and pleasure overwhelms my soul, "a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over". (Luke 6:38)
What about you - how's your serve? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.