Aroma Of God . . .


A few weeks ago I started thinking about the
Aroma of God. Often it is hard for me to think of a smell being anything more than an odor, but this time it gave me comfort. After only being back in Bangkok for a week without Jana, I suddenly realized the uniqueness of Jana’s aroma on her pillow. Before going to sleep the first night back without Jana, I rolled over on her side of the bed, and grabbed her pillow.

The scent of Jana’s pillow filled my nostrils and gave me comfort; much in the way a child is comforted by the fragrance of a mother.  As I reflected on this concept, I started realizing the importance of aroma and our relationship with God.  I think about how often I cry out to God and just the hint of his aroma brings comfort to my soul.  The fragrance of God is everywhere, if we would only take time to smell it.

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place”

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It has now been several days since Jana left and her pillow is starting to lose its fragrance. Unfortunately the pillow is losing its fragrance because she has been gone for so long. I think the same is true in regards to our relationship with God. I believe many of us no longer smell his presence because we are simply not spending time with him. I often miss God’s fragrance because I am not close enough to Him to smell it.

If we are too busy to “stop and smell God” then we should not be upset when his comforting fragrance is absent from our life. Jana’s pillow would be absent of her comforting fragrance if she never slept in the same bed as me. We cannot be upset when we cannot smell the aroma of God if we never have the time to spend with Him.

Take a few moments this week to seek God’s aroma. I truly believe if we invite the presence of God into our daily lives, then His aroma will always be with us throughout our struggles and victories . . .

Jack Barr is a award winning author of his debut book, “Failing At Fatherhood: a book for the imperfect father.”


(click book to buy on Amazon)

Cherished Moments . . .


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Yesterday afternoon we said goodbye as our family split up for the first time. Our whimsical autumn trip in the States came to an end as I said farewell to my two girls. Now, I am flying over Japan on a fourteen-hour flight to Taiwan. After spending a few hours in Taiwan, I will take another three-hour flight to my final destination, Bangkok.

For the first time in thirteen years, my wife & my daughter are not traveling with me. They are staying in the States because our daughter needs additional speech therapy that is not available in Thailand. Our world has been turned upside down since her initial diagnosis this summer, and for the first time in many years, our future is uncertain. But, for this blog post, I want to focus on the cherished moments Jana and I shared the night before our tearful goodbye.

Rarely do I think about it, when I am living my fast paced day-to-day life in Bangkok. It never enters my mind that I might not see my family again every morning when I ride my scooter to work. Jana & I assume that we will be faithful servants for the day and be reunited again for dinner. But, when an unchangeable event forces you to sacrifice a significant amount of time apart, the dark thoughts of never seeing each other again creeps into your mind. (Hey turbulence just hit, someone must have a sense of humor). And unfortunately when these dark thoughts overcome me, I instantly occupy my mind with busy chores. Instead of embracing the pain of the separation, I launch into packing, cleaning, reading or surfing the Internet.  But thankfully, the evening before I left, Jana forced me to sit down and focus on her.

The tears, laughter, intimacy, and conversation we shared that last night together was a breath of fresh air during this troubling time.  We talked about the ‘what ifs’, we contemplated the ‘maybes’, we cried over the ‘separation’, and we loved each other with a ‘passion’ of saying goodbye. Of course we did not want to embrace the “unthinkable,”  but sharing those cherished moments that last night prepared for us for the possibility of never seeing each other again in this life.

It was refreshing to take the time and truly enjoy one another. I truly embraced my wife with a passionate love that had been buried in busyness the past few months.  Praise God that Jana forced us to turn off the distractions and spend time as a humble couple hurting before God.  If the unthinkable happens and I do not see Jana again, I am thankful that we spent our final night together cherishing one another instead of “just surviving”.

“How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful! Your eyes are like doves.”  ~ Cherished Moments . . .

Living Life Together . .

Hello and Welcome Friends & Readers,

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Ten years ago we moved to Bangkok, Thailand for the first time. During that first year we found a church that was rooted in the concept of home church groups. Every week various groups would meet in homes and conduct their own church services. Unfortunately like most churches, as attendance grew, the leadership of the church decided to purchase a building and start traditional church services. This was disappointing because we loved the intimate atmosphere of a house church and the meaning relationships we could build though a closer community. So, last year when a family approached us about starting a house church together, we excitedly accepted.

Why? The main reason we are drawn to the house church setting is because you are forced to live life together. We start our service every Saturday night with a meal and fellowship. After that time we come together for a time of worship and teaching. We rotate leaders every week, but our main focus is life discussion. Last week before leaving, I shared a message about coveting other families. We talked, laughed, and cried about the question of, ”Why can’t my family enjoy the easy life of another family”? We even had a time of small group confession time in which we prayed for one another’s current struggles. Our church closed the time together by praying for our trip and laying their hands on us. Our church community of twenty-five, has made a commitment to live life together before God.

Jana and I often discuss the prominent church structure in comparison with our house church. The debate for me is not which format is more aligned with the scriptures, but instead, are we living life together as a group of believers? Do you live in a community that loves, cares, and prays for you? Do you openly share with your community or carry a false persona that everything is fine? Do you come together as a group of believers every week to truly focus on your creator? For us, a house church forces us to be genuine people living tarnished lives.

Jesus lived life with others through compassion and accountability. Our house church tries to emulate the same approach. We pray for each other continually, we support one another through difficult times, and we celebrate God’s blessings together. Regardless of what kind of church you attend, you need people living life with you. You need fellow believers that can truly invest in one another’s lives. Jesus called us to minster to the lost together, not as individuals. Surround yourselves with fellow believers that love you. For us, living life without our community is unimaginable. God has shown us that we need our house church community to love, care, and support us during the good and difficult times. If you are not living life together, then you are missing out on a great blessing that God’s gives us through community.. .. .

Please visit out website we advocate to give other children like Marley who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome a voice!
If They Had A Voice And you can purchase my book on Amazon below. Just Click book.

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Author, Jack Barr a Mom’s Choice Award Book Winner.

The Unborn . . .

#The Unborn .  .  .  .

Fetus: An unborn offspring, from the embryo stage (the end of the eighth week after conception, when the major structures have formed) until birth.

Several years ago, we sat in a room as excited parents who were expecting our first child. Nevertheless, that quickly changed when our doctor explained to us during an ultrasound, that we had lost him/her. We were both devastated, but both Jana and I took the grief differently. For me, our unborn child was always a possibility that never became a reality. For Jana, our unborn child was a life that had been lost. Jana took a week to grieve, mourn, and pray for the life that was never going to be.

Recently, several videos have been released on social media regarding Planned Parenthood’s disposal process of #TheUnborn.

The current controversy does not centralize around abortion clinics, women’s rights, or even the timing of the abortion. The crux of the issue revolves around what happens with the fetus/baby body after termination from the mother. Abortion views, religious beliefs, and political stances cannot ignore the fact that when a fetus is terminated, possible life is terminated.

So, here’s the question that I am currently wrestling with. Do/should I care about what happens to the remains of the #TheUnborn?

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases,” Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of communications, said in a statement, “Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, …… Ferrero added. “In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”

Believe me when I say that I understand the need for medical advancements and breakthroughs. In my life, I have had all of my grandparents pass away, my father die of cancer when I was a teenager, my first child being lost through a miscarriage, and the only daughter I have being diagnosed with Down syndrome. I am an advocate for medical discoveries and development. However, is it okay for our society to advance their research by using the unborn? The medical community and our society would say, absolutely yes! Mr. Ferrero was even able to draw positive correlations between patients donating tissue and fetuses that benefit from that research. But of course, there is one major difference. When someone makes a choice to donate their organs, they are making that choice. The unborn, however, have no choice, because they are simply unwanted and discarded.

Should a woman have the choice to terminate their pregnancy? That is not the question that troubles me regarding this issue. What bothers me is that doctors will alter abortion techniques to get the best viable specimen for research. I have benefited from a vaccination that was originally developed through aborted fetus tissue. And in the future, my life might be saved through aborted fetus/baby medical breakthroughs. But when we support the process described by Mr. Ferrero, we are selfishly benefiting from the aborted while stripping their rights to life.

Choosing to have an abortion is a difficult decision. I cannot imagine the agony that is involved when making that choice. But, an abortion does end a possible life. Should we then take that unwanted life and use it for our own benefit? Should we be using a loss of life, which never had a voice, to advance our medical society? We state this is a great thing because the bodies of the aborted can be used to benefit our society. We can justify, we can cure, we can advance medically, but remember, someone we deemed unwanted in this world, contributed to your “greater good”. Like most things in life, there are things/people we forfeit for the betterment of our future.

Unfortunately, the sacrifices we are using are precious lives that never took their first breaths, but were deemed “useful” for you to live a longer life .  .  .  .
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Everything Else is Second

Hello Readers and Welcome New Visitors,

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  Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

           This summer while traveling, we had the opportunity to share at Poplar Spring Church in King, NC. Poplar Springs was the church that I grew up in, and was the place that had ordained me into ministry.  It is always a pleasure to go back and share about the things that God has been teaching us while living in Bangkok.  This year, my message firstly focused on building a relationship with God, and then secondly, building relationships with others.  While I was preparing the message, Jana hit me with a question that I had not considered while looking at this passage.

Jana said, “I have never noticed that at the end of this passage that Jesus states, ‘the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these commandments.” As we continued discussing her insight, we quickly realized that Jesus was telling us that everything that we deem important is second to this great commandment.

The idea that everything came second opened my mind to the fact that no matter how passionate I might be about a particular issue or ritual, if I am not loving God and loving other people, nothing matters. This problem was considerably noticeable to us as we traveled and watched the news media while visiting family and friends. It appears as if we have become so passionate about certain issues we deem as “sin”, that we forget that God commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus did not say to love your friends, or love people who think like you, or love people who act like you, or even love people who live like you; He simply said to, “Love our neighbor.”

          As I was speaking at Poplar Springs, I was reminded that I am more receptive to input from people whom I have a relationship with.  If certain people who I cherish as personal friends speak truth into my life, then I listen. No matter what that truth might be, I am open to receiving it. But, we are not using the same practice with our neighbors because we are not building relationships with them. Instead of building a relationship first, we want to state our agenda, hammer a person with our Christian truth while exposing their sin, and then start building a relationship with that person.  Why are we shocked when people state that their impression of Christianity is judgmental?  I do not believe that is the prominent example Jesus gave us throughout the New Testament.

Let me close by saying that I believe in truth and the Bible as the Word of God.  I am also quick to judge others instead of focusing on relationships.  But, this approach is not the one we are shown in John 8.  Too often we want to ask who the sinner was, and what their consequence came to be.

Maybe instead, we should start focusing on Jesus’s answer to not be so concerned with pointing fingers at other people’s sin and instead let Jesus work in that person’s life:

John 8:2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.” Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   . . . .

Jack Barr, Author

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Congrats To Author, Jack Barr For Making It Into “The Readers Favorite” Book Award Contest!

Hello Readers and Friends,
I’m sharing a wonderful Guest Spotlight that was kindly done by “Lyon Book & Social Media Promotions” of some exciting news and new book review by Readers Favorite. Come on over and visit.
*Jack Barr*

Cat Lyon's Reading & Writing Den

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I so enjoy sharing author news and updates about my author friends. And Jack, Jana and Marley Barr are no exception! I have had the honor of book promoting for Jack and the Barr family for quite some time now, and I’m very happy about this little project of his. He had asked me to research and find out more about a great place for authors and writers to submit their new books and novels for awards to an awesome ‘International Book Awards Website’ called  Readers Favorite’ . . .  So we did.

Well, not only did he get a fabulous 4 star book review, and now he has made it to the next round of their current 2015  book awards contest! Now I knew he would make the entry as I have read his fantastic memoir titled;
Failing at Fatherhood: a book for the imperfect father, which is available now on Amazon right here:

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Living in Second Place, But Finishing First.


By, Jack Barr


My students often tease me when I speak at school events because at some point during my talk, I always remind them that the only thing certain in life is that they will die one day.  Even alumni that I encounter years after their time at ICS will smile during our conversation and say, “I know, Mr. Jack, one day I will die”.  So why am I obsessed with reminding my students about their upcoming meeting with the Grim Reaper?  Because knowing that a final day is coming (soon or not), I believe, will change the way we approach every new morning that God grants us.

My father once told me that you could measure a person’s life by attending his or her funeral.  When you attend someone’s funeral, you do so because the deceased person has in one-way or another impacted your life.  There are certain people that have transformed my life in such a way that I would fly across the world to attend their funeral.  God used that person in a significant way to teach me, mold me, and love me.  But most importantly, that person sacrificed his or her time to build a relationship with me.  Sacrifice makes people significant.  Are we willing to sacrifice our time to love, care, and build relationships with the people God has placed before us?  When you die, will people be able to see the impact that you have made on them, so much so that they would travel around the world just to pay their final respects to you? Or will there be no one other than the “required” family members?

Last month, a young man that I coached, taught, and currently mentor, posted the following message on my Facebook page.  I share this message not to boast, but instead, to encourage you in the relationships you are building.  If we are not caring for the people God has placed in our lives, then we have to ask ourselves if we are truly glorifying His kingdom.  We spend so much time praying, attending church, and studying the Bible that we often neglect the greatest commandment that separates Christianity from all other religions.  “The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”


From the semester he sent endless emails to bring me to ICS during my freshman year of high school, to the day I graduated my senior year, Jack Barr was an incredible role model, mentor, and coach that challenged my life in many different aspects. These past few days, halfway across the world, he has inspired and transformed my life all over again, through his first book, Failing at Fatherhood. This book will make you face the deepest and darkest parts of your life, as Coach Jack dives into the most difficult times of his life with 100% honesty. Thank you for making your life vulnerable so we can learn something, and look into those parts of our own lives. Thank you for telling me I needed to get my crap together when I needed to get my crap together, encouraging me when I needed to be encouraged, and always being my friend regardless of what you were going through in your own life. You are an amazing man that many of your students, players, and peers try to emulate! I want to encourage everybody, whether you know Jack Barr personally or not, to buy his book, Failing at Fatherhood. I believe there is something for everybody in this book! Thank you Coach Jack, I will always appreciate your input in my life. . .

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I want the day I die to be a glorious celebration overflowing with people.  Not because of a popularity contest to see how many people would come, but because I want to know that I have lived a life that put others first, before my own personal desires.  As people stand around to say goodbye to me, there will be many stories shared about my failures, triumphs, and Southern accent.  But I hope one major theme is constant in their stories.  That Jack Barr Jr. took the time to build relationships because he loved his neighbor as he loved himself.

~ If we are not living that commandment, then we are living a great injustice to the title that our Heavenly Father gave us as true followers of Christ. ~

God Bless All,
Jack Barr, Author

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Thankfully, my mother slapped me!

Hello Friends, Readers and Welcome New Visitor,

“This week I chose to share a section of my book. We have a growing problem of non-existent childhood discipline in our society. Are we so concerned with being our child’s friend that we sacrifice the one thing they need most in life? Someone telling him or her “No!”

(Excerpt From Failing At Fatherhood)

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“Jack Jr., please turn the radio station back to where I had it,” was the only thing my mother said as she calmly kept her eyes on the road. I ignored her and looked out the window. I knew she was caught in a difficult position because she valued car safety, and would not risk taking her hands off the steering wheel to change the station. This was my day and this outdated woman needed to understand my newfound independence as an eighth grader. Then it happened quickly and suddenly while I was looking out the window. That terrible country music came blaring back across the speakers. I was shocked. Did something happen to “my” rap radio station?

As I turned back to look at the radio, I caught a glimpse of my mother’s hand going back to the steering wheel. She had actually done it. She had reached over and turned the station. I was furious. She had ruined my perfect plan and stolen the story I would share with my crew about how I had opposed my mother. I felt defeated and humiliated. I was in middle school and she needed to respect what I wanted to listen to and when I wanted to listen to it. Then it happened. I am not sure why it happened because I had been taught to never use profanity, but it transpired anyway. I looked at my mother with defiance and stated, “I don’t want to listen to this ****** ****** station!”

It came like a flash of lightning. Looking back now, I am not sure how she moved so quickly. My mother always seemed to be passive and methodical in everything she did, but not this time. She slapped me across the face with such vigor that the blow would have honored Muhammad Ali. My head went crashing into the window and I felt the sting of a thousand little bees attacking my face. The surprise of this woman striking me, who always passed on the punishment to my father, made it hurt even more. The tears and snot were gushing full stream, and the awkwardness of the radio station battle was insignificant compared to the waterfall of embarrassment I now felt. Slowly I looked back at her, and I could see the anger in her face as she was also crying. Quietly, like a silent whisper, she instructed me to never use the Lord’s name in vain around her again. The remainder of the trip consisted of me crying with my head against the window and my mother gripping the steering wheel like it was a wild animal.

Nothing else was ever said about the incident for the remainder of my childhood because the message had been delivered. Even now some twenty years later, when I ask my mother about it, she smiles and states she has no recollection of the incident. Maybe she does not remember the slap, or maybe she has chosen to forget it. Regardless, it has been etched in my memory as one of those events I will never forget. That morning I was ashamed of being whacked by my forty-year-old mother, but something else happened that I never admitted to anyone else. I gained a respect for my mother that I had never before experienced. My mother, the quiet, non-combative person in my life, did what needed to be done at that moment to correct my behavior. I deserved to be slapped for what I had said to her and she obliged me by slapping my face.

Sometimes as parents we have to do the one thing we hate for our children, correct their behavior.”

*Jack Barr, Author*

 

 

Being Cut From The Team.

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Growing up baseball was my first love. During elementary and middle school I played other sports, but baseball was the sport I dreamed of playing professionally. Cal Ripken Jr. was my hero, and I envisioned taking over shortstop one day for the Baltimore Orioles. So, I believed that the first day of baseball tryout’s my freshmen year was just a formality. After two days of tryout’s, the coach told me I was cut. Not only did I not make the varsity team, but I also did not make the junior varsity team.  How could any reasonable coach cut me?

When my dad got home that day, he wanted an update on tryout’s. Through tears of embarrassment I told him that I had been cut from both teams. He told me that we would talk the next day about our next step regarding my baseball future. I told him I was never playing baseball again, and he said we would talk in the morning. The first thing he asked me the next morning was did I want to play college baseball? I said of course, but I could not even make the high school team. He then shared with me a plan to accomplish that goal. He went through the plan that involved giving up other sports, changing positions, throwing every day, and attending a pitching clinic.

Over the next three years I became an all conference pitcher and earned a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. My father did not give up on me; my father did not complain to the coach that cut me, instead he developed a plan for us to pursue my dream together.

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Over the past few years we have received mostly positive updates on Marley’s development. Unfortunately this has caused us to become a little lax with her home therapy program. This was pointed out to us recently when Marley received her annual neurodevelopment evaluation. We received a discouraging report and that “cut feeling” crept into my mind as I heard; “Sorry, but your daughter is not doing well in these areas.”

Honestly, I had always viewed Marley as a Down Syndrome Super Star until that moment. I think we all view our children as stars at some point, but the therapist’s reality update helped us recognize that Marley was not making the cut. So what did we do?  We realized this was the “cut moment” we needed as parents, and started making a Marley Plan.

Before I was jealous when someone would proclaim, “I have never been cut from anything in my life!” Now, I am thankful for being cut from my high school baseball team, because I experienced a life-changing event that strengthened my relationship with my father and prepared me for life.  At the time I hated not making the team, but now I know it has benefited me as a husband, a father, and a person. There will be days that Marley gets “cut from the team”, but we will use those moments to teach, inspire, and love our little girl.

 

Jack Barr, Author of Failing at Fatherhood
http://www.amazon.com/Failing-Fatherhood-book-imperfect-father-ebook/dp/B00OSSQDGA

Tobacco, Dad, & God . . .

 

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”  – Martin Luther

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There are very few things in my life that I hate more than priming1 tobacco. My father introduced me to this dreadful scene of exhausting labor at the age of ten, and I was finally able to escape from it only eight years later when I left for college.  Getting up every morning at 5:00am during tobacco season was not due to my household’s urgency for extra income, but instead, for the appeasement of my father’s belief that manual labor was a necessity for a young boy’s life.
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My father primed tobacco when he was my age, so that meant that I was going to prime tobacco.  In fact, the little money that I did make every Saturday was subjected to taxes since my father worked for the Internal Revenue Service. How lucky was I to get to pick sappy leaves in the hot sun for six hours most Saturdays, and have my minimum wage further reduced by taxes! What more could a fifteen year-old boy want out of his life?

Tobacco farmers want fast workers because the faster you pick, the faster they can cover other fields that need priming.  The way the system works is that while farmers drive a tractor down the middle of the field, several eager pickers would work to pick leaves from the bottom of each tobacco plant (leaves at the bottom have ripened).  After many weeks, I had learned that if I picked fewer leaves off of each tobacco plant, then I would be able to move just as fast as the other veteran pickers.  Before long, I started being praised for keeping up with the best-of-the-best primers even though I was skipping leaves as I went along. Throughout my entire tobacco-priming career, I was more concerned about the outcome than the actual practice of doing the job to the best of my ability.
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Looking back, I often find myself living my faith in the same way. I constantly look for shortcuts, quick fixes, and advantages to produce a product for Christ.  The quote I used to open this post adequately describes my approach to ministry.  Do as much as I can and stamp it with a Christian label to please God.  But does it really please God when I proudly proclaim for Him to, “See everything that I have done for the Kingdom of God?” It is not about us or how much we can do, but how much we are willing to mold to God’s desire and truly give our everything to any calling He sets before us.

As I close and think about the temptation to do things half-heartedly in my life, I am reminded of the quality versus quantity debate. Why do we desire a handmade piece of furniture over a factory-made piece?  Because we know someone has intentionally invested his or her time to make that piece of furniture pleasing and personal to us. They have given it there all. In the same way, that is how we should approach our ministry — with the desire to pour out everything we have to the best of our ability.  This does not mean to juggle numerous activities in order to boast about our accomplishments later on, but instead, to centralize our focus on the quality of our service and humbly sacrificing that “everything” we have when God calls upon us.

Jack Barr, Author of Failing at Fatherhood
A Mom’s Choice Award Book Winner
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Footnotes: 1(Priming tobacco is the process of walking down rows of tobacco and picking the ripe leaves off the bottom).