Monday, January 25, 2021

Jesus Needs Donkeys, Not Horses

Donkeys are ordinary, awkward creatures.  They are normally used in many parts of Africa as pack animals, for carrying or pulling things.  They are sometimes kept as calming companions for nervous horses.

While often perceived as stubborn, donkeys will freeze when they are scared.  They prefer to plant their feet to analyze a situation rather than run in a panic.  I can't tell you how many times I've been driving in Africa only to come across a donkey standing completely still in the middle of the road.  Instead of being this being stubbornness, donkeys show a limited reaction to fear, sickness, or pain.  

If I had to choose between being a donkey or a horse, after all I've seen on how donkeys are treated, I would want to be a horse.  Horses are considered to be "magnificent" and "stately" and "elegant."  Horses are admired, well-kept, and seem to be treated with great love.

But did you know that donkeys are very intelligent with a great memory for routes?  They are also described as "fiercely loyal" to those they trust.  They are described as "smart, personable, and affectionate."  

They are less flighty than horses and eat a lot less, so more economical as well!

Beyond which animal I would want to be, which would I choose to ride?  Probably the horse still.  It is taller, giving more of a view.

But Jesus selected to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a horse.  Why might this be?

Theologians say that this is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, but that doesn't tell us why. a donkey is selected.  

When we dig a bit deeper we realize that the donkey is an animal associated with peace, while horses are associated with war throughout Scripture.  Kings ride horses, the common person uses a donkey.  Jesus came for the common person and spent most of his life around common people.  

The donkey was also used in agriculture and trade, not the horse.  Jesus spent the majority of his adult life in business and trade.  He would have been much more familiar with donkeys than horses.

Too often I want to be a horse.  I care more about power in a battle than humility of service.

Too often, like a horse, I want to carry important people rather than carry stuff.

Too often I focus on the wrong things - the outward appearance rather than the inner attributes of loyalty and intelligence.  

Too often I look down on donkeys and interpret their quite stillness as stubbornness rather than recognizing the truth of fear and what is going on beneath the surface. 

Too often I am more concerned with how I am treated than with being sure that I am serving with humility.

Lord, I yield to your invitation to be one of your donkeys, to embrace being unimpressive.

1 Corinthians 12: 9-11:  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Story of Two Nurses and Two Pastors

I've been thoroughly enjoying a book called Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. In fact, I like it so much that DML is going to use this book for our next book club book!

They tell a story of two nurses and two pastors.

One nurse goes to her pastor with laments over work and theological questions about illness and death.  Pastor tries to answer, faltering a bit as he’s never worked in the health field.  He gives her a book on faith and work, and looks up another on theology and health care.  Then he tells her about a faith and work Bible study that she can attend and bring fellow nurses to.

Second nurse goes to her pastor (a different one) who makes no attempt to teach about
faith, work, or health care.  This pastor listens and asks questions about the nurse’s work and workplace joys and heartbreaks.  Then asks if he can meet with her and five other nurses from congregation for lunch at the hospital, and asks even more questions about their work – victories, failures, challenges and frustrations, prayers for their colleagues, doctors, and patients.  The pastor takes notes, commends them, prayers for them, and then invites them to worship on Sunday morning rather than to a class.  That Sunday, the pastor asks the nurses to come forward.  Elders lay hands on them and the pastor prays a prayer that has been specifically composed for them.  Following the prayer the congregation stands and commissions the nurses.  The pastor sends out the nurses with a blessing and a charge for their ministry to their patients.

In the first scenario, the church is understood as a place you go for theological answers.  It is a place of theological training.  In the second interaction, the church is a place where workers can carry out their questions, pains, and praises to God in community.  It may not always have the answers, but it can provide a set of practices and fellow workers who can bear the weight of work together, week after week.

These authors talk about how the integration of faith and work is not an intellectual concept that one has to grasp - rather it is more like a craft or a skill that needs to be practiced and honed.  The integrated life of faith and work is not an intellectual achievement or a theological discovery.  It is a cloth that has been torn into pieces and needs to be intentionally woven back together.  It is a habit to be practiced.

These are the words to which my heart cries "Yes" and "Amen."  There are many books on the theology of work, which is good!  So much discussion about business as mission, which is also good!  But there is so little practical application for the nurse, or the factory worker, or the gas station attendant, or the receptionist for how to live this out on a daily basis.

Realizing that much of our formal worship when we are gathered - our preaching, our songs, our prayers - have very little to do with how we spend most of our week makes us long to find intentional ways to weave this together.  Because much of our worship when we are gathered is passive (consisting of reclining, listening, and absorbing) rather than active, our "liturgical muscles" are weak and can atrophy.  That makes it difficult to carry the worship forward to Monday, let alone know how to weave it into our daily challenges and opportunities.

Realizing how ill equipped our members are to know how to weave our work and worship together is still a challenge that we face as the global church.  

This past week, we hosted a meeting with some of the Business as Mission Global Congress folks on how to integrate the Church into the Business as Mission movement.  For the most part, this exciting movement has done great things with Christian business owners but has done the work outside the church.  I was disappointed with the turnout for this meeting as well as the lack of clarity on how to move this forward, but we are going to keep trying.  Please pray along with us for this!

And at the same time, DML is writing a series of five booklets moving from the theological to the practical.  This month, I am writing the booklet on Living out the Quadruple Bottom Line.  We are trying to weave together the practices of work and worship for every Christian in their workplace.  If you would continue to pray that these writings may be God-breathed, we would appreciate it!

As you go into your work this day and this week, may God give you eyes to see how your work is an act of worship!  And if you have stories to tell me of how you make this happen, I would love to hear from you!  Please email me at  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Stimulus Check in Your Account?

A couple of days ago, our stimulus check arrived in our account.

In the months leading up to this second round, I kept hoping they would only give stimulus checks to those who are actually negatively affected financially by COVID-19, by funneling the money into unemployment, struggling businesses, restaurants, etc.  Many of us who have received checks did not need them.

Let me clarify - when I teach budgeting, I ask people to differentiate between "needs, wants, and desires."  We always can use more money.  Even Rockefeller said, when asked how much is enough, "Just one more dollar."  There are always house projects, there are personal improvement goals, there are student debts for our children, there are many things that are good.

But need?  Not for a lot of us.  If we have not been negatively affected by COVID-19 financially, then there should not be a need.  Do we have wants?  Yes, many!  Do we have desires?  Yes!  

But needs?  Not if we have the basics food, shelter, transport, water, electricity, clothing, safety and so on.  

So what to do now?  We weren't asked if we wanted the money (how I wish they had!).

That is what I've been wondering.  Michael and I donated our stimulus checks in the spring to the COVID work of DML in Africa.  A number of you joined us!  Our teams have been doing amazing sustainability projects with them in terms of mushroom farming, pig farming, goat farming, "Joseph projects" for storing grain, and so on.  If you would like to give your stimulus check to that, please click here and know that it will be well used and be a blessing for years to come!

Or maybe you know of someone in the US who has been negatively affected and won't receive a check because they are a refugee or here on a visa.  Send it to them directly or give it to the Africa Resource Center of West Michigan.  The director, Dr. Bernard Ayoola, sits on the board of DML and does excellent work with African refugees.

Or maybe you know of a small business owner who has had to restrict hours.  Or maybe you have a favorite restaurant who has only been able to do delivery or curb-side service.  Give it to them.

Or maybe you know of someone who lost a loved one to COVID and could use a gift to encourage them or support them or comfort them.  Give it to them.

There is a great temptation when money is dumped in our account (without the option of saying yes or no) to just "use it up," to establish new "needs" in our lives.  But I believe that we are called to such a time as this to think of those who are hurting among us and love our neighbor (Matthew 22).  

Who is your neighbor at such a time as this?  

I encourage you to prayerfully consider who God might be nudging you to bless.  We are blessed to be a blessing, and we serve an equipping God.  Wealth is a renewable resource.  Let's give with joy.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Reed Family Updates 2021

He finally asked...and she said yes!

My son Noah has been dating Hannah Birmingham for five and a half years in what could be described as a sweet and loving courtship of two best friends.  On Saturday, January 2, Noah asked Hannah to marry him, and she said yes!

A little bit about Noah's Hannah:  Hannah Birmingham is the first born of four children to Barry and Bev Birmingham.  Her parents were  school teachers internationally and because of that, Hannah grew up in Turkey and South Korea.  Her parents have since returned to the US and have settled in Texas.  

Noah and Hannah met at Calvin University, as they were both majoring in International Relations.  Because of their international experience, their passion for social justice, and desire to make a difference in the world, they hit it off pretty quickly.  Hannah currently works at International Justice Ministry and Noah works as a background investigator in Washington DC.  We are really hoping that they will move back to Grand Rapids in the near future!

Below are a few more pictures of the happy couple.

On a more troubling note, my 91 year old father has contracted COVID, after avoiding it a number of times on his floor in Holland Christian Homes in Brampton, Ontario.  On his wing, there have been 10 COVID deaths, and thirty staff who have contracted COVID.  At one point, my dad was one of only four patients who had not contracted COVID.  The building he is in has been taken over by a nearby hospital.  No-one has been able to visit my dad since March.  He was put on oxygen yesterday but he continues to be physically very strong so we believe he will pull through this!  We do ask for prayer not only for him but for all the frontline workers who continue to contract COVID and continue to care for these elderly and sick patients.

2015 - Those youngsters!

2019 - In Arizona - still cool with the shades!

We have been able to have them hang out with us for the past three weeks, which we know is a gift because of COVID!

Making Christmas cookies with sister Hannah and her boyfriend, Matt (both appearing in masks).

Welcome, Hannah Birmingham, to the Reed-Thomson family!  We are happy to have you join us!