Saturday, October 12, 2019

What Are You Trying To Grow?

"Nobody is too busy . . . it's just a matter of priorities."

There's few things in life that challenge me more than my schedule.  I'm not alone.  I know many people with that same issue.  I've been doing better at it over the last several months by using the bullet journal and keeping track of where my time goes--where I'm spending too much, and where I'm not spending enough.

I was talking to a friend of mine a couple weeks ago, and he said something interesting.  He gardens, and he spends a lot of time in his garden.  He said when it comes to gardening the key question is, what do you want to grow?  Once you decide what you want to grow, you figure out how much space you'll need, and how much time you're going to have to care for the garden--it's easy to plant a garden, it's far more difficult to tend it.  He said first time gardeners always make the same mistake--they plant a garden way larger than they have the time or the desire to care for. 

You have to make sure the plants you put in your garden .have everything they need to thrive, and watch for things that threaten their health.  It takes a lot of effort.  He pointed out that gardening isn't about just growing plants, it's about growing certain plants.  A big part of gardening is making sure the weeds don't take over.  Even the best gardener with the best garden have to watch out for the weeds.  If you're not paying close attention, or you take a few days off from the garden, those weeds can quickly threaten the plants you're trying to encourage to grow.

He said he looks at time the same way.  What do I want to grow?

He wants enough time for his work so that he's not rushed all the time.  He wants time for his family.  He wants time for his church.  And he wants time for his garden.  That's his crop.  It's a very small garden, but that's all he grows in it, and he's able to meticulously maintain that garden.

He's cut his life down to just a few things that are most important to him.  Everything he does goes towards nurturing one of those goals.  He's careful about the weeds in that garden--the distractions that can suck the life out of the things he's trying to grow.  He said when he lets his guard down and those distractions take root he spends all his time weeding them out again, and has little time left to fertilize his crop.  I think we've all been there--trying to weed a garden that has gotten far too large to be manageable, as the things we value most wither on the vine. 

It's an inspired way to look at time.  Too many of us, myself included, want to try a grow a little bit of everything, and in the end, we have so many plants we're tending, we're lucky in the end if we find even a few tomatoes among the weeds that have taken over.

So the question is, what do you really want to grow?

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Why I Go To Church

I didn't come from a family of church goers.  I found God through my best friend Jim growing up--his family were believers, and they didn't miss church.  I'd often spend the night there on Saturday nights, and you can bet we all went to church on Sunday morning.  Without fail.  And I liked it.  It was my first exposure to God, the Holy Bible, and the church.  And it was then that I became a lifelong student of the Bible, and a believer.  After six or seven years of tagging along to church with my friend's family, one Sunday morning when the call went out, I stepped forward.  My friend Jim's father baptized me that Sunday--that was about 35 years ago and in many ways the beginning of my life.

I continued to attend that little church until I enlisted, and after I was done with Uncle Sam, I joined a larger church and worshiped there for many years--I was in the choir, played the piano, attended Bible study, and even taught Sunday school when somebody was out sick.  Since then I've attended a number of churches, but I haven't really found a church home since I left my last church.  I've been looking for a traditional church--a good preacher, and a good weekly message.  And a congregation full of good caring Christian believers.  And if I decide to wear a shirt and tie on Sunday morning like I'm accustomed to, I don't feel like I'm grossly overdressed.  And I don't need a concert or a show on Sunday mornings, and that's what many churches seem to offer--I'm not saying that's right or wrong, it just doesn't work for me.  I was beginning to think the kind of church I was looking for no longer existed.

Several months ago, I decided to attend a church I'd known about for years--not ten minutes from my house.  Growing up I'd spent a lot of time in that church because that was home to my Cub Scout/Boy Scout Troop.  For some reason I'd never thought about going to church there.  I should have.  I've been going every Sunday, and I like that congregation.  It's traditional.  Good sermon.  Good piano player.  And I know every song in the hymnal.  And wearing a tie, while it isn't mandatory, certainly isn't out of place either.

So why do I think going to church is important?  I'll give you just three reasons (there's many more).

To Hear The Word

It's not enough to read the Bible--it's important to learn what it means.  A good preacher or pastor can do that.  That's the job.  Learn the Bible, and teach others how to apply the words to their life.  Explain the lessons that the stories in the Bible are meant to teach.  To help illuminate God's plan for our lives.

Iron Sharpens Iron

When you worship with others who share your beliefs, you learn from each other.  You give some to others and you get some from others.  Through our shared experience we find mentors--Christians who have been down the path you're on many years earlier.  We grow stronger together.  God did not intend for us to worship alone, nor did He mean for us to travel down life's path alone.

It Is What Jesus Did

It was the habit of Jesus to go to the temple, where he often preached.  Luke 14:6 says, "Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he’d been brought up and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath."  It was the custom of Jesus to go to the local place of worship, and to observe the Sabbath.  As followers of Christ, we should do as Christ did, and go to the place of worship and worship with other believers.  Jesus said himself in Mathew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them."

There are a lot of good reasons to go to church and worship together, and a lot of it has to do with fellowship.  God meant for us to be together in worship--reading your Bible is great and watching a television preacher is sometimes inspirational as well, but to really live in the way we were intended to live, we should do that together with people that share our beliefs.

Like a friend of mine said recently, "watching a television preacher and saying you've been to church for the week,is like bragging about how many Facebook friends you have.  You don't make lifelong friends "liking" pictures of somebody's dog on social media, and you don't find the fullness of God's plan for your life watching a 20-year-old rerun of a Billy Graham crusade on television."

So this Sunday, think about going to church.  Perhaps you haven't been for a long time.  Maybe you've never been to church.  Maybe you don't even have a church.  Find a good Bible-based church, and just walk right in.  There's a good chance you'll find more there than you think.

~Todd E. Creason

(originally published 11/29/18)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A New Mission And A New Blog

I've made a major decision over the last year.  I'm almost to retirement.  My long-time friends and co-workers are dropping out rapidly--skipping off to that often dreamed of land of retirement they've worked so hard to get to.  I've thought about that a lot as well--it's what gets us through some of those rough patches in our careers, knowing that eventually, if we work hard there's a time coming when we'll be able to relax and enjoy "the good life."

Much to my own amazement, I've decided over the last year or so that's not what I want to do.  Instead of retiring, I'm going to start a brand new chapter.  I've decided to dedicate my remaining years to God's mission here on Earth.

It's something I've considered at various points in my life since I became a Christian thirty-five years ago.  Each time in the past, I realized at some point that I was pursuing the idea for the wrong reasons.  This time is very different--I feel as if the decision has already been made, and instead of trying to find reasons why I should do it, I've been scrambling over the last year to find excuses why I shouldn't do it--or more accurately, why I couldn't do it.  And all the excuses I've found so far have been pretty poor.

So to my friends, enjoy your retirement!  You've earned it, but it's not for me--at least not quite yet.  I start my seminary classes at the Urbana Theological Seminary in the spring, and am awaiting approval to begin a program that provides additional ministerial training and support through the American Baptist Churches.  If all goes well, I'll have all the necessary education, training, and experience necessary to begin this new mission by the time I retire from my professional career.  I have no idea what form my ministry will take.  It may be a writing ministry, or a music ministry.  It could even be a missionary ministry.  I may even pastor a church one day--that program through the American Baptist Church will prepare me for that possibility.  In the end, I know that God will show me what He wants me to do when I get there.

What I intend to do with this blog is share good news.  All we see in the media is bad news, and it tends to paint an unrealistic picture of the world we live in.  There is tragedy in this world we live in, but there is a lot of good also if you look for it.  I plan to post twice a week on Tuesdays and on Saturdays.  Short pieces that I hope give you something you can use--it may be an original piece, or an inspiring link, quote, some music, or a story of hope and faith.  As I get more involved in my studies, I plan to share some of the things I'm learning as I go along as well.

It's a pretty simple idea behind The Good Life blog.  I hope you enjoy it.  I think you will.

~Todd E. Creason

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Relaunch: A New Chapter Begins!

The address has been around a long time.  It's been the "From Labor To Refreshment" blog for about seven years now.  But this blog's real claim to fame was that this was the original address of the Midnight Freemason Blog--back when it was singular.  Just me, writing late at night and posting three times a week from 2007 - 2012.  That's right, I'm the Midnight Freemason, and that title has nothing to do with Freemasonry at all regardless of the rampant speculation over the years.  It simply got its name because I stay up really late at night, and a friend of mine once said that when he got an email or a text message after midnight, he knew it was me . . . that's where it came from. 

In 2012, I asked a few friends to join me, and we became a group of Masons writing on topics of interest for Masons and those interested in the topic of Masonry, and the Midnight Freemason became the Midnight Freemasons (plural).  And we moved to where our combines writing has attracted a huge following and become one the most read blogs in the Masonry. 

I've never really figured out what to do with this blog since 2012 when the Midnight Freemasons moved out, and I've tried a number of things.  I even considered deleting it.  I don't really need two Masonic themed blogs.  Recently, I've finally figured out what to do with it.  The transition has already started, and beginning in a week or two, this old blog is going to be relaunched yet again as something brand new.

Something motivational.  Something inspirational.  Something I hope you can use. 

I think you're going to like it.  Just wait and see.