How American Workers are Redeeming Their Employers from Rigor Mortis

In the last two weeks I have been clubbed into a senseless stupor by the lifeless policies and procedures of 2 large American companies, only to be revived by acts of genuine and personal helpfulness of the employees of those companies. Here are my stories.

Story 1 – Lowes

I ordered some cabinetry online for pickup at my local Lowes. Typically I would just go to the store and pick them up, but since not every piece was in stock at any one location it was easier to select product online based on availability and schedule a pickup. The Ozark location sent me an email within a couple of hours telling me that their portion was ready for pickup, and since I had to go to a job site near the Springfield location I hoped that order would be ready soon as well. After my job site visit I pulled into the Springfield Lowes and asked if their portion of the order happened to be ready, where I was informed that if I hadn’t received a text or email they couldn’t tell me anything.

“Could I just go back there and see if they are pulling my order?” I asked.

“Well, it looks like they’re pulling the order, so maybe just come back in thirty minutes.” The girl said in a tone that would not inspire a priest to pray.

I was about to give in to her suggestion, and then I thought to myself, “I’m here, and they’re pulling my order, so why don’t I just go find them?” Which I proceeded to do. After wandering around a bit I found 2 carts with what looked like my stuff sitting in the back by lumber, and everything was there. All 10 pieces were on carts ready to go. My name was on them. Hurrah! But I didn’t know what exactly to do with them at this point. Drag them up to the Customer Service area and say, “Hey, here they are. Can I go now?” Seemed a little pushy.

There were a couple younger guys back there in lumber, so I asked them if I could take my order.

“We can’t let you have the order until customer service releases it.”

“How do I get customer service to release it?”

“The person who pulled the order has to tell them it’s been pulled.”

“Where’s that guy and how do I get him to tell customer service it’s pulled?”

To make a long story short, no one had ever told the guy who pulled the order how to close out the order on his handheld electric device, so he just pulled my order and walked away. Maybe he finished hours before. Maybe my stuff would sit there until the next day when someone stubbed their toe on it. Hard to say. So there was my stuff, and I had paid for it, but I wasn’t allowed to take it.

The two young guys looked at me and I looked at them. “What should we do?” I asked. They looked at each other and back at me.

It was a standoff.

But they were up to the task. What they didn’t have in authority or experience they made up in energy and common sense. They looked up every person who was logged in on “active duty” until they finally found someone who answered the phone and knew how to release my order. They told that person to meet us at the front desk. Then those two guys went out to my trailer with me and loaded it. They weren’t managers, assistant managers, or for all I know well paid. But instead of shrugging their shoulders and telling me to go back to customer service, they just worked to fix the situation. My faith in the next generation received a stiff shot of the old back straightener. Perhaps we will survive another generation.

Story 2 – Home Depot

A couple of weeks ago I went to Home Depot and found a fridge I liked. The man working at the appliance desk told me that I was better off to order it online and have it shipped to me as it was a new product and their system hadn’t really adjusted to it yet. So I did that, and in my hurry to place the order I simply hit ok when the “We didn’t find your address, but we found this address that is a close match” dialog box popped up. I confirmed the right street address so just assumed their system wanted me to type out “Street” instead of St or something like that. What I failed to notice is that it had changed the zip code on the delivery address.

Fast forward two weeks to a couple days before the fridge was scheduled to be delivered and I received a call from the delivery company. They told me they could not find a matching street address with the zip code that was on it but had found a matching address at a different zip code, which happened to be the correct one. I laughed and confirmed my zip code (how young and naive I was! Oh to return to the flower of you when hope bloomed that such ordinary miscommunications and errors could be solved with two people talking), only to be told that I would need to get Home Depot to change the zip code in their system. They were very nice but explained that their contract with HD was very specific and they would get in trouble if they delivered to a different zip code. Totally understandable…no problem…how hard can it be to get a zip code changed?

Rather than spend time on the phone, I decided to go to the store. You see, I had learned from my Lowes experience that it takes a person to actually accomplish anything. I spoke with Edwin at appliances and he was very helpful, assured me that he would alert the online order people and they would get the zip code changed that day. I even received a call a few minutes later from the shipping folks (again, very friendly and helpful people) who told me that Edwin had called them and told them to deliver it and that he had sent the change request to the online order people. Problem solved and it wasn’t even 8AM yet.

4PM hits and I get a call from the delivery people telling me that the online order folks had DENIED the zip code change request. There was nothing they could do unless I could call and get someone to change it and that even though the delivery date was a Saturday, she would come in and check to see if the order had been updated and if it had she would still deliver the fridge.

After about 4 unsuccessful attempts with the the “dial 1 for this or 2 for that” system, I hit enough buttons and screamed into the phone enough times to get a human being on the line. A really nice lady whose name started with an R. Was it Rachel? I don’t know, but she was great. At this point in the day I was underneath a house in the crawl space re-routing the washing machine drain pipe, so I had her on speaker and had to kind of yell as my body was in a lot of awkward and painful positions (there was about a 22″ clearance down there and I’m not quite as svelte as I used to be). I explained the whole situation…right address but wrong street code…two blocks away….fridge was 15 minutes away in a warehouse and shipper WANTED to deliver it to me…can we find a reasonable conclusion to this ordeal?

We spent 45 minutes together on the phone. She ended up being a virtual dinner guest for a few minutes with our family. After multiple times on hold, the bubbly optimism which characterized the beginning of our customer service relationship had given way to a soft anxiety. The joy was gone like a romance that bloomed in May but died in June. You see, not only had the request to change the zip code been DENIED by her supervisor, but she had actually been reprimanded for trying to change the zip code herself. How dare a customer service representative try to HELP THE CUSTOMER!!

“So what am I supposed to do?” I asked.

“You’ll have to cancel the order and place a new one,” was her muted response. I could practically hear the HD Hoover in the background as it sucked out yet another piece of her soul.

So I went and bought the fridge at Lowes, put it in my trailer, and hauled it home.


So here’s my very amateur take on the state of large corporations in America. Technology is great. I love when my life is simplified and my time is saved through technology. Processes are great. We all need processes to keep profits where they need to be because we all need to make money. But technology and processes are not your greatest resource. Human beings are your greatest resource. You company will boom or bust based on your people. Your people are keeping your customers coming back. Stop trying to suck the soul out of your employees.

1 Dimensional Problem Solving

Several years ago – during my electrician days – I wired a house. For some reason I returned a week or two later, probably to add something or make a change at the request of the home owner, when I happened to notice where the HVAC guy had installed his return air duct. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so I grabbed a ladder and went into the attic to investigate, where I found the wire I had run for the dryer simply cut in pieces. In order to solve his problem of wanting to put a return air vent in that spot, he just got rid of the wire that was already there. I call this 1 dimensional problem solving. Sure, it fixes the presenting problem, but it ignores anything outside of that narrow focus.

pen on paper

There are some problems that require a simple solution. Maybe the sink will stop leaking if you just tighten the nut up a little more. Maybe you’ll get out of bed on time if you move your alarm device (it used to be a clock but now soon it will just be the floating ephemeral head of Zuckerburg yelling at you) across the room. But then there are problems that incorporate more than 1 dimension. Perhaps knocking down that wall between your dining room and kitchen will solve your space problem. But perhaps it is a load bearing wall. Uh Oh.

A complex problem may require a simple solution, but that simple solution needs to actually fix the problem without causing other problems. I bring this up because when we hear people propose solutions to problems, we often hear a one dimensional approach. As soon as Covid-19 began spreading and impacting our nation, everyone should have realized that there are (at least) 2 axes in the problem solving graph. There is, of course, the problem of death and sickness and hospitalizations all brought about by the virus. But secondarily, there is the issue of government policy/authority. Anyone who wants to approach the issue one dimensionally will be – at minimum- annoying. On the one hand, you’ll get the rich actors and actresses who send out videos encouraging everyone to just stay home and flatten the curve and mask up ….from the comfort of their ridiculously large mansion (which has a far great carbon footprint, BTW, then the average American’s house) where they are sitting back and counting their money like Scrooge McDuck. Or they could become that person that thinks that every action of the government is a curtailing of liberty to be defied at all costs. Either way, the conversation will becoming increasingly polarized and summed up by memes or tweets. If you are able to keep both axes in mind, you can have intelligent conversations (even with those with whom you disagree) where the various risks and side-effects are discussed.

But we could really take this a step further and talk about a third dimension that exists every time you try to solve a problem that involves human beings, because humans respond in real time. Check out the first couple minutes of Thomas Sowell responding to AOC’s “tax the rich strategy”.

What Sowell understands that AOC doesn’t is that “human beings are not like inert blocks of wood or chess pieces that you can move around the board.” Does anyone in their right mind really think that if Nancy Pelosi were to spearhead an effort to pass a 65% tax on the super-rich that she would pay anything close to that at the end of the year? Rich people didn’t get rich by being stupid with their money.

Recently I received a little post-card in the mail from a gentleman running for office in my district. He seems like a decent man and is generally well respected. On the back of this post-card he had a list of priorities that he would address, and among others there were things like poverty and education. Well, who is running on the pro-poverty ticket? Who is running on the bad education ticket? These are obviously things that any moderately decent person would be against. But the first question that came to my mind is not whether he cared about those issues, but what exactly he thought he do as a Congressman to address them?

The reason I tend not to vote against men like this is because their solutions are one dimensional. Set some new educational standards and teachers learn to teach to the test so that their students are just as ignorant of history as ever but very adept at filling in circles. Pass prison reform and drug addicts learn how long it to takes to pass a pee test and begin scheduling their highs so that they can pass drug court and avoid jail. That isn’t to say that government doesn’t have a role to play in a society, but it does betray my frustration with the idea that some new legislation is going to fix the problem of a lack of virtue or the collapse of the family. Especially since those espousing such solutions tend to exacerbate the underlying conditions that led to those problems. That is not “loving my neighbor”.

There are some genuine social issues that exist between conservatives and liberals that are clearly in conflict, such as abortion. But I don’t know of a single conservative who wants more poverty or worse education. So why can’t we get together on issues like this and make some progress? Often the answer lies in the fact that conservatives tend to think that a government response is the most inefficient kind of solution possible.

However, if this attitude is adopted as a way to avoid actually helping one’s fellow man it is cause for shame. If I say that the Government has done a terrible disservice by creating a welfare state that positively encourages poor decision making and poverty, am I willing to actively engage in ways to improve my community and benefit my neighbor through other means? If I believe that the benefits offered by neighbors, churches, family, and community are far better solutions that political ones, am I contributing to my family, my church, my neighborhood, and my community? Probably more on this down the road.

Chasing a Platform / Why Do I Blog?

I have always enjoyed writing, and when Covid hit I suddenly found myself in front of a computer far more than I desired. Like the local rivers swollen with the frequent Spring rains and overflowing their banks, words and thoughts tumbled widely and freely . My weekly preaching platform had been taken away and I sensed that there were a lot of people trying to think through the same things that I was. I could knock out a blog post in twenty minutes without running out of thoughts or words and be reasonably pleased with the results.

black and gray microphone on black stand

Circumstances have changed. I have a day job (lighting rep) that is making every increasing demands and I have pastoral responsibilities and I have a growing family. Now I find that both words and thoughts run slow and shallow like the Finley River in August following those dry, sultry summer months. So I have been thinking about what it is I hope to accomplish with this blog and whether it is worth the effort, and whether it is actually helpful.

One thing I know is that blogging is not the platform with which God is primarily concerned. When you sign up for a site blog on a site like WordPress, they want you to build your platform because that increases their platform. More online traffic results in more online revenue, and so I get periodic emails encouraging me to improve my blog or monetize it. The internet rule of thumb is that it takes 1000 loyal followers to earn a living blogging. And while there is nothing wrong with earning a living blogging – I would enjoy that! – there is something wrong with replacing more fundamental “platforms” with an online platform.

God is more concerned with how I affect the people closest to me or the people that He has entrusted to me. All believers have a platform that was referred to in my childhood as “personal testimony”, which is something like a reputation but connected to Christ. What is the testimony of your life? Do you show by your words and your works that you have been changed by the grace of God so that you are being cleansed from sin and becoming useful for every good work? You don’t need a blog for that platform.

I also have a platform as a husband and father, and both of these are time consuming investments. I confess that fatherhood is sometimes an effort for me. My daughter brought home a Barbie book from the library that was easily and without a doubt the worst example of literature I have ever read and I long for the days when I can read to them about the Princess and Curdie. But I’m building a platform for that day and that means investing quantity time now.

Pastors have a God-given platform entrusted to them. Every week my congregants sit still for something like forty-five minutes and just listen to the words coming out of my mouth. How many people get that kind of platform? Of course, that platform is not for dispensing advice or telling cute stories but for proclaiming the eternal truth of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any preacher who uses God’s platform to build their own platform is headed for a fall.

So why do I blog? Is it helpful to others? Is it helpful to me? Is the juice worth the squeeze? These are questions I’m considering. I know that the line from the character of Eric Lidell in Chariots of Fire comes to mind, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” I enjoy putting words to thoughts and I feel the pleasure of God in that. Blogging is a relatively easy way to practice my writing skills in some sort of public way.

I also enjoy blogging because there are some topics that are easier to address in a blog post than in a sermon. I enjoy reviewing books and posting recipes as well as delving into more serious matters concerning politics and economics. Blogging is more substantial than a social media post but doesn’t require the commitment of writing a book.

Blogging is also humbling because writing is hard. I have about 19 blog post drafts started and I just lost steam or couldn’t organize my thoughts into something that is readable. Writing consistently over time is difficult and makes me appreciate even more my literary hero, Chesterton, who was once accused of having no unpublished thought.

I plan on keeping the blog going as long as it does not significantly detract from the more important platforms in my life. I plan on writing about topics that interest me or that I feel are significant. I hope my writing improves to a point that people want to read the next paragraph and the next post. And I hope that some good comes of it in my life and in yours.

Monday Morning Productivity Reminders

Every Monday morning I understand what it must be like to be my child when I tell them, “Go clean up the toy room.”

assorted-color plastic toy lot

Basically, their heads explode with the enormity of their task. Sure, they made the mess, but they feel that this Herculean labor is beyond the reach of mortals. And that’s how I feel about making breakfast on Monday morning, much less tackling the actual responsibilities of my day. So I like to go back to those fundamentals of productivity that everyone has heard and yet still yield results. Here’s a quick reminder:

Clean up your workspace.

A cluttered mind has a hard time focusing in a cluttered work space. As I entered into another phase (sheet rock) of a remodel project, I took the time to remove all the tools and left-over materials from previous phases (framing, electrical, insulation, etc…) . Suddenly the sheet rock phase didn’t seem so overwhelming and my frustrations waned when I wasn’t tripping over random tools. Clean up your work space.

Make a list.

Generally, start with the most important things to to do and work your way down. But on Monday, I start with a gimme. I start with something I am good at that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. I want the satisfaction of having completed something to fill my sails so that other tasks seem manageable.

Divide large jobs into manageable chunks.

Some days you don’t cut down the tree, but you hit it enough times with an axe that you make some progress. Cleaning up the entire toy room is too much for my 4 year old. So I have to break it down into manage tasks like “put all the stuffed animals in the right bin” and so on. Back to my remodel project…it was really starting to stress me out with how much needed to be done and how little time I have to work on it. So I would give myself manageable goals, such as “remove the old nails/screws in the lumber”. After several days of tackling smaller, manageable tasks the project has taken a considerable leap forward.

Do Good

Last week, as I was feeling a little overwhelmed by a slew of responsibilities, I came across Psalm 11:7, For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness. What a lovely and peaceful thought to know that God is more pleased by my righteousness than by my productivity. I love setting and achieving goals and I know that managing my life yields blessings. But the primary objective of life is to please the Lord, and what pleases Him is living in a righteous way. So whatever you do or do not accomplish today, determine to live your life in a way that the Lord God Almighty loves.

What a lovely and peaceful thought to know that God is more pleased by my righteousness than by my productivity.

The Most Powerful Woman in Springfield

“Do you want to know who the most powerful woman in Springfield is?” he asked me over the counter. I can’t remember his name, but he was a contractor. I wondered if there had been some 417 Magazine article about up and coming women in our town. Or maybe there had been a write-up in the Springfield Business Journal regarding women CEO’s.

I limited my response to a friendly, “Sure”.

“She’s the gatekeeper at MSU.”

For those of you who don’t know, Missouri State University occupies several city blocks of Springfield and has grown rapidly over the last several decades. They are one of Springfield’s largest employers and a lot of money passes through that place.

“That’s right, ” he continued, “if you want to get on that campus to do your job, she has to raise that gate. Otherwise, you ain’t getting your job done.”

green metal gate with brown metal padlock

That conversation happened over ten years ago and among the countless thousands of little conversations I’ve had with contractors since, that one as stuck in my brain. “She’s the gatekeeper”. I don’t know this woman’s name, whether she still works there, and whether or not she was trustworthy. But as far as that contractor was concerned, the President of MSU didn’t wield a bigger stick than her. Which has gotten me to think about gatekeepers and their power.

In many ways it’s a scary world when the gatekeeping positions of our society have been taken over by ardent secularists. Think about the power that Facebook and Twitter have to use “fact checking” to remove posts, or to remove posts based on their arbitrary definitions of “hate speech”. Think about the power of Google to develop algorithms that direct people to specific points of view, or the power of Youtube to promote specific agendas. Think about how hard it has been, even for Ivory Tower academics, to make information public that goes against the accepted progressive narrative. It doesn’t surprise me that outlandish conspiracy theories such as those promoted by QAnon have gained so much traction. This is the inevitable counter to the totalitarian methods employed by the media, the storytellers, the Academia, and the judges of our nation. The secularists have done a better job of winning the culture because they have rightly identified where the gates are located and have hired those who are like-minded and canceled those who are not.

The right response to this reality is to accept the fact that every individual plays an important role of gate-keeper in their own life. I think one Bible word that describes this function is discernment. It’s the ability to keep certain things out and let certain things in. Judging by the best selling books and Bible studies I see in the sales magazines I get, discernment is a lost art.

Particularly in an election year, you need to keep your mind from being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of news available. Do you find yourself visiting certain sites or watching certain stations just so you can experience righteous indignation? Do you sense that your blood pressure fluctuates to the rhythms of your news watching? If so, it might be time to close the gate.

This simple principle can be applied to the stories that we watch and the books that we read. But discernment isn’t just about keeping things out; it’s also about letting things in. God’s Truth is something that ought to occupy our hearts to the point that the word of Christ is dwelling in us richly. Our exposure to truth should be frequent and saturating.

One final word: until this skill is learned, it is the job of parents to act as gate keepers for their children. So another plea from this pastor…please don’t let your kids have unlimited access to cell phone apps. Please monitor the things that they are taught in school. Please take them to church and read the Bible with them at home. Please teach them to guard their hearts with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

5 (Theological) Reasons A Man Should Change His Own Oil

For whatever reason, the mechanics I tend to use have been really busy lately and so it occurred to me that as I am a competent adult male I should start changing my own oil. This led to replacing a failed power steering pump, which led me to consider the whole concept of maintaining my own vehicles. I could write a blog on twenty reasons you should let a mechanic service your vehicle, but I have actually enjoyed the work and thought of 5 (theological) reasons you should change your own oil, because four reasons was too few and six was – let’s face it – too many.

  1. To Reinforce the Ontological Realities of the Created World

God created the world and everything in it by wisdom. Things in His world have a nature and operate a certain way. But in our world there are some people who think that this is some kind of myth. That 2 plus 2 does not in fact equal 4. God help us if those people ever start building planes. If you change your own oil you will not be one of those people. You will recognize that a 13mm bolt head does require a 13mm socket, no matter how much you may wish it required a 14mm. And if you come to that conclusion, you may find yourself wondering along with Professor Kirk, “What do they teach at school these days!” The more theoretical schools become the more outlandish the theories become. Your shop teacher had his finger (one of the ones left) on reality more than your social studies teacher did.

2. To Steward the Possessions with which you have been entrusted

By this I do not mean that you will save money servicing your own vehicle because you may not. You may do such a poor job of it that your motor blows up and you go to bed every night wishing you had never read this blog. But there is value in knowing how things work, especially the things that you possess. A couple of decades ago a friend of mine who knew a thing or two about his car took his vehicle to a quick change oil place where he was told that his vehicle needed some thingy-ma-jigger replaced. But since he knew his vehicle and had been watching the technician through a window, he knew that they had never even looked at the thing-ma-jigger in question so he knew not to waste money replacing it, or to ever return to that business establishment. This is but one example of how it is beneficial to know stuff. If you own something, you should know something about it. When God put Adam into the garden he assigned him the task of naming the animals, which had something to do with figuring what exactly they were.

3. Because you’re a man.

We are still within the orbit of political correctness among evangelicals when we suggest that there is a difference between men and women. But God forbid you try to define that difference! Man (as opposed to female) was made to have dirt under his fingernails: he was a gardener. It’s manly to be able to work on cars. It’s manly to have bloody knuckles. It’s manly to fix stuff. It’s manly to smell sweaty and oily and look like you just crawled out from under a car. Your wife will think so and your home will be filled with babies.

4. To Sustain a Sense of the Miraculous

You may think that a mechanic is the most prosaic person on the face of the earth, but he is actually a sorcerer. In the land of make believe, some noble personage is held captive by the curse of a witch until by courage or by luck or by skill she is freed with some phrase or deed. So the mechanic frees the oil trapped in the motor by one twist of his wrist. It is no less magical because he has done it a thousand time before, just as the witches curse is no less magical because she has used it upon a thousand people. And the point is proved when some child is present to squeal with delight when a motor starts or a tiny kitchen volcano explodes or 7 quarts of oil cascades down into the pan. We do not bother to explain to them that these are just the rules of our world because it would make no difference. They are not excited that there are no rules, but that the rules themselves are quite magical. They have not grown tired of physics or gravity just as the sun has not grown tired of running his daily course.

5. To learn gratitude and respect

As I wrestled with two wrenches and a pulley puller (for my power steering fluid pump), the sun beating down on my back and my knuckles torn as my hands slipped on sweat and hydraulic fluid, I decided that I would stop complaining about my job. I was thankful for the patient O’Reilly employee (Austin in Ozark, BTW) who willing showed me the correct way to use the pulley puller and even lent me a wrench as the ones I had brought did not include the right size. I thought about the mechanics and the masons and the landscapers and the contractors of all shapes and sizes – round being a popular one as they age – that make our worlds run. And I was glad that engines are not designed by politicians and that plumbing is not installed by bureaucrats.

I may not always change my own oil, but at least once in your life – you should. And if you do so having never done so before, find a guy who keeps oil and tools in his garage and ask him to help you your first time so you don’t blow your car up.

Plant and Wait

Gardening is a strange hobby for a guy (me) who drives fast, challenges himself to finish every task as quickly as possible, only enjoys mundane tasks if he can make a game out of it, and generally is impatient. Maybe gardening brings out my photo-negative personality. The majority of the below images were planted by our family since moving to this house 4 years ago.

The upper middle image isn’t great, but that’s a blueberry bush. We planted it 2 years ago and this is the first year we are seeing fruit. The yellow day lillies were planted three years ago when they were pint sized. The upper left picture is of a funky flowering plant we bought for a shady corner that gets no direct sunlight. I planted those three years ago and this is the first year we have actually seen this one flower.

The point is that after you plant something, you have to wait a while to see the fruit. Some things I have planted haven’t survived, but some have made a remarkable recovery. Some that were planted in Spring when growth should have come easily did not survive their first winter, while others untimely planted in the withering heat of a Missouri summer have endured and flourished.

We all want instant gratification. We don’t like to wait. The downside of our impatience is that we don’t give good things a chance to grow. We don’t see the long term consequences of making good decisions. Our metrics for judging success are shortsighted and often lead to bigger problems. There aren’t deeply rooted things in our lives because we have not given anything a chance to develop deep roots.

So I garden and try to learn its lessons. Truth be told, it’s turning into the story of my life. Incremental growth is the hard task of mankind that allows us to fall asleep tired – and satisfied – at night. I learned in leaps and bounds when I was a child, but now I learn in baby steps. Youth is the season for quick conquests; the rest of life is given over to the patient farmer’s lot of planting and waiting.


Have you been feeling tired lately? I joke that I’ve been tired for the last 6 and half years, which is the age of my eldest. Parenting will no doubt wear you out, but so will change. Change is exhausting.

pug covered with blanket on bedspread

When I started my current job in March of 2017, I was coming off of an eight year run at my last employer where I pretty much did the same thing every day. I had beat my mind and body into subjection of the routine that my life demanded to the point where very little thought was needed to go through the day. Like all jobs, there were occasionally stressful situation. But the daily grind had wore down the bumps to the occasional jolt instead of an incessant rattle.

I started my new job at a youthful 36 years of age. I was in the same industry and had a mentor to show me the ropes. Nevertheless, the change was draining. My entire workflow had changed and my mind and my body needed time to adjust. At one point I remember telling my wife that it would be 18 months before I could even tell if I was doing a good job or not. That turned out to be an accurate prediction.

Call it routine or habit, but don’t disregard it. Routine sounds as boring as orthodoxy, but both are indispensable. Imagine doing everything in your day as if it was your first time. First time operating the Ninja coffee maker. First time getting the temperature right in your shower. First time driving. The concentration needed would sap your energy to the point you would flop into bed at 6PM, only to have to think about the best way to arrange the pillows for sleep comfort!

Of course routines are a double-edged sword in that good habits yield good things and bad habits yield bad things. But no one should doubt the necessity and the power of routine.

So when we had to cancel our church gatherings, the move to online Bible studies, Zoom meeting, Youtube, etc… was a definitive break in my routine. Over the last 15 years of pastoring, I am typically absent 1-2 Sundays at most during the year. Sunday is my busiest day and certainly the most draining. My expectation was that without the pressure of sermon preparation and delivery, Sunday would be relaxing. Not so, my friends. The new “skillset” required for pastoring changed overnight.

But even beyond that somewhat predictable energy drain was another phenomenon that proves the power of routine. Sunday (for me) has an emotional flow. In the morning I am focused and purposeful, which culminates in a couple of intense hours of interpersonal activity, leading to a time of meditation (ok, call it a nap if you like!) in the afternoon. And then on Sunday evening I sometimes struggle to fall asleep as my brain is wired from the events of the day. So imagine my surprise when that emotional sequence took place without the accompanying physical events that typically cause them. My mind and body had developed a weekly routine that continued to affect my inner life even when Covid-19 came along. Routine had wired me to “feel” a certain way on Sundays. Talk about power.

Those of us in ministry felt the energy drain that the deviation from routine required. But so did parents who suddenly found themselves homeschooling. So did employees who were having to figure out how to do their jobs from home. So did students who were suddenly told they needed to learn math from, of all people, their parents! Then add on to this the uncertainty of living with a virus rampant in our society with daily doses of new (and often conflicting) data to process, and Presto! You’re exhausted.

So be patient and be kind. We are all tired.

But I have some good news for you: change is possible. New routines can be created and new habits sown. Now might even be a good time to stop and think about the habits that needed to change before Covid hit. The mechanics of this is described in Scripture as putting off the old man and putting on the new man. If you struggle with anxiety, you are to put off the thoughts that lead to worry and put on the thoughts that lead to trust. Your mind needs a new routine.

And there’s more good news: God doesn’t intend for his children to be tired forevermore. There remains a rest for the people of God.