Friday, November 30, 2012

OnFire #291 I’ve Got Nothin’

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #291 I’ve Got Nothin’

Most weeks it is not much trouble to write OnFire. I usually have an experience from which I’ve learned something and I pass it along. Often I reflect on some of the more unusual moments I have. They stand out, since they are a little odd, and I often glean a little life lesson which reminds me of a passage from the Bible.

This week I’m coming up empty, without some incident I feel I can write about. Its not that there haven’t been some weird moments, like last week when I returned to my locker after a workout at the gym, and couldn’t remember which one was mine. I knew the section where it was, but I often rely on the fact that many locks look different from my generic silver combination lock. This time I scratched my head as I gazed upon an entire row of generic-looking silver combination locks. I hope no one thought I was trying to break into someone else’s locker as I tried all of the locks to find mine. Perhaps I should pay more attention, a fact Jan sometimes wishes, because I don’t always notice when she returns from the hair dresser. I’m working on that one...

I’ve thought and thought about that lock incident and keep drawing blanks. It has the potential for a good story, but without application there isn’t much point. I usually don’t try to force the issue since then I would be drawing from my head and not my heart, and it would probably feel a little artificial.

Moving on, I’m illustrating that I often don’t have trouble drawing lessons from some of life’s little moments and passing them along, but this week I’m coming up short. As the saying goes, “I’ve got nothin’.”

This is actually a feeling I’m a little used to. Even after a while in ministry, I often arrive at church thinking I haven’t prepared well enough. I see the difference between what I have and what could be, and wish I had just a little more time to get ready. Its a variation on “I’ve got nothin’.” I know I did as much as I could under the constraints I had and I wasn’t wasting time, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

At these moments I often pray something like this: “Lord, I’ve done all I could. If anything is going to come from this, it has to be from you.” It’s a very humbling prayer to acknowledge that my effort may not be good enough. But the reality is that God is so much more powerful than I am, and He can work in ways I cannot. This can never be an excuse for not doing my best. But rather, it gives hope in the context of my own weakness and deficiencies.

Here’s the neat thing. I can point back to so many times when I’ve had that feeling, and reached out in prayer to God because I felt so inadequate, and the result worked out so beautifully. Much better than I had planned or hoped. At those times I thank the Lord because I know it wasn’t me. I see this as an example of God’s strength demonstrated in our weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9*)

I told Jan I was going to write about “nothing” this week. I hope my “nothing” gives you something at those moments when you feel inadequate for the task. I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Nov 30, 2012. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

OnFire #290 The Battlefield of the Mind

OnFire Encourage Letter

OnFire #290 The Battlefield of the Mind

This past week we honoured our veterans on Remembrance Day and this year, as in past years, I played Last Post and Reveille at a service. When Remembrance Day falls on Sunday, I normally play in our own church, but this year we arranged to make a video of me playing so I could play live at a seniors complex. It is always an honour to play for those who have put their lives on the line so that others might enjoy freedom.

While those people faced battles of a more literal variety, these past few weeks I have faced a number of battles of the mind. While they were not as momentous as those faced by our veterans, they were, nonetheless, troubling to me.

I had some vacation and was really hoping to spend at least a few days hunting, but a number of appointments and other things kept me in town until Thursday that week. I was so frustrated to be stuck at home. This was going to be the year, finally, when I could take my time and pay attention to the hunt. My thoughts are often so divided that I looked forward to being a little more single-minded. But then there were all these appointments and other things. Grumble, grumble....

On Saturday of that week, Jan was away and Mark and I were getting ready to visit Ian overnight in Fredericton at his college. As I was getting things together, I heard water running in the kitchen and found one of the cupboards flooded. The sewer drain in the bathroom had broken. To find and fix the problem we had to cut out part of a cabinet and make a big hole in the ceiling. We did get to visit Ian that night, but I spent Monday last week cutting and fixing old sewer pipe, and then cleaning and disinfecting everything. What a mess.

These were two of the big frustrations. I won’t go into some of the other ones; these two illustrate some of the kinds of problems we all face from time to time. Often we roll with many of them, but once in a while they mount up.

This is the battlefield of the mind. How will we react? What will we think? How will we treat the people around us? I found it a constant struggle that week to deal with all of the conflicting thoughts and emotions. Early in the week I was angry to be stuck in town. At the same time, I didn’t want to be miserable to live with. “How do I make the most of this, for everyone?” was the question which came to mind. I went back and forth on this all week and constantly had to remind myself. I won’t promise I was perfect, but I have to think I was a lot better than I would have been.

Later in the week I was discouraged over the plumbing issue. How much would this cost? How long would it take to clean up. But then as I was cutting holes in my ceiling to track the leak, it occurred to me that it was a lot better to do this now than in a year’s time. We hope to renovate our kitchen this year. Thank you, Lord, that we found the problem now and not later.

In the end things worked out very well. I caught up on some neglected things around the house. I had a successful hunt. We still got to visit Ian. A man from our church is a plumber and showed me how to do the work on the drain, even bringing a “goodie bag” of assorted parts. I was able to fix it myself for the cost of parts and now we know things are solid for the renovation.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “...we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”* This is the battlefield of the mind, to put aside our first and strongest selfish reactions to allow God to do something better.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Nov 14, 2012. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at . Blog located at