Archive for the 'Devotions' Category

Merry Christmas. Pass it on.

As I watched the light passed from one person to the next as part of the candlelight service tonight, I was transported back in time. I remembered as a child, or perhaps a youth, receiving the light from the person on one side of me, watching the flame take hold of my candle, and then passing to the person next to me. I always looked around to other rows to see if there was someone else I could pass it to. I don’t seem to remember that ever happening, and it always felt disappointing. I really wanted to be able to share that light with more people.

The good news about Christmas is that Jesus, the real light of the world, gave us light that has no limits on how many times we can pass it on. We can pass it to the person on the other side of us, certainly, but we can pass it to everyone in all directions — even pass it back to the person who passed it to us. The light of Jesus is the hope, love, joy, and peace God shared with us — and God never intended us to hold on to it.

Merry Christmas. Pass it on.

Annie by Candlelight

Advertisements

The Legacy of a Smile and a Generous Heart

My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family passed away several years ago.  He was an amazing carpenter, who could turn wood into works of art the way other artists work with clay, paint, or any other medium.

I love to work with wood myself, but I have only a small fraction of his knowledge, skill, and craftsmanship ability.  I also have several of his tools in my basement, including the bandsaw pictured here.

This year, as in years past, I invited Cub Scouts to bring their blocks of pine wood over, draw an image on the top and side, and I would cut it out for them, then leave the finish sanding, additional carving, and painting up to them.  After an afternoon of helping out these boys, and receiving many warm thank-yous from them and their parents, I took another look at the bandsaw, and for a split second felt a little bad about it.  It is an amazing machine, hand built by my great-uncle especially for my grandfather, his big brother.  I felt a little bit small in the shadows of these two great craftsmen: one who could make anything out of metal, and the other who could make anything out of wood … and here I am making a block of wood to roughly approximate the appearance of various kinds of race cars.

The sensation didn’t last long, because I realized that I was creating something using this tool, after all.  It wasn’t a wooden masterpiece, it was smiles on all those little boys’ faces.  The two things I remember most about my grandfather are his smile and his laugh.  … and knowing his generous heart, I can see him smiling ear-to-ear because of several happy cub scouts benefitting from one of his tools, and a small fraction of skill that got passed down to me.

Sometimes it’s not the things that we do or make that are significant; instead, it is the love that we pass on through what we do.  That is the legacy that my grandfather, among others, have left for me to pass on to others.  It is a legacy with a deep faith tradition from our Creator who taught us to share love with everyone we meet.

Welcome to a new year.  Share your inheritance of Christ’s love with everyone you meet.

What Makes a Miracle?

I read an article that looks at debate surrounding the virgin birth of Jesus.  Quite a few different viewpoints are made, looking at Scripture, culture, and the very nature of the divine.  It is an interesting read, but it raised a different question for me: what makes a miracle?

Was the virgin birth in and of itself the miracle?

… or was the fact that God demonstrated to us first hand what it means to love God and love our neighbor no matter what the real miracle.

… no matter how much the consumer-driven world tells us that God is not relevant.

… no matter how difficult our neighbor might be.

… no matter how difficult it is to focus on God in our noisy world.

… no matter the violence around us and directed to us.

Putting love ahead of everything else is the miracle I see displayed in the Gospels.  Gospel, after all, means “good news.”

For your Christmas present this year, take the love that Jesus demonstrated for us and share it.  In so doing, you will be a miracle for those you meet.

Merry Christmas.  

Christmas in July

This summer I have found myself in a bit of a spiritual funk. That’s the technical term when you feel like you’ve just spent thirty nine and a half years wandering in the desert following Aaron and Moses and feeling as spiritually dry as the forsaken desert surrounding us.

I selected some music to help move me out of the funk and into the promised land. The music I picked: Christmas music. Seasonally it seems inappropriate, but for the purpose of turning my mood around, it is just what the doctor ordered. It helps remind me that my faith is the birth of something new in me, and it is constantly being re-born.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get too hot outside…

To be known and loved

Before I created you in the womb I knew you …

Those are the words spoken to Jeremiah by God, but apply to all of us.  I find great comfort in knowing that before I existed or had my first thought, God already knew who I was, and loved me.  Greater still, he loved me and created me in spite of knowing me.  He knew the times I would help a neighbor out.  He knew the times I’d hug my children, my wife, and my parents.  He also knew the times I’d stumble, say something careless, or forget a friend in need.  He knew the times I’d have my doubts about him, be angry at his church, and question his nature.

It is comforting to know that I am here, sometimes struggling to discern and follow God’s will, and even when I get it wrong, God already knew I’d get it wrong.  Even better, he would forgive me, and love me anyway.  Sometimes knowing that is all it takes to give a peaceful moment into what might otherwise be a rough day.

Light in the Darkness

The Light That Shines Through the Darkness

 

A gentle reminder entered my bedroom this morning as I read the Good Friday Scripture. Good Friday is a day we Christians tend to think of with sadness, yet it was really the start of the greatest event of our faith.

Without Good Friday, there would be no Easter.

Similarly in our personal lives, sometimes (but thankfully not always) we have to go through a period of darkness to see and appreciate the light.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

 

Dear John: I was right there with you (Part 2 of 2)

Dear John,

Thank you for your recent correspondence.  I am truly sorry about the way this Christmas season turned out for you.  You may not realize this, but you should since you have boys of your own, that when you hurt, I hurt too.  I know you had a hard time.  I saw you there.  I saw you cry.  I saw you sacrificially love your son, knowing the likelihood that you would get sick too.  I know a thing or two about sacrificial love.

You might have missed it, but I was there this Christmas, even if I didn’t speak directly to you.  I held you through the nights so that, even in the hospital, you slept well.  I made sure the right people were there for you when you needed help.  You might have missed the miracles that were performed in front of you, as the medical professionals did what they were trained to do.  Did you feel my hug when the chaplain prayed with you?

I would like you to look at this Christmas as a Christmas where you were able to experience my love in a different way.  You didn’t miss out on anything.  You received a chance to see my face from a different point of view.

I will be with you every Christmas, and every other day of the year.  I will not let your prayers go without response.  I don’t promise to respond in the manner or timing in which you want, only that your prayers will never fall on deaf ears.  So keep on communicating with me, even when you are angry with me.  I can turn your anger to love if you will let me.

Merry Christmas.

With love greater than you can comprehend, your friend always,

Jesus

Dear Jesus: Where were you? (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Jesus,

Christmas happened this year.  The tree was up, I even managed to get the lights up on the gutters of the house.  The boys got what they wanted.  They “busted” Santa and found the true meaning of Christmas.  We saw a great Christmas pageant at church.  But then things got difficult.

Two days after Christmas, Andrew came down with a high fever and had to go to the hospital for three nights.  I stayed with him.  I’m sure you would have wanted me to do that.  I’m his daddy and that’s my place.  He had influenza.  He didn’t feel good. That was very hard to be witness to.

As if that wasn’t enough … The day Andy was discharged from the hospital I came down with the high fever and the cough.  In fact, I’m still a little bit sick, and my vacation is basically over.  I’ve spent the past several days in isolation in my bedroom to rest and keep from getting anyone else in the family sick.

Christmas is supposed to be a time where I am together with my family.  We are supposed to spend time together, be reminded what makes us a family, and focus on the love given to us through You.  I didn’t get that.  I got to sleep.  I tried to pray.  You didn’t answer.

Now my vacation time is nearing an end just as I’m starting to feel better.  What’s up with that?

Where were you this Christmas?

Cordially yours,

John

Free Gifts

A few weeks ago, my ten year old son and I were browsing books in our church’s bookstore.  I paused to look at a recently published Study Bible.  I was fairly impressed with it, and noticed that my son, Andy, was looking at it with me.

I asked Andy if he would like this Bible.  He responded somewhat hesitantly, “yes, well… I guess so, but I’m not sure that I want to spend that much.”

I was glad that he was watching his money, but it indicated to me that he missed the intent of my question, so I tried again.  “I wasn’t asking if you wanted to buy it.  If you want it, it is my gift to you — I’ll buy it.”

“Oh, then yes.  Yes, please!”  His enthusiasm was contagious to me.

Now, the day after Christmas, I found myself reliving this exchange in my head, and finding myself in Andy’s shoes.  Humanity received a great gift at Christmas.  Some people don’t know the gift is out there.  Some think it must be bought, and worry that they can’t possibly afford it.  Some aren’t sure that they want it.

Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of it.  Sometimes I accept parts of the gift, but not wholy.  The good news is that the generous God that offers us this gift is patient, loving, and keeps the offer on the table for us all the time.

If you don’t have the gift, keep looking for it.

Once you find it, take it.  It’s free for you — the purchase has already been made.

After the Presents

Every year there are some things I can count on at Christmas Eve:

  • Excited kids
  • Reading of the Night Before Christmas
  • Reading Luke, chapter 2
  • Getting the cookies ready for Santa
  • Last minute placement of presents

Sometimes when I’m done for the evening and look at the tree, I worry that I missed the point.  Other times, I look at it, what the real meaning of the season is about, and stare in awe at the pretty lights.

One of my favorite songs to remember my humility at this time of year was originally written by Jackson Browne, titled The Rebel Jesus.  I was introduced to this song by singer/songwriter Bebo Norman as part of his Christmas album, Christmas … From the Realm of Glory.  It reminds me, at a very emotional level, what the true meaning of the Christmas season is, and Jesus’ ministry as a whole.

Sometimes I need that reminder.

Merry Christmas.


Enter your email address to subscribe to Encountering Ministry and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 62 other followers

Events of Interest

No upcoming events

Status on the scale:

MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

Categories

John on Twitter

John's pictures on Flickr