Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Seeing Kansas

December 16, 2014

 

A few years ago I was on the top of Pike’s Peak on a clear, beautiful, sunny day. Someone said “You can see Kansas from here!”

My sarcastic nature made me think “Why would you want to see Kansas?” But my next thought was that I wasn’t quite know if we could see Kansas or not. I mean Kansas is a long ways off from Colorado Springs. And, secondly, how do you know where Kansas begins and Colorado ends. There isn’t a definitive line that marks it or a river that you have to cross to get to it…at least on the western side!

So I stood there wondering “Is that really Kansas or not?”

There are certain situations in life…certain sightings, if you will…that we are unsure how to classify. Is the birth of our fourth child…that we hadn’t planned on having…a blessing or an ill-timed additional obligation?

Is the lay-off notice I received the first step of a blessing that will lead me to another profession that I’m passionate about?

Are all the little kids in church an added responsibility and burden that diminishes our energies or the beginning part of a promised future for a congregation?

Was the raising of Jesus by Joseph and Mary seen as being a blessing? I’m sure that Mary could look back at her son and see how she was blessed, but was it seen as being a blessing as they were in the midst of it?

Seeing Kansas is hard from such a distance.

Most of us replay our lives and we ask “What if” questions. We ponder how we might have done things differently. Seldom do we think that maybe we did exactly what God called us to do, and to be exactly where God called us to be.

When we look back we can see the trail that our life made. In our prayerful meditations we can received comfort and encouragement about those times when our path was in sync with the plan of God. We can also painfully recall where we took our own way away from his plan…the effect of it upon us and others, the grief it brought…and rejoice in the fact that God never stopped loving us.

Some of us are in the midst of situations that we are having a hard time seeing there being a blessing involved in it.

But be encouraged! Kansas is out there and the blessings of God will become clearer and clearer as you keep faithfully traveling on.

Nine Girl Scouts Dancing

December 15, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         December 15, 2014

                                             

There are many pictures of Christmas that cross our minds or are caught by our eyes. Holly and mistletoe…egg nog and fruitcake…the mall Santa and front-yard inflatables. We use a number of things to convey the messages of hope, peace, love, and joy. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective of things. My daily email box is full of on-line offers for everything from doormats to designer jeans. I’ve never had so many emails from Omaha Steaks!

A few days ago I was driving by the grocery store and I saw a sight that brought joy to my soul. In front of the store was one of the red buckets for The Salvation Army. I could hear the bell being rung.

But then in front of the bucket were nine Girl Scouts dancing round and round in a circle, laughing…enjoying…experiencing a sense of delight as they manned the bucket for a couple of hours. It was a picture of Christmas being lived out. Dancing with joy because of the season’s reason, while performing acts of charity.

Joy in child-like giggles.

Collecting coins and dollar bills to help the impoverished gain a step in the uncertainness of daily living.

Joy-filled charity. A picture of the blessed being a blessing.

Christmas is many things. On the day the girl scouts danced a “grandparently” couple at church lit the advent candle and shared how this past year had included many challenges but many, many more blessings. A dear lady who loves God and people brought me gingerbread cookies shaped like moosely-looking reindeer. In receiving we sought to give, and invited an African-American gentleman from church to join us for lunch.

Joy and delight…giving and receiving…being blessed and being the blessing…all of those are descriptions of Christmas that convey images, actions, feelings, and pictures.

God only knows how much delight those nine girl scouts brought to the customers coming and going from the supermarket, but I know that sparked a flame within my soul that warmed my heart.

 

The Blessing of Pecan Pie

December 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                December 10, 2014

                                          

A wonderful lady in our church named Wilma, just a shy short of being eighty, blessed me in a delicious way last Sunday. Wilma had baked a pecan pie and decided that I should have it.

Now you need to understand that pecan pie is my favorite! Capped off with a scoop of Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream, it is a slice of pie heaven…if there is pie in heaven!

That night the “young guys” group that I lead were descending upon our house, so the food choice was settled. Pecan pie and ice cream for everyone!

I wasn’t expecting to receive a freshly baked pie that day, but some of the greatest blessings of God come at unexpected times. The even better news is that I still have two slices left after Sunday night, and Carol doesn’t care for pecan pie (What is wrong with her?), so I’m set for another couple of nights of lip smacking delight.

I don’t know if Wilma thought I was starting to look a little lean in the mid-section or what. I didn’t ask her for an explanation as to how I was the winner. Paul said that Jesus had once made the statement that “It was more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) I’m willing, however, to be the receiver to allow someone else to experience the gift of giving.

Wilma is a woman of God who has had a life of mountains and valleys, but God gave her the gift of baking. Her cinnamon rolls are craved. If she bakes anything to bring to a church fellowship function the baked goods are snatched up in a way that only hungry Baptists can achieve.

A simple pecan pie.

An unexpected blessing.

It makes me ponder how often I’ve been the giver of an unexpected blessing. My selfish nature says I’m always willing to have something surprise me, but how often do I look to give a surprise blessing?

Christmas has that underneath message of giving. It’s more than bartering for the best deal. It’s going a little further in helping someone else.

And…listen! It doesn’t have to be a pecan pie!

If you want to bake a cake or make some cookies, I’m open for them as well!

Just kidding…kinda!

Recognizing Angels

December 8, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 December 8, 2014

                                               

Angels are well-liked. Many people see them as cuddly little bald-headed boys who fly around and sprinkle glitter. They’ve been portrayed by attractive Hollywood actresses who talk in sweet tones and sing with…okay, I’ll say it…angelic voices.

But in everyday life how do we know it’s an angel that we’re seeing or talking to. In the Bible there were very clear angelic conversations between the angel Gabriel and Zechariah (Luke 1) and also with Mary. Zechariah becomes speechless as a result of the encounter, and his faithless questions. After Jesus’ resurrection there is an angelic encounter at the tomb.

The other side of the situation, however, is Hebrews 13:2- “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Angels could be bald-headed or have a full head of red hair. They could be thought to be Pakistani or Irish, young or old, dressed well or shabby in appearance. The disturbing thing about the verse in Hebrews is that we may have shown hospitality to dozens of angels and not be aware of it until some time in the future or next life…or we may have refused angels and not thought a thing about it.

Perhaps the point of that verse in Hebrews 13 is to say that our attitude towards people, and behavior towards people, should have a consistency to it. The recent situations across our nation have shown that we have certain biases towards those who are not like us. Years ago a church growth consultant advocated for churches to be homogenous. In other words attract more people that are cookie-cutter images of the people who are already there. Diversity was discouraged. I wonder how many angelic visitations were met with cold shoulders and closed lips?

Angelic appointments are not like my annual physical with my doctor that I can schedule a couple of months ahead of time. When I make that appointment it usually includes a couple of “No, that time doesn’t work” answers before finding a suitable time that works. Angelic visits are according to God’s planning, and, hard as it is for me to believe, God doesn’t compare calendars with me before sending one of his messengers.

So how do we recognize angels? With great difficulty! Oddly enough, that may be the point, for God does not want us to treat anyone less than we would treat Gabriel. What a concept to live life by! To see each person we meet and relate to as quite possibly being one of the angelic beings!

Humbled and Blessed

December 8, 2014

 

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

It seems that so many of the people that we encounter in the Bible that are blessed by God in some significant way are men and women of humble circumstances. Think about it! Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy enough to be nailed to the cross the same way Jesus had been crucified.

Ruth was spotted by Boaz as she was gleaning in the field. Gleaning was a way that people who was poor- people trying to survive- could gather grain to feed themselves.

Paul was supported by the generosity of the first churches. He was the one who wrote Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing our of self ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider other better than yourselves.” And then in describing Jesus he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) Paul had been humbled by the appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus, an event that blinded him for a while.

Humbleness is not a quality that gets much print these days. Recently a college football player was thinking too much about his celebration antics for scoring a touchdown and dropped the football prematurely before he crossed the goal line. The defending team picked up the football that was bouncing around on the one yard line and returned it 99 yards for a jaw-dropping score. If the player who had been intent on being in the spotlight had put his selfish ambition to the side and simply crossed the goal line his team would have been ahead 14-0. Instead it was suddenly 7-7 and the momentum changed for the rest of the game.

Mary was called by the angel Gabriel to be the mother of the Christ-child. Her spirit of humility showed in her response to the angel in Luke 1:38.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Two millennia later we celebrate the humble woman who was blessed by God. In terms of the blessings of God, he often goes against the grain and chooses the insignificant, the poor, the stutterer, the elderly, the common folk to carry out his greatest plans and purposes.

The Beginning of a Story

December 2, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 2, 2014

                                            

Each of us live in the midst of beginnings and endings. Our days are punctuated by both. We begin by ending the torturous sound of our alarm going off. We end the day by beginning another night of sleep. Seldom, however, do we consider that one event or one conversation could be the beginning of something God-inspired and ordained.

The gospel of Luke begins with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Zechariah went into the Court of the Priests to burn incense and offer prayers for the people he never would have considered that it was the beginning of a life-altering event. The honor of performing the priestly duties was incredible by itself, but who would have thought that an angel named Gabriel would be joining him in that inner place?

That encounter changed things! And it began things!

Zechariah receives the angelic message that he’s going to be a dad. His wife, Elizabeth, though she had not been able to have children before this and was well along in years, would get pregnant. His name would be John, though it was not a family name.

The end of Zechariah’s priestly duties was the beginning of a new story that would be echoed down through the centuries. Little did he know that the words of Gabriel carried hope and a new direction for mankind.

I was recently delighted to hear about a story that came out of La Salle Street Church in Chicago. The church had received $1.6 million dollars in a real estate transaction and decided to use $160,000 of it for the cause of good. Five hundred dollars was given to each of the 320 regular attenders to do good. The stories of what people decided to use their money for were incredible. One lady used her gift to gift other children at her daughter’s grade school with winter coats and clothing. One young man, who was from Jordan and a student at Moody Bible Institute, used his funds to contribute to the building a new skate park in Jordan.

Each gift was seed money for new beginnings. People were able to help others. It was a ripple effect of goodness filtering through a city and even into other countries.

We never quite know how our words, actions, and decisions will begin new stories in other lives, but God does!

 

Misunderstood Generosity

December 1, 2014

 

When Jerry opened the Christmas present that was from his mom and dad he was a little confused and perturbed.

He had graduated from college the previous May and had been fortunate to find a teaching position at a middle school in a rural school district about an hour away from the town he grew up in. It didn’t pay much, but he loved it. He loved seeing young minds suddenly understanding the mathematical methods that he taught.

He was thankful that he was able to be home with family for Christmas. His brother Silas, and twin sisters, Abby and Gail, were there also. Jerry was the youngest, but the only one who still lived in-state.

The box he had opened could have fit in his pocket. He reached into it and pulled out a key chain. He admitted later on that his first thought was “That’s all! A key chain!”

His siblings then each opened a present, and Jerry sat and battled with the conflicted feelings of anger and gratitude. Then his father said, “Oh Jerry! We forgot. You probably would like some keys to put on your key chain. Here’s one to get you started.”

His father reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny key and handed it to Jerry. It had an “H” letter on the end of it. “H” for Honda.

“Merry Christmas! It’s parked in the garage.”

Jerry was speechless. He walked out into the garage to see a brand new Honda Civic. The box with the key chain had only been the beginning part of the story.

How often do we become confused by the generosity of God because we only have the first part of the story?

Zechariah was confused by God’s promise that he was to have a son. In Luke 1:7 we read that he and Elizabeth “…had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.”

Zechariah was on priestly duty in the temple to burn incense when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth was going to have a son and he was to be named John. Zechariah questions this proclamation and is literally rendered speechless.

Zechariah didn’t see the whole picture. Sometimes God’s greatest gifts to our lives aren’t understood until later. Zechariah sees a wife who is past childbearing years. God gives a child who will go before his Son and proclaim the coming of the Messiah.

David’s brothers saw a boy who should have stayed home and been watching the sheep. God gave a courageous leader who would slay a giant.

Sometimes we only see a key chain and God is about to give a key. God is generous in the present and also in the future.

 


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