“God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.” 2 Corinthians 9:10
Many Christmas seasons ago, I met a family who had recently relocated to our city. One evening the mother called the church office where I worked and said, “We have no gas in the car, and my husband needs to get to work.” A twenty-dollar fill-up led to a $2,000 check from the church to get their furniture out of storage.
Then, one day I met the three children—all under age six. The minute I saw their eyes, my compassion for their situation got in the way of being sensible, and I became Mrs. Santa Claus. Our best friends heard of my mission to provide this family with gifts and food for Christmas, and together we shopped, purchased, wrapped, and delivered a celebration fit for the King. It probably was the best Christmas ever—full of delight for all of us.
However, shortly after the holidays, I learned this sweet family had hit up many churches and all the public institutions available in the community. Then, they packed up the furniture we got out of hock for them and moved on to another town to start over. At first, I felt foolish and betrayed. Then, I saw in my mind the eyes of the children when we delivered the packages and food. Regardless of the parents’ deceit, I knew I’d do it all over again.
Dear Lord, help me remember that when I give a gift, I leave it at their door, just as you did through the gift of the Savior. Amen.
“Bless are the chosen! Blessed the guest at home in your place!” Psalm 65:3
For the first few years we lived in Arizona, if someone had given me four tickets to see a Cardinal football game, I would have had to give two away. We had no friends we could call at the last minute and say, “Hey, come with us to the game!”
Leaving Illinois was hard. We’d lived there twenty-five years and had many good friends. It was different making friends in Arizona. Our neighbors weren’t visible, the members at church were spread out all over the valley, and the acquaintances I’d met at work didn’t turn into long-lasting friendships.
Since becoming a writer, I’ve taken on a solitude life–home in front of my computer working on manuscripts. I finally realized if I want to make more friends I have to be a better friend. I have to become part of organizations instead of a participant. At church I’ve stepped up to use God’s gift to me in leading discussion groups. Once only acquaintances are now becoming the friends I’ve been looking for.
Gracious Father, I give you thanks for good friends who help me become a better person. Amen.
“God is about to bring you into a good land, a land with brooks and rivers, springs and lakes, streams out of the hills and through the valleys.” Deuteronomy 8:7
Before entering into the “good land” we must, as it says in verse six, do three things: Keep the commandments of God, walk down the roads he shows you, and reverently respect him. A lot of do’s and don’ts.
It seems easy to keep the Ten Commandments—no one wants to upset God. But before I started to write this blog, I reviewed the ten big ones, and I realize that I regularly screw up and disappoint God when I covet (not someone’s husband), steal (not material things), or when I forget God is the dominant man in my life.
I try to walk down the road he shows me and think I am doing a fair job of respecting God. But we can never get so comfortable with our faith that we take God for granted.
Dear Lord, help us keep the big three things you ask of us to enjoy the beauty of our life on earth. Amen.
“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” Matthew 25:36
In today’s scripture, Jesus had another teaching session with his disciples. He referred to people as sheep or goats—the sheep were the good guys and the goats, the bad guys. When he said the sheep that had fed, clothed, and housed him, the disciples didn’t understand, because they had never seen Jesus in a situation of being needy. He answered them, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” (vs. 40)
Three strikes and you’re out—like in baseball. In reading today’s scripture, I am reminded that I haven’t opened my pantry often enough to share from my wealth of food (strike one), and that I have more coats in my closet than I can possible wear out in five years (strike two). But I do feel good about the spare bedroom in our home that has been occupied many times by teens and young adults who needed time to adjust to their current situation. No strike-out for now, but I can’t think I’ve hit a home run, either. There will always be someone who needs a safe place to land.
Lord, I get it. Today I’m opening my pantry and filling a grocery bag for the food pantry and picking a coat to give to a shelter. Thank you for the reminder. Amen.
“I ask [God] …to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally… so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do.” Ephesians 1: 17,18
While imprisoned in a Roman jail, Paul continued his ministry by writing letters. He had heard how the people of Ephesus had a “solid trust” in Jesus, and out of gratitude, he wrote: “I couldn’t stop thanking God for you–every time I prayed.” He told them how he wanted so much more from them–for them to see with clear eyes what God is calling them to do to keep the faith. This letter of encouragement, tagged with prayer, gave the Ephesians strength and hope.
Every day in my prayers, I pray for my children, family, for those who are sick, our military families, government officials, and for the president and his family. I do blanket prayers asking for safety and good health for everyone. Now and then I include the words of Paul and ask for him to give certain people intelligence and discernment when making decisions.
Perhaps it’s time for me to write a letter to my congressmen, senators, and the president, to let them know I am praying for them and to encourage them to use their intelligence to discern what is best for our nation. I invite you to do the same.
Lord, I gratefully accept prayers said in my behalf. Amen.
“Come, let us worship: bow before him, on your knees before God, who made us!
The first time I attended a church where people leaned over and pulled down the low, carpeted benches to kneel on, I felt awkward—do I stand, sit, or kneel? The little Lutheran church I went to as a child did not have kneelers. When we came to the confession part of the liturgy, we remained standing.
Recently, I attended a church with kneelers, and no one pulled them down to kneel for the confession. I looked around the sanctuary and noticed most of the worshipers were senior citizens who might find it difficult to kneel for several minutes, especially if they’ve had a knee replacement.
I like the idea of kneeling before God. Amazon.com has a beautiful wooden kneeler for around $200.00. I could purchase this for my screened-in patio and meditate on my knees before God. Perhaps I wouldn’t spent quite as much time in meditation when my humble knees begin to ache. I’m guessing when we humbly begin our day with our Creator, God doesn’t care if we are on our knees or comfortably planted on a patio chair
Lord, let us all kneel down to show honor to our Lord. Amen.
“As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I’m going after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms.” Ezekiel 34:12
According to Wikipedia, sheep are a gregarious animal—they congregate together and rarely will one break loose and go off on its own. No wonder God refers to himself as a shepherd of his people, and later, Jesus took on the same title as he prepared his followers for what was to come.
Jesus is the shepherd of our church congregations where people come together with common beliefs and ministry goals. When someone within the church becomes dissatisfied or loses the sense of the spirit of the church, they will move on. Instead of gathering them back into the fold, they are encouraged to find a new flock—not to wonder aimlessly without the help and security of a congregation to help them in their faith journey.
Years ago our family left a church when we felt it was going in the wrong direction. God led us to another and the beginning of a new relationship with other sheep of the flock.
Dear God, thank you for being the good shepherd that helps us find our way through life. Amen.
“How many times have I made you promise under oath to tell me the truth and nothing but the truth? 1 Kings 22:16
Not long after children develop the ability to talk, they begin to cover up their bad behavior with lies. It’s kind of funny when a two or three-year old tries to get by with telling stories, but not when your teenager is still trying to cover his or her bottom by leaving out or changing the facts to their story.
The last flat-out lie I remember telling (and a silly one at that) my friend Claudia and I had a case of senioritis and strolled the mile walk to school and were tardy. We went directly to the principal’s office, and when he asked why we were late, in a straight face, I said, “We fell in a manhole.” Of course, he knew we were lying and trying to be funny, but he didn’t laugh and gave us double punishment—two days in after-school detention.
God knows when we are lying, so there’s no reason to try to pull a fast one on anyone.
Dear Lord, let the words of my mouth please you. Amen.
“No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs.” Revelation 22:5
For the past couple of Christmas seasons, I’ve bought flashlights for my two grandsons, who are six and four, to use when they go camping. There is little chance they will need them to walk around in the dark, but the flashlights give them a sense of security in the darkness of the camper. Unfortunately, the flashlights become a toy and by bedtime the batteries are usually dead and the flashlights are useless.
This fall I spent a weekend camping with my daughter’s family in their 23-foot hybrid camper, which looks like a regular camping trailer until you pop out the tent sleeping areas. I had forgotten how dark it gets in a tent with no street lights and kept my flashlight and extra batteries close to me while I slept.
I’m not fond of darkness, and the passage in today’s lesson gives me hope that when leaving this life, I’ll never need to worry about dead batteries in a flashlight again.
Lord, may your light illuminate on our souls and brighten our days and nights. Amen.
“I saw—it took my breath away!—the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, 144,000 sanding there with him, his Name and the Name of his Father inscribed on their foreheads.” Revelations 14:1,2
Vision Jesus standing in the middle of a football field with 72 thousand people in the stands and another 72 thousand fans surrounding him on the field. They all had his name and God’s name tattooed on their foreheads. Because it would be difficult to find 144,000 people willing to witness their love for Jesus and God by wearing a cross or carrying the John 3:16 sign, I find it hard to picture 144,000 believers in one place.
This week on a local TV news report, I saw Arizona State University fans camping out for days to purchase tickets for the upcoming Notre Dame vs. Arizona State football game this Saturday. ASU fans love football! It amazes me how students and other fans get decked out in “spirit” clothing, paint their faces with the Sun Devil, and carry posters cheering their team on.
The 144,000 people in Revelations represented the team of followers who committed their lives to their coaches, God and Jesus. May we find ourselves at the end of our lives with God and Jesus imprinted on our minds.
Dear Lord, help us wear our faith without names and symbols painted on our face. Amen.