Advent: Think Small, Be Honest, and Give Big

Invitation

Many times this part of a book is called the “introduction.” I’ve decided instead to make mine the “invitation.”

Why you ask?

Oh, I’m so glad you did.

We live in a time when bigger is assumed to be better: bigger homes, bigger cars…bigger paychecks. Unfortunately, I’ve seen much more dissatisfaction, disappointment, and disillusionment when bigger doesn’t bring better—when more doesn’t result in greater happiness.

Many years ago I had the privilege of serving as an interim pastor at a Mennonite church in Ohio. In an effort to help me understand the congregation several members encouraged me to find a book they felt explained their choices and focus in life. The title was “Living on Less, And Liking It More.” The title not only intrigued me, but challenged me.

Three “tenets” of the Church of the Brethren include continuing the work of Jesus: peacefully, simply, together. Sandwiched there in the middle laid a concept ready to pounce on the faithful and push them into brand new territory.

Does God care about small stuff?

What does it mean to live simply?

How much is enough?

Do I really need all this stuff?

Thinking about Advent helped me arrive at a “simple” answer: Yes.

As we journey to Advent, we’re going to look some of those small, seemingly insignificant things and consider how important they are to our God.

I’m inviting you to think anew on the spiritually small things of life to gain a new understanding as to why God chose to begin his redemption plan with a baby.

But not just small things matter to God.

We’ll also be considering how important being honest is—especially when it means being vulnerable. God is concerned about honesty and sincerity in our faith journey. And coming as a baby demonstrates his willingness to be vulnerable. Can we do less?

Finally, we will also accept God’s challenge to give big. After all God gave us the greatest gift of all, Jesus.

So, join me: think small, be honest, and give big!

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Life’s short…then you die.

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I remember a seminary professor’s instruction to the wide-eyed group of preacher wannabes: Pay attention when the Bible repeated itself.

As I have been preparing for this week’s message on Psalm 39, I’ve noticed the author has stated twice that life is “a hand’s breadth.” Each time the thought is followed by the musical term “Selah.”

What’s the point? Life is short.

And after each reminder: Selah. Pause. Reflect. Take a breath.

My grandson started back to school this week. As he approached his last weekend, he was filled with complaints at what he didn’t get to do or get done during his summer break. He was overwhelmed by how slow summer drug on, but how quickly it was gone.

Hand’s breadth.

That’s life, Buddy. That’s life, friend.

Message Meme: Harmony

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I googled “how do we create harmony?” And I was surprised by the variety of responses that came up. We can create harmony in the workplace, for the unemployed, in our relationships, and in our minds. There are sites to teach you how to harmoniously kick start your career, create harmony in your style, and find harmony in your home.

Scripture tells us: Live in harmony with each other (Romans 12:6a, NLT)

In music, harmony is the working together of notes—different notes, with different values, different tones—to make something beautiful and uplifting.

When scripture tells to be like-minded, to have the same mind as Christ Jesus, we need to understand that the “likeness” is not necessarily “sameness.” We may never agree in all things, we are as different as notes. But we can have the same end game, the same goal “in mind.”

What can we do to cross the finish line together?

Live in harmony.

 

 

Message Meme: When You Pray

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Tuesdays I plant a seed for the coming Sunday message. Starting Sunday I will begin a series which draws inspiration from Bob Hostetler’s book, The Red Letter Prayer Life, 17 Words From Jesus To Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer. 

This week’s text is Jesus’ words on prayer after watching the self-absorbed Pharisees who prayed publically to get attention:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6, NIV).”

Is Jesus saying we are only to pray in private? I don’t think so.

I believe Jesus is teaching his followers that until they work on their relationship with God through private prayer, their public prayer will only look like the performance of the Pharisees.

So when you pray, get alone with God and talk to him…really talk with him…and don’t perform.

Selah: Vacation

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My husband and I are going on a vacation—together. That may not sound like news to most people, but for us it is more rare than a blue moon.

In 40 years we’ve only been on vacation together about a dozen times—and most of those were with family.

He’s always been a go and see kind of guy. Fill up the schedule. See all the sites. I would come home exhausted.

This time, he’s on vacation. No agenda. Not interested in going or doing.

Resting. Really resting.

I’m encouraged. It’s as if I have permission to rest, too.

Why do I need someone else to give me permission?

Do you need permission to rest? To Sabbath?

We’re planning to go to Hawaii next year for our 40th. I asked for recommendations from friends on Facebook. One of the best came my friend Mike. He said this: My recommendation… just go to Hawaii (I liked Maui)sit on the beach during the day and relax. Go to a Luau in the evening and enjoy yourself. Take notes for all the stuff you would like to visit on your next trip, maybe squeeze one of those in on this trip but most of all relax. Don’t worry about your hair while you’re there because there is no such thing as a good hair day on the islands. And relax, treat like one long Sabbath.

There’s something to be said for this kind of thinking. Get someplace in nature. Appreciate God’s amazing handiwork. Breathe.

I’m breathing a lot of Arizona air this week. And thanking God for the opportunity to rest.

When Will I See You Again?

This morning as I was getting ready to write I found this post from last year. I need these words again. Maybe their truth will rub an ache in your faith, too. Selah.

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For we walk by faith, not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7)

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I’m at Florida Christian Writers Conference. It’s a great place to be on so many levels. For one thing, the weather here is delightful. I’m also improving my craft, networking, and making new friends.

So, it might make more sense to you when I tell you I walked out on my balcony and prayed: Lord, where will I, when will I see you again? (And then I started singing, “When will I see you again?” by the Three Degrees…it’s on youtube if you need an earworm)

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I love my regular times with the Lord. Morning routines of prayer and attention to the Word can put such a positive energy into the beginnings of my day. If there’s a sunrise or a sunset filling the sky, it feels like God is tapping me on my shoulder reminding me he’s…

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