Resolutions, Anyone?

     Statistics say that 40 to 45% of American adults will make one or more resolutions this new year. 34% will  set resolutions related to money, 38% will set resolutions related to weight, 47% will set resolutions related to self-improvement or education and 31% will set resolutions related to relationships. So less than half of us will even make them…but how will that less that half do about KEEPING them? Again, statistics bear out that 75% will still be keeping their resolution past the first week, 71% will make it past 2 weeks, the number will be down to 64% after one month, and after 6 months only 46% of that original 45% will still be keeping their resolutions. 

     Apparently there is some truth to the “old dog, new tricks” thing…because statistically the younger you are, the more likely you are to achieve your resolutions. 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year, while less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year. All in all, not a GREAT winning percentage, is it?!
     Do YOU set New Year’s resolutions, and if so- what kind do you typically set? Why do you set those particular resolutions? What do you hope to gain by setting them? What will you do to be more successful than you were last year? Here’s a suggestion…take it for what it’s worth…DON’T make New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead…set goals. And yes, Virgina…there IS a big difference…if done correctly! A resolution is “I’m going to TRY and do better about (fill in your weakness here) next year!” That “TRY” is the caveat that let’s us off the hook when we fail. Instead, set goals. And here’s what a goal is: SMART. And yes…that’s an acronym! And here’s what it stands for: 
S is for specific- a goal can’t be “I want to lose some weight”…NOT specific.
M is for measurable- a goal can’t be “I want to be a better person”…NOT measurable.
A is for achievable- a goal can’t be “I want to lose 200 lbs. by Feb. 1…NOT achievable.
R is for reasonable- a goal can’t be “I want to lose 4 ounces”…NOT reasonable.
And T is for timely- a goal can’t be “I want to learn the guitar sometime”…NOT timely. 
     So, goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and timely. If you set them with those guidelines, it’s NOT a guarantee that you will achieve them…but you have a MUCH better chance! Tomorrow begins the New Year- along with looking forward to what you want, make sure and spend some time reflecting on what you have. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a great 2011! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Year’s Worth of Reflection

     I don’t know about you, but 2010 has been a pretty big year in my life and the lives of my family. Among the biggest things that happened to us involved our two boys. My oldest son graduated from college this spring. Wow! How did THAT happen? I swear it was just a few days ago that he was a pre-schooler, running around pretending to be a superhero. Now…he’s “all growed up”! We went from supporting him as he went through college (and PAYING for college!) to trying to schedule times when he can come home for the weekend or we can go and see him. It’s hard to believe…and adjust to.

     So, if it were for our ” surprise  miracle” younger son (who was prayed into existence, as I have shared in the past), we would be empty-nesters…and BOY and I glad we aren’t. Otherwise, we would have never had the joy of a 2nd child! His life changed radically this year as he entered Middle School. (If you don’t think that’s a BIG change…you haven’t had anybody IN Middle School for a while!) He’s NOT a little kid anymore, being walked into school every day. Instead, he’s this tall, long-haired…manchild who says “Love ya'” as he bounces out of the car every morning. He started playing the trumpet this year (in our house, you HAVE to play an instrument- we don’t care which one, but you have to play something!), so that has changed our routine. He also started running cross country, which started out as a good thing and quickly became the hardest thing he’s ever done! He developed tendinitis on BOTH knees and had to “limp” through the rest of the season while taking rigorous physical therapy twice a week for 6 weeks! He also developed substantial allergies in the midst of everything else and had to go through a battery of blood tests to find out the root cause…we’re still struggling with that one!
     My wife and I both have aging parents who continue to struggle with a variety of health issues, so that has changed MANY dynamics in our household! Church work gets more demanding…and more rewarding…every day, and in the midst of it all, I have never been more sure of God’s call on my life!
     What has your year been like? Did you have a super fantastic awesome year…or was this one you would just as soon forget? If you had a great year, I am delighted for you! Celebrate that and pray that God will help you have another great year in 2011. If you did NOT have such a great 2010, I’m sorry. My suggestion would be to review the year, see what you can learn from the trials and tribulations, and pray that God will give you the strength and the courage to put those troubles behind you and start the new year fresh! You deserve it!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

It’s Not the Years, Honey, It’s the Mileage!

     I am a big fan of adventure movies, and one of my favorite movie characters of all time is Indiana Jones. In Raiders of the Lost Ark (the 1st and best of the series, followed pretty closely by The Last Crusade, with The Temple of Doom and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull tied at a relatively distant 3rd!) Indy meets up with Marion Ravenwood, a long-lost love. After a…stormy…reunion, she says to him, “You’re not the man I knew 10 years ago.” To which he replies, “It’s not the years, honey- it’s the mileage!” 

     I was 20 years old when Raiders came out (you do the math…I’m busy!), and that line from Indy didn’t really resonate with me, beyond simply being a funny “throw-away” comment. Now, however, I am (did you DO the math?) 49 years old, with 50 JUST around the corner, and that line means a WHOLE lot more to me than it did! I have comer to understand, at least to a much better extent than I did as a 20-year old, that age IS a state of mind. At least at SOME level, that is. I feel younger at almost 50 than I did at 35. At 35, I was making a MAJOR life change- quitting a career that seemed to be finally going somewhere to go back to school AND go into the ministry! (I must have been at least slightly insane to do it!) I was going to school full-time, working at a church part-time (I actually worked there much closer to full-time…I just got PAID part-time!), trying to balance a family in the middle of all that, AND then finding out we were having a baby at the age of 39! I was exhausted all the time! I made it through seminary on guile and gallons and gallons of strong coffee…period! Oh yeah, and God had a little something to do with it, as well! 
     Now, I have been in the ministry for 14 years (can it REALLY be that long?) and I am more…alive…than I have ever been. It doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I am exhausted. It doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I could scrap it all and go live in a cabin in the backwoods of Montana. It doesn’t mean that my life is perfect…far from it. Instead, what it means is that I have a different perspective, a different outlook on life than I used to. Why? Because God is tenacious! He wanted me to go into the ministry…and I didn’t want to. So…I ignore Him. I ran from Him. I told Him “NO!” But He didn’t give up ion me…He kept pushing, until finally I relented (couldn’t take it any more!) and gave in! I really didn’t answer as call to the ministry as much as I got tired of fighting and said “OK!”
     Do your years match your mileage…or is there a lot more miles on your body…and soul…than your birth certificate would bear out? If you feel like you have run out of warranty because of excessive mileage…turn to God. I am living proof that when you do that, God has some special tool that allows Him to crack open the dashboard and roll back the odometer. And it feels so GREAT when that happens!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

If I NEVER Hear Another Beach Boys Christmas Song…

     I LOVE Christmas music! I really do! I have shared before that the 2 radio stations I listen to most- one a  contemporary Christian station and the other a classic rock station- both go to Christmas music 24/7 beginning on Thanksgiving Day. I then spend the next month driving my family absolutely CRAZY. The radio goes on the moment I get up, and it is on basically all day! I have heard more Christmas music this season than I thought actually existed! And therein lies the rub!

     It’s now a few days AFTER Christmas, and I am officially SICK of Christmas music! I KNOW that a rather “bah, humbug” Ebeneezer Scrooge attitude and all…but I can’t help it! And I fear it’s because these radio stations have to fill a LOT of airtime with Christmas music. And that leads to hearing EVERYBODY who EVER recorded a song sing Christmas music! And that, in my humble opinion, is just WRONG! 
     I mean, really, do I NEED to hear the Beach Boys, never my favorite group but one that I thought was…fine…sing Christmas songs? Adding that falsetto harmony to “Little Drummer Boy” does not create a happy sound! Likewise, if I hear Madonna sing “Santa Baby” one more time this year, I might well yank the radio from the wall and smash it! (I DO, however, get a kick out of Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, where he laughs his way through the ending while someone in his E Street Band “ho ho’s” REALLY loudly in the background!) 
     So, I thought I had heard it all, as it pertains to bad Christmas music. But wait…I was wrong! I heard Bob Dylan sing a Christmas song. Now, I must tell you that I am NOT a Bob Dylan fan. In fact, the only thing I can imagine as being worse than Bob Dylan singing ANYTHING would be Bob Dylan and Neil Young singing anything…TOGETHER! So I enter this conversation with a bias. BUT…this was simply a BAD recording. It was enough to make you go off the food for a time. (Which, in my case, might be a helpful thing!) When I heard that song, I decided that EITHER A. the end of times was drawing near OR B it was time to stop listening to Christmas music for the year! (I chose B!) 
     What have you growing particularly SICK of this season? What are you glad to see over about Christmas? What are you going to miss? How will you keep the good parts of Christmas going into the new year? Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The BEST Gift I Got!

     What was the BEST gift YOU got this Christmas? When the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure first came out, we went to see it. (My boys and I love a good, relatively implausible action movie!) After it was over, we were talking about it. My older son said, “As the movie went on, I began to worry that the treasure was going to turn out to be something lame…like love of family!” (He was, at some level, kidding! We actually love each other very much!) But that mentality DOES raise an interesting point. When I ask the question that started today’s entry, you probably automatically thought something like, “OK. He’s going to talk about gifts, then lead to something about Jesus being the best gift he got! So predictable!” Well, hate to burst your bubble…but WRONG! 

     Now don’t misunderstand me- I got gifts that I liked. I got not one but TWO Peanuts (of the Charlie Brown variety) ties. I got a Snoopy playing drums. I got some clothes. A light for my Kindle. I got lots of great stuff. And I DO appreciate the gift of Jesus Christ even more than the stuff I got this year. But the best gift I got came 3 days before Christmas, and it almost makes me feel guilty! One of the women’s groups in my church “adopted” a family for Christmas. I found the family for them, got the info from the family as to what their needs were and passed that on to the ladies. They did a WONDERFUL job of getting everything on the list, making sure everyone in the family had something for Christmas. Nothing extravagant- mostly clothes that the family needed, with a little something “special” for each person added in. About a week before Christmas, all the gifts were delivered to the church and stored on the couch in my office. I decided to wait until a few days before Christmas to get them delivered, so on the 21st I called the family and made arrangements for them to pick everything up the next day.
     At 9AM on the 22nd, they showed up. I had gathered everything out in the lobby of the church, and it was a rather impressive pile. They were clearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff! I helped them carry it out to the car. The man of the house turned to me with a tear in his eye, shook my hand, and told me he didn’t know what his family would have done this year with the church. The woman of the house told me I needed a hug…and gave me one! They got in the car and drove off, and I had the sense that, at least for that moment, their faith in humanity was restored. 
     That’s the BEST present I get every year. I get to “broker” deals between folks who want to help and folks who need help. Whether it’s turkeys at Thanksgiving or presents at Christmas, I probably get involved in about 5-10 of these kinds of experiences every year. And it’s amazing! (Although I almost feel guilty- groups within the church do all the work, but I’m the one who gets to see the impact it has!) “Thank you” to everyone who choose to be a giver this holiday season. Thanks for caring about your fellow humans enough to sacrifice part of your Christmas so that someone else could have something. And believe me, those things don’t go  unnoticed in the Heavenly realm!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Whew!!

     “Yes it’s over…call it a day. Sorry that it had to end this way.” Those bittersweet words, crooned so well by Johnny Mathis, sum up may folks’ feelings today! Christmas came, Christmas went, and we feel as if it ran over us on the way by! In fact, I had a REALLY strange experience about Christmas being over a few days ago! It was on the 21st, a full 4 days BEFORE Christmas, and I was working on the church bulletin for today’s service- the 26th. When you write things (Bulletins, newsletters, whatever) that are for a future time, you have to put your mindset in THAT time frame, as opposed to the one you are  actually in. So I’m sitting in my living room  working on a bulletin on my laptop at 8PM on the 21st of December, while in my mind it was the 26th of December. On the TV, a commercial started playing that included a kid looking at a Santa snow globe while Nat King Cole’s version of The Christmas Song (“Chestnuts roasting”…and all that!) was playing in the background. I looked up from the computer and said, “Why are they playing that NOW…AFTER Christmas?!” My wife and son looked at me like I had lost my mind…a real possibility, and then I realized what I had done. I mumbled some half-hearted explanation and then went back to my work, hoping they would just forget the whole thing!

     But any way you slice, Christmas IS over now! All the build-up, all the hype, all the work, all the stress….and BOOM!- it’s over in the blink of an eye. And then reality sets back in. You have to go back to work and/or school. The decorations come down. And many folks stop acting so “merry and bright”- instead they sadly go back to the way they USUALLY act! How was your Christmas? Did it meet your expectations? Did all your wishes come true? If so…I fear you are in the minority on that one! We all set our expectations SO high, and in the WRONG direction, that they can’t POSSIBLY measure up. And then we’re disappointed. 
     If that all sounds way too familiar to you, don’t fret! A. You’re NOT alone, and B. there IS hope! And here’s the hope! Many of the groups, ministries and organizations that get special attention/help during the Christmas season tend to become “persona non grata” as soon as Christmas is over. In other words, everybody wants to do something “warm and fuzzy” for the holidays and many of those groups benefit from it. But when the “warm fuzzies” wear off, those groups still have needs! So here’s what you can do to make that “magic Christmas” feeling last longer- pick an organization or two and help them. Maybe it’s a non-profit charity that feeds the hungry or clothes the needy of shelters the homeless- help them. Maybe it’s a church that does good ministry all year, reaching out beyond their walls to make a difference in their community and beyond- help them. 
     Now, you might be saying, “But preacher, I JUST finished Christmas and spent all my money- I don’t have  anything left to give!” I would argue 2 things: 1. I bet the things that are important to you are still getting paid, and 2. you can help an organization without opening your checkbook. Volunteer your…wait for it…TIME. Those kinds of groups need money, to be sure, but they also need workers- folks who are willing to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. 
     This post-Christmas season…make a difference. Let the season of giving, the season of love, continue well into the New year. Who knows, you may like it so much that you find you are STILL carry on Christmas when NEXT Christmas rolls around! And how cool would THAT be?! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Happy Birthday!

     When I was a kid, Mrs. Martin used to make my birthday cakes. She was a lady who lived up the road (I grew up out in the middle of nowhere…we didn’t have streets…we had ROADS!) and she made cakes shaped like animals. And I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen! (I was 14 years old at the time…but don’t laugh at me!) Actually, I was about 5 years old, and I remember seeing a picture of me, on my knees on a stool at the kitchen counter, holding the edge of a cake shaped like a lamb so that it tipped forward for the camera. I had a MASSIVE smile on my face! 

     Birthdays are a big deal…aren’t they? In our house, we try and make them very special- it’s the one day of the year that’s YOURS, and no one else’s! You get to pick the dessert AND the dinner, and if you get to pick how we celebrate (within reason, that is)! How do YOU celebrate birthdays at your house? What are the special things you do? And why am I asking about birthdays on Christmas Day, you might ask? Because today is the biggest birthday celebration in the history of the world…and many people aren’t even really aware of it. 
     Think about it- a bit over 2,000 years ago a baby was born. Now, you can argue all you want about whether Jesus was REALLY God’s Son, God Incarnate, or not (I’ll always argue that He IS, by the way!), but it would be hard to argue that there is another person who walked the face of this Earth and has had MORE impact that Him. Jesus, very simply, came into the world in a back water town in the middle of nowhere, in a stable, and changed the world. Forever. We even measure TIME by His birth. Seminaries across the nation can change from designating time by BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, which means “in the year of our Lord”)  to designating it as BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era) all they want…for my money it’s all smoke and mirrors. Regardless of what you call it, Jesus’ birth STILL forever split time in half. Period. 
     So how will YOU recognize Jesus’ birth today? I doubt you will make a cake shaped like a lamb…although it would be terribly appropriate, what with Jesus being the Lamb of God and all…but what WILL you do? Will you set aside some time today to remember His birth, a birth that changed the world, change me…and you? Take a moment today, in the midst of everything else you will do, to thank God for the best birthday/Christmas gift ever!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you are having a GREAT Christmas! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Are you Done Yet?

     Are you done yet? Do you have ALL the presents bought…wrapped…labelled…and delivered? Is everything…ready? If you’re like me…the answer is “no”! (Although I have done MUCH better this year than most years! I will probably only have to make ONE trip to Wal-Mart today!)

     How much time did you spend this season getting ready for tomorrow? Perhaps the better question is this- how much MONEY did you spend getting ready for tomorrow? I read that the average American spends just a bit under $900 on Christmas. That’s a LOT of money! I fear it’s a lot of money a lot of people don’t really have to spend. And yet…we do it anyway.
     Now, I’m not going to join the endless parade of folks lecturing you about how much money you spent. I figure A. you hear it enough from others, and B. you’re a smart person (you read THIS, don’t you! LOL), you can make those spending decisions all by yourself without MY help! What I AM going to challenge you on is this- in the midst of rampant consumerism, how did you do this year with balancing present-buying with focusing on the coming of the Messiah? Along with endless lists and shopping trips, did you also take time during this season to focus on you faith relationship with Jesus Christ? Did you go to church regularly? Did you take advantage of those special mid-week services some churches offered? Did you attend a Bible study or a prayer group this month? Did you read the Christmas story as found in the 2nd chapter of the New Testament Gospel of Luke? Did you do something nice for someone or some organization…simply because it’s the right thing to do?
     If you did…good on you! I hope you got some “warm fuzzies” from it. If you didn’t…it’s not too late! Why? Because the “beauty part” of the Christmas story is that id doesn’t END on tomorrow. Instead…it BEGINS then! The birth of Jesus is simply the beginning of a remarkable story that carries all the way to Easter…and beyond! God’s love that came down at Christmas doesn’t go away on December 26th…it lingers all year. 
     This year, insist that Christmas continue well past tomorrow. Insist that you will be a giving, loving, generous person next week, next month, next year. Decide to be the person God made you to be…all year long! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a safe, healthy and happy Christmas! Please make sure and stop by for a special Christmas posting tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Festivus For the Rest of Us!

     Do
you know about Festivus? Have you missed this important holiday? If so, don’t
fret! It’s actually as “made-up” holiday, celebrated on December 23.
It was created by writer Dan O’Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his
son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld.  In the show, the holiday is introduced by
Frank Costanza to Cosmo Cramer.

Frank:
Many Christmases ago, I went to buy
a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man.
As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”

Kramer: “What happened to the doll?”

Frank:
It was destroyed. But out of that a
new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us
!”

Kramer:
That must have been some kind of
doll
.”

Frank:
She was.”

     Festivus features an unadorned aluminum
“Festivus pole”.  The basics of the
Festivus pole are explained by Frank:

Kramer:
And is there a tree?”

Frank:
No, instead, there’s a pole. It
requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting
. It’s made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.”

     When not being used, the pole is stored in
the Costanzas’ crawl space. The “Airing of Grievances” happens during
the traditional Festivus meal. Everybody tells everybody else all the ways they
have disappointed them over the past year. Then, after the meal, the
“Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of
the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the
household is actually pinned. Anything that happens around Festivus, no matter
how mundane or easily explainable, is seen as a “Festivus miracle”!
The rallying cry for those who celebrate it is “a Festivus for the rest of
us”! It began as a way to celebrate the holiday season without having to
participate in all the rampant pressure and commercialism. Some people actually
celebrate the holiday in varying degrees of seriousness.

     I really enjoy Seinfeld…and the Festivus episode is one of my favorites. It’s HYSTERICAL! But….it DOES raise an interesting question- have we ruined (or at least tainted) the sacred celebration of Christmas by the rampant secular holiday many Americans focus on? Have we turned enough people off to the true meaning of Christmas that’s it’s completely lost in the shuffle? I just read that while 74% of Americans describe Christmas as “primarily religious”, only 58% encourage belief ion Jesus Christ as Savior, only 47% will attend church on Christmas Eve/Day, only 34% will watch Biblically-themed Christmas movies, and only 28% will read or tell the Christmas story from the Bible. It’s amazing that, although 3/4 of Americans call Christmas a religious holiday, only 1/4 will actually read the Bible story about it. 

      My challenge to you is is- even though today is a “Festivus for the rest of us”…focus on the REAL reason for the season! Encourage belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. Attend a church service on Christmas Eve/Day. Watch a Biblically-based Christmas movie. (The Nativity is a pretty decent one.) Read the 2nd chapter of the Gospel of Luke…to yourself AND your family. Celebrate a baby in a manger who split time in half…changed the world…saved us!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Sense of Belonging

     What do YOU want for Christmas? I find that a more difficult question as every year goes by. When I was a kid…man oh man…I had NO problem telling you what I wanted for Christmas! The only problem I had was limited the list to one page! Remember the Sears catalog? That was like “dream gift” heaven for me! There was not a shopping mall near me…in fact there weren’t many shopping malls at ALL when I was a kid! (But you have to remember- that was back when we rode dinosaurs go school!) But when that Sears catalog would come…my oh my! I would spend HOURS pouring over the toy pages. My attention would go excited from one thing to next, only slowing down when I got to the end of the section. Then I would flip back to the START of the section and do it all over again. And somewhere along the way, I would get the bright idea of marking things that I wanted. Then that marking would morph into a list, and the list would grow and grow…until my mom would point out that I needed to do some…”pruning”! When Christmas came, I would be SO excited I could hardly stand it. I would attack my presents with zeal and gusto, ripping wrapping paper to shreds to find out what was inside. Then…on to the next one! 

     But know that I’m an adult (at least chronologically!), I find that I have very little to say when someone asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” The reality is that, while I am FAR from rich, I basically have everything I need. Oh yeah, I occasionally see something and think, “That would be nice to have!”, but I really don’t NEED anything. I am truly blessed. So what DO I want for Christmas? What do ANY of us with clothes to wear and food to eat and a place to sleep want for Christmas? I would argue that, once our basic NEEDS are met, what we really want, deep down in those places we don’t talk about at parties, is to belong. Don’t we? Isn’t there something very basic, very important, about have a sense of belonging? We want the everyday equivalent of the bar on Cheers- to be able to be someplace where everybody knows our name. And, more importantly…loves us!
     I KNOW of a place like that- the Church. Now, perhaps you attended a church that was rather dysfunctional  and there was NO sense of belonging or love. Sadly, those places exist. Or perhaps you attended a church and one person, or one group of people in the church, was rude and uninviting to you, and it turned you off from the whole “church” thing. Sadly, that’s understandable, because it happens, all too often. So am I trying to say that “church” is this magical place where everybody loves everybody and life is all kittens and moonbeams? NO! Church is NOT like that. BUT…There ARE churches that are spiritually healthy and WILL welcome you with open arms, offer you and sense of belonging, and love you. They ARE out there, you just have to find them. And it may take some doing- trying a variety of churches (different sizes, locations, styles, denominations, etc.) until you find the right one for you. But once you do, you will have found…a sense of belonging. And again, I believe THAT’S what we really all want…for Christmas or any other time of year.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Fourth Candle of Advent

     Every week of Advent…the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas…we have looked at one of the candles from the Advent Wreath. Today, we look at the 4th candle.

     The 4th Advent Candle is the Candle of Love. We light this candle to remind us how Jesus, the light of the world, came to show us God’s love. It is also called the Angel’s Candle because it was they who shared their adoration for a coming Messiah. Its purple color represents the royalty of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve, we light the 5th candle, the large white one in the center. It’s called the Christ Candle, and it represents the arrival of the Messiah. Its white color represents purity. The time of waiting is over; our Lord is born. We light the Christ candle to remind us that all of God’s gifts – Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love – are to be found in God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus Christ.
The colors of Advent are very symbolic- historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is purple, the color of royalty. (Some churches use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is also a symbol of royalty.) The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion, the Atonement. Red and Green are the secular colors of Christmas, although they derive from older European practices of using evergreens and holly to symbolize ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings into a cold world. Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God.
     Here’s a prayer for Advent- Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of Your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary. Upon Him rests all Your grace, through Him comes all Your mercy. As the light shines from these candles, so may the light of Jesus shine within our hearts. Help us to make Your church the light of the world. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem. Amen.
     I pray you have a safe, healthy and joy-filled Christmas…and I pray that you have a genuine experience of Jesus Christ in the midst! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

National “Go Caroling” Day

     Today is National “Go Caroling” Day! But I just couldn’t wait…so I went yesterday! Every year, one of the things my church my church participates in is caroling. A group piles into the church van and drives around town, visiting folks who aren’t able to get out as much anymore. We call them in advance to make sure that they will be home and accepting visitors. 

     When we arrive at their home, we all gather on their porch (or in their home if they invite us in) and sing! We have a lyric sheet with about 12 songs on it and we take turns choosing which ones to sing. We sing 3 songs at each house, then close with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. 
     Yesterday we visited 9 different homes, sang 36 songs (some of them repeats) and received homemade candy, store-bought candy and home-baked cookies. Then we went back to the church for hot chocolate and more cookies! It was a veritable sugar rush! Then we all went our separate ways, just a bit different than when we gathered together!
     The amazing thing about something as simple as Christmas caroling is that it brings joy…to both those who receive the caroling AND those doing the singing! The joy those who are visited receive is obvious…you can see it on their faces. Whether they were on the porch WITH us, in the house WITH us, or in the house WATCHING us through the window, the joy was evident. They were so pleased- not only to hear and sing some good old fashioned Christmas carols, but to see that there are folks who actually care about them. (We ALL want that, don’t we?) 
     The joy in us was a bit different, but no less impactful. To bring joy to someone else can’t help but bring joy to you as well. I always find that to be the case- I set out to do something nice for someone else, and in the end I feel I GOT more than I GAVE! My 10-year old an I came home from that event feeling just that- a warmth, a glow that just can’t be found outside of Christian outreach and interaction!
     What have you done for someone else this season? If you HAVEN’T…it’s NOT too late! There are TONS of things you could do. And you will find that, while you made a difference in someone’s life…you made a difference in your own as well! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

March to the Manger

     My church, like most, has a variety of traditions they follow each year. One of my favorites is known as The March to the Manger. It is traditionally done on the Sunday before Christmas…and this year is NO exception! So today is March to the Manger Sunday! And here’s what it looks like!

     At all three services, live actors will portray the characters of the Nativity. Two different actresses are portraying Mary over the three services, while one actor will portray Joseph all morning. One young woman is the angel all morning, while a rotating group of men are portraying the shepherds and the Wise Men. 3 dedicated women will serve as stage managers for the three presentations. 
     In addition, 2 groups of musicians/singers will provide some GREAT Christmas music. At both our Contemporary and Blended services, 6 singers, along with a keyboardist, guitarist and 2 drummers (I’m one of those drummers…surprise, surprise!) will perform some great contemporary Christmas music that will help tell the story. At our Traditional service, an 8-member vocal ensemble, a 7-member bell choir and a pianist will perform marvelous traditional Christmas music. 
     At the end of each service, the congregation is invited to come forward with their Christ Gift- a special offering at the end of the year. Each service also contains the lighting of the 4th candle of Advent. We will close each service by singing Joy to the World. 
     In the midst of the costumes , pomp and circumstance, the sanctuary is decked out in holiday splendor. The tree, a beautiful 8′ one, is tastefully decorated with colored glass globe ornaments. There are also 2 other, smaller trees in the sanctuary, as well as 39 potted poinsettias- 26 red and 13 white. The whole place looks beautiful! 
     What are the traditions your church has that you look forward to? What are those things that have you saying, “Next week is (fill in your favorite here) at church…I can’t wait!” I pray that A. you HAVE some of those things to look forward to, and B. that you either already have or will get to participate in them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and lay out costumes for the March to the Manger! (The joy AND curse of having a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater and a Master’s Degree in Theology!)
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Music of Christmas

     I am, admittedly, a HUGE music fan! I have been a musician for almost 40 years. I’ve been singing since I was a teenager. I grew up listening to such diverse artists as Andy Williams, Mitch Miller and Iron Butterfly! There are very few genres of music I DON’T like…but two that come to mind rhyme with “bountry” and “pap”! Therefore, I look SO forward to Christmas music. The Christian radio I listen to starts playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day, and they play it 24/7 until Christmas Day. The “classic rock” station I sometimes switch to is doing the same thing., And the car I am currently driving has satellite radio, which features AT LEAST 2 all-Christmas channels. It’s everywhere…and I love it! 

     I love the hard-edged stuff that Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays. I love Burl Ives singing about Rudolph. I love Andy Williams singing and scary ghost stories. (Which Christmas does HE celebrate?!) I love the Vince Guaraldi Trio doing “Christmastime” from the Charlie Brown cartoon. I can even tolerate small doses of Alvin and the Chipmunks…REALLY small doses! But my favorite Christmas recording of all time would have to be “The Christmas Song” by none other than the legendary Nat King Cole. 
     “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”) was written in 1944 by Mel Torme and Bob Wells. According to Torme’s own account the song was written in the blistering days of summer. Torme describes seeing a spiral pad resting on a piano. On the pad Bob Wells had scribbled several words in the hopes of thinking about staying cool. Some of the terms on that spiral pad “chestnuts roasting,” “Jack Frost nipping” and “folks dressed up like Eskimos.” According to Torme the entire song was written in about 40 minutes. But little did he know on that Beverly Hills afternoon that the Southern California heat would inspire one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time.
     The story goes that he took it to his buddy Nat King Cole…and it was love at first sight. Cole first recorded the song in 1946, but after listening to it decided that something was missing. He got Capital Records to pay for another recording, and this time it featured the great strings you hear. That 2nd recording in 1946 is the version we are used to hearing. Nat King Cole would go on to record the song two more times: once in 1953 with a full orchestra and again in 1961 when he was able to take advantage of a new technology- stereo. Nothing gets me in that marvelously sentimental Christmas mood quite like Nat King Cole and The Christmas Song!
     What;s YOUR favorite song of the season? What are the things that get YOU in that same mood? I pray you get to experience those things this Christmas! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

No Internet Connection??!!

     I came into work one day this week…and the Internet was…GULP…down! I freaked out! How in the world can I do…anything…without the Internet? How can I function if I can’t check my email and keep up with parishioners on Facebook? What’s happening?! It reminded me of a Saturday Night Liver sketch featuring Will Ferrell as a TV news anchor. In the middle of the broadcast, the teleprompter (the thing that feeds them the words they are supposed to say) quit working! To say chaos ensued  would be a GROSS understatement!

     After rebooting A. the modem, B. the router, C. my laptop and D. the main church computer, I managed to restore Internet service before the entire structure of society crumbled into anarchy…but JUST barely! But it got me to thinking about some things…and I didn’t necessarily like what I came up with! 
     Am an a self-professed techno-junkie. My laptop goes everywhere I go…as long as there is a wifi connection, that is! I have the latest in smartphones- it does everything but walk your dog and babysit your children…and I believe they are developing apps for those! I don’t read “real” books anymore- I read everything on my Kindle. If it weren’t for electrical outlets and docking stations, I would be IN TROUBLE! Are you that way? Does you life revolve, in large part, around the latest technology? (The fact that you’re reading THIS answers that question to SOME extent…doesn’t it?!) What do you think about that?
     Now, don’t get me wrong- this isn’t leading up to my saying I’m going to chuck it all, stop writing this blog and swear off electronics. I mean…get real! But what it DOES make me realize is that I need to make sure I BALANCE the technological side with the human side. I am convinced that to ignore things like Facebook and Twitter or the overall presence and impact of the Internet in this day and age would be a POOR choice on a pastor’s part. If we aren’t changing, growing and adapting, how can we expect our parishioners to? But on the other side of that coin, we cannot allow the technology to REPLACE the human touch. There still needs to be face to face, hand to hand personal contact with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
    How do YOU do with that balance? My guess is, if you are like me…and nearly everyone else on the planet…you tend to lean more toward one end of that spectrum than the other. And that’s OK. What’s important is to be self-aware…know where you are, and be willing to try and make changes to get a bit closer to the center…wherever that may be for you! learn how to adapt to changing times while still hanging on to your core values. Do that…and everything else will pretty much take care of itself!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Third Candle of Advent

      Each week during December I am taking a day to look at the season of Advent- the time leading up to Christmas. As I have mentioned already, Advent is a season of waiting…waiting for Emmanuel…God with us…Jesus Christ. (I have also shared that I, impatient person that I am, don’t wait very well!)      

     This week we look at the 3rd candle of Advent…the Candle of Joy. We light this candle to remind us that Christ is the bringer of true and everlasting joy. It is also called the Shepherd’s Candle because it was they who first experienced the joy of a coming Messiah. Its pink color represents the joy of a baby in a manger.
     Another common symbol of Advent is the Advent calendar.
Each compartment can either show a part of the Nativity/birth of Jesus, or can simply display a piece of paraphernalia to do with Christmas. Some Advent calendars even include daily chocolate or Lego pieces! A compartment is opened each day during the month of December leading up to Christmas Day.
     Waiting is such a HARD thing…but it is an important element of Advent. This period of waiting offers us the opportunity to prepare our hearts and minds for the miracle of God with us.
     Here is a prayer for the 3rd week of Advent- Loving God, we thank You for the joy You bring us. Through Your Son we have found joy in living as Your children. Help us to prepare our hearts for this gift. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem. Amen
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Urgent Versus the Important


     Sigmund Freud once said, “A man with a toothache can’t be in love.” The inference is, of course, that when you have something “nagging” in your life, it robs the focus from other things. It’s really the difference between the urgent and the important. You know what I mean. There are LOTS of things in our lives that are urgent- those “barking dogs” that yap at our heels all day long saying, “Pay attention to me…I demand your time!” And while some of the them ARE important…many of them are JUST urgent. And yet, we give them our attention, often to the detriment of those things that are TRULY important.

     What are the things that are urgent in our life? Depending on how you spend your days, it may be things at work that aren’t really very important but noisily seek your attention- a co-worker who leans on you to help them finish their projects, a business associate/customer/vendor who thinks they can’t survive another day without talking to YOU, and so forth. Perhaps you are a “stay at home” parent? Then it might be the kids, insisting that  they need your undivided attention 24/7/365. Maybe you’re an “empty nester” and it’s those nagging chores around the house or a friend/neighbor who relies a bit too heavily on you. Whatever the case, we ALL have those things in our lives that are POSITIVE they are the most important thing you have to deal with…and they act accordingly!
     I see this as a problem year-around, but I see it as an even greater problem during the Christmas season. We get so caught up in the temporal that we lose sight of the eternal. Take a moment this week and review your schedule- are you spending enough time with God? Are you giving Him you BEST…or your leftovers? Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not suggesting you should shirk your responsibilities here. By all means, take care of business. Just make sure that God is at the top of your list of business!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

One More Gift

      Tossing. Turning. Looking at the clock. You’ve waited, and waited…and now you’re being asked to wait some more. Then, just when it seems time has simply come to a screeching halt, the sun peeks over the horizon; Christmas morning dawns calm, cold, and clear. It’s time! You leap from your bed, run to mom and dad’s room, yelling, laughing, tumbling, begging. 

  “Please? Can we please open the presents now?!” And then, there it is- a seemingly endless array of presents meets your inquisitive gaze. It’s as if a toy store has exploded! Then…you get to tear into the wondrous collection! Decorative holiday wrap flies in a whirlwind of activity; there is a literal blizzard of shredded paper in the room. And then, as quickly as it began, it ends. 
     Remember Christmas when you were little? Now you’re “all growed up”, you’ve come to also appreciate the joy of GIVING gifts- something special for your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, that you just know they will cherish. Giving to others is one of the true joys of Christmas. It’s not about the amount of money spent or the prestige of the gift received. Instead, it’s about the love you have for that person; seeing the joy on their face is perhaps the best gift they could give you. 
     Pray about adding one more name to your gift list. Choose an individual, a family, an organization that could benefit from something  special this season. Then come forward with your gift, look into the manger, and see for yourself the true joy of Christmas. I pray a joyous and peace-filled holiday season to you and your family.

Proud! Proud! Proud!

     There is an episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Opie is VERY proud of something. So proud, in fact, that Andy says, “That boy weighs about 100 lbs and I would swear 50 of it is proud. Proud. Proud. Proud. Proud. Proud. Proud!” What are YOU proud of? I’m proud of…my wife! Along with simply being an awesome human being, she shows an amazing ability to listen to God…AND… respond to what He says! 

     Let me give you an example! She once told me that there were 3 things she would NEVER do in church: pray out loud, sing and speak! In other words, anything that required doing anything in front of people was on her “not doing list”! But I have learned that God has a way of laughing when we tell Him what we WON’T do!
     With my wife, the transition started when we moved to the church we are at now. We started a praise band, and as I was assembling the team, my wife came to me and said she wanted to be one of the… gasp…singers! I was stunned, but excited. So she started singing with the group. Then, she felt God calling her to start a prayer group. So she did…which she leads every Thursday evening. THEN…she told me she wanted to take a Lay Speaking class…which she did. Since then, she has preached twice, leads this weekly prayer group, sings regularly, and serves as the “chaplain” for the band, in addition to many other things she does at the church. I frequently remind her of the things she would “never do”!
     When God works in our lives, He can empower us to do things we would NEVER do on our own- things we aren’t even really capable of…apart from Him. We have to be receptive to His urgings, but my experience is that, even when we AREN’T terribly receptive, if it’s something God wants…it’s going to get done! 

     What would YOU do that you swore you never would?  What are the things you say “I will NEVER do that” about? WHY do you say that? Is it because it would be a bad thing to do…or because it would take you out of your comfort zone? I encourage you to search your life and find those things you feel called to do…but are afraid to. Identify them, then pray about them and ask God to give you the wisdom to recognize them, the discernment to figure out which ones you should pursue, and the courage to actually pursue them! If you do, you will be amazed at what God can do through you that you never thought possible!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Life-Giving Christmas: Week 3- Joy

     I had a very busy Friday! Even though it’s my “day off”…some Fridays are less “off” than others! Late in the afternoon, I was at the hospital, sitting with a family. I left about 5:20PM, because I had to get home, changed and to church before 6PM to drive 17 Junior High and High School kids to the movies! I had told my wife I would pick her up something for dinner, since she was going to be alone for the evening, so I drove through KFC. Now, I have admitted MANY times that I am not the most patient person in the world, especially when I am in a hurry! So I pulled up to the drive-through and there was only one car in front of me. My side window was kind of fogged, so I rolled it down to read the menu. That meant I could hear the person in front of me ordering. There was some confusion, so the process took longer than I would have liked! Then I heard the voice from the speaker say, “Those biscuits will take 7 minutes…do you want to wait?” Well, I was already pushing it…time-wise…and realized that if HE waited 7 minutes for his biscuits…then I waited 7 minutes for his biscuits, too! So I said, “Say ‘No’!” It was at that precise moment I became painfully aware of 2 things: 1. My window was still down, and 2. I talk loudly! Yep…he heard me! And I KNOW he heard me because he turned his head and stared at me! I smiled weakly, rolled up my window as fast as I could and pretended to “dig” on the radio! Happy, happy, joy, joy! 

There’s a Swedish proverb that says shared sorrow is half a sorrow, while shared joy is double joy. How do you define joy? In 1988, pitcher Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers had just been named the Most Valuable Player in the World Series. Just before the 9th inning of the decisive 5th game, a TV camera caught him in the dugout- he was leaning against the wall and his lips were moving. He seemed to be talking to himself. The next night he was Johnny Carson’s guest on the Tonight Show. Johnny asked him what was saying in the dugout. His response was, “I wasn’t saying anything.” Carson pushed him on the issue until Hershiser confessed he had been singing. The audience cheered and clapped as Johnny persisted with, “What were you singing? Sing it for us now.” Finally…Hershiser started to sing- “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Carson was speechless and the whole audience was dead silent. Then one person started clapping…and soon the whole audience was applauding….responding to the joy they saw in Hershiser’s face as he sang.
      This time of year often creates a forced expectation of joy that only serves to highlight what’s wrong or missing in people’s lives. If we see a marked contrast between our lives and what’s presented as the cultural norm, they tend to feel isolated and depressed. Joy from God can restore a sense of wholeness and community. What does the Bible have to say about it?
1John 1:1-5: From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Some people just have NO joy. A man goes into the doctor’s office and is met by the receptionist. He tells her he has a sore throat that he wants the doctor to examine. She joylessly says, “Down the hall, first door to the right, take off your clothes.” “But ma’am,” he says, “it’s just a sore throat. I don’t think that’s necessary.” “Down the hall, first door to the right, take off your clothes!” “But ma’am…!” “Down the hall, first door to the right, take off your clothes! Now!” So he goes down the hall and takes the first door to the right. He walks in on another man already sitting there in his boxer shorts, shivering. He says to him, “Boy, that receptionist is really joyless, isn’t she? I just have a sore throat and she told me to come in here and take off my clothes.” The man in the boxer shorts says, “You think that’s bad? I’m the UPS man!”
     Here’s a mistake many people make- they confuse happiness for joy…it’s easy to. The Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” about 330 times, but only mentions “happiness” about 26 times. Happiness depends on your circumstances. If all the planets align just right…you can be happy. But other people have the ability to take happiness away from you. Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is “happening” to me. If people treat me well, if things are going my way, then I’m happy.  If my circumstances aren’t favorable, then I’m unhappy- simple as that. Joy, on the other hand, throbs throughout Scripture as a profound, compelling quality of life that transcends the difficulties that impact God’s people. Joy is not surface-level happiness- it’s deeply rooted in our soul. Joy doesn’t always manifest itself in smiles and laughter- sometimes it’s seen as grace and assurance. Joy is a divine dimension of living not shackled by circumstances. Joy is evidence of God’s presence in your life. If God is in your life, if you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, then the joy of the Lord will be obvious in you. Joy is a God-given gift that lives within us.
     There are 2 kinds of people: “thermostat” people and “thermometer” people. A thermometer reflects the climate of the room. If the room is cold, it’s cold. If the room is hot, it’s hot. But a thermostat can change the climate of the room. By its setting a thermostat can change a cold room into one that’s warm, or a hot room into one that’s cool. And a joy-filled Christian is a thermostat person. A joy-filled Christian can change the climate of a room when they walk in. Have you ever seen that happen? Have you ever been in a room where everybody is negative and complaining…everything’s going wrong? Then a joy-filled Christian, a thermostat person, enters the room and before you know it…the whole climate changes. God wants joy-filled people in His church….and perhaps more importantly out in the world- people who don’t dwell on the negative, but instead focus on the positive, and see the good things God is doing in His church and in the world.
     Do you have joy…true joy? New Testament commentator William Barclay said “a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black
clothes and long faces.” It seems obvious to me that many people don’t. You’ve been around those kinds of people- grumpy, griping sticks in the mud who are negative about virtually everything that happens in life and complain almost constantly? As a result…they’re just NOT much fun to be around! My mother-in-law would call them Joy Suckers! If there isn’t much joy in your life, then you need to reconnect to God. There are many who look connected…alive- they LOOK and SOUND like they’re alive, but they’re not…because they’re no longer attached to God. But I have great news this morning- lost joy can be restored. Famous evangelist Billy Sunday once said, “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there’s not joy in religion, you’ve got a leak in your religion.” God not only wants to restore our lost joy, He also wants us to cultivate those things that will build lasting joy into our lives so that we don’t have any leaks in our religion. Here are 4 ways to cultivate joy:
1. Recognize God as joyful. We can be helped greatly in our journey toward joy if we learn to see God not as a taskmaster but as our joy-filled Heavenly Father. God takes great joy in you and breaks out in song when He thinks about you! That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? If we have little or no joy in our lives, it could very well be because we don’t know God well enough…because joy is one of His main character qualities. When we recognize God as joyful we will be even more drawn to Him. He’s not the aloof judge just waiting for us to mess up so He can unleash His fury. He has created us to be His joy!
2. Rehearse God’s attributes in worship. God finds great joy in His creation, so when we celebrate His attributes in worship we allow our joy to flow back to Him. Mark Twain said, “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with. Our collective worship of God on Sundays should be the culmination of our individual and private worship during the week. We make room in our lives for God’s joy through prayer and Bible reading. Then, on Sunday, we come ready to rejoice in God. As we rehearse who God is by celebrating His attributes, joy will begin to bloom in our lives. 
3. Reignite our passion for evangelism. One of the best ways to build joy into your life is by talking to others about Jesus. Philemon 6 says: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  Not only do we appreciate God’s gift of grace in our lives when we tell others about Jesus, we also get to see the true joy of those who experience new birth. 
4. Release your problems to God. One of the hallmarks of Christian joy is that it can be experienced in the midst of intense sorrow and loss. Often we define happiness as the absence of something undesirable, such as pain, suffering, or disappointment. But Christian joy is the proper response to the presence of something desirable: God Himself. Because He’s in charge we can have joy – no matter what happens. This takes a conscious decision. We’re commanded to work at it. While we can’t manufacture joy, we CAN give our problems to God by leaning on Him with everything we’ve got.
     Perhaps the most recent and obvious example of the joy of the Lord in someone’s life is a young woman from my church. She has always been fun, smart, charming, pleasant…all the things you would want someone to be. But over the past few years…God has been working on her- so much so that several months ago, she made the decision to become a part of InterVarsity, and evangelical and interdenominational college campus ministry. And since she made that leap of faith, I’ve noticed a…difference in her. And that difference can only be described as…JOY! When you see her, when you talk to her, even just seeing a PICTURE of her…you can literally FEEL the joy exuding from her. It’s quite remarkable…and contagious!
     Mother Teresa describes joy as a net of love with which you can catch souls. The only way to have real joy is to nurture your relationship with Jesus and keep in step with God on a daily basis. Like when the queen of England is at home, joy is the flag that flies over the castle of our hearts announcing that Jesus is in residence today. This week, I encourage you to read through the New Testament Book of Philippians and watch for the joy of God. The word “joy” or “rejoice” is used 19 different times in this short book. As you read it, ask God to ripen the fruit of joy in your life. There’s a spark of the divine in each of us…entrusted to us, to do with what we can, to improve upon it, build it up, and, in the end, hopeful return it back to God a little better than when we got it! To discover joy we need to stop looking for it…and instead go looking for the one Who is Himself joy. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!