I recently ran across an old letter I wrote to my grandparents during the final semester of my senior year in college. One passage read: “Suddenly we’re all rushing around trying to get as much done as we can before graduation.” I am not exactly sure what I am referring to here, but I can certainly sense the urgency in my words. There is the clear sense that I knew the end of college was near and I wanted to get the most I could out of it. Beyond academic learning, I know I wanted to fully enjoy the friendships I had made and attend events on campus that I had missed in the years before. I can’t really remember if I got “everything done” I planned on doing in that last semester. But I do know I was happy on graduation day and was glad I completed my overall goal of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree.
As I find myself in middle age, looking at the days I have left in this life before “the end,” I find comfort in these words from Christ expressed through John: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). I hold fast to my faith in Jesus, knowing that faith is a gift given to me by the Holy Spirit through baptism. My days may seem to be slipping away faster than I want them to, but I know that there is nothing more that has to be done by me to gain the glory of the next stage of living after I have “graduated” from this life. The crown of life awaits me in heaven because Christ has done it all for me by dying and rising. All that is left to do is wait in eager and excited expectation.
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:8-10
This story of the lost coin came to my mind recently when I had lost my smartphone and could not find it in any of the usual places. Not on the dresser. Not on the nightstand. Not plugged into the charger. Where was it? It had to be in the house somewhere. I got to the point where I was moving furniture and looking underneath every pillow and blanket and stack of papers. I think this is what the Bible meant by “seek diligently” in this story. I was becoming a little frantic. What would I do without my phone?
Then I had the thought of calling my smartphone, which I did. At first I could hear nothing. Then faint ringing from a random corner of my bedroom. It still took a couple calls to listen closely, but I did eventually find the phone under papers in my trash can by my bed. Apparently I had fallen asleep with the phone in my hand and it dropped to the bottom of the trash when I nodded off. I let out a shout! Ah-ha!
Immediately, “Thank you, God” tumbled out of my mouth and then a feeling of relief and excitement. The lost was found.
I felt that woman’s joy of finding what was lost and by extension, God’s joy at finding me when I am lost in sin, buried in the “trash” of wrongdoing. He desperately wants me with him and will do anything to hold me close to him, even sending his Son to die on a cross to reclaim me and work with me for the expansion of his kingdom. Thank God today for finding you!
Have you heard of the Manhattanhenge Effect? It is a phenomenon that happens twice a year in late May and mid-July. It is the time when the sunset aligns exactly with the street grid of the avenues of the borough of Manhattan in New York City in such a way that light streams down the canyons of buildings along every cross street. It is a stunning sight that reminds viewers of ancient monuments like Stonehenge that funnel sunlight in particular ways on certain days that continue to baffle historians.
The juxtaposition of the light of the sun against the shine of modern structures seems to jar our senses in a way that makes us ask, “What is our place here?” We can build all these magnificent buildings, yet God has created the sun that literally illuminates our man-made wonders.
What part of your daily life has God illuminated for you recently that left you speechless? Maybe it is a person or a place you never noticed before. Maybe it is part of nature that you just now have come to see from a new perspective. Maybe it is you yourself that God is shining down upon and shining through that his glory may be seen in a whole new light through your words and actions inspired by him.
Have an enlightening effect on someone today. That is why we are here.
My cousin who lives in Duluth, Minnesota, recently told me about a nighttime experience she had when neighbors told her to take a walk with them a few blocks up the hill from her house to see “something.” Turns out it was the aurora borealis (or Northern Lights) in full display on this particular night. She showed me images from her phone of the beautiful and haunting dancing waves of light shooting and floating up from the horizon in a greenish glow.
The Northern Lights are energized particles from the sun that slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph, but our planet’s magnetic field protects us from the onslaught. Who knew that something that sounds so violent could be so visually stimulating?
I find it interesting that my cousin would not even know this phenomenon could be seen only blocks from her home if her neighbors had not told her.
How often do we miss seeing something spectacular in our lives when we are busy doing other things? God is always doing wondrous things all around us. We just need to be open to finding them and willing to listen when others tell us about them.
When Nathanael was unsure about Jesus, Philip told him, “Come and see” and Nathanael was not disappointed when he met his Lord and Savior and began to follow him (John 1:46). Tell others today to “Come and see” what God has brought to light in Jesus.
I recently moved this church pew in the picture above to the room where I fold my clothes. So a laundry basket has become an almost permanent fixture on the pew. I first thought this was maybe being disrespectful to this pew. My grandpa had refinished it after receiving it from an old church that was getting rid of their furniture, and it was eventually passed down to me. But now I see the basket on the pew as quite appropriate. Let me explain.
The laundry basket is a receptacle for dirty clothes, and then a place for clean and dry clothes once they have been through the washer and dryer. In a similar way, a church pew is symbolic of a place where we can unload our dirty laundry of sin to God in our confession, and it is a place where we are washed clean of sin through his forgiveness and then are given a new robe of righteousness.
Isaiah made a connection to this. He said: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Sin has stained the fiber of our very being and we cannot get the stain of sin out without the forgiveness found in Jesus, who died and was raised to purify us for heaven.
That’s the reason we go to church and sit in the pew: to be reminded that we are clothed again with his holiness each and every day, that we might dwell in his presence and one day praise him with all the saints dressed in white at the foot of Christ’s throne above forevermore. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.,” it says in Revelation 7:14. You may never look at laundry (or church pews, for that matter) the same way again.
The term tech avail sounds like a computer issue, but it is actually a newly used abbreviation for “technically available.” It means that you are open “in theory” during a certain time to work on a project or attend an events unless something better comes along. It is the new way of saying “maybe” or “we’ll see.” Our culture currently likes to be be only tech avail for most things. Don’t ask us to commit to something for sure. We like to leave room for other options.
This is why it is so difficult sometimes to nail down our schedules. It is all up in the air and fluid more often than not. Unfortunately what usually gets the boot most often when scheduling conflicts arise are church activities and events. We can miss in-person worship on Sunday morning and watch it later online. We can opt out of Bible study when our work hours run long. We can skip out on a servant event to go to a concert instead.
As Christians, we should make all matters related to our faith firm in our weekly calendars. If it has church, faith, Bible, worship or service in the name of the activity or event, it should not be moved around or deleted from our Outlook or Google computer calendar. We should mark ourselves not avail for anything else during those times. Our time with our God is precious and takes precedence over all else. Be always available for God. He is always available for you.
The trend in fashion these days is something called athleisure. The term means a type of clothing that is normally worn for athletic activities but is now more commonly worn in other settings like school, the workplace or social occasions. It has become more acceptable to wear such clothing anywhere and in places where more formal attire once was standard.
I am a big fan of athleisure and of more casual dress in general, but there is still a part of me that wants to dress up a least a little more formally in church. But as is clearly being seen, athleisure is perfectly at home in church as well these days.
Dressing up for church used to be something that was a given to show respect for God, but now it is simply an option, and if athleisure helps people to feel more comfortable and “at home” in church, then I am all for it. It could be said that athleisure is a way of showing how at ease you are in the house of God.
To play devil’s advocate, though, I think about the message that athleisure could be sending. It could be declaring that you could exercise at any time, if you only wanted to. It could that you are ready for action, but do not necessarily have to be. In this light, our Christian life can sometimes become this more lazy version of athleisure, if you will. We may look like we are active in our faith, but then not really practice it. We can say we are ready for action in service to the Lord, but then lounge around instead.
Be ready and willing to act and to serve to the glory of God, no matter what you are wearing, even if it is athleisure.
I remember times in my childhood when I was asked to honor the holiness of a situation or taste. I was told to bow at the altar before and after I lit the candles at church as an acolyte. I was entering the closest area to the altar and therefore the area closest to the sign of God’s presence.
I learned from my parents to say a quiet prayer to myself after returning to my seat after Communion. It was a time to reflect on the sanctity of what just happened through the partaking of blessed bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood.
Some churches still have kneelers in the pews which are used during the prayers. During my time at Valparaiso University, I became accustomed pulling down the kneeler before prayer along with all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. By using the kneelers, I sensed more fully that it was a privilege and an honor to talk with God in prayer. This act was not something to take for granted.
I think, of course, of the wise men who bowed before the baby Jesus as they gave him their gifts. It makes me wonder if there is something I can do as I write my weekly check to church (or lately, as I see the offering come up on my auto pay account). Perhaps making the sign of the cross after writing or viewing my gift to the church will remind me of the great opportunity I have been given to give back to the divine for all he has given to me.
What are some respectful gestures you can incorporate into your life to commemorate the holiness of God in little moments when you feel especially near to him?
If you deal at all with or a part of the communication and graphic design industry, you know that there is a world of information out there about fonts. First, there are the types or styles of fonts available. Serif or sans serifs (with or without little projections). There are script versus block fonts (with sweeping curves or without). Then there are fonts that are free and fonts that cost money to use. On top of that, new fonts are being created every day to add to the mix of choices.
I find it overwhelming at times as a writer to worry so much about fonts. All I want to do is get the message out, put the words on paper or on the screen and be done with it. But the reality is that fonts do matter and the way the letters and words on the page or screen look does matter. People are more likely to read material that catches their eye than copy that is plain and ordinary.
What does this have to do with Christianity? A lot actually, because we are called to spread the Word of God in Christ to all the world. And we can do that in a flat or boring way (think Courier of Times) or we can do it in a fun and interesting way (think Fairwater Script or Chalkduster). We can share the Word with little fanfare or we can light up a room with energy and excitement about the Word. The choice is ours. Instead of just reading a Bible passage, act it out to someone, for instance. Instead of just putting a Bible in front of someone, draw a picture to give them of what the story of salvation in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection means to you. Much like the many fonts that are out there, there are an infinite number of ways to express “the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” Take advantage of as many of the different styles to reach people with the love of Christ as you can.
My backyard is currently dotted with volunteer trees that have started to overtake my grass and some of the bushes around the perimeter of my yard. I have clipped the fledgling trees just above the grass line, only for the trees to begin growing back again.
Finally, my brother-in-law helped me to realize that unless I dig into the ground and pull out all the roots attached to these sprouting trees, the trees will keep coming back. The roots under the surface control what can be seen above ground and drive the growing process. Without any roots, no trees will pop up in these places again.
This Bible verse comes to mind when I ponder this situation:
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. Ephesians 3:16-17
Like the volunteer trees in my yard, if we stay rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, we will continue to grow up and branch out in the faith. Without the roots of Christ’s love supporting and nourishing us, our faith will die and we will cease to make a difference in this world for Christ.
So stay rooted in his love through regularly digging into Scripture, continually deepening our prayer life, and constantly attaching ourselves to the message of his gracious and compassionate mercy toward us on the cross.
The tree of the cross makes the foundation of our tree of faith forever strong.