Monthly Archives: December 2016

Fresh Start

new yearThe new year provides us with a golden opportunity to make a fresh start. So many begin an exercise regimen on Jan. 1. Others go on a diet. Many more make commitments to give up bad habits.

So often these best laid plans go by the wayside by the time we reach Valentine’s Day. But many do stick, and I am always impressed by friends and loved one who stay committed to the resolutions made on this day, Dec. 31, each year.

But the concept of a fresh start in a Christian context is much broader. I am constantly going back to these words from Lamentations 3:22-23:

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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12 Days

12 daysWe all know the song about the 12 days of Christmas that starts, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me … ” But do we really celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas in our homes? Our society tends to want to end the celebration on the 25th. But our church year calendar has the 12 days of the Christmas SEASON built into it.

The 12 days on the church year calendar span the time from Christmas Day to Epiphany (Jan. 6), when we celebrate the arrival of the wise men to worship Jesus.

So we as followers of Christ and followers of the church year calendar should do all we can to enjoy the entire 12 days of Christmas and not pack everything up on the night of the 25th.

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Cantata

CDI am singing in a cantata at my church again this year, and as part of the discipline for preparing for that event, our director provides CDs of people singing the music for us to listen to in the car. I find the experience interesting because I have the songs on almost a continuous loop whenever I am driving anywhere. And sometimes the juxtaposition is startling.

As I turn off the car in the grocery store parking lot, the last words I hear are, “Love came down at Christmas.” Somehow buying food becomes less of a chore when you know that.

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Christmas letters

Christmas letter

What will you say in your Christmas letter this year?

I confess that I am one of those people who loves composing and receiving Christmas letters. Maybe it is the writer in me, but there is something therapeutic to me about summing up the events of the past year in a single page and reminding me and all the friends and loved ones on my Christmas list that the Savior who was born for us in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is still at work in our daily lives.

I love to hear the stories of how God worked in the lives of others during the past year and there is a sense in the very writing of Christmas letters that we are all in this together, that we are corresponding out of mutual love and respect and a bond with one another.

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Mission Statement

missionEvery once in a while, a Bible verse keeps popping up so often in our day-to-day experiences that you can»t help but think, “God really wants me to hear this verse!”

The verse that has been appearing frequently in my life in the last weeks is Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Several writers of our daily devotionals at Creative Communications used it in their reflections. It was the reading in church a few weeks ago. And it is the theme verse for the year at the parochial school associated with my parish.

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Steals on the Ear

listenOn All Saints Day, we sang my favorite hymn, “For All the Saints.” And though I have sung it a thousand times, this time when I sang it, a certain phrase caught my attention. In one verse we sing:

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Steals on the ear? What does that really mean? A quick study of the word steal in this context revealed this meaning of the word: to move somewhere quietly or surreptitiously.

”That distant triumph song is moving secretly onto our ear“ is what that line is saying in our current vernacular.

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Media Reformation

smartphoneAs we are fast approaching the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October 2017, it is time for us to look at where we are as a Church today. To many theologians, we are in the midst of a media reformation as the Church uses all sorts of new technology to spread the message of the Gospel far and wide in the same vein as Martin Luther and his use of the printing press to get his writings out to the masses.

Billy Graham once said, “It is time for the church to use technology to make a statement that in the midst of chaos, emptiness, and despair, there is hope in the person of Jesus Christ” (Christianity Today, October 2016, 42). It is, in fact, hard to be heard in the clutter of messages being spewed out in social media channels, but it is our task to make the effort and be the voice of promise to a people searching for true meaning in life.

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Motivations

shining crossI found it interesting that both Publishers Weekly and Christianity Today mentioned the Ennegram system in their most recent issues. “Most simply, the Ennegram is a system of categorizing people with a number—one through nine—that represents a core motivation or orientation to others and the world,” the Christianity Today article reported (Christianity Today, November 2016, 56). (See also “What It Means to Be Christian,” Publishers Weekly, October 24, 2016, 21.)

At some point in our lives we have all taken a personality or spiritual gifts survey to indicate what our strongest traits are. What is making the Ennegram system different and so appealing to churches nationwide is that it gets to the heart of why people do what they do. The nine categories are as follows:

  1. I want to be good.
  2. I want to be needed.
  3. I want to achieve.
  4. I want to be unique.
  5. I want to think things through.
  6. I want to be safe.
  7. I want to have fun.
  8. I want to be in charge.
  9. I want to be a peace.

As I type each of these categories, my mind instantly goes to certain people I know and to myself. “That is so him.” “That is so her.” “That is so me.” The designers of the system grant that each one of us is a mixture of several numbers, but suggest that if you are a certain number you often become blind to the motivations of those are are another number.

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