A few weeks ago social media was filled with photos of children standing in front of their front doors on their first day of school. There seemed to be a lot more of these photos this year because it had been so long since children had been in school with COVID-19 shutdowns and school for many students is still looking a lot different than it did before with some kids still at home and some in hybrid schedules of being at home and at school on various days.
One of the popular props, especially in the early grades, is the first day of school “board.” On it, children write their names, their interests, their family members, their favorite color, favorite foods and favorite things, and what they would like to be when they grow up. The boards are a quick snapshot of the personality of the child and an easy way to see where they are in their lives and where they hope to go.
Though our first day of school is long gone for most of us reading this blog, it is still good for us to remember that “his mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). Each day with the Lord is like the first day of school: new and fresh and full of possibilities. And each day we have a metaphorical “board” that we can complete in our minds with our name, our family members, our favorites, our hopes and dreams. Our review of who we are can remind us that we are baptized children of God, that we are blessed with family and friends and the wonders of this creation. We can recall for ourselves each day that we are unique and have a purpose and a plan, a hope and a future in Christ. We serve him with the special gifts he has given to us. Just as Jesus carried out God’s plan for his life from day one, we can start each day with God’s plan in mind for us, which we can carry on with all our days, learning new lessons from our Teacher every step of the way.
I often see how far my car can go when it is on E. Not too smart, I know. I eventually succumb to reason and fill my tank to full. How often do we do the same thing when it comes to our energy level. Especially during these trying times, we can find ourselves at the end of the day running on empty, so to speak, after serving as teacher, parent, worker, boss, cook, family shopper, etc.
Our God does not want us running on empty. He wants us to fill ourselves up with the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to recharge our batteries, if you will, with the strength only he can provide.
Jesus himself took the time to be filled up with power and strength from above after long and hard days of serving people and spreading the Gospel. In Luke 5:16, we read that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” What are the places you go to to get away from it all and be renewed and restored in the Lord? Maybe it is during prayer at the end of the day. Maybe it is while you are on a long walk after dinner. Maybe it is reading Scripture in the early morning. Whatever it is that brings you fullness in your spiritual life, keep doing it and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to be with the Lord. In Galatians 6:9, we read, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” These times of renewal and restoration keep the weariness at bay. So keep your energy up and your tank full and God will continue to do great things through you.
I recently saw a post on Facebook of the Concordia University-Nebraska A Capella Choir singing “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” (arranged by Paul Manz). They were all wearing masks and were socially distanced throughout their chapel. Here is the link to their performance for you to copy and paste into your browser to listen to:
I find the performance interesting because the sound of their voices is just as rich and full as if they were singing without their masks. The masks do not stop them from praising their Lord in song. And their distance from one another in the chapel does not prevent their voices from blending beautifully to the glory of God.
This is a good reminder that we can still proclaim the name of the Lord through our literal masks and through all other “masks” that seek to block our voices from praising him, things like hardships, worry, shyness and even busyness. Our proclamations of our Savior’s love and care and forgiveness and our hope for the life to come when he returns can break through any barriers put before us. Nothing can stand in the way of Christ.
We can remember, too, that though we may not be as physically close to one another as we once were, we can still work together to create beautiful music for the Lord (literally and figuratively). From a distance, for instance, we can still combine our efforts to serve those in need with our gifts and talents as a melody, if you will, of comfort and strength through hard times.
Let your life be a soundtrack of our inner peace and joy breaking through every blockade.
Late summer was always the time when my parents had extra tomatoes and zucchini from their garden that they gave away to friends and neighbors. The abundance of the harvest led to acts of generosity and sharing. Those who received from our garden’s bounty were happy to have something fresh and healthy to eat. And the time spent conversing and catching up with my parents was an added and joyful benefit to the passing along of the produce.
This activity reminds me of the fruit of the Spirit that we pass along and share with family, friends and neighbors. The Holy Spirit has given us an overabundance of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is only natural for us to want to freely give to others of our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Happiness comes to those who receive the fruit of the Spirit from us. It increases their faith. It grows their relationship with us. And it fills them with health for their souls.
What ways can you be like a gardener giving of God’s bountiful crop? Making a visit to a loved one, sharing a story that touches the heart, sitting with someone who is waiting at the hospital, supplying a meal to someone who is overwhelmed with work and family life are some of the ways to be a good gardener for God of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. Keep all growth in the Spirit going!
Food trucks are becoming more and more popular these days with people waiting in lines for their edible fare in business areas, parks and neighborhoods. Wherever the wheels can go, the food can be offered to the people who want it.
Food trucks are a good example of what we as Christians can provide to the people yet to know Christ. St. Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). We, like food trucks, can individually serve different things to different people in the name of the Lord. We can supply sympathy to one who is sad. We can give strength to one who is weak. We can dish up Scripture to those who are seeking to inwardly digest the Word. Our efforts do not need to be fixated on one type of outreach or a single verse we personally may like. We need to always adjust and change and be a blessing in various ways to all sorts of people.
People have different tastes in how they want food presented to them. So too they have different ways of receiving the message of salvation that resonates more to them than other ways. Our task as Christ’s disciples is to be ready to travel, quick to get on the road to where God’s Word is needed most, and aware of what fare from Scripture will satisfy the spiritual palates of those we encounter. In the end, may all those we serve, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
In late summer, there was a large sunflower field in the St. Louis metropolitan area that was a fair distance from my house. People kept posting beautiful pictures of themselves in the midst of these beautiful blossoms. I wanted to get there to see the sunflowers for myself but I kept putting it off or was too busy to make the drive.
Then the last weekend in August I decided to make the trek, only to find I was too late. The sunflowers had lost their color and were all drooping forlornly. I took a picture of myself with the sad-looking sunflowers anyway.
As I drove away from the the field that once was so full of life, it made me think about the fact that we as Christians oftentimes need to act right away when an opportunity to share our faith presents itself or the chance for a beautiful result may slip away. Don’t get so caught up in yourself and your activities that you miss the opening to blossom with God’s love and shine the light of the Son of God onto someone else.
The experience also made me remember the words of Isaiah who said, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The fading sunflowers actually become a comforting symbol that shows that the Word of the Lord will never fade away. We do not have to worry that God’s messages will wither away. The Word will be a bright and lasting burst of sunshine in our lives every day here on earth and in heaven to come. Let opening the Bible be like opening a forever-flourishing flower in an otherwise dwindling creation. Let the words bloom within you.