Monthly Archives: August 2022

Holiness

kneel

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?

Fonts

Jesus fonts

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.

Stay Rooted

tree with roots

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.

Portraits

portrait

I recently learned that, before cameras, when people had portraits done of themselves, they would display their wealth by how much of their bodies the painters included in the frame. For instance, it was a sign of wealth for a person’s hand to be depicted and it was a sign of even greater wealth to include a person’s torso and legs in a portrait. The funny thing I found out was that many times the full-body portrait was so tall, the piece could not fit on the wall of a normal room in a home. So what often happened was that the portrait would be cut into three parts and the head and feet would be framed at the top and bottom of a wall, but the too-long torso portion would be removed and placed in the basement. That led to many basements being filled with paintings only of torsos with no heads or legs.

I say all this because we often tend to give only parts of ourselves to God. We may just give him our brain as we think and ponder on his Word. Or we just give him our lips to declare our praises to him. But we may not want to use our hands to welcome and serve others and we may be resistant to using our feet to spread the Gospel to people across town or across the globe. Many hands and feet can many times go unused in the house of God or in our own homes.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus who said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Every part of you should make up a portrait of you as a Christian. Every fiber of your being should be a beautiful display of the Master at work in your life. Let your whole self be devoted to God.

Spanish Moss

Spanish moss

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia, and was amazed by the abundance of Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees all around the city. When I looked up some information on the plant, I discovered that it is neither a moss nor of Spanish origin. The name comes simply from how it looks, not what is truly is.

How often do we judge people for how they look and not who they really are? I know that I so often can discount a person at first glance if I think they have too many tattoos or body piercings. That person is still created by God and loved by him.

When we really get to know a person, and get under the surface, no matter how they look or seem, we understand more fully who a person is and what gifts they have to share by God’s design.

Spanish moss is actually a flowering plant that thrives only in warm and humid climates present in the Southeastern United States, Hawaii and Australia. It serves as a shelter for many creatures and has been used as insulation and packing material. Believe it or not, it is used in Louisiana and Latin America in Nativity scenes. Spanish moss can point to Jesus.

And so can anyone who uses their God-given gifts and talents to make Jesus known. Serve in places where you thrive the most. Be a dwelling place for others in need and beautify the world with the blessings you have from above. And encourage others to do so.

Climbing Ivy

climbing ivy

I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

I have ivy that climbs up the brick exterior of my house every now and then. I work to pull it down so it does not go too far up the house and get too immersed into the brick. Sometimes after I remove the vine, a little straggling branch will still remain and in a few days, that branch will turn from green to brown, dry up and loosen from the wall, so I could pluck it off easily.

This experience serves as a variation on the John 15:5 verse for me. If all the parts of the climbing ivy work together, there continues to be growth and the climbing goes higher and higher, the attachment to its base gets stronger and stronger and the branches latch themselves deeper and deeper into their surroundings. But when part are left hanging unattached, they die.

We as the church are like the climbing ivy that crawls across the surface of a structure. We go and grow and stretch out as far and wide as we can to truly spread the Gospel message across the place where the central vine, Jesus, has taken root. As long as we are connected to the True Vine, we go higher and higher, spiritually speaking. But if Satan or outside forces of the world or our own sinful flesh tear us away from the source of our vitality and mission, we are left hanging and are unable to climb anywhere.

So keep connected to Christ. Keep climbing upwards in faith for him. And keep branching out in ways you may not even have expected, according to God’s growth plan for you.