A Tribute to those who grieve

We take so much for granted we think time stands still for us;

Then life takes a painful turn and there’s one less this Christmas.

We think of words left unsaid, there are things we could have done;

The empty ache deep inside, hard to hide from everyone.

‘Round us the pace rushes by, folks too busy to pay heed,

But there are those who can know how great our loss and our need.

They have walked where we now walk, they know the depth of our grief.

Their strength and understanding offers much needed relief.

Their love holds us ‘cause they know, it won’t be the same this year.

No matter how hard we try, the one we miss won’t be here.

One day heaven will be home, the pain of our parting o’er.

We’ll see the one gone ahead, our delight worth waiting for.

Now we must go on living until that great day arrives.

Our dear one safe in God’s hands, hope and faith brightens our lives.

Any color you want

Henry Ford, according to Wikipedia, was a famous “American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.” He was also known for some pithy quotes.

The one most folks might know concerns the ground-breaking Model T automobile: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black.”

Some of my favorites:

“Don’t find fault; find a remedy.”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

“To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.”

Ford was more than a brilliant capitalist; he was progressive in his practices and innovative in his business. He was also generous. That quality was expressed in his association with Martha Berry. The long-lasting friendship between Martha Berry and the Fords began when, in 1921, Miss Berry accepted a dinner invitation from Thomas Edison, who at the time was a friend of the Fords. At this dinner, Martha Berry met the Fords and began her life-long friendship with them.

What a combination! Martha Berry’s commitment to making educational opportunities available for any person and Henry Ford’s willingness to do more for the world that the world did for him changed many lives.

 

We can follow Ford’s advice. Success is indeed making a difference for all the right reasons.

Another Christmas

After 43 years in ministry, what more can I say about Christmas than I’ve already said … some would say more than once. Has it become too formulaic? Do you resort to the same themes and talk about the same characters which with people are so familiar? Can anyone come up with an original thought, a fresh word?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon in Barcelona during Advent 1928 in which he spoke about how casual we can be in the observance of the Incarnation: “It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously people trembled at the day of God. We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse us, We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”

If the news that our default condition of separation from the Righteous God because of our sin has been cancelled by the grace and mercy shown in Christ doesn’t shatter us, then we should check our pulse. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ died for us,” Paul wrote to the Romans. Destined for and deserving death, we were giving a status we couldn’t earn: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 3:23); “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8); “You are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s own family” (Ephesians 2:19).

Prisoners set free? Slaves liberated? The guilty forgiven? Adopted as joint heirs with Christ?

Stop me when this gets boring. A baby, wrapped in love, hope, and peace, came into this world to state forever that God was willing to do anything required to reclaim the lost. His Son would say, “I came as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

If Christmas becomes ho-hum for any of us, we should be ashamed. The first Christmas present was also the best Christmas present. Joy to the world! The Lord has come!

 

“You’re kidding, right?

Apprentice angel to supervisor: “Hey, boss, I just heard the strangest rumor.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Some of the other angels were whispering and I wonder what’s going on.”

“What did you hear?”

“I heard that there was a baby to be born soon.”

“Did you miss orientation or what? That’s how it’s done down there. Babies are born every day.”

“Yes sir, but this is supposed to be really unusual, and get this, the word is that the King is personally involved.”

“The King is always involved when it comes to what happens on earth.”

“Yes sir, but the story is that He is going to be that baby! How does that work?”

“Well, this is way above your pay grade but I’ll give it try. When the Father gave humans the gift of free will, He made it possible for them to accept it or reject it. He knew that humanity would fall so He put His plan in place. Someone would have to take the penalty of their disobedience and rebellion. The King volunteered to be that someone.”

“So He had to become one of them? Why couldn’t He just send some of us to straighten out the mess that humans made?”

“It’s not easy to understand but when you love someone like the Father loves those creatures, you are willing to make sacrifices. In this case, the greatest sacrifice anyone could imagine.”

“Let me get this straight. The King becomes a baby, lives like a regular human, tries to show people how God feels about them, then is willing to lay down His life to save them?”

“Well, there’s more to it, but that is really what is about to happen.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

 

A holly, jolly Christmas

Hurry! It’s cyber Monday! You need to buy stuff you don’t need quickly! We seem to suffer from one of two maladies: conspicuous consumption or perhaps constipated consumption.

With our church recently experiencing the Matthew 25 Challenge through World Vision, it is even more painfully evident that we live in shuttered world. If we open the shutters, advertisers would have us believe that there is a brand new SUV or other luxury vehicle sitting in our driveway with a big red bow. They just appear!

Materialism isn’t new. Our consumer-driven society has been splurging on itself for many years. One silly column isn’t going to change selfish to selfless.

Still, it is heart-warming when you see people more interested in giving than receiving, people who accept blessing by blessing, people who intentionally open their homes and hearts. Yes, Christmas is the best time of year because we are confronted with the amazing gift of a generous God who knew exactly what we needed.

Let’s think of how we are going to invest not spend this year. I don’t mean to make ourselves more comfortable; I mean being more concerned with eternal values than earthly bargains.

Give Thanks

Two days before Thanksgiving, I sit down to write words of gratitude. In the rush of the season, it is difficult to hit ‘pause’ – to think, to reflect, to contemplate, to pray, and to give thanks. It really should not be so hard to consider and count blessings. I have tried to begin with things and people I too often take for granted. I think of people for whom Thanksgiving will be different this year – some with joy, some with grief.

Some have added to their families. Some face an empty chair this year at their table. Some have experienced success in business, sports, academics, and relationships. Some who have had a tough year of disappointment and discouragement.

Regardless, it seems so right to offer gratitude. I know you cannot force it or pretend, but somewhere in our souls we know we are loved by the infinite God. He created us out of that love. He sustains us with that love. He redeemed us because of that love.

In our broken world, we need to remember to say thanks. On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln to request that a day be set aside for a national day of thanksgiving. Lincoln honored that request in establishing the last Thursday of November as a national observance. Seventy-four years (October 3, 1789) to the day when George Washington declared a day of thanksgiving, Lincoln’s proclamation directed that the nation pause for this recognition.

Fall of 1863. The still-young United States was suffering through the divisive and destructive Civil War. It did not seem like an appropriate time to express gratitude, but life rarely provides an easy path forward.

A part of the proclamation reads: “I therefore invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions just due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience … implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation …”

In our broken world, we also need to pray and work for peace for the sake of the Prince of Peace. Our many blessings afford us opportunity and inspiration to impact our world for Him. I am grateful that He would count us worthy to labor for Him.

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Musings

The first thanksgiving occurred in November, 1621. The meal was a combined effort between the Pilgrims, who set the table and provided the napkins, and the native Wampanoags who brought everything else. No, wait. That’s not right. The Pilgrims began a new tradition that day – somebody made a casserole. I bet it had those small marshmallows. Those people were from southern England.

While we don’t have the exact menu, we know they had plenty of meat. The governor of the colony sent four men on a fowling mission to provide enough game for the planned 3-day event. You think it’s tough preparing one meal for all those relatives. The meat would have included wild turkey, duck, geese, and swan. Can’t you hear it now? “Hey, please pass the swan.”

There would have been fruits and vegetables native to the region. All kinds of berries – blue, cran, goose, and rasp – were collected. One Pilgrim had a bright idea – “Hey let’s mash all this fruit into a brick-like cake.” A kind Indian pulled him aside and said, “Let’s wait for a month and send it to people we don’t like.” Okay, I’ve offended all the fruitcake lovers out there. My bad.

Vegetables like onions, beans, spinach, carrots, kale (another word for seaweed), and arugula (just kidding) would have been served. We know they had corn but not like we know it. The corn would have been shucked and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick mush or porridge. Should have left it on the ear.

Right after the meal they had a football game between the Patriots and the Indians (can’t say the R-word). For dessert, they all went to Baskin-Robbins with its one flavor – pumpkin.

Whatever you may have this Thanksgiving, may it be a time for relishing what matters most. Let’s make that “who” matters most. Blessings.