Monday, November 23, 2009

The One Thing ... Christ's Presence

It seems to get harder every year to find the real meaning of Christmas in today’s society. We are urged to be so ‘politically correct’ that we loose the fact that Christ is the central figure of Christmas. What does the celebration of His birth mean to you? Is it the sacrifice He made for us, or is it the life He gives us that makes Christmas special? Is it the miraculous way He came into this world or the reason He came into this world that brings significance to the season for you?

While lying in bed one night recently, I was telling God how I've been feeling and I began asking Him questions. After I'd asked my last question I realized He was speaking to my heart - you know; in that still small voice that, although it's not audible, it leaves an indelible impression nonetheless. It was as though He was saying to me, "'Loretta, the One Thing is you and Me."

I knew instantly what He meant. As with everything else in the Christian life, it's not about ritual or tradition or even about what Christ did for us. It's about where I stand with him now, today, right this minute. It's about Our relationship. It's about walking with Him daily, turning to Him in every situation, trusting Him with all my cares, my burdens, my concerns. It's about making Him the priority in my life, day by day, moment by moment. It’s about having His presence in my life. Everyday, not just during Advent Season.

And then it occurred to me: my relationship with God is more important than anything. More important than my family. Yes, even my new grandson Collin! I suppose I've always known via head-knowledge that was the way it was supposed to be, but in that brief moment with God, there alone in my room, I realized it in my heart, even to the very core of my being. Once it was lip-service, but at that moment it was so tangible I felt I could reach out and touch it. I felt Christ’s presence. I also realized I'd been so overwhelmed trying to take care of things; my family, home, work, church and other responsibilities that I have neglected my relationship with my Lord. Although it's been a priority to spend time with God and to work on our relationship, it just hadn't seemed possible to fit it into my already overcrowded schedule of late. How could I hope to spend time daily with Him (who I can't see) when I couldn't even seem to take care of those things I can see? But there, in His presence, He spoke the answer to my heart and it seemed as though it was the most logical thing in the world. "Make Me your top priority and all the other priorities will be taken care of."

That night I found my "one thing." And I commit to you now that this holiday season I will hold on to my "one thing." I will hold on to the gift God personally gave me that night - a personal encounter with Him during which He, by virtue of His Holy Spirit, gave me a tangible picture of what Christmas is really supposed to be for me. It's a time to put things in perspective, to get my priorities straight, and to focus my time and energy on drawing closer to God. Nothing is more important. In fact, it's so important that He gave His only Son over to death on a cross so that I would be able to draw close to Him.

I challenge and encourage you in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season to take a quiet moment to ask God what your "one thing" is for this Christmas season. I guarantee you if you ask Him with all your heart, He will answer you – He did me. For He says in His Word, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

May you feel Christ's presence this Advent Season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psalm 109:8

Tell me ... have you received the hate email circulating around? The one that states: Let's join together and pray for Obama? Sounds good doesn't it ... but then the email goes on to post a biblical scripture with it. Psalms 109:8 - it's among the top goggles the past few days.

For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads "May his days be few, may another take over his position." And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, "May his children be orphans and his wife a widow".

In fact, the entire chapter is about praying for death of an evil person. Not to mention that anyone who knows enough Bible to have thought about this verse in particular, surely knows the entire chapter and appreciates its message. Pretty scary stuff.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the recent events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies?

The issue is not the scripture quoted or the name by which God is called by those doing the praying. The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree.

From Major Hassan who murdered 13 and wounded 30 more, to whomever might step in on behalf of a "Christian nation" to make the words of the Psalm 109 a reality, each was inspired by prayers and scriptural readings not unlike those of the millions who made verse 8 a top Google search this week. There is no place for such prayers in any of our faiths and until we all stand up and say so, at least a little blood will be on all of our hands.

We should be praying for our leaders in a positive way. Praying they make right decisions, that God will guide them in the right direction. It doesn't matter what Person is in office because as long as man is in charge it's not going to always be popular. Those individuals that are professing this "Pray for Obama - Ps 109:8" crap are in many cases the same individuals that were horrified over Rev. Jeremiah Wright speaking out against our country.

For many, the slogan is just a humorous way to express disapproval for President Obama. Perhaps, those who support the slogan “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8" should read Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use.” Oh, and I think there is a verse or two to be found in the Bible that mentions "Loving our Neighbors". Like it or not ... President Obama is our neighbor.

No matter your political preface, no matter your religious preface, no matter the color of your skin, or the way your name is spelled: sending deflamatory emails asking people to pray for our Leaders death is wrong.

Will you stand up and say so? I pray so.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Do You Give?

It's getting time to consider tithing at church, and how simple it would be to just fill out the card and turn it in. But it's not meant to be that simple. I wish we could fill out our pledge cards like the youth did back when JT was in the first grade. As a family we sat and talked about what each of us could do. The children at our church also filled out pledge cards, and the boys agreed to give a portion of their allowance each week. Their cards also had other ways they could give. I remember the options included: serving as Acolyte, passing out bulletins, cleaning up after Sunday School, drawing pictures for Bulletins, etc. Then there was a blank space designated as "Other". I remember asking JT if there was anything else he could think of and put down. JT looked seriously at me and said "Mom, I give good hugs, I will promise to hug some old lady every Sunday". Well, I may not have written it down word for word ... in fact I am pretty sure I left out that "old lady" part. But JT kept that pledge, and those 'old ladies' looked forward to JT's hugs each Sunday. I realize many years later what a gift that was when a young first grader came up to me and hugged me. I am pleased to say that JT, maybe because of a pledge many years ago, is still a great hugger!
We know that Josh isn't the hugging type ... it's not his thing. But Josh has a wonderful, generous heart. I remember ... as a young mother who learned from the best - to always wrap their children up for the winter weather. My boys were dressed like the little brother in "A Christmas Story", the one that was so wrapped up he couldn't put his arms down. I had to do this ... they had to wait at a bus stop, and I had to make sure they were safe and warm - that's what mothers do. One morning I was 'preparing' them for the winter elements, and couldn't find Josh's scarf. They had a designated place to keep their items, so when I couldn't find it, I questioned Josh. He looked at me and simply said "Mom, there was a boy at the bus stop without gloves and a hat." I was proud of Josh to think of sharing what he had, and gave him an extra pair of gloves to give to the boy that day if he still wasn't wearing them. One of the things we do as a church every year is our Mitten Tree, and I love knowing that Josh as an adult purchases items to put on that tree. What I saw a few years ago reminded me of the bus incident. We had gone to Indianapolis to listen to the Symphony, it was a cold evening in February. After the concert we went out for pizza and had leftovers so put it in a box to take home. We were walking the few blocks to the car, and had to walk by some homeless men sitting under an overpass. My 'mother' antenna was up and I was alert and watching to make sure no harm was done to my sons. Josh walked over to two men, gave them the pizza, took off his hat and gloves and gave them to the men. Nothing said, nothing expressed. JT, seeing what his brother had done, turned around and went and did likewise.
Years later, they may still not be in a position to pledge much in a financial sense - JT still a starving student and all - but they give. They give of their time, their talents and their hearts. What does the Lord require of us? "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8.
He shows us in the action of our Youth .... may we take the time to notice. They give much more than we often see. Our Youth is our future; these Youth are our heart.