Joy browsing by tag


December 20

Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

One of my blogging friends, Martha Jane Orlando, blogs at Meditations of my Heart.  She recently wrote and posted a simple but profound poem. You can find her blog and the poem here. To save you some time on the poem, here it is: “Holy candles/Lit in hope/Peace and joy/Laced in love/Everlasting/Flames ablaze/Light profound/Darkness flees/When God surrounds/The Soul and self. Amen”

That simple poem carries the essence of the Christmas story. Or maybe I should the essence of what we are looking for in the Christmas story or Christmas season. We all long for hope. We all long for peace. We all long for joy. We all long for love. If what I write is not true, check out the many Christmas songs we sing. How many of them talk about one of those 4 longings?

The story of Christmas, and yes, even the season of Christmas for those not even interested in the deeper story, draws people to those 4 longings in some way.  Sadly, there will be many who will seek the answer to those longings in the temporary-a relationship, a drink, a sentiment, a party with friends, even ringing a bell. But in the long run those 4 longings won’t be answered in or with the temporary. No, as Martha says, “Light profound/Darkness flees/When God surrounds/the Soul and self.” Profound and everlasting change will come only when the Eternal Father (God) surrounds us with His presence. When the baby in the manger, God made flesh, becomes more than a prop in a play. When the angels are more than dressed-up kids in white sheets and the wise men are more than kids in bathrobes. 🙂 Only when the truth of the Christmas story becomes more than a cute sentiment will those 4 longings become a permanent part of our lives.

Thank you, Martha, for the simple, yet insightful poem. Thank you, God, for the answer to the longings of each and every heart: love, joy, peace and hope…Jesus Christ, the baby born in the manger. The King who became a baby, who became a sacrifice, who is now a King again…AND WILL COME AGAIN AS KING.

January 5

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Let me ask you a question-one I’ve asked myself seemingly a million times:

Is your service to God out of love or out of obligation?

Be careful how you answer that. The way we answer that is very telling concerning our way of looking at God. Please let me explain. When you and I come into God’s Presence, there are various ways to respond. Some will be terrified. I do have to wonder about the reaction of those who, while here on earth denied His existence; denied His Power; denied His Creative ability, etc. only to find out at their death all they held to was ashes. Some will be frozen in wonder and awe at the majesty before them. Some will-like the apostles- not recognize Him until after He left. I’m not just thinking of standing before Him at the throne but also while here on earth.

As a former legalist, my whole life was wrapped around performance. Not so much being enraptured by His Presence, but being convinced that I had to perform. My service to Him was out of obligation more than it was out of love. Oh, I told myself it was love, but it wasn’t really. Love has no fear and for the legalist fear is a major player. I can’t escape the duplicity of my thinking: “Jesus loves me this I know if my performance tells me so.” Many religious groups (not just cults) base their modus operandi on performance. Act a certain way. Dress a certain way. Go to church so many times. If not, shame on you!

So, let me ask you again: Is your service to God out of love or obligation? If you sit under a legalist, get out now while you still have your soul.

“Father, it is easy to see my prayer this morning. May my service to you be out of love for you and not the feeling of obligation or judgment.”

April 21

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

I was 9. It was my second year of organized baseball. Back then there was no such thing as “T” ball or coach pitch. The only time the coach pitched was during practice so every boy would get a chance to hit. Little League started at Age 8 back then and I wanted to play. There were 2 divisions-the Farm Team and the Major Team.  I was on the Farm Team at age 9. I would move up to the Major Team as a 10 year old and that allowed me to play both (with limited innings for any given week). Sort of like JV ball today.  I eventually locked into pitching and playing first base. I was fairly tall and very lanky and could stretch. Anyway, at 9 I played second base. One game a screaming liner came off the bat of a 10 year old; I jumped up and caught it. Unbelievable!!  I was excited. My teammates were excited. My coach was excited. It was every kid’s dream.

Dad worked from 3-11 and so mom would load us in the car then go pick him up at a designated place where he had been dropped off.  That night I could not sleep. I wanted to tell dad about my amazing catch in detail.  He was a little surprised I was in the back seat wide awake, but after he heard my story he understood why.

A couple of lessons play in my head, even as I think of that incident 58 years ago. (For you mathematically-challenged that makes me 67). 🙂 

  1. I wanted my dad’s approval. Even though I didn’t understand it back then, having his approval and knowing he was proud of me was important. Sadly, as I look back now, sports was my way of gaining that.
  2. I was so excited about something I couldn’t contain my excitement and couldn’t wait to tell someone else.

I think you can see the application without me delineating it for you. “Father, I want You to be pleased with me. I want your approval of all I think, say, and do. I want to sense your pleasure, see Your smile, know your hug, and gain a virtual “high 5.” I should also be so excited about Your story, my story, that I want to let it be known. May both be true today and always.”

January 15

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

August 24/Weekend Extra

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Shared Joy vs. kept Secrets.

Proverbs 23:15-17 says, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.”

I like that first phrase: “If your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” There is nothing quite like having a joyful experience-in your heart or with another-and being able to share it with someone. Even better is to have that someone totally delight in your joy with you.

In just over a week Jo and I will be heading off to Alaska-a gift from people in the church. I had just come through a tough season of ministry. Long hours. Two heart-wrenching deaths of friends from long battles with cancer (one over a year; one over 3 years). I had planned for months to go to AZ to ride an MS ride and to meet friends for the first time, but $$ denied that. I had spent a good part of winter riding outside to prepare, freezing my fingers off, only to be disappointed. It was a tough season at the church (but certainly not like the summer would bring). We came to church April 7th not expecting anything when Kris came up to present the trip to us.

What made it so fun was/is the shared joy.  The people keep asking us when I’m going to walk the plank, I mean, go on our cruise. 🙂 Just kidding. None have done that yet!! Yet!! I think some of them are as excited as we are, maybe even more. Shared joy is good. It is heart-warming.

“Father, your Word says to ‘weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.’  Help me to share in another’s joy, and certainly not let jealousy to have its day.”