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March 9

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

A man wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap positioned himself against a wall beside a trash can at the Metro station in Washington, D.C. He pulled out a violin and began to play. In the next 43 minutes, as he performed six classical pieces, 1097 people passed by, ignoring him.

No one knew it, but the man playing the Metro was Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on a $3.5 million Stradivarius. But no crowd gathered for the virtuoso. “It was a strange feeling, that people were actually ignoring me,” Bell said.

When I read that story this morning, a song came to my mind: “This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by.” (“Lonely People” by America-1971)

Our world is filled with hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people who are depicted by the story and the song: they go through life unnoticed, uncared for…lonely. They feel as though life and love has passed them by.

The truth is they aren’t necessarily the pandhandler or the homeless. They could work with you. They could play sports with you. They could be your neighbor. They could even be in your house living with you. Then again, it could be you.

There is a commercial of an anti-depressant where the people are shown interacting, but sad, all the while they hold a smiley face on a stick in front of them. That is the way a lot of people are. Hold up a false face so you don’t see what they are really like.

Challenge for today: keep your eyes open for lonely people. They may put up a false front so you may have to look hard. Don’t let someone be lonely today. Don’t let you be lonely today. Open up to someone. Be a friend. Seek a friend. EVERYONE MATTERS.

March 1

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

I hear a lot of different words and thoughts expressed at a funeral. I hear “Man, he loved well. He love Jesus. He loved people. He loved his/her family.” I might hear “He/she was a person of integrity” or “a person who had such a kind heart.” Words of love, appreciation, and thanksgiving.

But the saddest words I hear are not “I’m going to miss him/her” (although they do make my heart hurt), or “I have a hole in my heart.” No, the saddest words are two: “If only.”

They are words of regret. “If only I had told him/her I love them more often.” “if only I had gone to visit them like I wanted to.” “If only I hadn’t forgotten.” “If only I hadn’t been so busy/preoccupied.” The “if onlys” could go on.

As I said, they are words of regret. One last visit never happened. One last act of kindness goes undone. One last word of affection goes unsaid.

In Matthew 26 there is a story of a lady who understood what Jesus was saying about His imminent death. She may have been the only one in the room who did. She took a jar of very expensive perfume (I’ve heard estimates of its worth being about $25,000 in today’s currency) and poured it on His head.  When protests were made, Jesus rebuked them and said, “This woman has done a beautiful thing.” You see…she understood there was no waiting.  There would be no “if only.”

How about you? Is there something you need to say to or is there something you need to do for someone? Is there someone you need to go see? Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile or at least try to repair a relationship? Why wait? Why allow “if only” even the remotest possibility to be part of your vocabulary?

Now. Now is the time. Avoid the “if only.”

February 20

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Alfred Nobel got a chance at something most of us-possibly all of us-never do.

One morning Alfred Nobel was reading the newspaper and he was shocked to find his name listed in the obituary. It was obviously a mistake. He was even more stunned to read that he was being remembered as the man responsible for dynamite. In that time period, dynamite was mainly used for war.

As a result of reading that, he determined to change what he would be remembered for. He committed himself to world peace (a never-ending, daunting, and impossible task if you ask me), and established what became known as the Nobel Peace Prize. Mention his name today and dynamite will not be the first thing on the lips, if mentioned at all.

As I said earlier, he got a chance to do something very few, if any of us, get to do. He changed the course of what he was known for in mid-stream.

The truth is all of us will be known for something. Hatred. Bigotry. Kindness. Peace. Love. Good attitude. Surliness. Selfishness. Big heart. Generosity. (You can add more).

It’s called a legacy. Someday we will have to stand before God-who is a righteous Judge-and give an account to Him of our lives. And while what others think of us down here on earth will not affect that, it behooves us to consider the kind of legacy we want to leave behind.

What will your obituary say and how will your friends and family and co-workers remember you?

February 14

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Today is Valentine’s Day. Shocker! As if you didn’t know that. A trip to any store will reveal that, even if you were Rip Van Winkle and just woke up this morning. Cards. Candy. Stuffed teddy bears with hearts. Candy. All sorts of stuffed animals. Candy. Commercials about love and rings. And did I mention candy?  All kinds of candy.  (IMHO the only legitimate candy is the one that says “chocolate” on the wrapper).

There are a lot of ways to show love. To a married couple a kiss, an embrace, words, flowers, and of course, other things express love. A hug from a parent to a child. A phone call to a loved one, especially one who doesn’t live that close. The list is endless.

Once a month, I read to 5 different K classes in our local school district. This happens to be the week this month. The book I’m reading is on Kindness from A to Z.  Each letter of the alphabet tells something they can do to show kindness.  Kindness is a way to show love.

In Deuteronomy 15, the people of Israel were to show kindness to one another, especially to those who were poor. They were warned of 4 dangers:

  • A hard heart
  • A closed hand
  • An evil thought
  • A grudging spirit

It is easy to get jaded, especially when there are people who are trying to take advantage of or hijack the system. But like in many things, among the bad are those who legitimately need help.

Let’s not close our eyes and hearts off to those who legitimately need our help, our kindness, and our love. There are those who truly do not like where they are. We may be the one who helps lift them up from their discouragement and the trap they find themselves in.

Don’t stop showing love and kindness. Guard your own heart against getting hardened to others. And when you show love, you don’t even need a card, a bear, or even candy to show it.

February 8

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I received an email about it the other day. I can imagine you have as well.  I saw a commercial about it just within the past few days. I suspect you have also. It is becoming a scourge, a blight, on our lives. And our security.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity-meter to working overtime wondering what I’m referring to.

IT. No, not as in “I work in IT.” IT as in Identity Theft.

Seemingly more and more it is becoming an issue. Social Security #. Home ownership. Bank accounts.

There’s another kind of IT. The kind where someone tries to tell us we aren’t who we are. You are “stupid” or “fat” or “a waste” or “a junkie” or “a nobody.” There are racial slurs thrown around. There are false accusations made, though untrue, which cut deeply. And on and on.

To counteract that there are those who say we need to look within ourselves and bolster ourselves and repeat a mantra that “I am somebody.” Media influencers “preach” at us about how beautiful, smart, wise, etc. we are.

For followers of Jesus, we find our identity in Christ. We are specially made; we are important; we are who we are because we are God’s. I’m not talking about an arrogance around people as though you are better than they are. “I’m a follower of Christ and you aren’t. Na Na Na Na.” In Matthew 5:22 Jesus tells his listeners about calling someone “Raca” or “fool.” Using those words was equal to calling someone an idiot. It was used to demean someone or demote them by robbing them of their dignity and true identity. 

Let’s remember two things: 1) who we are in Christ; and 2) every person has value, no matter their color, status, wealth, or mental capacity. Our words will display whether we believe that or not.

I heard it put this way: To insult the creature is to insult the Creator.”

February 7

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

We have been asked/commanded in the Scripture to do two things: Love God supremely and to Love Others genuinely. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 22:37-39.

We seem to work hard at getting that first one down pat because it is so important. We see loving God as the top thing we are to do…and that is absolutely, 100% true.  So we try to invest time in that-reading the Bible, praying, worshiping.

It’s the loving others that sometimes get a little bit “sticky.” Let’s face it: sometimes our relationship with others is like two porcupines trying to get close. They might be able to but it sure is a prickly situation.

So, what does it mean to love genuinely? We could say, “Be patient.” “Be forgiving.” “Be accepting.” “Be kind.” “Be considerate.”

How about this? “Be generous.” We can set an example of Jesus in us by being generous. Not stingy. Not self-absorbed.

Let’s expand on that for a moment. The Bible speaks of those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you get a moment, check out I Tim.6:17-18. Not all of us are wealthy (I’m certainly not), but hoarding, for example, is never seen as a virtue. Even if we are not wealthy, God has called us to radical generosity. Case in point: tipping at a restaurant. I know a couple who never left a tip. Never. When I asked why they said, “Because they chose that job and knew the possibility.” And that justifies what? Maybe, at that time, that is all he/she could do, while trying to raise a child as a single mom/dad. I personally believe followers of Christ should be the most generous people, especially if they have received good service.

I know I “rabbit-trailed” it today. That sometimes happen in a mind that seem to go everywhere (and no, I am not ADHD). So…long story short: be generous. Love genuinely, even in ways that go beyond financial.

December 22

Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

As we inch closer to Christmas, uppermost in many (maybe most) people’s minds is “Did I get so-and-so something? If I didn’t is it telling them something?” “Will he/she be happy with what I got them?” Questions of uncertainty flood our brain.

With that mind, I give you my Christmas gifts to you. I hope you aren’t disappointed. 🙂

I give you LOVE. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

I give you JOY.  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

I give you PEACE. “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives.”

I give you HOPE. “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope.”

May you experience all those and more this Christmas season.

Note: I will probably be absent from “Shadow” for a few days. The weekend is a given, but Sunday after our one service that morning, Jo, Tami, and I will be taking off for Ohio and plan to return Tuesday. My plan is to enjoy my time away, giving very little thought or attention to things back home. That includes “Shadow.” At this point, my next post will be Wednesday morning.

Have a joy-filled and a blessed Christmas. May God fill you to overflowing with His gifts.

December 21

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Today is the shortest day of the year. Not that we have less hours in a day but we have less light. Some might say, “That is good. I can go to work, then come and get ready for bed and then go to bed early in order to take advantage of the longer night.” Or you might say, “Hey. That’s great! That means the days (daylight) will start staying around longer.” In either case, we still only have 24 hours in a day.

What will do with those hours?

In Matthew 25 Jesus has a conversation with His followers doing what needs to be done while we wait for Him to return.

  • I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
  • I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
  • I was a stranger and you invited me in.
  • I was naked and you clothed me.
  • I was sick and you visited me.
  • I was in prison and you came to me.

“And when did we see you like that?” “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”

He then turns the tables and speaks about those who see all He has just talked about and do nothing.

Christmas is a time when we are bombarded by solicitations for help-St. Jude’s, Shriner’s, Coalition of Jews and Gentiles, homeless shelters, food pantries, legitimate ministries, abused pets. All of those are needy-some more than others. I”m not trying to be cold-hearted when I mute the TV. Some commercials really get to me (St. Jude’s) and some are really annoying, i.e. staged (pets).

Be discerning who you help and send your money to. I prefer to stay local, where my feet are planted in my community. I also give to those I know and trust. However, I cannot tell you who or who not to help. Just realize the importance of people over creation or animals, for example. Just give with a heart like Jesus talks about in Matthew 25: “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.”

Don’t close off your heart to the needs of those around you. Just be discerning.

December 15

Thursday, December 15th, 2022

This is a hard devotion to write. It’s hard because I know not everyone can celebrate Christmas. I’m not talking about the Jewish person whose disbelief in Messiah stops them. I’m not talking about the atheist whose disbelief in a God speaks volumes. I’m not talking about the progressive politician and activist whose desire for vengeance, violent rhetoric, and anarchy shoots the whole idea of a defenseless baby in a manger who makes a difference in the foot. I’m not talking about the greedy secularist whose only reason for the season is to line his/her pockets.

I’m speaking of someone else. I’m speaking of the one whose holiday is haunted by ugly memories of past Christmases. I’m also speaking about those who have already talked to me this holiday season (started with Thanksgiving) to whom the holiday season is a time of hurt, anguish and loneliness wrapped in grief because of the loss of a loved one. (This song speaks of the reminder a holiday can bring.  And yes, it speaks of lost love but the sentiment can be applied to most cases. The lyrics are under the song in Show More if you have trouble understanding…which I don’t think you will).

I’ve had several conversations with people who are facing the Christmas season with an emptiness in their heart. They are facing the holiday without someone they love. The first of every one is the hardest. But even though time moves on and the wound begins to heal, the hurt is still there. The ache and loneliness never leaves.

One family told me yesterday they are helping out a family of 9 with Christmas because they believe their son/grandson/nephew, etc would like that. They are doing it in his honor. That is a phenomenal idea! There may be no better way to deal with hurt than to do something for someone else in honor of one you love.

My heart goes out to those who face this holiday with hurt. Do you know someone who needs a little love this Christmas? Take some of your time to give yourself away. Not only will it be meaningful to them, you will find a satisfaction in your heart you may have never felt before.

And remember the ONE who know your hurt or the ONE whom you can share.

December 13

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

There are all kinds of heartwarming stories told at Christmas. Just check out the Hallmark channel or the new Great American Family channel. Actually, take my word for it. 🙂

One of the best and greatest stories that I can find-other than the very first Christmas story about a baby in a manger-is the short story written by O’Henry called The Gift of the Magi. I’m guessing there is hardly a person on the planet who has not heard of or read the story.

It is the story of a young couple (Jim & Della)- in love and married- and wanting to celebrate that love at Christmas. But one obstacle stands in their way-they are poor. But that won’t stop them. (Spoiler alert: story revealed} Della has beautiful, long hair, her pride and joy; Jim has a family heirloom-a pocket watch. On Christmas morning they present their gifts to each other.  Jim bought Della combs for her hair; she bought him a chain for his watch. All well and good EXCEPT she cut her hair for the money to buy him the chain; he sold his watch to buy her the combs.

O’Henry finishes his story with these words:

“Let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two are the wisest. Of all who and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”

I was moved to wonder the first time I ever read that story and the irony of it. I still am. I want to be like Jim and Della. Keep nothing back. Hold nothing close. Except a profound love I receive from my Savior, my wife, my children, my grandson, and those I pastor.

May the gift of the magi be my story. May it be yours as well.