In the news today: Feds open the way to legalization of marijuana on Native American reservations. Several federal regulations will remain in place regarding sale to minors and transporting to places where it is illegal. Each federally recognized tribe will be allowed to ban the growing and sale of weed in states where it is legal or legalize it in states where it remains illegal.
I haven’t heard yet what course Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will pursue. Proponents for legalization will cite the potential for increased revenue from taxes. I know many respected leaders hate the sad legacy of alcohol abuse and addiction here on the reservation that has caused immeasurable harm. I hope they will stand honorably and withstand every pressure favoring legalization. It’s a shame that vices provide big business on the reservation.
Christmas is sitting up through the night with a grieving family and being able to tell them they can make it because God is with us.
We want the magical, the festive, or perhaps the contemplative Christmas. We want the hot chocolate and fireplaces. We want children’s eyes sparkling with wonder. We want hearts exploding with jubilant carols. We want the idyllic Christmas nativity program with almost perfect cherubs and slightly mischievous shepherds, a sweet Mary and kind Joseph, and a cute little baby doll wrapped up tight. We want Christmas to be perfect.
We light a few candles. We put fresh hay down and make sure there’s no manure in this rustic stable. It’s got to be perfect. It’s got to feel like Christmas.
But can there even be Christmas for the young lady who has just lost her mom? Can there be Christmas when emotions are raw and pain is deep? Can there be Christmas when it all feels hopeless?
Just maybe the grieving and hurting will not be so distracted by the glitz and glimmer of Christmas. Maybe now their eyes can focus on the God of Christmas.
Perhaps the best Christmas is when we see Bethlehem’s Baby for who He is–Jesus, the One who would take away the sins of the world. Perhaps the best Christmas is when we see the Christ-Child as He is–Emmanuel, God with us, walking with us in human experience. Surely the perfect Christmas is more than a sanitized storybook Christmas with colorful scenes recapturing childish imagination. It’s more than words and images, fancy or even history. Christmas is God stepping into the story of our lives… as Savior, to forgive our sins… as Emmanuel, to walk along the pathway of human experience with us.
So perhaps if you want to feel the spirit of Christmas, instead of scheduling another party, go visit a grieving friend. I believe you will sense the presence of the Christ-child because “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.”
I lost another friend to alcohol last night. Cirrhosis. Only 46 years old. My mind is still groggy from sitting up through the night with the family after they received word of her passing. Her name is added to a long list of tragedies that have deeply affected people I love. She was a dear friend to our family and I enjoyed many long visits with her.
> My wife’s uncle spent something like 10 years in jail. A DUI that left another driver dead.
> A local friend lost her dad in a drunken crash.
> A parishioner lost 3 sons in their DUI accident. You can see their markers down by the river. In a separate accident several years later, another son was critically injured, nearly died and is incapable for independent living.
> A neighbor’s son hanged himself while intoxicated.
> One elderly grandma who attends our church struggles daily with alcoholism and it has affected all of her family with most of them taking the same path. The last time she came to church, she gave me a list of 8-10 children or grandchildren in jail currently for incidents where alcohol was a primary factor.
I have to go now, but my list could go on and on.
Let me just say, I hate alcohol and I hate what it has done to the people I love.
John Crist shows you how to make your quiet time go farther.
Our family always prays before meals. We want to express our gratitude to God for what He has provided. With that very regular routine, however, it’s easy for the meal prayer to become just that–a routine. The children too often blurt out a quick “Thank you, Jesus, for our food” as they are reaching for their fork to gobble down their food. And all too often, my wife and I are hungry and harried and ready to hurry through a quick prayer.
It’s not supposed to be that way. We truly want the meal prayer to be a humble expression of gratitude. When we realize that this simple prayer time is getting hollow and cheap, we try to counter that in one way or another. Sometimes we just remind the child we call on to say grace of several things they could mention in their prayer.
A couple of weeks ago, I realized we needed to something a bit different for a while and jotted down a meal prayer for our family to say together. We’ve not over-used it, but the kids have memorized it now. Prayer time is again a bright spot in our day to help our family to start our meals with a thankful heart. I don’t know about you, but I think a meal just tastes a whole lot better and is more filling when you are grateful. Here’s the prayer we have been praying together for our meals recently:
By new mercies daily blessed
Surrounded by Your faithfulness
Lord, we thank you for our food
Life and happy family too
Loving, kind, forgiving, true
May we always honor You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Do you have a favorite meal prayer, perhaps even one you learned as a child? I would love share it with my family if you would like to share it in the comment section below.
The Lord loves you more than you could ever dream. He says, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
His love for you is not cold & calculating. He does not parcel it out in measure to see if it will be reciprocated. His reckless love pursues you to your lowest and finds your heart broken and wounded, unlovely and unloving. Angry, you spit in his face and turn away. But he pursues you further. He stretches himself out on the cross and dies for his great love of you. With every rejection, his heart still aches for you.
When you receive his love and take Jesus as your Beloved, you are showered with endless extravagant gifts. You are bedazzled with his continual expressions of endearment. “How is it that He could delight in me? Doesn’t he remember what I was?” Oh, but he does love you. He is consumed with passion for you.
And if, my friend, you should then grow cold toward him and with mocking betrayal turn your back on the Lover of your soul to pursue other lovers, he would weep over you. Though this love would cost Him untold agony, He would love you still. He would pursue you once again to try to win your heart back again. This is the nature of His love.
He loves you with a fierce, reckless love. He loves you with a relentless passion! He loves you no matter how unlovable you feel. He loves you no matter how spitefully you treat him. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. Jesus loves you! Please don’t turn Him away!
When you receive Him, He longs to see your heart filled with this same reckless, self-giving, even-unto-death kind of love. A passion for Him… and for those around you. You see, He loves your family, friends and neighbors just as fiercely as He has loved you. This is the heart-beat of missions. A heart ablaze with God’s love. A heart that breaks and groans for those rejecting Jesus. A heart over-flowing with grace, tenderness, and mercy.
Funerals are important moments. There are precious grieving souls needing words of comfort and grace. Out here in rez country, the families seem to call multiple clergy for most wakes and funeral. I have attended or co-officiated dozens of funerals in the last few years. The tone of this post sounds a little condescending; I intended it to have a only touch of my dry humor, but any way… here are 6 Things a Minister Probably Should Not Say at a Funeral:
1. The Fertility of life. Seriously, please DO NOT talk about the fertility of life. A funeral is a serious time, and you will make it difficult for the rest of the clergy to maintain their somber composure. It would be especially bad if the front seats were lined with a good number of kids to a good number of baby-mommas. One dear friend would always misread his beautiful funeral liturgy about the futility of life in this rather awkward way. Continue reading
I picked up one of Dad’s sermon notebooks today and my eyes fell on some of the words he shared at the funeral of a parishioner. My mind, of course, retraced the steps back that time and place over two decades ago – a journey now marked by the loss of Dad’s passing. The sermons in this notebook include a full outline exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Almost all of the sermons in this particular notebook are handwritten – often with bold blue ink and red underlining, stunningly neat (not his usual scrawl) and thoughtfully presented in outline form. For this occasion, he deviated from his typical pattern to write manuscript some of what he wanted to share that day. I read these words today and thanked God that they are true when they were first shared and they are true today. I’ve found God’s grace sufficient for me on my own journey and I share these words hoping they might again console another soul. He begins with a poem by H. S. Rice, The Bend in the Road. Continue reading