Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31st: The Seventh Day of Christmas

Today is December 31st- Happy "Seventh Day of Christmas"!

Today we think about the “Seven Swans A-Swimming” which represent seven (of the many) gifts of the Holy Spirit ("Charisms"- pronounced: Kare-ismz):
1) prophecy,

2) ministry,

3) teaching,

4) exhortation,

5) giving,

6) leading, and

7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

Today we contemplate on these spiritual gifts (and the many others not on this list, too) and we focus on how God gives them to us to enhance our role in His Mission to the world. We know that through these unique spiritual giftings, God intends us to uniquely bless the World.

We ask these questions: How has God’ created me to do his work? What are the works that He has already created for me to do?

Father God, Thank You for being our True Love,
Thank You for giving us physical life,
Thank You for enhancing our physical lives with
beautiful things and beautiful ways...
Beautiful things that we can see Your glory in our exterior lives, and
Beautiful ways that we might manifest your Glory and beauty to others through our interior lives.
Thank You for allowing us to participate in your mission of restoration and redemption to the world.
Help us to find new, exciting, creative, and wholly unique ways in which to reflect Your glory and thus
bring others into the Joy that is your Kingdom!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30~ The Sixth Day of Christmas

Today is December 30th- Happy "Sixth Day of Christmas"!

Today we think about the “Six Geese A-laying” which represent the six days of creation that confess God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

Today, we think of the Six Geese and the Six Days of Creation and we think of: PROCESS...

God's Act of Creation was not a one-time unfolded over a period of time... and it is sustained and nurtured by Him to this very day.  Additionally, we know that it will continue into some point in the the future, and eventually all that we are (including, but not limited to our "eternal soul") will be restored/replaced/redeemed (we don't quite know how) Revelation 21:1...

Such is our salvation...far from a one-time act, our salvation may have begun with a prayer, but it's effects unfold over time, and we must nourish it and encourage it's unfolding and continued growth. This is what: "...He that began a good work in us will carry it on to completion..." (Philippians 1:6)  is talking about.

We are a work in progress- begun, but not complete; and that work is being carried on by God. But we are not passive recipients of this work; we work with God in this process- as we clearly see in the following chapter of Philippians (2:12-13) where Paul instructs us to: "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13 -New International Version, ©2010)
This makes perfect sense, in light of Paul's instructions to the church at Ephasus in Ephesians 2:8-10:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Our salvation is about GRACE, but absolutely involves componenets, suchas as: assent, then cooperation, and finally- perseverance, for as James writes: "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

"Not lacking anything..." I like that!

What this means, then, is that we cannot merely expect to recite the equivalent of an incantation with the expectation of an eternal reward. God's work in and through us is much too complex, mysterious, and beautiful to be reduced to such an understanding.

This is what it means to be "A New Creation" (II Corinthians 5:17) or Born Anew (John 3:3-7)…birth is the beginning of a lifelong process- not merely and end unto itself!

So today, as we think about the "Six Geese A-laying" which represent the Six Days of Creation, we contemplate how we are New Creations when we begin to follow Jesus, and that our walk with God is a process that requires active participation, cooperation, and perseverance over the course of a lifetime. Because of this we realize that when we accept God's gracious gift of salvation, we become not simply beneficiaries of God’s redemptive work in the world, but we are also called and expected to become ambassadors and co-creators with God…agents of continual restoration and redemption of God’s New Creation in the world.


Dear Jesus,
Thank You for being Our TRUE LOVE!
Thank You for beginning a good work in us.
Thank You for carrying it on unto completion-
(often despite our efforts to the contrary).
Thank You for acting in our lives to fulfill Your Good Purpose for the world.
Help us to be active participants in the process.
Help us to persevere.
We ask this not so we can get something from you-
(supernatural self-improvement)
but so that we can have the honor of
participating with You in the redemption of the world.

All scripture quoted if from the NIV (New International Version) ©2010 Zondervan Publishing

December 29: The Fifth Day of Christmas

Today is December 29th- Happy "Fifth Day of Christmas
Today we think about the "5 Golden Rings" which symbolize the Five Books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)- also known as "The Pentateuch."
These five books, also referred to as "The Law," recount the story of humankind's brokenness and God’s glorious response of grace to us. Although they are often looked at as a set of rules that help "get us in," or even as a set of contingencies that demand our attention and keep us in bondage to the knowlege that we can never "get it exactly right"...they have their place in our lives.  Before we KNEW God (really knew him, through knowing who His son, Jesus, is and through our relationship with him, and through that understanding at a deeper level what God is up to in this crazy world of ours) we needed the law as a "babysitter" of sorts, to "keep us in check."  NOW, the law takes on a different role- we love the law because is it representative of the great love that God has had for mankind throughout history, that He would give us something to keep us on the 'straight and narrow' until the Messiah arrived.  Before, we obeyed the law out of fear and obligation; NOW, we obey the law 'by the Spirit' (out of our new spiritual instinct) and from a place of deep gratitude...not to "get us in," but as a sign that we are keeping up our end of the covenant that keeps us in, and as a symbol that we recognise that God has allowed us to enter into His story...

Today we contemplate God’s grace and mercy, that He should allow us to participate in the unfolding of His story.

Lord, God...
Thank You for being our True Love
Thank You for relentlessly pursuing humankind through history
with your gracious and unending love,
Thank You for taking on flesh like us to offer us the ultimate form of love...
the kind that lays down its own life,
Thank You for letting us be part of your Glorious and Gracious story,
Help us to become better and better at relentlessly pursuing relationship with others that we might participate with You fully in restoring, redeeming and reconciling the entire world back to Yourself.


Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28: The Fourth Day fo Christmas

Today is December 28th...
Happy "Fourth Day of Christmas"!

Today we think about the "4 Calling Birds” which represent The Four Gospels:

1) Matthew,
2) Mark,
3) Luke, and
4) John...

...which proclaim the Gospel ("Good News") of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself through Jesus Christ.

We think especially about the words of Jesus that are found in the Gospel of Luke- in which Jesus quoted from the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God's Spirit is on me;
He's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners andrecovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!"
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down.
Every eye in the place was on him, intent.
Then he started in, "You've just heard Scripture make history.
It came true just now in this place."
Luke 4:18-21 (The Message)

Today, we contemplate ways in which we can be harbingers of the Gospel...The Good News that we love to live and long to tell.


Jesus, Thank You for being our TRUE LOVE~
Thank You for coming to us to proclaim the Good news,
and for initiating God's Kingdom here on earth~
Thank You for giving sight to the blind,
 Thank You for setting those of us in all kinds of bondage free,
Thank You for giving wholeness to those of us who experience brokenness.
Help us to be your servants and to help you continue to bring
Fresh Words and Good News of Life and Light...
to ALL people of the world!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27th: The Third Day of Christmas

Today is December 27th, Happy "Third Day of Christmas"!

Today we think about the "3 French Hens" which symbolize the The Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love (I Corinthians 13:13)

Today we will keep things very simple, as we contemplate:

...The Object of our Faith...Jesus...

...The Source of our Hope....Jesus...

...and The Source of our Love...Jesus.


Lord Jesus, Thank You for being our True Love,
Thank you for enabling us to have faith in you,
Thank you for giving us us hope for
an abundant life in the here and now,
and an eternal life, later...
Thank you for loving us and giving us the privilege of
loving you and loving others.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Second Day of Christmas/ Boxing Day/Feast of St. Stephen/St. Stephen's Day

Today is December 26th. Happy "Second Day of Christmas"!

Today we think about the "2 Turtle Doves" which symbolize The Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The dove is also a symbol of peace (shalom).

Together, the old and new testaments bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God and God's mission to the world. God's mission to the world is one of restoration, reconciliation, redemption and shalom.

In some countries (many which were once under the British flag), it is also called “Boxing Day”- a tradition that dates to the Middle Ages, or possibly even to the late Roman/early Christian era. In times of old, metal boxes were placed outside churches used to collect special offerings that were associated with to the Feast of Saint Stephen/ St. Stephen's Day. The Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint's day celebrated on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. It commemorates St Stephen, the first Christian martyr who was in charge of the first seven ‘deacons’ –or servants- in the Early Church who were assigned to caring for the ill, poor, widowed and orphaned. (You've sung about this day, if you've sung the Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslas")

Today we contemplate the unity of the Old and New Testaments, as we see The Story of God’s Mission *in* and *to* the world, and we reflect on how we've seen God's redemptive work in the world played out…First, through Christ’s ultimate example, but we also reflect upon how God wants us to continue this mission...

We think about God’s justice and mercy in the world and ask ourselves: What have I done to further God’s redemptive work in the world? How have I been a servant to those around me who are less fortunate? How do I model and advance God's Kingdom of shalom?

Today, we look forward to a New Year in which we have yet another opportunity to be intentional in our acts of mercy and justice to others for the glory of God.


Lord God, Thank You for the gift of Your Word...
Thank You for letting us know in writing that
You have a purpose, a plan, and a mission
to redeem, restore, and reconcile,
Thank You for Allowing us to be recipients of this redemption, restoration, and reconciliation,
Thank You for Allowing us to be also be Agents of Your redemptive plan for the world...


Friday, July 20, 2012

Struggle versus Serenity

If you ever saw the wonderful movie "Catch Me if You Can," you may remember the father of Leonardo DiCaprio 's character, played by Christopher Walken.  The character was a colorful one, given to prose and glib speech.  In one scene (or it may be many, where he repeats the story-my memory is somewhat fuzzy on this...), he gives a speech. Here is how it goes:

"Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse."

Great story, right?!  Who doesn't want to be that "second mouse"?  Tenacity and perseverance in the midst of danger and difficulty are certainly characteristics we want to display.

But perhaps an even better character trait to have is one of discernment.  Quitting is often thought of as a purely negative thing, but is this always the case?  

Imagine a mouse in quicksand.  The same amount of struggle for this mouse will result in sinking and drowning.  The best bet for a mouse in quicksand is to sit still, stop struggling, and wait for rescue.  Easier said than done, though, right?  I know that when I find myself in a pickle, my first response is to use my wits and tenacity to extricate myself. Sometimes this is a good strategy, and other times is is counterproductive. 

So, how does one know which strategy to employ?

The answer lies first in our ability to surrender the struggle over to The One who will rescue us in His way and in His time for His glory; second, in asking for the the wisdom to discern whether or not you are in cream or quicksand; and third, in trusting that if we are obedient to His will and let love be our guide, that we will find the contentment, serenity, safety and shalom that only He offers.

Sounds just like a prayer we have all heard before...

Here is the full text:

Today my prayer for you and I is that God gives us

the wisdom to know the the difference...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Content with Our Daily Bread, But Thirsty for Tomorrow’s Wine…

In my vocation as a hospice nurse, I have observed repeatedly a phenomenon that occurs when patients draw closer to the end of life: they stop feeling hungry and thirsty; they simply have no desire to eat. Amazingly, accompanied by this lack of desire is also a lack of ability to process fluids and food: swallowing and digestion become impaired or altogether cease. This is often a bewildering and highly frustrating experience for the loved ones who, faced with this very dramatic change, are incapable of making the mental shift from life to death and so attempt to force-feed their beloved in the hopes that some form of reversal takes place. Of course, this never works, and only tends to place the patient at risk for choking, aspiration, or a stomach blockage. Knowing this, my goal is to pro-actively teach patients and loved ones ahead of time that when hunger ceases, so should the compulsion to feed.

Easier said than done- because in our minds and spirits is an innate understanding that hunger and thirst are related to LIFE…and that lack of hunger and thirst most certainly always lead to DEATH.

And so it is with our spiritual “hungers” and “thirsts”…

In my vocation as a pastor in 21st century America, I see an equally bewildering phenomenon. In my dealings with middle-class Americans who have very few physical “wants,” I hear them tell stories of their emptiness, their spiritual hunger, their feeling lacking and in want of God’s presence, and of their relentless desire to be “filled” with “something more.” If you doubt the veracity of this, I challenge you to go to any contemporary worship service and listen to the music- it is rife with images of hunger, thirst, and need. What’s so amazing is that all this hunger is being experienced in the midst of unprecedented physical abundance, as well as in the midst of a culture that, for the first time in history, is able to provide us with seemingly unlimited information and unrestricted opportunities for connection. Yet the end result is loneliness, emptiness, and spiritual hunger and thirst.

The commentary on this phenomenon is extensive, much of it critical of our consumerist culture and its alleged spiritual dearth. The brevity of this article limits my ability to discuss this false conclusion in depth, so I will address only one concept: Contrary to others whom I have heard comment on this trend, I do not feel that it is a negative thing to be spiritually hungry, nor do I believe that spiritual hunger is equivalent to spiritual dearth. In fact, I will be as bold as to say that spiritual hunger and thirst are healthy in that they are signs of a viable spirituality.

But what does this mean practically? How should we then proceed? Should we ignore the hunger we feel, and recognize that feeling “spiritually full” is this life is a futile goal? Should we stop trying so hard and cease searching?

Well, yes and no.

God has instilled eternity in our hearts, yet we are embodied currently in mortality and are limited by time and space. What this means is that we have been created in such a way that there is a natural tension between our mortality and our eternity. We live in the “now and not yet Kingdom of God” and we innately know it. If we were to have a feeling of spiritual satiety, what would happen to us, I wonder?

Complacency would rule, I think, and Kingdom work would never be accomplished. We would be comfortable with life as it is and desire no more. We need to stay hungry in one sense; because-let’s face it- staying hungry keeps us attached to the vine.

Interestingly, Jesus cautions us to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves and plan out and worry about tomorrow, yet his final command to his disciples ("Go and make disciples of all men...") connotes a task with a future-reaching trajectory. Likewise, Paul teaches us to imitate him in how he has found a way in which to find contentment in whatever situation he is in, and in how he "presses on toward the mark."

So therein lies our answer, somewhere between discontent and complacency is a third way, the way Jesus taught, the way which Paul imitated- a place characterized by contentment, but hallmarked by a holy discontent, a longing for the "not yet" that our Life in Christ promises to us. It is a strange tension that we are called to live within: to be content with our daily bread, but to be thirsty for tomorrow’s wine. It is in this indeterminate state that we live and move and breathe, until that final day when we finally share a table with the King of Kings and dine with Him for all eternity.

This article is part of a Lenten synchroblog series at Christine Sine's blog: Godspace; go there to enjoy more wonderful Lenten Reflections. Be Blessed!