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Showing posts from December, 2015

Daily Devotion - Thursday, December 31, 2015

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This week for our Daily Devotions, we'll be focusing on the coming of a new year, and what it means to be given a fresh start, a second chance and another opportunity to become the people that God has always dreamed for us to become.   
The book is called Opportunity it's first chapter is New Year's Day - Edith Lovejoy Pierce Several years ago, I saw a billboard for an attorney's office that was extolling the virtues of bankruptcy at the onset of a new year.  It displayed a huge photo of a video game console and posed the following question below the photo in large letters:  "Don't you wish life had a reset button?  It does."
On the surface it seems like a pretty good idea if, when things started to go poorly, you could just push the reset button on life like you can on a video game.  But would it, really?  
What if all of our mistakes, missteps, and misdeeds were actually part of our journey?  What if all of the things we wish we could undo, reset or do ove…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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This week for our Daily Devotions, we'll be focusing on the coming of a new year, and what it means to be given a fresh start, a second chance and another opportunity to become the people that God has always dreamed for us to become.   
"New Year's Day is every man's birthday." - Charles LambWhen I was in seminary, I accrued a fairly massive library fine during my final semester.  It was out of necessity, because in order to secure the books I needed to write my final paper, I had to keep them out longer than the allotted time--mostly so other people wouldn't check them out and leave me twisting in the wind without my resources. 

At any rate, the fine was massive, and I had to pay it in order to graduate.  So, the week before graduation, I went to the library with my checkbook in hand, prepared to pay the piper. 

"I've got a massive fine." I told the librarian.  She took my ID and looked me up in her computer and then she shook her had with a small…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

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This week for our Daily Devotions, we'll be focusing on the coming of a new year, and what it means to be given a fresh start, a second chance and another opportunity to become the people that God has always dreamed for us to become.   
"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been." - Rainer Maria RilkeYou have never experienced next year.  Next year is full of days that have never been, that do not yet exist--at least in our understanding of reality and existence.  Even the "you" that exists in next year does not yet exist, sort of. 

Over the course of next year you will change and grow in ways that you cannot yet imagine.  Your very cells will be completely renewed next year, as impossible as that sounds. There will be people you'll meet next year that you do not yet know, and cannot fathom how knowing them will transform your life. 

Next year is, as the German poet Rilke asserts, "Full of things that have never been."  

But…

Daily Devotion - Monday, December 28, 2015

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This week for our Daily Devotions, we'll be focusing on the coming of a new year, and what it means to be given a fresh start, a second chance and another opportunity to become the people that God has always dreamed for us to become.
"Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress." - Charles KetteringIn just a few days we'll be ringing in a new year.  We'll "tear a leaf off" the calendar, figuratively if not literally.  I love the feeling that accompanies the beginning of a new year, actually.  There's a freshness to it.  I can imagine that the slate has been wiped clean, and all of the mistakes and missteps of the past year are behind me.  I have the chance to do things differently. 

I stopped making resolutions a few years ago--at least out loud where anyone could hear me make them.  The reason?  I'm sketchy when it comes to keeping my new year's resolutions.  Most of us are, if we are being ho…

Daily Devotion - Friday, December 25, 2015

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My brothers and sisters, true love is a reflection of the Savior's love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it. - Thomas S. Monson

Today is Christmas.  

As I write this, my two youngest sons have not yet awakened.  This is the calm before the storm of excitement and exclamation, of shouting and shaking of presents.  It's the moment of peace before my living room is filled with the sounds of wrapping paper being discarded in a flurry.  

I can't wait.  I can't wait for the joy I will see on their faces.  I can't wait to hear their shouts of glee.  There's so many difficult things that they will face in life, but for now I just want them to be children, to feel joy and wonder and to receive the gifts they've been given.  

I wonder if this is how God feels.  

I imagine God does--feel this way.  How could he not?  Maybe the reason I feel these feelings of anticipation and happiness over the joy of m…

Daily Devotion - Thursday, December 24, 2015

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This is the fourth week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Love."  

"Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles." - Edwin Louis Cole I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day and saw a couple of videos that had been shared and viewed several thousand times.  One video was from the United Kingdom, taken by the parents of a little girl who was deaf, who was visiting Santa Claus in a store.  

She sat on Santa's lap and it didn't take long for him to notice that she could not hear.  And so he began to speak to her in sign language.  Because of course Santa can speak in sign language.  I sat there watching through misty eyes as the little girl brightened and be…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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This is the fourth week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Love."  

"Why doesn't God love me?"  "Why does it feel like God has cursed me and my family?" "What kind of God would let that happen?"  "Where is God in the middle of all of this?" 

These are the kinds of questions I've had people ask me over the years, and there's no easy answer to any of them. What's worse is that these feelings of abandonment can be magnified during Advent and Christmas.  

Think about it.  When you are feeling like God isn't on duty any longer in your life, it can really stink to hear a bunch of people do nothing but talk about the coming of the Chr…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Love."  

At the beginning of this Advent season I made my annual climb on to the roof of my house to string lights.  And then, (because my wife made that cute little pouty face that she makes when she wants something) I strung lights pretty much every where else, too.  

I'm fairly certain that all told there's several thousand lights in and around my house and Christmas tree.  It was a Herculean task.  And there were times (like the one where I almost slid off the roof, or when I encountered all of the thorns on the palm tree) when I wondered why I was doing so much.  

Then I turned on the lights, and saw the faces of my …

Daily Devotion - Monday, December 21, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Love."  

I was looking through Flipboard (an online news source that I read on a regular basis) yesterday and saw a section entitled "2015: Year In Review."  It was sobering to read through them.  There was story after story of violence, terror attacks, nasty politics, tragedies and other assorted awfulness.  

I was struck that almost all of the major events in the "Year In Review" were fairly terrible.  But it was the technology behind the way those awful stories were collected that really got me thinking.  

The software for Flipboard searches the Internet for the biggest stories of the year, based on the num…

Advent Week 4 - "Love Will Keep Us Together"

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Today is the Fourth Sunday of the season of advent, and as we've already seen, the day we light the Candle of Love.  The Fourth Sunday of Advent has been celebrated by the historic Church as a day when everything is turned upside down.  The proud are made low, the fortunes of the poor are lifted--and all of this comes from the passage of Scripture that we'll be reading shortly from the Gospel of Luke.  

In the Middle Ages this particular Sunday in Advent became widely known as the Feast of Fools.  Wealthy and high-born people would dress like paupers and paupers would dress like nobles.  The clergy would often become targets for lampooning and jest--often to what we might consider extremes.  

The idea behind this celebration was simple: Through Jesus, God turned the world upside down.  The old order is no more.  There is equity at last.  For those who have been on the bad end of things there is now justice, mercy and peace. For those who resist the kingdom of God in favor of the…

Daily Devotion - Friday, December 18, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Joy."  

Yesterday I officiated at a communion service at one of our local assisted living communities.  As part of the service I offered a short homily.  Homily, in case you were wondering, is a Latin word that means "short sermon."  I can't really back that last claim up, honestly, but at any rate it was a short sermon, of sorts. 

I'd intended my homily to be about joy, since it was the theme this week for the Third Sunday of Advent.  As I stood up to speak, however, I was struck by a feeling that the words I'd prepared were woefully inadequate for that particular moment.  I think I had planned to say some…

Daily Devotion - Thursday, December 17, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Joy."  

Just the other day my wife and I took our two youngest sons to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a special Christmas event.  My littlest boy is five years old, which is just about the perfect age to enjoy things like special Christmas events at the Magic Kingdom.  

As we were leaving to go home at the end of the night, we were walking down the Magic Kingdom's Main Street, USA, which was decorated beautifully for Christmas.  Suddenly we realized that it was snowing.  Somehow Disney had figured out how to make it look like it was snowing, using some kind of harmless soap.  It looked about as real as you could g…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Joy."  

About ten years ago, I started signing every email, newsletter article and official pastoral letter that I wrote with the line, "Counting it all Joy."  Since our topic this week is "joy," and since I've had more than a few folks over the years express their curiosity about my signature, I thought I would use today's devotional to explain why I chose that phrase and what it means to me. 

Count it all pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. - James 1:2-3

Years ago, I was doing a study on the…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Joy."  

Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. - Mother Theresa 

How many different ways can you describe joy?  Probably as many ways as you can experience it, I would imagine.  The definitions of joy that we find in the dictionary are all over the map, but essentially point to the same thing--an over-the-top feeling, a rush of positive emotion that can nearly overwhelm you when you experience it.  

But when you read Mother Theresa's definition of joy, it seems a tad different, doesn't it?  "Joy is prayer?"  "Joy is strength?"  How is that even …

Daily Devotion - Monday, December 14, 2015

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This is the third week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Joy."  

When I was a kid we used to sing this simple little song in Sunday school that has stuck with me all these many years later.  It went a little something like this: 

"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (WHERE?) Down in my heart (WHERE?) down in my heart.  I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay... And I'm so happy, so very happy..."    

The question "Where?" in parentheses in all caps indicates the portion of the song when we would all shout at the top of our lungs.  Seriously, you cannot sing that song (shouting at the appropriate moments, o…

Daily Devotion - Friday, December 11, 2015

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This is the second week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Peace."  

"When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast caused me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul." 
- Horatio Spafford "It Is Well With My Soul

"I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river in my soul..." - African American Spiritual 

"Peace like a river ran through the city/Long past the midnight curfew/We sat starry-eyed/Oh, we were satisfied...Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna be up for a while..." 
 - Paul Simon "Peace Like A River" 

Because it's the essential theme …

Daily Devotion - Thursday, December 10, 2015

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This is the second week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Peace."  

My wife Merideth has this awesome sign in her office that reads, "Do one thing every day that scares you."  That sign troubles me and excites me all at once. It excites me because I love the idea of it.  I like the idea that I might be the kind of adventurous person who would actually do something scary every day for the purpose of overcoming fear and moving forward in confidence.  

But the message of the sign also troubles me because I know that deep down inside I'm probably not going to do anything that scares me every day.  Instead, if left to my own devices, I'll probably do a thousand things th…