Monday, March 31, 2014

Is Youth Wasted On The Young?

Is Youth Wasted On The Young?

I think I know what George Bernard Shaw was attempting to say when talking about youth being wasted on the young.  Young people are in the best of health, their minds are clear and sharp, they're dreams are only as far away as their imagination can carry them.  I wonder if wisdom were given to the young, and health were given to the old, where would we be?  Seventy year olds' would be bungee cording, screaming "cowabunga", while the teenager looked on in horrified disbelief.  This is hyperbole, but you get my point. I would hazard to say the Lord gave us these timely “age” traits for a reason. Let me stereotype for a moment. The Millennials always seem to be more impetuous and impulsive, more willing to take a leap of faith in major decision-making, always assuming the outcome will be positive. Whereas the Baby Boomers or Gen X crowd are a bit more staid in resolving issues. They think things through at a slower pace, analyzing each situation. In a nutshell, the younger generations are like microwaves, whereas the older generations are like slow cookers. Each has favorable qualities, and each has negative ones.  I don't know the exact reason for this age-old conundrum, but I'm certain the Lord does.  He has equipped each stage of life with the necessities and knowledge required for that place in time. So in youth we are supplied with what is necessary to grow and learn and move and gather, whereas in old age we are supplied with experience and knowledge giving us better judgment and, hopefully, wisdom. Young or old, it is up to us to build on these Godly foundations and make them stronger. But, in the end, how does one explain to a twenty year old how time catches up with you all too quickly?  In the twinkling of an eye we are our parents, and the dreams of youth have slipped into memories of yesterday. It is only in the living that we learn life’s’ difficult lessons whether we want them or not.  In youth, we are impatient. It's all about instant gratification.  In middle age, we learn to take deep breaths allowing us time to contemplate.  In youth, we have all the time in the world. The days are an unending beach of sand. In old age, the days pass quickly by like the ticking of a clock.  If only we could manage to be more sagacious in youth and more optimistic with age then perhaps my twenty one year old niece would have started a retirement fund, and I really would go bungee cording. Yikes.

I am glad to be through the age of indiscretion. Youth still holds some appeal when it comes to energy and less aches and pains, but I am not disillusioned in the discoveries of aging, for it brings a wiser more "grown-up" me, whom I like a whole lot more than my youthful counterpart.  I will still carry with me my childlike faith, my amazement of all creation, a love of roller coaster rides (see, I haven’t shed all of my youthful exuberance) and cotton-candy, but I hope I have set aside my childish ways.

Matthew 10:16  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." 

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

        I have sweet memories of the diminutive Valentines cards that came a dozen or so in a box. With some encouragement from my parents, I would kindly sit down and sign them, and as secretive as is possible for a grade-school child, I would leave one in the desk of each schoolmate. Upon occasion, I remember leaving candy hearts in the envelope, as well. For me, there was just as much fun and joy in giving a special surprise, as it was in receiving one.  
        Even today, to most of us, a card means love. That got me thinking about those who feel they've never received love, whether in a card, a deed, or a kind word. Most of us have suffered, to some degree, from the emotional pain of rejection, unfair criticism, or an unkind word or deed. Perhaps we were looked over for a job promotion, or not included in some festivity, or forgotten about when times were tough, and a shoulder to lean on would have made all of the difference. Remembering the pain from being the recipient of one or more of these acts, though, should be far better than a memory of being the contributor. Having a trail of unkind acts is never a good legacy to leave behind. 
         On this Valentine's Day, let's remember giving a card, candy, or flowers is a sweet sentimental act, and a thoughtful gesture. But the greatest love of all, God's sacrificial gift of his son, was the truest love of all. There is no greater love than that of Christ's love for us, his children. So, let's try and make everyday like Valentine's Day, filled with sweet gestures, kind words….and lots of candy!

John 15:9-17

New International Version (NIV)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

1 John 4:10-11

New International Version (NIV)
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I was reading my daily devotion from  Our Daily Bread for January, and was struck by the fact that I have never made a New Year's resolution. Not one. It always occurred to me that if I needed to be doing something to improve myself, than I shouldn't be waiting until January 1st to be doing it. Nike's, Just Do It, campaign always made sense to me, probably because of my type A just "get 'er done" attitude. But then again, why not set a goal for the year that is just beginning. There couldn't be a better time. So, this morning, as I was reading January 3rd from ODB, the writer suggested instead of choosing our own self-improvement goals, it might be better to ask ourselves, "What does the Lord desire of me?"  You know, soul-improvement verses self-improvement. In the end, if you go for the one, you will win the crown for the other. Certainly anything the Lord would ask us to improve upon would be worthy. And, thankfully as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the capacity to make it happen. We don't have to rely on our own strength. This is helpful since, I would surmise, most resolutions never get carried through to the next new year. If we use Christian principles then we are far more likely to achieve our goals then if we try and go it on our own. We also need to be sensible and pragmatic about our expectations. Telling yourself your going to win a marathon verses simply competing in one is probably unrealistic. We also need to remember the simple truth that every resolution depends on God to see us through it. So, this year resolve to make a realistic New Year's resolution and allow your Holy Spirit to nudge you in the direction the Lord has planned for you, then hopefully by this time next year you will be able to say, "I succeeded," I won the race and received a winners crown that will last forever.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joseph's Prayer

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Matthew 1:24
Joseph's Prayer by Max Lucado from On This Holy Night
Joseph... did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. — Matthew 1:24
The white space between Bible verses is fertile soil for questions. One can hardly read Scripture without whispering, “I wonder...”
“I wonder if Eve ever ate any more fruit.”
“I wonder if Noah slept well during storms.”
“I wonder if Jonah liked fish or if Jeremiah had friends.”
“Did Moses avoid bushes? Did Jesus tell jokes? Did Peter ever try water-walking again?”
“Would any woman have married Paul had he asked?”
The Bible is a fence full of knotholes through which we can peek but not see the whole picture. It’s a scrapbook of snapshots capturing people in encounters with God, but not always recording the result.
So we wonder:
When the woman caught in adultery went home, what did she say to her husband?
After the demoniac was delivered, what did he do for a living?
After Jairus’s daughter was raised from the dead, did she ever regret it?
Knotholes and snapshots and “I wonders.” You’ll find them in every chapter about every person. But nothing stirs so many questions as does the birth of Christ. Characters appear and disappear before we can ask them anything. The innkeeper too busy to welcome God — did he ever learn who he turned away? The shepherds — did they ever hum the song the angels sang? The wise men who followed the star — what was it like to worship a toddler? And Joseph, especially Joseph.
I’ve got questions for Joseph.
Did you and Jesus arm wrestle? Did He ever let you win?
Did you ever look up from your prayers and see Jesus listening?
How do you say “Jesus” in Egyptian?
What ever happened to the wise men?
What ever happened to you?
We don’t know what happened to Joseph. His role in Act I is so crucial that we expect to see him in the rest of the drama — but with the exception of a short scene with twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem, he never reappears. The rest of his life is left to speculation, and we are left with our questions.
But of all my questions, my first would be about Bethlehem. I’d like to know about the night in the stable. I can picture Joseph there. Moonlit pastures. Stars twinkle above. Bethlehem sparkles in the distance. There he is, pacing outside the stable.
What was he thinking while Jesus was being born? What was on his mind while Mary was giving birth? He’d done all he could do — heated the water, prepared a place for Mary to lie. He’d made Mary as comfortable as she could be in a barn and then he stepped out. She’d asked to be alone, and Joseph had never felt more so.
In that eternity between his wife’s dismissal and Jesus’ arrival, what was he thinking? He walked into the night and looked into the stars. Did he pray?
For some reason, I don’t see him silent; I see Joseph animated, pacing. Head shaking one minute, fist shaking the next. This isn’t what he had in mind. I wonder what he said...
This isn’t the way I planned it, God. Not at all. My child being born in a stable? This isn’t the way I thought it would be. A cave with sheep and donkeys, hay and straw? My wife giving birth with only the stars to hear her pain?
This isn’t at all what I imagined. No, I imagined family. I imagined grandmothers. I imagined neighbors clustered outside the door and friends standing at my side. I imagined the house erupting with the first cry of the infant. Slaps on the back. Loud laughter. Jubilation.
That’s how I thought it would be.
The midwife would hand me my child and all the people would applaud. Mary would rest, and we would celebrate. All of Nazareth would celebrate.
But now. Now look. Nazareth is five days’ journey away. And here we are in a... in a sheep pasture. Who will celebrate with us? The sheep? The shepherds? The stars?
This doesn’t seem right. What kind of husband am I? I provide no midwife to aid my wife. No bed to rest her back. Her pillow is a blanket from my donkey. My house for her is a shed of hay and straw.
The smell is bad; the animals are loud. Why, I even smell like a shepherd myself.
Did I miss something? Did I, God?
When You sent the angel and spoke of the Son being born — this isn’t what I pictured. I envisioned Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the people gathered to watch. A pageant perhaps. A parade. A banquet at least. I mean, this is the Messiah!
Or, if not born in Jerusalem, how about Nazareth? Wouldn’t Nazareth have been better? At least there I have my house and my business. Out here, what do I have? A weary mule, a stack of firewood, and a pot of warm water. This is not the way I wanted it to be! This is not the way I wanted my son.
Oh my, I did it again. I did it again, didn’t I, Father? I don’t mean to do that; it’s just that I forget. He’s not my son... He’s Yours.
The child is Yours. The plan is Yours. The idea is Yours. And forgive me for asking but... is this how God enters the world? The coming of the angel, I’ve accepted. The questions people asked about the pregnancy, I can tolerate. The trip to Bethlehem, fine. But why a birth in a stable, God?
Any minute now Mary will give birth. Not to a child, but to the Messiah. Not to an infant, but to God. That’s what the angel said. That’s what Mary believes. And, God, my God, that’s what I want to believe. But surely You can understand; it’s not easy. It seems so... so... so... bizarre.
I’m unaccustomed to such strangeness, God. I’m a carpenter. I make things fit. I square off the edges. I follow the plumb line. I measure twice before I cut once. Surprises are not the friend of a builder. I like to know the plan. I like to see the plan before I begin.
But this time I’m not the builder, am I? This time I’m a tool. A hammer in Your grip. A nail between Your fingers. A chisel in Your hands. This project is Yours, not mine.
I guess it’s foolish of me to question You. Forgive my struggling. Trust doesn’t come easy to me, God. But You never said it would be easy, did You?
One final thing, Father. The angel You sent? Any chance You could send another? If not an angel, maybe a person? I don’t know anyone around here, and some company would be nice. Maybe the innkeeper or a traveler? Even a shepherd would do.
I wonder. Did Joseph ever pray such a prayer? Perhaps he did. Perhaps he didn’t.
But you probably have.
You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You’ve done what He told you to do only to wonder if it was Him speaking in the first place. You’ve stared into a sky blackened with doubt. And you’ve asked what Joseph asked.
You’ve asked if you’re still on the right road. You’ve asked if you were supposed to turn left when you turned right. And you’ve asked if there is a plan behind this scheme. Things haven’t turned out like you thought they would.
Each of us knows what it’s like to search the night for light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room. On the gravel of a roadside. On the manicured grass of a cemetery. We’ve asked our questions. We questioned God’s plan. And we’ve wondered why God does what He does.
The Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleading of a confused pilgrim.
If you are asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did. Obey. That’s what he did. He obeyed. He obeyed when the angel called. He obeyed when Mary explained. He obeyed when God sent.
He was obedient to God.
He was obedient when the sky was bright.
He was obedient when the sky was dark.
He didn’t let his confusion disrupt his obedience. He didn’t know everything. But he did what he knew. He shut down his business, packed up his family, and went to another country. Why? Because that’s what God said to do.
What about you? Just like Joseph, you can’t see the whole picture. Just like Joseph, your task is to see that Jesus is brought into your part of your world. And just like Joseph, you have a choice: to obey or disobey. Because Joseph obeyed, God used him to change the world.
Can He do the same with you?
God still looks for Josephs today. Men and women who believe that God is not through with this world. Common people who serve an uncommon God.
Will you be that kind of person? Will you serve... even when you don’t understand?
No, the Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleadings of an honest heart, nor the last. And perhaps God didn’t answer every question for Joseph. But He answered the most important one. “Are you still with me, God?” And through the first cries of the Godchild the answer came.
“Yes. Yes, Joseph. I’m with you.”
There are many questions about the Bible that we won’t be able to answer until we get home. Many knotholes and snapshots. Many times we will muse, “I wonder...”
But in our wonderings, there is one question we never need to ask. Does God care? Do we matter to God? Does He still love His children?
Through the small face of the stable-born baby, He says yes.
Yes, your sins are forgiven.
Yes, your name is written in heaven.
Yes, death has been defeated.
And yes, God has entered your world.
Immanuel. God is with us.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thank You Readers



As a reader of my blog you may have noticed the visitors map. I notice it every time I open up my site to write something, because writers want, no need to know their words are being read. Besides the expected friends and family in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, I noticed I have readers in Russia, Greece, United Kingdom and lots of people in California and a few other U.S. States. How awesome is that.  Now, I realize those of you from faraway places may not be reading my blog on a regular basis, but I wanted you to know, nonetheless, that I truly appreciate your readership and pray my words are affecting you in a positive way. If they are, please let me know by your comments or by becoming a follower by joining my site.

Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Numbers 6:24-26
24‘“The Lord bless you
 and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you
 and give you peace.”’